Tips for starting a tutoring business

EP 36 – Molly Wheatley: Tips for Starting a Tutoring Business


In this episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I chat with Molly Wheatley, the founder and creator of the Tutorpreneur Academy. After coming to terms with her burnout after five years of teaching, Molly had an idea. She realized she could use her teaching strengths to make additional money while fueling her passion. (And without leaving her day job.) She’s since created a unique approach, the Tutorpreneur method, to help other teachers do the same. Now, in addition to teaching first grade, Molly helps teachers build profitable tutoring businesses using skills they already have. She helps teachers make an extra $1000 per month working around their work schedule. She’s worked with countless students in her own business and continues to empower other teachers to earn additional income through tutoring. You could be next!

Starting a Tutoring Business Recap and BIG Ideas:

  • Starting a tutoring business is a great way to earn side income if you are passionate about kids and teaching, but are craving more financial freedom or autonomy. 
  • Having an additional source of income, like tutoring, allows you to take certain stressors off your plate and allows you to reach your financial goals quicker
  • Teachers can easily make $1,000 a month from tutoring, charging anywhere from $30 to $50 per hour or per half hour. (Without having to give up your weekends.) 
  • Find your niche to offer more specific tutoring services and attract your ideal clients. Determine your niche by determining your favorite subject(s) to teach
  • Teachers already have potential tutoring clients at their fingertips and can leverage free word-of-mouth marketing. 
  • Filing an LLC (or another entity) and utilizing contracts are ways to both protect and legitimize your tutoring business
  • Work-life balance is attainable when starting a side-hustle like tutoring. Determine your revenue goals first, then backward design the rest to help establish your rates, hours, and other needs. 

Listen to the Starting a Tutoring Business episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Tutoring Helped Molly Rediscover Her Passion and Overcome Burnout. 

Daphne: Hey, Molly! Thank you so much for joining us here today. 

Molly: Thanks, Daphne. I’m so excited to be here. 

Daphne: There have been many teachers who have reached out asking me questions about tutoring, so I’m really excited to get started. And to ask you some specific questions about starting your own tutoring business. But before we do that, would you mind just sharing a little bit about yourself and why you’re so passionate about building tutoring businesses? 

Molly: Yeah, so I’m in my seventh year of teaching. After my fifth year, I switched schools. I’m sure some of your listeners will relate to this, but I had a terrible administrator which is why I left my school. It was a great school, but a rough admin. So I switched to a school that had a really, really hard clientele. But the administrator was fantastic. 

I kind of flipped-flopped both of those things, and I got a bad case of teacher burnout in that fifth year. I would cry in my car a lot on the way to school. I found myself feeling kind of hopeless, wondering if I should have ever become a teacher in the first place. Was I in the right job? I thought about all those things and had feelings of hopelessness that teachers go through from time to time.  

So, I started listening to some business podcasts. That kind of got me out of my slump and gave me the hope I needed to move forward with my teaching day. I started tutoring a couple of kids after school and then it just kind of exploded into a full-blown tutoring side-hustle. It kind of gave me back my passion for teaching, which I didn’t think was possible. I got to work with kids in a one-on-one setting, which I was really craving and missing from the regular classroom.

Starting Your Own Tutoring Business Gives You a Sense of Autonomy. 

Daphne: So are you still working as a teacher full time as you’re having a tutoring business?

Molly: I am. I’m teaching first grade online from home this year. I will be going back into the regular classroom in the fall.

Daphne: What was it about making the transition into starting your own business that helped inspire you in the classroom? Do you feel it’s because now you have ownership and autonomy over something else in your life? Was the puzzle piece that was missing?

Molly: Yes. As soon as you said the word ownership, I was thinking the exact same word. I felt like I had autonomy and ownership over my own life. Teachers know that when you’re at school for seven to however many hours a day, you’re locked in. You can’t even really leave to go get lunch. So, in my tutoring business, I get to be the boss. I get to get paid what I think I’m worth and I get to set my own hours.

The Benefits of Financial Freedom and Flexibility. 

Daphne: Having ownership over what you’re doing over the weekends probably gave you a lot of pride. I hate to sound like money buys happiness, but there’s a lot to be said about that stress that you feel if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. And just the impact that stress has on you. 

Having financial freedom and financial flexibility allows you to pay for going to therapy or getting massages or other self-care items. It even gives you the ability to ask someone to take things off of your plate by being able to afford a house cleaner. So, that’s something that I’ve always advocated for. If you can figure out ways to make a little bit more money, will it help to take other things off of your plate to be happier and less stressed?

It’s about figuring out the balance of what you really need to do. So, I’m excited to have you and really start diving into tutoring. But, first, did you feel like once you started to earn more money, you were able to take other things off your plate? 

Molly: Definitely. I paid off my car quickly, which was a goal that I already had. Financial freedom is something that my husband and I strive for. We’re big listeners of Dave Ramsey, so we’re always trying to find ways to tighten things up.

Tutoring allowed me to do a lot of things this year that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I’ve been able to hire some things out on my business end, which took those things off my plate. I was able to afford all of those things with my extra income from tutoring.

Setting Your Rates—What to Expect For Monthly Income. 

Daphne: So what’s a reasonable amount to expect that you can actually make from a tutoring business?

Molly: I always tell teachers that $1,000 is an easy monthly revenue goal to hit with just a handful of clients. And you can do that by charging anywhere from $30 to $50 per hour or per half hour, depending on your qualifications. 

For a point of reference, I charge $30 per half hour. I get asked a lot about my rates and I’m happy to share that information. So, if I have five clients and I see each of them two times a week, that easily reaches around $1200 a month.

Determining Your Tutoring Business Niche.

Daphne: When you’re talking about clients, I know you’re talking about students. But are you talking about elementary students? Are you talking about high school students who are preparing for certain exams? What types of qualifications do teachers really need to be able to bring in this type of income?

Molly: I think as long as you’re tutoring and a subject area that you’re extremely passionate about, then you can tutor any age group. One thing I always tell the teachers that take my course is that your tutoring niche needs to be your favorite subject area. 

For me, I love teaching reading and writing. So, that’s what I tutor in because I’m going to be excited about it when I have to do it after school. I’m also going to be an expert in it as well. Most teachers have a master’s degree. We just keep going to school. You just have to get rid of that self-doubt that you couldn’t work one-on-one with kids because you do it all day.

Tutoring is like the perfect marriage of the skills you acquired in college with your day job. You’re really not having to sell anything. You’re just doing what you do naturally.

Daphne: For everybody listening right now who may be new to the business world, a niche is just that category of who your target clients are. So, for tutors, that is just whatever it is you are teaching or helping students with. It could be technology or just 5th grade in general. 

Do you give any types of advice on helping teachers find a niche?

Molly: Yes. I start by asking, “What’s your favorite thing to teach?” Then do a brain dump from there of all the different subjects that you could pull from what your kids are learning at school to things that you’re interested in teaching. It can be pretty vast. 

I recently worked with a high school teacher who started her tutoring business and she loves doing poetry. So, that’s one of the things that she helps her high school tutoring clients with. It could be really specialized like that, or it could be more general. 

I think the more you niche down the better because people are looking for specific things when it comes to tutoring.

Daphne: Yeah, and that’s something to dive into as well,  just how to land clients and how to find people who are interested in your services. Niching down helps you stand out above the rest because a parent might be looking for a tutor and they might have 100 tutors in front of them that just kind of have that blanket title of a tutor. 

But they might be looking for someone who is specifically a math tutor or specifically a STEM tutor. Maybe they’re looking for someone specializing in gifted and talented students. So, having that niche speaks to them. They know you’re the right tutor for their needs. You’re the one they’ve been looking for above the other tutors out there. 

Finding Your Tutoring Business Clients.

Molly: Absolutely. You know, if you have been teaching for any amount of time, you have clients at your fingertips. You have previous students whose parents you could reach out to and ask if they are in need of your specific tutoring niche. Let them know about your services. That’s the perfect way to get started without feeling salesy at all.

Daphne: So let’s talk a little bit about that. Because that’s a question that I have when it comes to tutoring. I thought about tutoring when I was still in the classroom as a way to make income. As a teacher living in Los Angeles, I had a master’s degree and a couple of years experience in the classroom and I was struggling to make my monthly rent. I was living paycheck to paycheck with that salary. 

I signed up for online tutoring apps, but I never really got into it or started really pursuing it enough. I was a little confused on whether or not I could reach out to parents and ask them to be clients. I didn’t know if that would be a conflict of interest since I was employed at the school and then asking for outside services. 

Molly: As long as it’s outside your contract hours, it should be okay. I would definitely look at your contract because it’s different from state to state. For the most part, if you do it outside of your contract hours, what you do in that time is your time. 

I usually go with former students to start. You could certainly ask your current students, especially with it being close to summertime. You’re going to be ending the year with the kids and you know where they are ending the year, so you could have a legitimate sell to them. You could say, “This is where we ended. This is what I can help with. Are you interested?”

Don’t be afraid to hear the word no. Most of the time parents are going to be excited to hear from you and to keep a relationship with you. 

Communicating With Your Tutoring Clients.

Daphne: Would this be something that you reach out using your school email address? Or would you recommend that they use a personal email address for these types of interactions?

Molly: I recommend setting up a personal email for business use. It should be something that sounds professional, like Molly@tutoring.com. 

Daphne: And is it okay to contact people using their personal email addresses that you got through your school? Or should you look into your contracts or talk to your administrators first? What are your thoughts on that?

Molly: I think it’s always safe to double or triple check. So, if you really are worried about it, then definitely go forward with checking. But, most of the time, a principal is going to be supportive, knowing your services will help prepare the student for the next grade level.

Steps For Setting Up a Legitimate Tutoring Business.

Daphne: When it comes to starting a tutoring business, another really technical question that a lot of people have is what to do once they start actually making money. Like, do they have to set up a business license? There are all these puzzle pieces that come with additional income streams. 

I started out just claiming self-employed income with my Teachers Pay Teacher’s store. And then I actually moved over to what’s called an S Corporation, where I’m on my own salary with educational consulting and any income stream. That allows me to hire team members for the Teacher Career Coach. 

But, for people who are just getting started, what’s the advice that you give for them on what they need to know as they’re getting started with the tutoring business?

Molly: Well, first I usually say not to get overwhelmed. You can start Googling things and just feel like you don’t even want to start because there are so many things to learn. I do recommend getting an LLC or filing another business entity. An LLC is a limited liability company and that’s a great one to start with. Check with your state government website to figure that out first. I do recommend that because once you start treating your business like a business it becomes a business. The money will also flow in quicker when you are not treating it as just a little hobby on the side.

Daphne: So let’s talk a little bit more about the taxes portion here. The reason why I ended up going with an S Corp is because of my long-term goals. I know that I want to be able to hire full-time team members. So, that’s why I went to what’s called an S Corp. But for most people, as you said, an LLC is usually the right direction, especially if you’re just going to be self-employed. This is something you’ll want to talk to a tax professional or an accountant about to get their advice based on your specific goals and situation. 

Now, if that sounds scary or difficult, think about whether or not it’s worth figuring out for that $1,000 a month or $12,000 a year. Usually, the answer is yes. The worst-case scenario is you decide to move in a different direction, you already have an LLC set up and you know more when it comes to tax purposes. You can do this for a Teachers Pay Teachers store or for tutoring.  I mean, you don’t have to have one specific side-hustle picked for that one specific LLC either.

Maintaining a Work-Life Balance with Multiple Streams of Income. 

Molly: That’s another thing I like about it. You can start incorporating multiple streams of income and you’re not locked into just one thing. But you’re protected with that LLC if anything were to happen.

Daphne: The last year has been a very funky year and everybody’s very overwhelmed. As we are airing this, it’s the middle of summer. People are starting to think, “Can I have multiple streams of income? Can I start something for the following year?” And there’s probably a nagging feeling in the back of their head where they wonder when they are going to have the time for any of these extra projects once school is back in session.

What is your advice for maintaining work-life balance? Because you’re doing it right now. You’re teaching full time and you tutor. So, how do you manage both of those at the same time?

Molly: I started by determining what I wanted to earn with my tutoring business. Then I kind of did backward design and figured out what I needed to charge and how many kids per week I’d need to work with to reach that income goal. That turned out to be around five to nine kids per week, depending on if they wanted one or two sessions. So, that’s a couple of hours a few nights a week after work. It was doable for me. 

I’ve been a teacher for a while, but I don’t think that it matters how long you’ve been a teacher. You can make it work if you have the drive to do it. You have to want to do it. You can’t just do it because you want to make extra money. That will come across in your tutoring sessions. 

I also reserved Fridays and weekends for my family. I don’t tutor at all on those days. So, I hope that gives listeners a little bit of hope that they could set up their tutoring schedule a couple of hours a few nights a week after school. And then you know, you’re done.

Is Starting a Tutoring Business Right For You?

Daphne: One thing that I want to touch on is that this is not the business for any of my listeners that know in their heart that they’re checked out of teaching in general. And if that’s true for you and that’s how you feel, that’s okay. There are other types of things that you can start to pursue.

This is for those who are listening and who have loved teaching. Who loves working with kids. Their hearts are in it, but something is missing. Maybe it’s financially motivated stressors. Maybe it’s just a need to grow in a different way or needing a little bit more creativity. They just might be passionate and want to learn more about starting their own business. For them, this sounds like a fun adventure.

Molly: Exactly. And it can grow. I’ve seen teachers grow a tutoring business from part-time to full-time and they’re able to leave teaching that way. Is that always the case? No. But I hands down agree with you that this is not the pitch for someone that’s wanting to get out of teaching. It would probably make you feel even more burned out if you attempted another round of teaching through a side hustle.

Daphne: When it comes to actually tutoring, do you create all of your curriculum as its own thing, almost like someone who’s a Teachers Pay Teacher’s author? Or are you just reusing the curriculum that you’ve learned in the classroom?

Molly: I do a little bit of everything. I do have a TPT store where I create some of my own teaching resources. That’s another form of income that I can have with tutoring, which is great. But you know, that’s not always predictable. It depends on the season or the month. So, I use a lot of things that I’ve learned over the years in my teaching career and things that I’ve collected as a teacher. Since I work with reading, I have a ton of early literacy books. I teach kids to read. That’s my passion. So, I’ve collected a lot of resources over the years.

Tips for starting a tutoring business

Getting Started With Your Tutoring Business – Putting Yourself Out There. 

Daphne: So what does it look like when you start to talk to a parent, a potential client, and tell them about your tutoring services? How do you pitch yourself? Even if they were the parents of one of your former students, there is still a little bit of a process there right? Maybe some sort of back and forth where you have to talk to them about what you’re able to offer? What does that look like for you?

Molly: Okay, that’s kind of twofold. On my blog on my website, I have a post called How To Get Your First Tutoring Client, and it has my email template right there. So, you can take it as a swipe file. I like to start by connecting with the former students’ parents. Talking about what grade level they’re currently in. You can add in that this year has been crazy and such. Tell them about your business and what you’re offering. Explain what you think you could help the student with. You want to be very specific and make it about their kid. 

Then you can ask them if they’re not interested if they could pass on your information to anybody that is. Then you have word-of-mouth marketing for your business. You don’t have to spend a dime on marketing that way. Parents will talk about you if they liked you as a classroom teacher. They’ll talk about you if you’re tutoring their child now and they like you. It just spreads like wildfire. 

The second part of that is, once you have worked with someone, I recommend having a tutoring contract. That way, you don’t have to do the back and forth email thing. It takes away the uneasy feeling of talking about money and your terms because you can just send the contract right over and they have it right there in front of them. 

Daphne: And as far as the contract goes, is that something that you help people in your course with actually creating? 

Molly: I do. I actually had a lawyer create a template for my students because I did not want to be legally responsible for something like that. I’m not a lawyer. So, she created one for me, and then I give it to my students inside of my Academy.

Daphne: That’s really smart. I’ve worked with a lawyer as well when it comes to copywriting and things like that. Just to make sure I’m protected. 

So, when teachers are thinking of passing along contracts to parents, they probably want to make sure that whatever type of contract they’re sending is something that’s legally binding. Not just like, “I hereby ask you to do this forever,” and it’s written on a napkin. That’s probably what I would have done five years ago if I didn’t know the ins and outs. 

Want To Be a TeacherPreneur? 

So let’s go a little bit more into what you’re able to actually teach teachers about inside of your course.

Molly: So yeah, my course starts with getting your mindset right from Classroom Teacher and then helping you turn into a thriving tutoring business owner. I think there are some things that you have to tackle, like having self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Then the course quickly moves into the business side of things, like setting up your website and getting started with finding clients and determining your rates. Honestly, it covers anything that you can think of about starting a tutoring business. That contract I mentioned earlier is in there too. We also dive into creating multiple streams of income as a tutor. 

So, there’s a lot in there. There are five modules and I go pretty in-depth in each one.

Daphne: And then Molly Is there anywhere else that they can find you? 

Molly: I’m really active on Instagram. My handle @MollyAWheatley. So, you can find me there as well. 

Daphne: For anybody who’s interested in finding Molly’s course and resources, you can find them here or head to the resources section of this episode for a special offer on her course. 

Thank you so much, Molly. I really appreciate you being on here today and sharing all of your wisdom. 

Molly: Thank you so much. I had a great time. 


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