This week, I’m going to discuss and present a few options for the uninitiated about teaching your skills. First of all, I want to stress that one on one instruction between two people provides a level of learning interaction and help/progress that one simply cannot get from a video online. Most people know by now that you can learn from a video, but it can never be your mentor.
Once someone falls in love with a certain subject, discipline, sport, or any activity, they tend to start devouring everything they can and practice/study religiously. After a while, the question of whether or not to teach the subject they learned and pass it on to others comes up. Today with all of us connected, there is perhaps more opportunity for freelance instruction than at any time before in human history.
There are two ways one can teach what they love to thirsty modern students and earn money doing it, the physical and digital worlds. Each one has its ups and downs, and both are in a constant state of flux and evolution. Of course, certain subjects may be more suited to one than the other, but in most cases the best option comes down to individual circumstances, niche, expertise level and access. Let’s explore both.
Real World Freelance Instruction
Most localized freelance instructors, whether activity teachers or extra-curricular tutors, begin small. They may put out an ad in the local paper, or perhaps print out some flyers to give to schools in the area. Regardless, the idea is to start with one single student and go from there.
A local tutor’s biggest money maker is going to be word of mouth. Make sure to print up wallet sized calling cards to hand out at parties, social gatherings, and within the homeschooling community.
The idea is to advertise yourself in unobtrusive ways until you have a student, and then build. Here are some tips to getting started.
Establish Your Fee – Typically most people expect an hourly rate, so give them one. Study up on your competition if there is any. As you get more students and there is more demand for your services, your hourly rate can move up, but until then make your rate average or less for your area.
- Focus on Your Niche but Stay Open to your skillset – Is it best to pick one thing you are exceptionally strong in, and focus on just that, and that alone? In today’s highly diversifying economy and workforce, there is nothing wrong with getting as specific as possible. For example SAT prep math vs., math in general. However, you may have other skills which you can develop a curriculum for teaching and for which there is a high demand. Many college grads find that their minor or other skills they are familiar with are the ones that many others really want to learn. Once you’ve taught one subject or activity, it isn’t as hard to develop a curriculum for a second. Just remember how you learned, and then concentrate on imparting that information.
- Familiarize - Once you’ve chosen your subject or subjects, no matter how practiced you may be, become intimately aware of the goals and needs of each individual you teach. In some cases, you may work off the traditional coursework that students are being exposed to, and in others you must set the curriculum. You must be able to adapt and diversify according to the demand that comes your way.
- Lesson Plans – Become a master at crafting them in ways that engage and interest your students.
- Establish Relationships – Always conduct yourself professionally and in a way that shows you are helpful, and have a 110% service orientated attitude. It’s equally important to form great relationships with students and parents. Always be upfront, transparent, and accommodating.
- Consider Online Tutoring – Joining the online tutoring revolution isn’t for everyone, but it sure provides unprecedented means of teaching, and reaching students from basically anywhere on Earth. The biggest perk is flexibility, although getting started can be a bit time consuming since there are so many choices. There’s much more involved than simply handing out cards or paying for an ad in the local paper.
Freelance Instruction and the Virtual Classroom
Most of the tutors coming online have prior experience with in person private tutoring. They either catch wind of another local tutor making great money, or stumble upon the idea as the momentum within the online education system reaches more and more of our western society.
They start cautiously, typically without any real working knowledge of the industry, and then the desire for extra income streams and the ability to work from home drives forward. The amount of online tutoring companies entering the market makes it easy to find employment and get started with students, but that’s not the only way. You can use Skype (or one of hundreds of other platforms) and accept payments through Paypal, or even put up your own website. Here are some tips to make sure you have a solid foundation to build on.
Basic Supplies You’ll Need
No need to go overboard here and spend huge gobs of money, these are the essentials. On the other hand if this is a serious and long term career movement, make sure to get high quality products.
- Computer - This is the command center of your business, and should be at least reliable, and a solid machine that is capable of performing all the tasks you will need it to.
- Internet Access – This should ideally be high-speed with minimal chances for interruption.
- Instant Messaging – This could range from any number of internet program choices, but to start I would suggest getting familiar with Skype.
- Dedicated Email Account – This is one of the major hubs of the business, and should sound and look professional.
- Online Payment Service – PayPal is the most popular, but some sites will conceal and use your own personal bank accounts as well making it much easier.
- Headset – Get one that looks good and has an attached microphone you can rely on.
- Web Camera – Don’t pinch pennies, get a quality web came that will display quality to those who are learning from you.
Baby Steps into the Online Empire
Once you’re set to go and the home office is looking tight and professional, it’s time to plan your approach. For those starting out, there are many choices. Going solo can be advisable, but there’s nothing wrong with going through a website with requirements either. The upside is you don’t necessarily need any formal education or certifications, although having them can help present you as a validated source for learning prior to receiving positive feedback.
- Get some experience under your belt working for free or less than you will charge in the beginning (try our Trade lessons platform), learn, and then build. After you’ve made a name for yourself and gotten some experience, then setting up your own private online gig becomes a more viable option. If you have no certification, then consider getting certified by an association in each subject niche. For instance, if you’re tutoring chemistry and you’re not currently a college student with really high grades, then consider getting certified by the National Tutor Association or another accredited agency.
- In the online world it is important that for each subject you teach to be as specific about the service you offer as possible. There are established sites that allow you to basically set up a profile and an advertisement, or choose from a list of subjects. The best thing to do is to start small, and incrementally take on more as you learn and get more accustomed to the work.
- Most places will allow you to set your own wage, but there are others that take most of the guesswork out of the process and take a large cut of your pay. The best idea is to go with a popular site that is getting requests from potential students, and lets you communicate do business with those who contact you directly. After you get lots of traffic, you can choose to have finances streamlined and simplified for both you and your students.
- If you are going to be teaching in students’ homes, consider getting some professional liability insurance so that you and your assets are protected. It’s not a requirement, but it’s also not a bad idea if you are planning a full schedule.
- After you’ve chosen a site, your profile is all filled out, and you begin taking advantage of any marketing they offer, your job is to study the niche of each subject or activity. Find out what your potential students are after, and then prepare for the long haul.
Tutoring One Day at a Time
Whether it’s the real or digital world you choose or both, the moral of the story here is to tread lightly at first, learn and adjust, and then build your freelance instruction business.
Obviously there is more to everything than what’s contained in this short blog, because nothing teaches better than experience. If you’re new to the idea and interested in becoming a freelance instructor or tutor by teaching your favorite activity or skills, waste no time. Start getting experience by trading lessons with others for free here: Trade Lessons on LRNGO, or list to earn money immediately where people can find and learn from you here: Earn money teaching your skills on LRNGO.