How to Make Money as an Online Tutor

Today’s interview is with Joanne Kaminski, an expert about how to make money as an online tutor. Online tutoring is a great work-from-home business to launch and run because the startup cost is low and the demand for services is high. I asked Joanne the questions that I think most aspiring online tutors would most like to know.

Compared to face-to-face tutoring, is it more challenging, less challenging, or about the same to market online tutoring services?

A lot of the time, when tutors begin advertising their services, they don’t know how to craft a compelling message. I see this with both in-person and online services. Once tutors learn that marketing your services for either one is not about you, but is about the student and the parent that you will be helping, their message becomes more clear and they attract their ideal client. The problem that many tutors face is that they try to promote their services like they are applying for a job. They list all of the areas that they can tutor and it looks more like a resume. I challenge tutors to see themselves as business owners instead of job seekers.

Joanne Kaminski Online Tutor

Joanne visits one of her online tutoring students at her play.

Online tutoring allows tutors to market to the whole world, but it doesn’t mean that the whole world is a good fit. The most important thing to do is to determine who is an ideal client for you. I have personally come to realize that I don’t like tutoring adults. I was open to it in the beginning, but once I began tutoring them, I realized that the additional baggage that they bring along was not ideal for me.

Instead of thinking you can tutor anyone who needs help in any area, become more clear on who you want to tutor and then craft a message that will attract them to you. One thing that makes online tutoring exciting is that many tutors can create videos and get clients from all over the world. I have personally learned how to speak Google’s language called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get people to find me instead of me always reaching out to them.

The other great thing about marketing services online is that you can reach out well beyond your zip code. When you do in-person tutoring you are limited to students in your area and tutoring in the evening. When you market online, you can extend your day to time zones that make tutoring a more feasible option for parents that have kids in school. You can tutor during the day, while your child is in school and you can be more present for your family as a whole.

Are there any tutoring companies that you specifically recommend that new tutors join to supplement their private tutoring income when they are new? 

I asked this question inside of the Ultimate Support Group for Online Tutors because I have never worked for another company.  When I saw how little tutors would earn online with most of the companies or even working at a tutoring center, I was surprised. My time and expertise are worth way more than $10 to $25 an hour.The two companies that people mentioned that they enjoyed the most were Wyzant and VIPKid.  One group member, Fernando, said that he only has experience with Wyzant. He started tutoring math and physics online through them since January of 2019. He chose Wyzant because it was the company that had the least tedious application process to his knowledge (he also applied to Chegg and still hasn’t heard back from them many years later!) and allowed him the most freedom. However, the hefty 40% fee that Wyzant used to charge was way too much (it decreased after a certain amount of hours working for them). Now they changed their policy to a flat 25%. Besides some scam attempts that he recognized before he fell for them, he said that he has had a positive experience with Wyzant. He plans to go independent eventually, but until then he’ll continue to use their platform.

What skills do you need to be a successful tutor?

A tutor needs to be patient, understand how kids learn and the different learning styles, and explain things well to others. They also need to not just show how to do a problem, but get the student to conceptualize how to do the problem. A tutor may show their student how to do something, guide them as they do it, and then watch the student as they attempt to do it on their own. Many students are years behind where they need to be. A great tutor is able to figure out which skills a student has not yet mastered and teach the student those skills that will set him or her up for the most success.

A teaching degree or experience is not necessary, but enthusiasm for what you are teaching is a must. No one wants to hire a tutor that seems bored by their own subject they tutor. They want someone who is going to motivate, inspire, and lead their child to higher levels of success. I tell people that if you can get results, you have a job forever. Besides building a positive relationship with your students, it is the most important skill you can have.

What are the most common mistakes that you see tutors make in launching and growing their businesses?

Funny you should ask this because I did an entire YouTube Series called 29 Mistakes Online Tutors Make and How to Fix Them. The one area that sticks out the most is not getting educated on how to run an online tutoring business. Tutors know how to teach, but they rarely know how to start a business. So it is important to get the resources that are going to set up for success. This includes a business coach, an accountability partner, and networking with other successful online tutors. This is why I created the Insider Secrets Club. It is a place where overwhelmed online tutors can learn everything that they need to learn and be supported by like-minded tutors that are impacting kids on a daily basis.

Tutors think that they don’t know how to get students, but they are usually employing the wrong tactics to get found. They think that they should go to all these different tutoring websites and add their website there and they will automatically get found. This rarely happens. These sites have so many tutors that no one is ever going to find you. It is important to build a funnel that will lead students to your website so that people can begin to get to know, like, and trust you. Here is more information on how to create a successful sales funnel.

What is your advice for landing the first half dozen clients?

It takes about 2-3 months to build up an online presence and begin getting clients from other countries or states. This is not quick enough for most people, so reach out to your Facebook crew or Instagram followers and let them know what you are doing. Offer a beginning price that will never be offered again to get the ball rolling. Don’t be afraid to put into place actions that an in-person tutor would put into place. Create flyers, put up signs, talk to people in your community about what you do when the opportunities arise. If you used to work in a school, reach out to the teachers you were friends with. Don’t be afraid to approach counselors at schools and let them know what you are doing and ask how you can be of service to them. Right now Craigslist is an amazing place to get clients, but you have to use this specific strategy that Rom JB taught us during a YouTube Live session. Many tutors were trying to use Craigslist, but they were going about it the wrong way. As soon as tutors starting using this strategy, they began getting clients.

The most important thing to know about getting your first clients is to try as many things as you possibly can. Don’t be afraid to try something because you won’t know what works until you experiment.

How long does it usually take to build enough business to earn a living as a tutor?

This is the million dollar question. Terri Grigsby had a booked solid business within her first 6 months. Others that are in our community can take up to a year. Then there are those that seem to dabble here and there. Those tutors are lucky if they create a booked solid business in 3-4 years. It all comes down to grit and determination. I teach a strategy to the tutors in my community. I always start off asking how many students they want. I then ask them to take a look at their current calendar and tell me where they will fit. Then on their calendar, they will write Student A, Student B, Student C, and so on. For every student they want to get, they need to spend that time now getting those students. People’s biggest complaint is that they don’t have enough time, but if you have time to tutor 10 students right now, then you have 10 hours that you can spend each week on getting students. Every time they get a student, they will add the actual student’s name on there and subtract the hour from their marketing efforts. I share more details on this marketing strategy here. Every tutor that has employed this strategy has gotten booked solid very quickly.

What are the highest demand niches for tutors? 

The areas that seem to have the most need are reading, math, languages, and test prep including ACT, SAT, GCSE, STAAR test, and the Maps test (the list goes on and on).

Should tutors be generalists or specialists?

Tutors should definitely aim to be more of a specialist than a generalist. This will allow them to get paid more and get more referrals. Think about it this way: If you had to have heart surgery, would you want to go to a general doctor or a heart specialist? The answer to this is easy, but not everyone takes to heart (pun intended) the seriousness sometimes of kids struggling in school. If a child is reading below grade level, go to a reading specialist that knows how to figure out where the gaps are and close them. It will save you more money in the end because it will take less time to get results.

If you tutor test prep, what should you do if you are only skilled at one part? Do clients want one-stop shopping? 

Parents do not necessarily want one-stop shopping. There are so many needs out there. Some kids struggle with the reading portion or the math portion. In that case, why not hire someone whose skills will be more specific to that particular need? My friend Jennifer Arniella only does SAT tutoring. My friend Kyle Simon does all areas of the ACT test. For kids that just need to learn how to take these specific tests, a general tutor is going to be a better fit. For a kid that needs to dive deep into a specific subject matter and learn skills in addition to the test, then a tutor that is more specific is a better fit.

Of course, it is smart for a tutor to become acquainted with other tutors with different specialties so you can all refer to each other for different needs.

What other advice do you have for tutors?

My advice is to determine what your why is. Why do you want to tutor online? The tutors that have the weakest why have the weakest business.  They are not motivated and they give up easily. Those that know why they are doing what they are doing, are committed at a 10 level, and are willing to do whatever it takes to be successful will have a booked solid online tutoring business. But it is going to take time for some people and it is going to take some money for others. If you don’t have either, then this will not be the best choice or maybe it isn’t the right time.

What services do you offer tutors to help them become successful? Right now I am giving away a free checklist that points out what you need to focus on as you are getting started. We have a community of online tutors called the Insider Secrets Club where you can learn all of the marketing strategies for running your online tutoring business and get group coaching. I only open up the doors to this community a few times a year, but you can get on the waitlist for when we do open the doors again.  I also offer one-on-one coaching for people that work better by having someone tell them what to focus on and guide them as they are getting started. Or, for people that have gotten started but are not getting the results that they want, I take a look at your current sales funnel for getting clients and we make it so that more people find you, hire, you and refer you. You can fill out an application to work with me one-on-one and if you are serious enough about getting results, I will invite you to the next level to work with me one-on-one.

Note from VocationVillage.com: If you aren’t yet sure what type of support you need, join the free Ultimate Support Group for Online Tutors Facebook group and it will become more clear over time.

About Joanne:

Joanne Kaminski is a booked solid online reading tutor and online tutor business coach that helps overwhelmed tutors get found, hired, and referred. She started her own business in 2010 after leaving the school system for health reasons. Today she gets to be more present to her three daughters and spouse and makes more money than she ever would have if she stayed in the school system, all while doing what she loves doing. To learn about how Joanne can help support you as you get started or grow your business, visit Joanne’s website: OnlineTutorCoach.com.

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