Oct 25, 2017
Making part-time tutoring a full-time career with a bit of logistical planning.
When I started tutoring in September 2001, all I knew was that I enjoyed teaching and I wanted a job that would allow me to pursue other interests. I had no idea tutoring could be a full-time occupation, let alone one I would still be pursuing 16+ years later.
As I’ve logged more and more miles within the educational sphere, I’ve come to realize that most tutors hover in the part-time sphere rather than pursuing tutoring as a full-fledged career. In certain cases, that’s a result of other interests or passions, but many individuals simply don’t know that tutoring full-time is a viable professional pathway. I’m here to say tutoring can be not just self-sustaining but can also constitute a truly wonderful life brimming with intellectual and academic challenges.
With that in mind, this post is for anyone considering tutoring as a new career or looking to up their tutoring game: a day in the life of a full-time tutor.
My typical weekday breaks down into four phases, each of which has fairly set goals and responsibilities.
In a perfect world, I'm up at 7 am.
Coffee and breakfast (and more coffee) is first. Then I'll devote about an hour to personal emails, texts, and mindless web miscellany like box scores or videos or album reviews etc. (FWIW, I stopped regularly reading the world news a few months ago…). By 8 am, it's time to get the professional wheels turning. That can include finishing up session reports, corresponding with parents, reaching out to former clients, contacting prospective new clients, double-checking payments, and lots more. In many ways, this is the least exciting part of the day, but also the most critical. I know this because whenever I don't allocate enough time to attend to all of the minutiae, I run aground later in the day with logistical hassles.
This is easily the most variable part of my day.
I might prepare for sessions with my own content review, score practice sections and tests, print out new materials for students that day, work on my SAT/ACT analytics, meditate, eat lunch, and/or take a trip to the gym. For me, even a short run on a treadmill tends to reap enormous benefits later on. Tutoring doesn’t just involve considerable sedentary explanation and concentration, it can also serve as an anxiety transfer as stressed teens and parents seek to off-load their stress. Exercise is crucial towards alleviating this build-up.
If 10 am - 2 pm is the most flexible, the next part of my day is the least.
Virtually every weekday I tutor nonstop from 2 or 3 pm till 9 or 10 pm. Because I see most clients only once or twice each week, the students themselves vary greatly from day to day, yet this is still the most firmly scheduled window by far. If I've mapped out my calendar efficiently, I'll have just enough time to get from student to student and catch my breath before diving into the next session. If I haven't been able to line up my day optimally, I’ll often spend an inordinate amount of time precariously pecking at my laptop on Q trains or in coffee shops or, if I’m lucky, somewhere like this. During this window, I can tutor anywhere from 3-7 kids, with most days landing around 5. Typically, the students will break down like this: 2 or 3 SAT/ACT, 1 or 2 general tutoring, 1 or 2 school math or science, and, depending on the season, 1 or 2 college application support.
Depending on how my afternoon sessions have gone has gone, my night can be anything from all business (session reports, billing, updating schedules, etc.) to all recreation...okay, who am I kidding? This is never all recreation. But if I'm organized and efficient, I can close the work day sooner rather than later and maintain some semblance of a normal life. That's the goal, anyway.
Saturdays are often my biggest work-days, with client tallies reaching as high as 7 or 8 in peak season. Sundays however, are firm off-days. There are occasional exceptions to this, but I’ve learned that I need a true off-day if I’m to stay sharp and innovative with my students.
My weekly workload typically amounts to about 60 hours each week, plus an additional 10 hours of travel to and from sessions. On the client management front, Clark has shaved about 5 hours off my weekly work responsibilities, and that’s to say nothing of how their session reports and learning plan functionality has sharpened my tutoring operation and made me more marketable.
If a 60-hour work week sounds hefty, consider that you can always cap your hours at a smaller number. And if you’re new to tutoring, it’ll likely be a little while until you have such demand. Still, if you’re motivated, you can scale quickly from part-time to full-time, and doing so won’t just translate into a nice living doing meaningful work. Being a full-time tutor means being your own boss, and being your own boss means extraordinary work/life flexibility, perpetual learning opportunities, a high degree of career control, and a sense of having done something truly meaningful well beyond the academic support you’re offering.
Remember: you make the rules when it comes to your subject material, hours and client base. As a result, finding -- and then honoring -- the right personal boundaries is essential to keeping tutoring and, well, the rest of your life in harmony. By investigating your unique vision of what success and happiness look like prior to becoming a full-time tutor, you’ll be setting yourself up for a fruitful and fulfilling long-term career.
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