Starting Your Online Tutoring Business

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Step 1: Look into all of your options before starting your own online tutoring business

There are few things to consider before making the big decision, and I’ll go through them one at a time.

1. Going at it on your own is not the only option available. TeachersToGo.com; Eduboard.com; Tutor.com; tutorvista.com; there are many established online tutoring companies that allow you to work for them. Starting your own online tutoring business will require marketing, choosing your own payment system, and more. However, I hasten to add that none of these steps are insurmountable obstacles; in fact, as I hope to demonstrate, none of the steps are even particularly difficult. It is also important to keep in mind that tutoring companies and websites like the ones mentioned all charge a sizeable comission (generally from 20-60%). This means that you will make less money working as a tutor for one of these companies than if you successfully create your own thriving online tutoring business. To get more information on this subject, here are two superb websites to check out:

http://blog.tutorhub.com/2013/07/17/online-tutoring-a-do-it-yourself-guide-for-tutors/ – a good site to get both general information about tutoring, as well as recommendations for specific computer programs to use during your actual tutoring sessions.

https://education.skype.com/resources/577-21-things-you-absolutely-need-to-know-before-you-hire-an-online-tutor – this site provides a look at online tutoring from the customer’s perspective, including a detailed examination of the pros and cons of hiring a tutor from one of these tutoring sites.

2.  It is also important to mention that there are a number of websites that are not quite tutoring websites, but still sites that you might be interested in. It is worth exploring the web to find the right fit for you. Here are two of these more esoteric options:

www.Fiverr.com – on Fiverr you create a “gig” and then post it on the site. For example, your “gig” could be an offer to help with math homework. If someone is interested in your services, they will contact you via the website. Upon successful completion of the “gig” for a client, you will be rewarded with $5 for your services; hence the name of the site. (This may be an issue when it comes to reasonable rates, but might be an ok place to practice.)

www.Fittytown.com – similar to Fiverr but different in that each “gig” must cost exactly $50. This obviously means that the tasks that you are offering to complete must be more valuable.

3.  One concern you might have is about the concept of online tutoring itself, the idea that online tutoring is simply not as effective as face-to-face. It is true that online tutoring has a negative side. For example, it limits the ability to observe what are called paralinguistic cues – ie: body movements, facial expressions, and other forms of “physical speaking” that communicate information nonverbally. It is important to remember, however, that such difficulties are not insurmountable; mainly all that is required is getting comfortable with having conversations via video. It is also important not to overlook the huge benefits. For example, because tutoring online doesn’t require any of parties involved to travel, tutoring online is a huge timesaver. This means that new possibilities begin to emerge. Consider face to face tutoring for a moment: when both the teacher and the student have to spend time driving to a specific physical location, it doesn’t make sense to have a ten minute tutoring session because of the time lost in transit. In the online tutoring format, however, suddenly it becomes feasible to have these shorter, daily tutoring sessions.

Step 2: Get the Necessary Hardware

You will need a computer with a decent internet connection, a microphone, and a webcam. Generally speaking most computers today come packaged with both a microphone and a webcam. However, you might want to replace both the packaged microphone and the webcam if they don’t perform well.

If you are just starting out in online tutoring and need to purchase a computer, there are many affordable options to choose from, from refurbished systems to new desktops that are expressly built with the consumer on a budget in mind. The following is by no means a comprehensive list of sites, but simply a few of the many places to check out. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but make sure that, before you purchase anything, the system is capable of smoothly running video chatting applications. Just like the microphone and webcam, keep in mind that you now need a much higher level of performance since you will be using it for your business.

http://www.pcworld.com/product/collection/1646/top-10-value-desktop-pcs.html – A great website following the familiar “Top 10” schema.

http://abc13.com/archive/8781766/ and http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2374269,00.asp – These pair of articles will begin to give you a basic understanding of the value of refurbished computers

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2371334,00.asp – This is a good article to check out if you’re interested in specifically purchasing a laptop (rather than a desktop) on a budget.

Step 3: Choose a video communication service and accompanying software

Determining a video chatting platform that you will use to communicate with your students is a crucial step. If you are just starting out as an online tutor, I would recommend either Skype or Google Hangouts. Both are free, reliable, and easy to set up. Google Hangouts is especially notable because it allows easy integration with a variety of third party applications. Click on this link and follow the instructions to download Skype: http://www.skype.com/en/download-skype/skype-for-computer/. Click on this link to and follow the instructions to download Google Hangouts https://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/.

There are also numerous other video conferencing options to consider. Here are a few of the many other options available.

Vsee (free)- this is a good alternative to skype or google hangouts. Users typically praise its reliability and wealth of collaborative features, which include application sharing, file sharing, and desktop sharing.

Facetime (free)- Although it only works between Apple products, Facetime is known for providing one of the best user experiences: it is easy to set up and the call quality is generally excellent. However, it lacks some of the more collaborative features of some of the other widely known services.

Oovoo (free) – At one point endorsed by the House of Representatives, this web conferencing software is easy to use and easy to set up. It is also equipped with a robust sharing feature allowing you to share your desktop screen with another.

Webex ($24 per month) – a full-fledged web conferencing solution offering features including desktop sharing and an interactive whiteboard.

In addition to these video chatting platforms, there are also a few other pieces of accompanying software you might need. From online whiteboards to file sharing options, here are a few possibilities:

Google docs (Free)- allows for multiple people to edit the same document, at the same time, and see the results in real-time.

IDroo for skype- An interactive and collaborative whiteboard that works with skype.

Scribblar- similar to IDroo. A collaborative whiteboard that supports text chat.

 

To find more information on helpful software options, check out the following sites:

4Teachers.org: A great source that helps teachers find ways to integrate technology into classrooms.

http://blog.socrato.com/top-5-free-online-tutoring-tools/: Provides reviews of some of the best online tutoring tools.

http://www.teachthought.com/featured/25-tutoring-tools-for-the-21st-century/: Gives a dizzying number of various online products to consider.

           

As a final note on the subject, it is worth spending time learning as much as you can about your video communication service of choice. You will most likely have to guide your clients through the process of setting it up on their computers as well. In fact, if you want to optimize your chances of getting the most students possible, offer two or more of the most popular choices. (Many students tend to stick only to the ones they know, and will insist on not learning a new service or platform, but rather having you conform to theirs.)

Step 4: Get a PayPal Account

PayPal is by far the most convenient pay option available for online tutors. All that a client needs to make a payment is your email address. In order to make a payment, the client then goes to the PayPal website, clicks the “send” button on the top of the page, and then inputs the requisite information. Both you and they will receive an email confirmation recording the transaction. And that’s it.

Here are a few things to take note of in regards to payment:

  1. You will want to make sure to get paid before the actual tutoring session. It will likely be difficult to track down clients after the sessions are completed.
  2. You will want to create a “business” PayPal account as opposed to a “personal” PayPal account.
  3. Your earnings will be taxable.

Unfortunately, believe it or not, not every country accepts PayPal. For those that don’t, here are a few alternatives:

Alipay: One of China’s leading online payment exchange solutions. Considering its reputation as the PayPal of the east, this is the first one to try if PayPal is not available in your country.

Skrill: Formally known as Moneybookers, this service has completely rebranded itself and is now known to be both reliable and efficient. It is also available in Pakistan, a country covered by neither Paypal nor Alipay.

Amazon Webpay: Operates almost exactly like PayPal. Easy to use, and simple to set up.

Step 5: Market Yourself

Marketing yourself can take a variety of forms. Here are a few options, in no particular order:

  1. Check out Google AdWords. For a fee, you can advertise directly on Google. Check out http://www.google.com for more information. This, of course, requires money up front, and is also time consuming to learn. You also really have to be careful about setting the limits and watching your conversion rate, or you’ll spend way too much on leads that may not come through.
  2. Create a Facebook Presence- Create a Facebook profile at https://www.facebook.com/ and use it as an advertising platform to get the word out. Check out the profiles of fellow tutors to get an idea of what are acceptable and unacceptable forms of advertising in the Facebook community. For more information on using Facebook for business, https://econsultancy.com/blog/6249-ten-ways-to-advertise-your-business-on-facebook#i.1f9bbip1djzekf is a good place to start.
  3. Advertise on sites like Craigslist or Gumtree- at www.craigslist.org you can create adds advertising your tutoring service. For a detailed description of how to post ads on Craigslist, check out sites like http://www.wikihow.com/Sell-Items-on-Craigslist.
  4. Um, yeah…create a profile on Lrngo.com. Unlike other tutoring websites which take a fee for their marketing services, Lrngo is simply a medium through which thousands of people worldwide search to find, pay for and trade lessons with teachers & tutors, teachers and tutors who all keep 100% of their own pay. Go to www.lrngo.com to create a free profile. Because there are no fees, it also makes sense to link to the Lrngo profile from your Facebook, Craigslist and other advertising pages.
  5. Word of Mouth- The oldest form of advertising is one of the best. Very simply, people are more likely to pay attention when they are hearing an actual human speak rather than just reading words on a computer screen.

Don’t forget, at the end of the day, you choose who you are willing to teach. I would advise being very specific about the times you are willing to work and also about the clientele you are willing to work with.

Step 6: Decide how much to charge for a session

Online tutors generally charge between $30 and $80 an hour. As a proficient tutor just starting out in the online medium, it is often recommended to charge between $30 and $45. Of course, there is no hard and fast rule. Determining your price will take a little bit of research on your own part, examining, for example, how competitors are pricing their lessons.

Step 7: Examine the legal side of going into business for yourself

For instance, in the U.S., if you are self-employed with earnings of more than $600, reporting your income by filing a 1099 tax return is required.

Step 8: Talk to other online tutors

This is something that can never be emphasized enough. In order to really become effective at online tutoring, you’re going to want to learn as much as you can about it from talking with people who are respected in the field. While it is similar to face-to-face tutoring, it is obviously a different experience in a lot of ways. Talking to other online tutors and asking about how they made the transition from face-to-face tutoring to virtual tutoring is a great place to start.

Step 9: Getting used to working for yourself

This one can be a little harder than it initially sounds. Most people, having just started working for themselves, will be immensely productive because of the initial adrenaline rush for about two weeks or so. They will then hit a so-called “unproductive slump”; the lack of deadlines and hard and fast appointments can be difficult to manage. Here a few brief tips to cope with the change.

  1. Stick to your schedule- This is a big one. I know that you feel like you can take a longer lunch break now than you used to and that you feel like you can now run errands during the workday. Resist the urge. Don’t procrastinate. Force yourself to meet your deadlines and stay on task.
  2. Have a definite end to your workday- This will not always be possible, but having a clear end of your workday will help you keep your sanity.
  3. Prioritize- Lots to do and no time to do it? Know which tasks on your agenda or most important and don’t let yourself be bogged down minor tasks. Brainstorming on a lesson plan that you need by the afternoon takes precedent over making a craigslist advertisement.

Step 10: The Practice Run

Still feeling a little nervous about the whole experience? I would recommend two things: 1) Try practicing by tutoring someone in your family or someone who is a friend. If you know someone in your family or circle of friends who wants to learn more about a skill or knowledge you have, teach them a lesson for a half hour or hour to start, then ask for feedback. Realize that this will be different than teaching someone you don’t know, but it can be a helpful place to start. 2) Sign up if you haven’t already and use the Free Exchange on LRNGO.com to make a match and practice with people who want to teach and learn from each other. As you probably know already, you can do this in person or online, and both experiences are valuable for learning, sharpening and refining tutoring and teaching skills. Here are two possible ways that LRNGO’s Free Exchange can help you practice.

  • Use Lrngo to make a match and connect with someone who is interested in learning your subject of expertise, and who will teach you a subject that you want to learn in return. Are you interested in learning a little Spanish or figuring out how to solve a Rubik’s cube, or brushing up on your math skills? You can gain valuable teaching experience in exchange for free learning. For example, let’s say you are an English tutor who is interested in learning Spanish. Use the Free Exchange to contact someone who is interested in learning English but knows Spanish. You can then “exchange” languages. In other words, you will learn a skill you want to pick up, but you will also be able to practice teaching someone an expertise and gain valuable feedback and teaching experience.
  • You can also use Lrngo’s Free Exchange as a resource to connect with others who are interested in getting better at online tutoring and arrange a quick meeting. Even though as a premise you are meeting to exchange learning, you can just as easily see that you are also exchanging “teaching.” In other words, while taking turns learning from each other, you can help each other with the goal of becoming better online tutors, exchanging online tutoring tactics, practicing together, and supporting each other.

In essence, use the Free Exchange on LRNGO as a chance to build up experience teaching without the pressure. Then when you’re ready, you can list as a Private Instructor for a fee. As with any skill, I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial practice is to improving your tutoring ability and calming your nerves.

Remember to always ask the student about his or her goals and reasons for learning at the first lesson (or before). A good tutor or teacher will want to stay focused on how he or she can best help the student, and it’s helpful to know about the student’s expectations and why he or she wants to learn the subject. In the end, the result of helping someone learn and improve should be no different on video chat than it is in person.

Can People Find You If You Need Extra Work?

Need Extra Work?

Ok, I have to be honest here and say that I just don’t get it.  Last I heard, there were still people looking for work.  If not a full-time job, at least a little extra income on the side.

Yet, we had over 100 inquiries for online ESL instructors a week ago on www.LRNGO.com, and no one was listed. Even now over 50 inquiries for German lessons, and one guy comes up.  It would make sense if we were a middleman, but we’re not.  We are a free directory.

At first, I thought it was just us.  It isn’t.  Doing research on community outreach initiatives yesterday, I had to search for Associations of Non-profits in our state and came upon www.TANO.org.  They have both a job bank that’s free to search, and a free place to list your resume if you’re looking.

In their job bank, they have 51 jobs listed.  You want to know how many resumes?  Are you ready for this?  One.  One person looking for work.  Free to list, and only one person did it.  I guess our economy’s not doing so poorly after all.

When we were looking for employees last year at Teachers 2 Go LLC, we contacted the Texas Workforce Commission and they recommended that we do a resume search on their site, but let us know that only a small percentage of people who are looking for work actually list.  Once again, it’s free.

I don’t know how much money sites like Monster.com and others charge to post your resume or advertise your services, and I can’t count how many middleman sites there are who take advantage…I mean…take a large percentage of your pay.  (Hundreds? Millions maybe?)  So I can understand why people are skeptical, but I can’t understand why someone who wants extra work wouldn’t list in a free directory.  Especially one where you can be contacted directly without giving out your email address or personal information.

On the other hand, those people who do list make it all worthwhile.  Kristen, an online Spanish tutor from Katy TX, personally thanked us when she got her first student through our site http://www.lrngo.com/online-tutors/katy-texas/learn/0010728/teacher and Shaina, a Harvard graduate who tutors test prep in Washington D.C.  http://www.lrngo.com/online-tutors/washington-district-of-columbia/learn/0010815/teacher was smart enough to list in her local area on Craigslist with a direct link to her LRNGO profile. Of course, I’m not even mentioning all those who aren’t looking for jobs who have made friends and found free lessons by trading with each other in person or on Skype in over 257 cities and 61 countries.

Anyway, it’s simple: over 1000 people daily are searching for online lessons in various subjects on LRNGO.  So if you search LRNGO for a subject that you can teach worldwide on Skype and no one comes up–you will be the only one they find if you list. Yes, you will come up first and only, and yes—it’s free.  I know everyone is skeptical.

So for now, those who search to learn a subject or activity where no one teaches it yet will just have to wait.  (Hint: anyone who teaches certain languages online in Eastern Europe might be smart to list right now.)  The early bird gets the worm, and those who take advantage of free directories first will be the ones who are found.

How to be a Freelance Instructor by Teaching Your Favorite Activity

Teach and Learn on LRNGO.com

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.