How to Start a Tutoring Business on a Budget

Contributed by:
Jonathan James
Becoming a tutor is one of the most satisfying ways you can earn a living, and it’s not only teachers who can do it: anybody with specialist knowledge, as well as plenty of patience, can become a private tutor.
However, to earn a living this way takes more than just brains and a notebook. If you’re looking to establish yourself as a self-employed tutor, there are a few things you need to know. This tutoring business guide offers a few helpful starting points to help you get going, starting with a quick list of pros and cons.
1. How to Start a
Tutoring Business
on a Budget
By Premierline
2. Introduction pg 3
Advantages and Disadvantages of running a self-employed tutoring business pg 3
Qualifications pg 4
PGCE Courses pg 4
Licences pg 5
Working with children pg 5
Business status pg 6
Choosing a suitable business status pg 6
Premises pg 7
Two options to consider pg 7
Option 1: Tutoring in person
Option 2: Become an online tutor
Equipment pg 8
Things to consider... pg 8
Getting a website pg 9
Your website will be your shop window pg 9
It’s easy to build a website yourself pg 9
Marketing pg 10
Use a tutoring agency pg 10
Utilising Social Media pg 11
Taking payments pg 12
Payment Methods pg 12
How much can you expect to be paid? pg 12
Insurance pg 13
Protect your business against the unexpected pg 14
Covers to consider
Our contributors pg 14
3. Becoming a tutor is one of the most satisfying ways you can
earn a living, and it’s not only teachers who can do it: anybody
with specialist knowledge, as well as plenty of patience, can
become a private tutor.
However, to earn a living this way takes more than just brains
and a notebook. If you’re looking to establish yourself as a
self-employed tutor, there are a few things you need to know.
This tutoring business guide offers a few helpful starting
points to help you get going, starting with a quick list of pros
and cons.
Advantages and Disadvantages of running a
self-employed tutoring business:
Advantages Disadvantages
Low start-up costs A lot of competition
Low overheads You must work around someone
else’s schedule
Potentially profitable Getting new students on board can
be difficult
A year-round service You may need to obtain a PGCE and/
or a CRB/DBS certificate if you plan to
teach children or vulnerable people
4. Although no qualifications are actually essential in order to become a
tutor, they can certainly help. A Post Graduate Certificate in Education
(PGCE) for example would give you a solid basis to start from, and could
be very useful for securing tutoring work.
PGCE Courses
PGCE courses take nine months to complete – if studied full-time – and
are worthwhile for most private tutoring work, especially if you are
looking to work with children or young people.
Jamie Thomson, The Tutor Website
“There’s no official accreditation for private tutors in the UK, but it is
recommended that tutors at least hold a degree”.
5. Jamie Thomson, The Tutor Website
“If your students are primarily adults over 18 years old, you don’t nec-
essarily need to have a CRB or DBS certificate, although having one
will give your tutees piece of mind”,
Working with Children
In order to work with children or vulnerable people, you need to
get a DBS certificate. This is the same as a CRB certificate (Criminal
Records Bureau), but is now called a DBS certificate: the CRB and the
Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) merged into the Disclosure
and Barring Service (DBS) in 2013.
There are three types of DBS Check: basic, standard and enhanced.
Anyone looking to work with children will need to get an enhanced DBS
Check. If you are operating in Scotland or Northern Ireland the process
is slightly different as they use different registered bodies: Scotland is
administered by Disclosure Scotland and Northern Ireland is overseen
by Access Northern Ireland.
As applicants cannot complete a DBS check themselves, a third party
organisation such as an employer, recruiter or tutoring agency will need
to complete the form on behalf of the tutor in order to make it legal.
6. Business status
Choosing a suitable business status
Something you’ll need to decide relatively early on is your legal
trading status. You could establish yourself as a sole trader or a limited
company, or if you’re teaming up with a fellow tutor you could set up as
a partnership. There is no right or wrong answer here – it’s completely
up to you. All have advantages and disadvantages, as well as tax,
financial and legal implications.
The UK Government website provides some useful information and
guidance to help you decide which option is best for you. Options
• Limited Company
• Limited Liability Partnership
• Partnership
• Sole Trader
Operating as a sole trader is often a favourable option by self-employed
tutors as this allows them to keep 100 per cent of their profits (after
tax). This does mean however that they are personally liable for any
losses the business incurs. If you are looking for legal separation from
the business then consider setting up a private limited company.
This would mean that all finances are kept separate. If you decide on
this option then you will need to register with Companies House and
nominate at least one company director for your tutoring business.
Once you’ve decided your business status, you must register with HM
Revenue and Customers’ (HMRC).
7. Two options to consider
Jamie Thomson, The Tutor Website
“Have a think about where will lessons take place. Is there enough
space in your home to provide a stimulating learning environment?
You should also consider your utility bills and whether the cost of your
utilities will increase as a result of your business
Option 1: Tutoring in person
Most tutors will either work from home or travel to a student’s house.
If you are travelling, overheads for petrol, public transport costs, etc.
should be considered when charging for your services.
If you are a private tenant, you should check that you are permitted to
run a small business from your home. Some tenancy agreements have
clauses in place that restrict certain businesses from operating, so it is
worth checking out before you start your private tutoring business.
Jamie Thomson, The Tutor Website
“If you offer private lessons at your own home, you have a legal duty
to make sure you’re providing a safe environment. It is also worth
mentioning to potential clients if you have any pets, in case they have
allergies or are uncomfortable around them”
Option 2: Become an online tutor
Online tutoring has increased in popularity as internet speeds and
bandwidth have become more efficient. With easier access into the
industry, competition in the tutoring industry has soared, although it
is useful to point out the positives and negatives before becoming an
online tutor:
Positives Disadvantages
Neither tutor nor student needs to Rapport is less natural, and non-ver-
travel anywhere bal communication cues are more
difficult to assess
You can have more flexibility with Difficult to strike up a relationship
their lesson schedules (and incur repeat business)
Students have the option of any Getting parents involved can be
tutor, regardless of country or time tough, and might be an issue for
zone them if they cannot meet you
Students could be less likely to be Delivering critical learning
shy, and more focused, during information, such as enunciating
an online tutorial during a language lesson, can be
easily miscommunicated
Can be an answer to local tutor
To see if online tutoring is right for your tutoring style, take a look at this
report (‘Online Tuition in the UK’) for all the answers you need.
8. Things to consider...
To become a private tutor you need a few essentials. The TutorHub
recommends the below:
Windows based laptops are available from around £350. Anything
smaller than a 13.5” screen may be too small to work on, while 17”
screen devices might be too heavy if you’re taking it to a student’s
house. Chromebooks have a tempting price tag, but be aware that they
cannot run Microsoft Office.
Most laptops will already have microphones installed, but the audio
quality tends to be poor. If you invest in a microphone headset (which
usually costs around £10), the quality of sound will be much clearer for
students if you ever need to work with them online.
This will probably already be on your laptop too, but again the quality
may be poor. An external webcam will give you a much clearer picture
and will help you if you are conducting online tutorials. A webcam
usually costs around £20 - £30.
9. Getting a website
Your website will be your shop window
Many prospective customers will search online to find tutors in their
local area, so having a professional looking website is essential. Your
website is your shop window into the services you can offer as a private
tutor. If you’re building a website from scratch, you could benefit from
doing the following things:
• Focus on your expertise. Include information about you, your
qualifications, how long you have been a tutor and what inspired
you to teach. Write about your specialist subject and anything else
you think would be of interest to potential students or parents.
• Additional information about your business – hourly rates and travel
charges if applicable, as well as any other information that you think
could be useful.
• Credibility - Once your business is up and running, ask customers
for testimonials and publish these on your site. This can help
demonstrate your professionalism and boost your credibility to
other prospective customers.
It’s easy to build a website yourself
Some platforms to build a simple but professional-looking website on
• Wix
This is a free website builder, ideal if your mobile coffee business
has a limited budget and you need to use an efficient platform.
• WordPress
WordPress is a popular, fuss-free platform: you can add plugins,
themes and images easily, which is beneficial if you wish to add
a personal style to your website.
• Webs
Webs helps create a website for free, with upgrades available
whenever you are ready.
10. Private tutoring businesses rely heavily on word-of-mouth, as well
as the repeat business they naturally gain over time. In order to find
students, and get students to find you, there are a few things you can do
to make it easier:
Use a tutoring agency
One way to attract new customers is to sign up with tutoring agencies.
Here you can put yourself in front of prospective students/parents with
very little expense. These sites are usually free for tutors to sign-up to,
as the sites make their money via commissions from students.
Henry Fagg from The Tutor Pages
“Agencies differ quite widely in their approach. Some can be very
supportive and will offer teacher training, professional development
and social events. There is also a certain kudos to working with some
of the more prestigious agencies, so it can be good for the CV. Other
agencies (particularly online ones) are very ‘hands off’: they will intro-
duce new students to a tutor but do very little else. It is important to
note that, by law, a tuition agency is only allowed to charge the client
and not the tutor”
PayPal is the preferred method of payment on these types of sites, so
setting up a PayPal business account in advance will help you get paid
Some online tutoring agency sites commonly used are:
• Complete Tuition
You can advertise your services for free and tutors only pay for
advertising once they secure a student.
• The Tutor Website
To register on this site you need to have at least a university
degree. Registrations costs £25 for an entire year and only costs
£10 to renew.
• Tutor Hunt
Tutor Hunt allows you to register for free, and doesn’t charge
students any commission for using you.
• Tutor Me
This site connects students with tutors from their virtual
classroom, and specifically takes on tutors from GSCE to
postgraduate level.
• First Tutors
Hourly rates are chosen by the individual and signing up is free.
11. Utilising Social Media
As a tutor, you want to show prospective students that you are not only
knowledgeable, but that you are easy to get in touch with. Social media
is a great way for you to do both of these things on platforms that most
people use on a daily basis.
Facebook and Instagram are good for prompting dialogue early
on between students and tutors. Short videos, images, and brief
explanations of your services, are easy ways to show you operate a
strong business. Facebook is especially handy for keeping in touch with
tutees, and for quickly responding to any queries they may have. If
prospective students notice you respond quickly, they are more likely to
trust that you are going to help them in the long-run.
Business cards are another cost-effective way to get your name out
there, and are especially useful if you are looking to capture an audience
who isn’t online:
Oliver Naylor, Complete Tuition
“Once you have set up and are providing a great service, use your
existing clients and word of mouth to grow your business by passing
business cards to each new parent who will then forward them on
when recommending you”
Paid marketing activities, such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising
can also be useful, but you do run the risk of not being seen if bigger
competitors, with larger budgets, are fighting for the same market
Oliver Naylor, Complete Tuition
“PPC and AdWords can be useful for larger tutoring agencies but
aren’t as effective with smaller marketing budgets, as you never reach
the critical mass required to see the return”
Another approach to get your name out there is to work at an after-
school tuition centre:
Oliver Naylor, Complete Tuition
“Many of these centres are run as franchises (examples include
Kumon or Magikats). Other companies in this sector employ their
tutors. The most prominent supplementary education employer of
this kind in the UK is Explore Learning”
12. Taking Payments
Payment Methods
If you are working for yourself, you will likely receive payment by either
cash, PayPal, cheque, or bank transfer. Of all the payment options,
cash is simplest: cheques can take a while to clear, so avoiding them is
advisable if you want to be paid quickly; Bank Transfers, whilst efficient,
can get rather confusing to keep up with, especially if you are being
paid by multiple students/parents. PayPal is gaining in popularity all the
time. It allows you to create invoices and request money from students
easily, but be aware that you will be charged between 1.4% and 3.4%,
plus 20p per transaction.
Oliver Naylor, Complete Tuition
“Stress the importance of paying on the day of the lesson, or in
advance if possible. You will also benefit from setting fixed payment
days for each person, so you can easily check who has paid on time”
You might want to consider offering a free consultation lesson at a
reduced fee to establish trust, or alternatively offer a shorter lesson
during your first meeting. If you are concerned about students paying
regularly, here are some sample payment strategies, outlined by The
Tutor Pages, below:
• Take payment in advance for a whole term’s lessons.
• Take payment in advance for a block of 4 or 6 lessons.
• Take payment online a week in advance for each lesson.
• Take payment by cheque, PayPal, bank transfer, or through an
online payment system via your website.
How much can you expect to be paid?
As a private tutor, your rates need to be competitive enough to get
pupils on board, without cutting so low as to risk your profits. The
amount you can expect to be paid depends on the level of academia
you will be working with: on average, tutors charge £30-£32 per hour
to students below the age of 14 (as of 2017). For GCSE tuition, rates
are around £33.90 per hour, and A-level tuition is £37.20 per hour on
average. University-level tutorship will earn you around £42.50 per
For more information about what you can expect to be paid, depending
on your level of study and the subject you are teaching, take a look at
the Tutor Pages private tuition fees data.
13. Protect your business against the unexpected
Although Public Liability insurance isn’t required by law, it is
recommended for anyone who offers tuition. This protects tutors
against legal liability following an injury to a student or damage to third
party property. Public Liability insurance is equally as important if you
are teaching in a student’s home or neutral venue.
Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance is another means of protection.
Many tutors take out PI insurance to protect themselves from any
potential legal proceedings for example if a student fails their exams
and parents allege that your tuition was inadequate.
If you’re travelling to clients houses or using your car for business
purposes, you will need to check your motor policy, in particular the
description of use. Private motor insurance generally excludes business
use meaning it could be invalid. Without the right cover in place you
may not be covered if you’re involved in an accident on the road. You
may wish to consider commercial vehicle insurance.
For advice on insurance for your tutoring business, speak to the
business insurance experts at Premier BusinessCare today
on 0333 320 6009, get a quote online or request a call back.
14. Thank you to our contributors:
We would like to thank our contributors for providing us with their advice and comments:
Henry Fagg
A private tuition resource including a directory of UK tutors
Jamie Thomson
A resource to both find a tutor or advertise for students
Oliver Naylor
A resource to help find course & revision materials
This guide has been complied by Premierline who specialise in arranging personalised business insurance for businesses in the UK.
If you have any feedback on this guide, or would like to contribute to one of our
business articles, please contact us at [email protected]