Online Tutor Me To Be An Online Tutor
January 8, 2019 7:22 PM   Subscribe

You may have heard that there's a little partial government shutdown going on. If it continues for much longer I'm going to have to think about making some side money. This got me thinking about online tutoring as a possibility to make some extra cash. Tell me your experience with and tips for online tutoring. Some additional details below the fold.

About me/my wants:

- I have a graduate degree in applied physics and an undergraduate degree in physics.
- I currently work as something like an electronics engineer but I don't do a lot of heavy math stuff day-to-day. Numerically integrating the Planck function was probably the most "advanced" thing I've done recently, so I'm sure I'm rusty.
- I'd mostly want to tutor in math and physics, probably not much past typical material covered up to junior year in a physics undergrad program.
- I want to be able to set my own hours and increase or decrease them when I feel like it.
- I have some experience tutoring underclassmen in physics and calculus in person.

Some things I know I want to know:

- Are there any companies that facilitate this kind of tutoring and don't make you jump through a bunch of hoops to start or take a big cut? Looking for first hand experience here, please.
- If you did this, how did you do it? The more details the better. I do want to know how you advertised, how you accepted money, and what kind of software you used for writing out equations and sharing your screen.
- If you did this, what was the experience like? Was it rewarding either financially or personally? Any horror stories?

(I'll be popping into this thread on and off for the next couple of weeks and will try to answer questions you might have for me, so please ask.)
posted by runcibleshaw to Work & Money (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite, this was recommended for me by one of my kids. She has a friend who works forl this company, the friend is in NYC.
posted by Oyéah at 7:34 PM on January 8, 2019

(Just in case you didn't already think of this: be careful and check your agency's guidelines for outside employment first!)
posted by praemunire at 7:43 PM on January 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think chegg pays better than which I think pays a pittance, if you want to use an established platform; you should also look into Princeton Review/Kaplan/etc. and other standardized test prep companies.

Also considering posting an ad on craiglist or putting up flyers at local university and high school campuses. Premeds preparigng for MCAT exams and high school students preparing for AP Physics and SAT II would be particularly good to target.
posted by shaademaan at 8:06 PM on January 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Trying not to threadsit, but I'm really looking for firsthand accounts here from people who have done this, not just the names of tutoring websites or companies I could easily google.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:22 PM on January 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've worked for (caveat: about eight years ago) and the onboarding process wasn't too excessively long. They were very professional and easy to work for, with clear expectations and organization of hours/pay/etc without you ever having to negotiate directly with the students.

Chegg might theoretically pay better but I've been signed up with them for a year now and have seen maybe like one job show up that wasn't a clear scam or someone asking a question that was completely out of the bounds of "online math tutor" expertise (like, graduate level stuff that was incredibly specialized). It's not at all as legitimate a platform as in terms of ease of use for the tutors and in terms of having clients/students who are using it in good faith rather than to cheat or send outlandish requests. That's my experience summed up.
posted by augustimagination at 8:30 PM on January 8, 2019

Oh, and with you do not need to advertise or sell yourself as a tutor. Sessions are entirely facilitate through students logging into their tutoring program, which then matches them with on-call tutors. They do pay less but do more of the logistical work for you, which I found much easier to jump into quickly and back out of when I found full-time employment again as well.
posted by augustimagination at 8:33 PM on January 8, 2019

@runcibleshaw I was speaking from experience. I tutored for chegg (mathematics) myself after grad school before my job began and liked it for some quick cash, but it's not somethign I would do long-term. I never had any trouble getting students because finding people who can do undergraduate-level math and physics is evidently a tough thing even on those well-worn platforms. I do however agree with @augustimagination that a lot of people will ask you to do your homework or work out problems for them.

I have also made significantly more money finding my own students in my metro by responding to craiglist posts or posting flyers on local university campuses, and cutting out the middleman by just using skype. I will note that because the semester is just starting up at most universities, you might not have as much business with this sort of tutoring as you would tutoring people for standardized tests like the MCAT or AP Physics.
posted by shaademaan at 8:05 AM on January 9, 2019

My wife is a tutor and does some of her work online. She gets her students mostly via Craigslist,, and word of mouth. She does first-session-free (which is a very good way for her to not take students she just doesn't click with/parents who throw up red flags) and if online students want to continue, they need to get a USB document camera. I can't offer math-specific details, sorry - she just hand-writes equations via the document camera.

She has a website and she takes payment through Venmo for her non-local students.

She makes a pretty good living doing it, although her areas of specialty are different from yours. She has actually been looking for an advanced physics/math tutor to refer people to, because that's not her area. The advantage to being online is you could advertise in college towns all over and probably get a decent amount of interest.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:19 AM on January 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Worked at Brainfuse. Plenty of shifts available, but they didn't pay enough ($14). Maybe work for them while looking for something better.
posted by 8603 at 8:30 AM on January 9, 2019

I have never tutored, but I have taught introductory statistics online. There was some equation writing, and for that part, I used a Wacom drawing tablet. There are lots of versions/brands on Amazon. I think mine was about $60 (I didn't get the newest version). It's pretty quick to get comfortable with. If you skype/share screen and have a doc up (I often drew on blank powerpoint slides) I think it would work. There are also online whiteboards but I haven't used them myself so I can't recommend one in particular.

I'm guessing with tutoring everything is synchronous, but if you do record any videos the software I use to capture my screen/voice over/edit is Camtasia.
posted by kochenta at 10:57 AM on January 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

An update. I attempted the physics with calculus and calculus exams for tutors on and I failed both pretty badly. Apparently I've forgotten more than I thought, so this may all be for naught.
posted by runcibleshaw at 2:54 PM on January 9, 2019

@runcibleshaw might want to consider working for a test prep company in that case. It's just logic, so no need to study stuff you've forgotten long ago. Also, there is no test required for the other platform I was talking about (chegg) -- I was able to start tutoring almost immediately, and plenty of people looking for help with basic stuff you probably remember.
posted by shaademaan at 8:02 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure that Brainfuse hired me just based on a transcript. During my actual work hours, there was always the option to refer a difficult question to another tutor.

Also, MCAT physics is for kids. If you took any bio or chem as an undergrad, you should look into tutoring those for the MCAT as well. They're not at a high level.
posted by 8603 at 2:48 PM on January 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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