If you've got a college degree or real world experience in a subject area that's taught in school, you can earn some extra cash by offering tutoring services over the web. Online tutoring is also a great gig for teachers to pursue on the side. It takes a minimal investment to put your talents to work as on online tutor, and you can help others with your academic skills. The only downside is that you may not be able to do it during the hours you'd prefer (students might be in school during your preferred work hours).
What Subjects to Tutor
Think about the subjects you'd like to tutor, and whether there's a demand for them. Are you interested in tutoring just one subject, or are you skilled enough to offer services in multiple areas? For example, you might have a chemistry degree. If there's not enough demand for chemistry tutors in your area, you offer additional services in related subjects, like algebra or another one of the sciences. Likewise, if you have an English degree, you could tutor in literature, writing, poetry or other subjects.
Which Students to Tutor
Decide on your target market. This includes an age range, as well as tutoring public school, private school and home school students. The biggest demand is often for tutors in the private school sector. The parents are already paying top dollar for their children's education, and the competition at these schools is sometimes fierce. They're willing and able to pay for tutoring services, but they can be very demanding customers. The homeschooling sector is the least likely to require tutoring, but don't count it out. Sometimes homeschooling parents need a little help to supplement a subject. Public schools will provide the largest volume of customers, but you might want to have a selection process before taking on students.
When it comes to selecting an age range for the students you'll tutor, it comes down to a matter of personal preference. Maybe you're more comfortable working with middle school children, or you don't have the patience to work with precocious 7-year-olds. Set an age range that you're comfortable with, and try to stick to it.
Setting Up Shop
You don't need a tremendous website to advertise your tutoring services. A simple blog page can be all that's needed, since you can do a lot of local marketing in your community to find customers. You can use WordPress or Blogger to set up a free blog that describes your background, your services and skills, and your rates for tutoring.
Your "classroom" is another matter. What you need will partly depend on what you're teaching. You'll need a webcam at a minimum if you're tutoring for a specialized class like music or art, and possibly a high quality one depending on how you plan to teach. To minimize costs, use Skype to connect with students. Set up an area in your home or office where you plan to tutor them. Make it presentable, and if you need a whiteboard to write things out for them, make sure you purchase a webcam that can send a good quality image.
Another option is to use specialized software that's designed for tutoring, such as Groupboard.com. If you're willing to make the investment, Groupboard and similar programs allow you to set up a virtual whiteboard on your computer screen, which you can share with students on the other end.
Figure out how much you can reasonably charge for tutoring services. The bad news is that there are many English tutors out there, and the oversupply drives down the price that you may be able to charge. If you have a more specialized skill like math, science or music, you'll be able to charge more. Research what other tutors in your geographic area are charging, and set your rates based on your skills and experience. Typical rates range from $15 to $35 per hour.
Marketing Your Services
Once your website and software are established, it's time to start gathering students. Some legwork can really pay off in this area. Set up meetings with the principal at each of your local public and private schools. Keep it brief, describe your tutoring services to them and offer to share your website with teachers in your subject area. Schools are often more than willing to work with tutors, and if you can make connections with local teachers, they'll be more than happy to send business your way. (If you can help bring the grades up for any struggling students, you're doing them a favor, after all.)
Homeschooling groups often have local co-ops or gatherings, where the parents and children get together for collaborative events. There's usually a point of contact or a leader for these groups. Contact them and ask if you can sit in on a meeting. Introduce yourself to parents, pass out business cards and let everyone know about your services.
Other Tips for Finding Students
Aside from searching locally, there are tutoring agencies online through which you can contract. You'll have to either pay a service fee directly to them, or some agencies work on a commission basis. Some of the top sites include:
Read the fine print so you know what you're getting into. Some agencies even put out a bid process, where you compete with other tutors based on your availability, skills, rates and so on. If you're struggling at first to find students in your local area, you might want to examine this route.
One Final Note
Parents are understandably concerned about Internet safety and their children. Since there are no agencies overseeing tutors, it might be worthwhile to invest in getting a criminal background check done. Contact your local police department to see how it's done. Once you pay to have it done, you can provide copies to parents that want to see one. It can help ease their minds before they allow their child to interact with you online.