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How to become a tutor – a 10-step guide

6-minute read

Student in lesson with private tutor
Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

26 June 2023

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If you have a passion for sharing knowledge and inspiring the next generation, becoming a self-employed private tutor can be a rewarding vocation.

From maths and music to languages and yoga, your options for private tutoring depend on your specialist knowledge and aptitude for teaching.

Here we explore what it takes to be a freelance private tutor and how to set up your own private tutoring business.

What does a private tutor do?

A private tutor teaches students to prepare them for exams and tests like GCSEs and A Levels. They’ll set homework and learning objectives and help their students in one-to-one lessons, usually in a home setting.

Typically private tutors will be self-employed, so you can work with as many students as you have time to teach. You might even choose to do private tutoring as a side hustle alongside your main job.

We've created a more general guide to starting a business, but here we go into depth about specific things to consider as a self-employed private tutor:

Your step-by-step guide to being a self-employed tutor

Learn more about what being a private tutor involves, and the steps you need to take to get there.

1. Private tutor responsibilities – what to expect?

Private tutors might have short-term or ongoing agreements to give additional education to school students, or support to adults preparing to resit school or college exams.

Here’s what to expect as a private tutor:

  • working hours will vary but it’s common to work during hours after school and weekends, and more often in the school holidays
  • lesson preparation based on key areas your student needs to focus on
  • one-to-one classes are usually one hour each
  • assessing progress and setting mock tests
  • providing support and encouragement to learn

2. Skills and qualifications

Unlike teaching, you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a tutor. Most will have a university degree in a relevant subject though.

If you’re teaching English as a foreign language then you’ll want to consider a TEFL or Cambridge CELTA qualification. And if you’re teaching music then you’ll need to have achieved Grade 8 in your instrument.

Key skills you’ll need:

  • expert knowledge in your subject
  • supportive and an ability to create a positive learning environment
  • good communication skills and listening ability
  • patience and calm manner – the lead up to exams can be a stressful time for many students

Being self-employed needs a whole range of other skills too. Good business sense, resilience, and the ability to cope with uncertainty are essential skills when you’re running your own business.

3. Decide where you’ll work

Are you going to run your private tutor business from home? Teach online? Or will you travel to your students’ homes?

Private tutors usually travel to teach in the homes of their students, but you could rent a meeting room in a coworking space to deliver your lessons. If you’re teaching online then you’ll want to create a professional setup and background (and make sure you're in a quiet environment).

If you’re working from home and running your business from there then it’s important to check whether you need permission from your landlord or mortgage lender. Particularly if you have people coming and going from your house as there can be extra considerations.

Our guide to setting up a business from home explains more.

Meanwhile, home-based tutors might also need to do a risk assessment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has more information on this, but simple things include looking out for trailing wires, frayed carpets, or a cluttered work space.

Legally you don’t have to have a criminal record check to be a private tutor, but if you’re going to be working with children or vulnerable adults then this is advisable.

Plus, if you’re working for an agency or other regulated body then they will require you to have one of these checks.

There are different checks depending on where in the UK you’re working:

If your tutoring business grows and you start to employ people, there’s specific legislation you’ll need to be aware of. This includes rules on pay, annual leave, employment contracts, and insurance.

5. Set up your business

Even if you’re just teaching a few times a week it’s important to get your business set up correctly. Not only will this help keep your business admin and taxes in order, but it will also help you focus on what’s important and where you want to go with your business.

Here’s a few things you’ll want to think about:

  • writing a business plan will help you identify where you want to go with your business and answer questions like who your potential customers are – and where to find them
  • a decent supply of stationery and a laptop is a must for private tutors. And, depending on the subject you teach, you might need specific equipment like calculators and a compass for maths or instruments music lessons
  • consider the cost and time of travelling between students – make sure you’re organised and realistic when it comes to scheduling your lessons
  • opening a business bank account isn’t essential for sole traders but it’s much easier to keep your personal and business finances separate

6. Register with HMRC

You only need to register for self-employment if your income is more than £1,000 in one tax year. But when you’re likely to hit that point (which won’t take long if you’re teaching regularly), you’ll need to register with HMRC and start paying tax.

This means you’ll need to file your Self Assessment tax return every year by 31 January. Remember to keep track of certain business expenses as these can be deducted from your taxable profit – teaching materials and travel costs, for example, can offer tax relief.

7. Private tutor insurance

You might not think there’s much need for insurance when you’re just teaching in people’s homes, but accidents can happen in any business.

For example, public liability insurance is important if you damage something in your student’s house, or someone falls over your laptop bag while you’re working.

And professional indemnity insurance is another key cover for tutors – this protects you if there’s a claim against you for making a mistake in your work, for example if you miss something out of the syllabus.

Simply Business offers tailored private tutor insurance so only pay for the cover you need.

8. Set your rates – how much can you earn?

One of the benefits of being self-employed is that you set your own hours and rates. And with experience (and depending on where you teach) you can increase your prices over time.

You’ll usually charge by the hour and rates could start at anything from £20 to £50.

9. Find your students – marketing and word of mouth

Self-employed private tutors will need to advertise and market their services to find students. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • create a website, Facebook page, and Google Business Profile for your business
  • signing up to a tutoring agency can have benefits as people will be able to find you in a directory
  • place flyers in local schools, shops, and newspapers
  • ask past students to write you on online review to help you build up your credibility
  • social media advertising can help you target people in the right age group
  • set up a referral scheme to encourage students to recommend you to their friends

10. Accreditation and memberships

Private tutoring doesn’t have any formal accreditation but it’s worth considering joining The Tutors' Association to build your credibility. It costs £99 a year for individual tutors and freelancers, and you’ll have access to resources, a job posting board, and tutor directory.

You might also be able to find associations relevant to your field of work – like the Association of Teachers of Mathematics. Joining professional bodies can help you build a community, share knowledge, and keep up with continuing professional development.

Guides for the self-employed

Get a quote for private tutor insurance

Looking for private tutor insurance? Build a policy that includes public liability insurance and professional indeminity insurance, as well as other covers that suit your business.

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Photograph: Pixel-Shot/
Catriona Smith

Written by

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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