Please tell me about your experiences as an independent tutor!
February 1, 2014 6:13 AM   Subscribe

I just very recently lost my full-time job, and while I bust my ass looking for a new permanent position, I'll need to find something to keep paying my rent. I have experience tutoring, but only through a large well-known test-prep company. I'd appreciate any advice from Mefites out there who have done private tutoring outside of such companies in the New York City area, especially regarding how you got started.

So I know how to go about tutoring folks, and I have my old teaching materials still, but I'm wondering what's the best way for me to do this by myself. Do I get practice tests and questions from existing books? Do I advertise on Craigslist? Do I call up private schools and ask if they can hire a tutor for their students? I can speak Chinese if that will help, maybe I can advertise in the Chinese newspapers? Scores in my favor: I got an 800 on the SAT verbal, and on the old GRE received a 780 (94th percentile) on math and 740 (98th percentile) on verbal.

Incidentally, I'd very much appreciate any leads to nonprofits looking to hire for development/prospect research positions. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I tutored for a year and a half.

I started out working for a small tutoring service in the Boston area. The advantages were theoretically that they would advertise and find work for me, and that they would handle getting payment from clients and other administrative things.

After most of a year of working for them, I decided to try doing it independently. I found that by advertising on craigslist, and through client referrals, I got around the same amount of tutoring work, I made around twice as much per hour (the tutoring service took a lot off the top), and it was honestly easier to get paid (cash or check, and I didn't have to fill out and send weekly timesheets - just kept track of the totals for taxes).

If you're aggressive about advertising by putting your offer out everywhere you can - craigslist, posters, schools, etc, and you do a good job so your clients refer you to their friends, then you'll probably do fine on your own.

Also note that test prep is in high demand, so you can usually ask for more money for that. I got a lot of business from the ISEE/SSAT, and a bit from the SAT I. Figure out what tests you want to tutor for (and which ones are in demand), get some test prep books, and advertise that test prep is something you are interested in tutoring for.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:20 AM on February 1, 2014

Both of the universities I have worked for maintain online bulletin boards where non-affiliates can get access to post rental housing, child care, etc. I tried advertising on those boards, stating that I specialize in AP English, ESL/EFL, and SAT verbal, but I'm not trained in special needs. At one university, that got me a handful of ESL students, who referred me to the manager of an apartment community that housed lots of international students and their spouses and children. At the other university, I got five or six inquiries from parents of special needs children (two of whom requested I babysit their other kids at the same time!), and no other inquiries. It wasn't something I felt qualified to take on, but there definitely seems to be a need for tutors who can work with special needs.
posted by lily_bart at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2014

Hit the streets. Post flyers, Adverts in chinatown - the real chinatown, flushing, sunset park etc. Got to stores and leave flyers; especially supermarkets for up-and coming families. More about little chinatowns here.

I see test prep centers ALL over the place in those areas. Their pay may suck, but you may be able to line up continuous work. I dont know whether 2 gigs in a day in different places at $50/hr (remember, you have to get there!) vs 8hrs in 1 day at $15-20/hr is more worthwhile.

Good luck.
posted by lalochezia at 3:51 PM on February 1, 2014

I haven't done this but my ex-boyfriend did, under the same circumstances. Advertising is one route, but the other and arguably easier way, if you can swing it, is to live in a neighborhood where you know a lot of wealthy people with kids and are friendly enough with them to be asked to tutor and, if it goes well, to be referred. Obviously don't make friends with people just for this reason, because that's gross, but this is the kind of thing where social connections really do come in handy. (This is also how everyone I know who babysits/babysat got the gigs.)
posted by dekathelon at 9:42 PM on February 4, 2014

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