This is a guest post written by Stella Jane, an experienced online tutor who has built a private online tutoring business she can run from anywhere in the world.
Teaching English abroad seems like a dream job for people who love to travel.
But there’s just one pesky problem…
What about the 30+ weeks each year when you’re stuck teaching in one city?
If this is how you feel, being an online tutor for elementary school students might be the ideal job for you. This is a job you can take with you anywhere in the world—and it’s tons of fun!
I used to be an elementary school teacher in a brick and mortar school, but I was never able to travel as much as I wanted to. I started reaching out to parents who were interested in having a private tutor for their kids, and that’s how my business was born.
Now I can travel as much as I want while earning a stable income online.
The best part is, anyone who is good with kids and loves teaching can do it too.
In this guide, I’ll teach you exactly how to do it.
Let’s dive in.
What does an online tutor do?
An online tutor’s main job is to provide one-on-one academic support and enrichment to a child that they wouldn’t be able to receive in the classroom.
For elementary school students, this usually means working with them on reading, writing, math, or all of the above.
Some parents want a tutor who will be a homework helper to assist the child with school assignments. Other parents want a tutor who can offer lessons beyond what the child is doing in the classroom.
In the beginning, you’ll need to spend some time getting to know the child so that you can best evaluate their needs. It’s important to build a positive connection with the kids so that they will listen to you and want to do what they say, especially since you are working with them remotely, not in person.
Parents will expect regular communication about how their children are making progress and what they still need to work on. Expect to spend between 30-60 minutes per week on parent communication.
One of the most important qualities an online tutor can have is flexibility.
Parents are hiring you to be a private teacher for their kids, and their needs might change through the course of the year.
I’ve had parents hire me to work with their children on writing and then later in the year ask me to switch to focusing more on math or science. If you really want to specialize in one subject area, like reading or math, feel free to say that at the outset, but it might be harder to find clients.
Some parents are looking for tutors to help their children prepare for a particular standardized test, such as a private school entrance exam.
Fewer clients are looking for test prep tutors for elementary school students than clients are looking for general tutors, but this field can be more lucrative since parents are generally willing to pay more for test prep.
If you are interested in test prep for elementary school students, look in cities where there is a high demand for private school admissions assistance, such as New York City, Washington DC, or Boston.
Finally, many parents who do not speak English as a first language look for a private tutor so their children can practice their reading and writing skills with a completely fluent speaker.
If you speak the child’s first language, it can be very helpful as you assist them in acquiring new English skills.
I speak French, so I always look for clients in our French-speaking community in New York City. However, you do not necessarily have to speak another language to effectively teach English Language Learners.
If you have a passion for being a digital nomad, working for yourself as a private tutor is much better than working for a company. Sure, working for a company is convenient because they find your students for you, but there’s a huge downside.
They take a big cut of your earnings.
You won’t take home 100 percent of the fee, and the company will generally frown on it if you need to cancel a session because you have a flight to Antigua that day. If you really want a profitable and flexible tutoring business, you need to work for yourself.
What does a day in the life of an online tutor look like?
On a typical day, an online tutor can expect to work for about two to three hours.
Most clients want the tutor to meet with their child sometime between 4pm and 6pm on weekdays because the kids are in school on those days. But if you schedule clients in a different time zone, you can generally fit three clients into your day.
I have worked with clients in other countries like France, Israel, and the United Kingdom. And since I am American, I can work with one client in another country at about 10 AM my time, then spend the next few hours enjoying myself. Starting at 4 PM my time, I will have two clients back to back, and then the rest of the evening is free.
You can generally expect to work more hours on the weekends because kids don’t have school on those days.
At the beginning of a session, I always begin by asking my students if they have homework or an assignment in school that is giving them trouble.
If they say yes, we work on that. If they say no, I give them an assignment that I have prepared in advance.
If you are ever interested in using a resource or website that costs money with a student, be sure to check with the parent first to see if they are willing to pay for it.
This type of schedule makes being an online tutor a perfect job for travelers (speaking of which, here are 100+ travel job ideas).
You can work in the morning just after breakfast, spend the rest of the day exploring, come back and work for a couple of hours in the late afternoon, and then have the entire evening to yourself.
This schedule even works well if you are cruising, since you can go on a shore excursion and be back in time to meet clients. As long as you have internet access, you are good to go!
How to become an online tutor for elementary students
The best way to start your own online tutoring business is to have a background in teaching. I do not have any special teaching certification, but I worked as a teacher in New York City private schools for more than ten years before setting out on my own.
This way I was able to build a client list that would follow me when I left the school. Parents are generally looking for tutors with an impressive educational background themselves, so if you have any advanced degrees or went to a prestigious school, that’s a big plus.
That said, if you don’t have years of teaching experience (or any teaching experience), all hope is not lost. Keep reading to find out how to start as an online tutor from scratch.
What are the requirements to be an online tutor?
There are no real requirements to be an online tutor, especially if you work for yourself. I do not have any advanced degrees, just an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Brown University. I also do not have a teaching certification.
The only thing you need is willing clients who enjoy working with you!
How to find online tutor jobs for elementary students
If you are not already starting as a teacher, you will need to find some other way of proving your credentials.
You can start by applying to work for tutoring companies to gain experience and gather references before setting out on your own.
If you have any special skills like music or foreign language, you will be able to find clients who are interested in private lessons in those skills as well.
You can also ask any parents you know if you can work with their children for a reduced rate so you can prove your skills.
Later, you can use these satisfied clients as references, and they can refer you to your friends.
If you have any friends who are teachers, another trick is to ask them to recommend you to the parents of their students. Most teachers are forbidden by school policy to tutor their students, so they will not be competing with you for clients.
Aside from my clients who are former classroom students of mine, all of my clients come from referrals, either from teacher friends of mine or from parents who are current or former clients.
Good word of mouth is as good as gold in the online tutoring business. Unless you’re working through an online tutoring platform, it’s almost impossible to get tutoring clients without a recommendation from a teacher or another parent.
How much do online tutors make?
If you want to earn a living as an online tutor, you’ll need to be able to charge between 80 and 100 dollars an hour.
That means looking for clients on places like Craigslist is not ideal because clients on those websites won’t want to pay what you are worth.
The best place to advertise for new clients would be somewhere near a private school in your community.
Look for places that allow people to put up fliers advertising their services in those areas.
When I first started as a tutor, I was making 800 dollars a week, and now I am making 2000 a week. This is possible for you as well, if you have a good relationship with your clients and get a lot of referrals.
It all depends on how many hours you want to work a day. Your salary will entirely depend on how many clients you can gather and how much they are willing to pay per hour.
The one danger about being an online tutor is that you can lose an hour of pay unexpectedly. If the child is sick or has an unexpected commitment, your client can cancel at the last minute.
It’s important to plan this into your budget. Once in a blue moon, a client will be willing to pay you anyway if they cancel at the last minute—but you can’t count on that.
What’s your favorite part of being a private tutor for children?
My favorite thing about being an online tutor is that I get to travel full-time while doing something I love.
Spending time with children from all over the world and teaching them to enjoy reading and writing is a true pleasure.
I have so many friends who hate their jobs and count the seconds until the workday is done.
I never do that.
My clients have 100 percent of my attention while I am working with them because the job is so interesting to me.
I also love that I can do my job from anywhere in the world.
I’ve tutored clients from my parents’ house in New Jersey, on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, while staying in a bed and breakfast in the Hudson Valley, and even in Disney World.
For someone who loves to travel as much as I do, it doesn’t get better than that.
What do you wish you would’ve known when you first started?
The one thing I wish I knew when I started is that you will never have to stop looking for clients, no matter how successful you are.
Kids get older and don’t need a tutor anymore, and sometimes a family’s financial situation will change and then they can’t afford you. So always be networking and looking for new teaching opportunities.
What other advice do you have for someone who wants to be an online tutor?
One final note—it’s very important to like kids when you are an elementary school tutor, and you will need to build a positive rapport with them.
I have a stuffed blobfish I named Blobby whom I always bring to lessons with me. Seeing Blobby brings a smile to my students’ faces and makes them more excited to work with me. So bring that love for kids with you to your job, and you can’t help but be successful.