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Learn how to become a private tutor

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In this guide, we explore what it takes to become a private tutor and whether it's the right role for you.

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Being a private tutor can pose challenges, yet it's also immensely rewarding. The students you meet in this capacity might struggle to grasp a specific subject, necessitating empathy and creativity to cater to each student's learning style.

What is a private tutor?

A private tutor is someone who teaches students outside the traditional classroom setting. When you freelance as a private tutor, you can select the students you wish to teach, take pride in their accomplishments and establish your own schedule and pricing.

Private tutors tend to work one-to-one or in small groups, providing personalised instruction that’s tailored to the student's needs. This could be in an academic subject, like maths or French, or a more practical course of study, such as music or art. Private tutors assist pupils of all ages, from KS1 to university graduates.   

What skills do you need to be a private tutor?

Essential skills for private tutors include effective communication, patience, adaptability and the ability to motivate and inspire students. You should also be organised, punctual and able to provide constructive feedback to help students improve.

What qualifications do you need to be a private tutor?

While formal qualifications are not mandatory to become a freelance tutor, clients tend to scrutinise tutors’ academic achievements and work experience when choosing who to hire. Possessing teaching experience and a high-level qualification in the subject you intend to teach will make you a more appealing prospect. 

Nonetheless, what is truly essential is a solid grasp of the material you're teaching and the ability to relate and adapt to your students’ needs. If you can demonstrate proficiency and experience in these areas, there’s no reason you can’t succeed.

Do you need a DBS certificate to be a private tutor?

A disclosure and barring service (DBS) certificate helps ensure the safety and well-being of students by allowing clients to verify a tutor's criminal record. Although there is no legal requirement for self-employed tutors to have a DBS certificate, holding one can help reassure prospective clients, especially parents. Individuals can apply for a Basic DBS check on the GOV.UK website. It costs £18 and takes around 14 days to process.

Is being a private tutor a hard job?

Being a private tutor can pose challenges, yet it's also immensely rewarding. The students you meet in this capacity might struggle to grasp a specific subject or with learning overall, necessitating empathy and creativity to cater to each student's learning style.

Private tutors also need to be flexible about the hours they work. Most clients prefer scheduling lessons for late afternoon, early evenings and weekends. The run-up to exam season is also a busy time as the frequency of regular lessons increases. On the other hand, private tutors’ workloads tend to drop during the school holidays, so it's essential to manage your income carefully. 

Can you be a private tutor as a side hustle?

Yes, many people choose to tutor as a side hustle while maintaining full-time jobs or pursuing their studies. You can usually arrange tutoring assignments around your existing commitments, allowing you to earn extra income in your spare time.

What does a private tutor do on a daily basis?

As a private tutor, your daily tasks include preparing lesson plans, conducting tutoring sessions, assessing student progress and providing feedback. You'll also spend time communicating with students and their parents to address any concerns or questions they may have. 

Private tutors who offer face-to-face lessons at their clients’ homes also spend some time travelling between appointments, while those who teach on their own premises must allocate time for cleaning and organising their learning space. Face-to-face tutors also need to regularly replenish their supplies of books and other materials. 

Things may be somewhat simpler for online tutors, although they face their own set of challenges. For instance, they must invest time to ensure the reliability of their technological solutions and provide support for clients who may not be familiar with the tools they use.

Regardless of the tutoring method you choose, keeping up to date with modern teaching methods and the national curriculum (if tutoring academic subjects) is essential and requires a certain investment of time.

Setting up in business as a freelance private tutor

In addition to their day-to-day teaching work, private tutors need to register as self-employed with HRMC and take on the running of a business. You can establish yourself as a sole trader or limited company or maintain your full-time job while engaging in private tutoring as a side hustle. In either scenario, there are certain business basics to consider once you embark on a career as a freelance tutor:

Writing a business plan

A business plan is a vital document. It acts as a blueprint, outlining the services you intend to offer and your overarching objectives. It identifies gaps in the market, lists your unique selling points, and explains how you can use these two elements to become a successful private tutor. When creating your business plan, you should:

  • Ensure your business idea is solid

  • Set out your pricing, marketing approach and the type of work you will do

  • Consider problems you might face and how you could resolve them

  • Determine what your goals are

  • Calculate your likely turnover and profit

  • List what equipment and supplies you need and any ongoing costs

  • Think about whether you need financial help and, if so, what you can afford

Sorting out financing

Your business plan should give you a good idea of any financing you need. Depending on the route you decide to take as a private tutor, you may need to invest a little upfront. For instance, if you decide to give lessons at your home, you will need a space to receive students, such as a converted garage or garden room. On the other hand, if you plan to travel to your students, you may need to get a public transport season ticket or pay for a car, regular vehicle maintenance, car insurance and fuel. Happily, there are several types of business loans available for private tutors, including:  

  • Startup business loans – you can apply for these if you have been trading for under 36 months

  • Start Up Loan Scheme – you can borrow up to £25,000 with this government-backed form of credit, providing your business is less than three years old, you’re over 18 and you live in the UK 

  • Secured business loan – you need to put up an asset, such as your home, as security when you apply for this type of finance. People typically choose a secured loan if they need a bigger loan

  • Unsecured business loan – you don’t need to put up an asset as security when you apply for unsecured loans, but they do tend to attract higher interest rates as a result. People tend to opt for unsecured loans when they want to borrow smaller amounts

  • Invoice finance – you can use this innovative form of financing to plug cash flow gaps while you wait for outstanding invoices to be settled

  • Business vehicle finance – you can use this type of loan agreement to purchase a vehicle for your company, so you don’t need to pay out a big lump sum

Opening a business bank account

You don’t have to have a business bank account as a private tutor, but it’s a smart move to keep your personal and business finances separate. It makes it easier for you to keep track of your expenses and income, which helps you monitor the health of your business and makes completing your tax return easier. The same applies to business credit cards – managing your finances is simpler if you keep your business and personal spending separate.

Marketing your services

Promotion is essential for any business, and private tutoring is no exception. Try to create a striking brand that captures your unique selling points, and make sure prospective clients know the type of teaching you offer, your rates, and how to get in touch. These ten marketing ideas for small businesses are a good starting point when considering your marketing plan.

Organising insurance

It’s easy to overlook business insurance when you’re setting up as a freelance tutor, but it’s crucial for protecting you and your business. You should consider self-employed insurance as a minimum. If you teach face to face, you’ll also need public liability cover. You may also need building and contents insurance if you have separate business premises and, depending on who you’re tutoring, professional indemnity insurance

Private tutors should also call their existing home insurance provider to ask if they need business insurance if they plan to work from home.

Arranging pension contributions

Becoming self-employed means assuming responsibility for your pension contributions, either by continuing to pay into an existing pension or establishing a new private pension scheme. Check our comprehensive pension guide to evaluate your choices and potentially secure a more advantageous private pension deal.

Handling tax and national insurance

Filling out a self-assessment tax form can be unnerving if you have never done it before. This beginner’s guide to self-assessment tax returns takes you through the basics, including the information you need to gather and the cut-off dates for sending in your tax return. 

How do you find clients as a private tutor?

Private tutors have various options for finding clients. You can start by spreading the word to friends, family, and neighbours. Creating flyers or business cards to distribute in your community can also generate interest among potential clients. Additionally, online platforms like tutoring websites or social media can connect you with students seeking your expertise. 

Word-of-mouth recommendations are extremely valuable in this profession, so it’s worth instigating a referral scheme once you have a few clients on board. For instance, you could offer a 10% discount to individuals who refer new paying customers. Reduced rates for clients open to small group sessions can also win new business.

The good news is that the demand for private tutors is already high and is continuing to grow. A survey conducted by the educational charity Sutton Trust in March 2023 revealed that 30% of 11–16-year-olds in the UK have used private tutoring at some point, a notable increase from the pre-pandemic figure of 27%. The figure is even higher in London, where 46% of secondary school pupils have had private lessons. 

How much should you charge when starting out as a private tutor?

Setting your tutoring rates depends on factors such as location, experience, and the subject you're teaching. It’s essential to research the going rates in your area and consider starting at a competitive but reasonable price to attract clients. The job website Indeed suggests that the average private tutor freelance rate is £21.25 per hour for face-to-face teaching.  Online tutors working for an agency can expect to earn less initially. For example, MyTutor offers between £12 and £26.50 for a 55-minute lesson, depending on how many assignments tutors complete and their teaching level. 

How do you get paid as a private tutor?

Payment methods can vary. Some private tutors request payment for a course of lessons in advance. This lessens the tutor's risk but can be unattractive for clients. Another option is to request payment at the end of each session. This may be better for the client but entails more work for the tutor, who has to chase and process the payments. 

Depending on individual clients' preferences, you can ask for payments by bank transfer or use a card payment system.

Business insurance is a way to protect your company against financial risk if things go wrong.

About Karen Levell

Karen is a self-employed writer, translator, project manager and editor. Something of an all-rounder, she has worked for numerous consumer magazines and websites including specialist media brands covering computing, technology, gaming, TV, film, sports and crafts. In addition to her other roles, she also works behind the scenes as a project co-ordinator for Money and teaches jewellery-making as a side hustle. Karen lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, a boomerang step-daughter and a crazy dog called Stanley.

View Karen Levell's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.