10 Common Business Mistakes Tutors Should Avoid

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10 Common Business Mistakes Tutors Should Avoid

Subject matter expertise isn’t the only thing required to build a successful tutoring business.

Seasoned tutors know that running an effective and prolific business requires much more than knowledge of the material. While expertise may be the defining factor in whether someone should or should not become a tutor, there are many more elements that determine whether one can make it a successful career. It’s important to manage your tutoring like a real business and familiarize yourself with red flags before making that leap. Here are ten errors tutors frequently make and how to avoid them.

  1. Forgoing policies. Payment, cancellation, and lateness policies are essentials in the tutor’s toolkit. Policies set expectations and provide an extra layer of protection should clients not uphold their end of the deal. Without repercussions for non-payment, no-shows, and tardiness, tutors often end up wasting time commuting, missing opportunities to schedule alternative appointments, and losing revenue. Set policies prior to engaging with a client and clearly communicate your boundaries and the consequences should they not be followed.

  2. Arriving late. Between traffic, scheduling, and unexpected obstacles, showing up on time isn’t always the easiest thing to do. However, tutors have expectations for their clients, including punctuality, and it’s imperative to reciprocate. Do whatever you can within your power to show up on time, every time and if you’re going to be late, get in touch with your client as soon as possible to give them the heads up.

  • Not researching fees. It’s a major mistake for any freelancer not to look into going rates for services. Setting prices too high can result in lower demand. Setting prices too low means you won’t maximize potential revenue, and clients usually don’t look favorably upon increased rates down the line. Do your research before setting rates. Look at local tutors offering the same services as you and set a competitive rate. Newer tutors may benefit from lower rates as the initial demand will be higher. Highly specialized tutors or those who tutor in standardized test prep often charge higher rates. Either way, look to the local market to determine where you should land. It’s also essential to choose and communicate your preferred payment method.
  1. Guaranteeing results. While you may have a good sense of the extent to which your services will help your clients reach goals, each student is unique and you should never promise results. It’s better to set goals based on attainable milestones throughout the engagement, rather than guaranteeing achievements as specific as a certain test grade or getting into a school, for example. The latter can result in negative relationships with clients and poor referrals.

  2. Not communicating with parents. Keeping parents apprised of student progress and issues is extremely important. Not only does it help them understand how their child is faring throughout the engagement (after all, they are usually the ones paying) but it also boosts your professionalism and makes you more credible. Communication allows everyone to remain aligned and working toward a common goal. When parents are involved in the tutoring process, they are better equipped to assist in helping the student achieve academic goals outside of sessions.

  3. Not personalizing engagements. Customization is one of the most important factors when it comes to determining what makes a successful tutor. Every student is different and engagements should be tailored to each individual. Unique learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, and more should be taken into account before starting your work with a client. Before your first session, sit down with your student and their parents to discuss their traits so you can create an effective learning plan. Using the same session map across all clients will result in frustration and will leave your client feeling underwhelmed by your services.

  4. Fostering dependence. The goal of your tutoring engagement should be to equip students with the tools they need to independently excel in their work. Tutors give individual students the ability to learn based on their unique traits outside of the group setting in their classroom. Work on strategies that are different than those they learn in school. Engage and interact to teach them how to succeed when you’re not there.

  5. Not setting clear boundaries. There is a fine line tutors must walk between friend and educator. Ideally, both are merged into one but often the relationship isn’t as clear. Coming off as too much of an authority can make students less excited about sessions, while putting too much energy into developing a friendship can lead to the student setting their own rules. Remain professional and remember that you are being paid to work, but spend time getting to know and understand your student enough that they feel comfortable around you.

  6. Straying from expertise. Whether due to a student’s curiosity or a segment of their class curriculum, tutors are often faced with topics that they aren’t well-versed in. It’s important to stick to what you know. Teaching a subject incorrectly or incompletely is not desirable and can lead to poor academic outcomes for the student. If you aren’t completely comfortable with the material, make it clear to your client and move on to the next topic.

  7. Refraining from marketing. Especially when just starting out as a tutor, it’s nearly impossible to spread the word and bring in new clients without marketing. Word of mouth is an effective strategy, but it doesn’t work until you get your first clients to spread those recommendations. Spend time familiarizing yourself with effective marketing strategies and putting them into action. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some excellent first steps for tutors to take in getting the word out.

Entrepreneurs often look at the red flags of others who have come before them to learn from their errors and ensure they aren’t repeated. This concept is a smart idea for tutors, especially with so many competitors in the space. By understanding these ten common mistakes and creating strategies to avoid them, you’ll be setting yourself up to launch a successful tutoring business from the get go.


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