This guest post is by my friend Sarah. While she was going to school in San Fran, she tutored as a way to earn some extra money. I had her answer some questions over email, and only now realized I don't have a recent picture of her cuteness to post with. Good thing she's smart, so check it out and you too may find tutoring a good way to make some money!
How did you come up with the idea of tutoring as a way to make extra money?
I have always loved working with students in small settings, and I have a few friends who also tutor. They helped me get started and figure out my plan. I also happened to get a part-time job working at a bookstore, so I knew I wanted something else part-time that would also make enough money to get by. (Bookstore jobs are lots of fun but not well-paid, as you would guess.)
How did you figure out what subjects/ages you'd work best with?
I'm a math person (Bachelor's in math, Masters in math education), so that was the clear choice. Ages was actually a little more difficult. I really love 3rd-4th graders, but there aren't many elementary students looking for tutoring in math. Flexibility is key! I tutored mostly middle school students, with a couple students in 9th and 10th grade. All of my students needed help related to math, but again I had to be flexible: one student needed help with physics, and a couple needed help preparing for the SSAT (a version of the SAT for 8th graders applying to private high school).
How did you find clients?
That was harder than expected. My tutor friends showed me a website for a local parents network, and that was the greatest help. The only problem was it was for a neighboring city (Berkeley, CA), not the city in which I live (San Francisco). So I had to find other ways to find students closer to my home. Craigslist was ok for advertising, but I found it was most helpful for connecting me with local tutoring companies. I was paid less than if I had arranged things directly with the students, but the tutoring agencies were able to connect me with many more students. And they helped figure out my schedule. Hanging fliers in schools didn't work well at all, but word-of-mouth helped significantly.
What were some aspects of this job that came easier then you thought?
Getting around from student to student was easier than I had expected. I wanted to bike (save wear-and-tear on my car), but it turned out to be much easier to drive. And I was nearly never late, which honestly surprised me. And, once I had found students, I had a great time working with them!
What were some unexpected challenges you had?
I had expected my schedule to be a little challenging, but it turned out to be more stressful than I had expected. One of the issues was that it kept changing: one student would start a new after-school activity and need to switch days, or I would switch students (because they no longer needed me). It didn't help that my bookstore schedule wasn't steady. It took several weeks of trial-and-error for me to figure out which days and times were best for the bookstore. The other issue is that I had expected students to be able to come to me, but I quickly discovered that was not going to happen. The students had busier schedules than I did, it seemed!
Could you have done this job full time? Why or why not?
This job could definitely be done full time, but I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much. The pay is definitely good enough so that you would only have to work about 25 hours a week, but that 25 hours doesn't include commute time. Couple that with the fact that most students aren't available during the day (though some have special arrangements with their schools to get tutoring during school), and you're pretty much busy whenever other 9-5 folks are free (meaning evenings and weekends). But this might be just the schedule for you!
What were a couple of techniques or life lessons you took away from this experience and applied to your everyday life?
I learned to be a lot less stressed about my schedule. Well, sort of! I learned how to ask for things, and how to determine when I could be flexible and when I could not (this was especially true with respect to my schedule, restricting when I was willing to work and when I was not). I also gained some perspective on how hard to work by watching my students; most of them were sleep-deprived and stressed, and I became thankful for my slightly-less-crazy schedule. And I tried to pass this perspective on to them, in return. Just because you "should" do something doesn't mean you need to do it.