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Guest post from Owl Tutors
It is Friday night, you have a full day of tutoring lined up for Saturday but the one thing that you can’t get out of your mind is how that client who owes you $1,350 has gone mysteriously very quiet, despite numerous promises to settle that last invoice they owe you. The life of a self-employed tutor is similar in some regards, yet completely different in others, compared with that of a classroom teacher.
I have had the privilege of not only speaking to many teachers who wish to make the transition from teacher to professional tutor but have also seen this transition in practice. Since Owl Tutors was founded just over 10 years ago, we have acted as agents for hundreds of qualified teachers who have embarked on successful self-employed tutor careers. In this post, I have identified 5 of my top tips for teachers wishing to transition to the role of a professional tutor.
Start and stick with teaching what you love
I firmly believe that if we focus our attention on things that we like to do, we will do them well and are more likely to be successful. As tutors are often unsure of whether they will find enough freelance work to support their lifestyles, they will advertise themselves as tutors who can teach a vast array of subjects in order to maximise their demand.
There are however a number of risks with listing a large number of subjects. These risks are inefficiency, lack of motivation, and damaging your brand. It is important to be efficient as a tutor but even more so when you start your career as you are not immediately likely to command the high rates that established tutors will command. By setting yourself out as a “Jack of all trades” you will likely have to perform more preparation for each session, you may not find yourself as motivated to teach subjects that are not your specialism and you will not be viewed as a specialist in a given field.
I would recommend keeping the subject diversity that you advertise relatively narrow. This will allow you to focus on the subject that you most enjoy teaching, increase your efficiency and help to position your brand as a specialist that is worth paying more for.
Find great colleagues
I can split all the jobs that I have had into two categories, jobs that I liked and ones that I did not. I typically excelled in the jobs that I liked and went absolutely nowhere in the ones that I did not. The one thing that I most frequently attribute to whether I liked a job was whether I got on well with the people that I worked with. One of the things that I remember most fondly from my days as a classroom teacher was how well I got on with everyone in my department.
Upon leaving the classroom you may find that the comradery that you had in the staff room evaporates quickly. I think that surrounding yourself with a team of sorts is critical to becoming a successful professional tutor for most individuals. Do stay in touch with your old teaching colleagues, join networking clubs for freelancers or tutors and work with agents that are happy to engage with you and organise events.
You may sometimes even be able to build great working relationships with clients that you get along with particularly well but spending all day, every day just speaking with your students is likely to leave you feeling like something in your career is missing.
Get busy as quickly as possible
A common saying that you can relate to most freelance work is “Feast or Famine”. You will tend to oscillate between being worried that you do not have enough work coming in to thinking that you have too many students and that you are not going to be able to help them all to the best of your abilities.
I would recommend trying to understand if there is a clear market price for the service that you are providing in the first instance. Pitch your work around or below the average rate of your market with the first objective of getting clients on board and getting busy as quickly as possible. If you are experiencing a measure of success in building your book of students then experiment with small price increases to get a feeling for price expectations amongst your client base. Once you are approaching full capacity, then you should consider material increases in your pricing to capitalise on your success but only with the confidence of a very busy tutor!
Embrace the power of “No”
If you have left a school it is likely that you have felt pressure to accept the requests of stakeholders around you. Now that you are your own business, it is important that you learn to recognise requests that are not in your interest and therefore should be declined. Not all work is good work and some clients may take more away from you than their paychecks deliver in return. The faster you learn to decline poor work opportunities, the faster your business will grow as you are able to focus on good ones.
Take ownership of your professional development
I believe that people tend to be happier if they have clear objectives and purpose. Tuition engagements tend to be short and the churn is high. Although you may decide to start to teach a more varied list of subjects as you become busier to give you a greater variety of work as tutoring can be repetitive. One way to counter this is to ensure that you have learning objectives written down for yourself at all times. This should not only make you feel more fulfilled but should also improve your practice and help to grow your business too!
Making the transition from teacher to self-employed tutor can be difficult. If, however, you are successful in your endeavors the rewards are spectacular. Whether it is the flexibility to spend more time with your family, indulge in your interests or through the satisfaction of being the master of your own destiny it is worth it for those of us that are willing to embrace what the role commands.
Thanks to Owl Tutors for this post to help those of you thinking of using your skills learned from being a teacher to become a tutor instead.
Hi, I’m Eileen Adamson, teacher, money coach and co-host of BBC podcast Clever About Cash. I help female teachers to become happier, healthier and wealthier.