Whether you have been tutoring for a while or are just getting started, you may be wondering whether online tutoring is right for you. There are a lot of pros and cons of online tutoring, so it’s important to weigh them to make sure you’re making the right choice for you. In this article will talk about the pros and cons of online tutoring, who online tutoring is best for, and how to get started.
Note: when I say online tutoring, I mean private online tutoring, working with students you find yourself and work with privately. I don’t mean working for a huge online agency, such as one of the many online ESL companies hiring teachers to work with their students in China or elsewhere in the world. If you want to know my thoughts on that style of online tutoring, read here.
The pros of online tutoring
I may be biased here, since I have been online tutoring for a long time, and have been exclusively online since the end of 2018, but here are the reasons I’ve come to love online tutoring.
1. The convenience
Working with students online means I can meet with them in my home or wherever I am at. I’ve tutored at my sister’s house, at the airport, in hotel rooms, and even in quiet hotel lobbies. My favorite location of course is my home office, which means my commute is literally just a few steps.
2. More efficient scheduling
With the convenience that comes from no commute, I am able to schedule tutoring sessions back-to-back if I would like or with whatever length of break I need between sessions. I’m no longer limited by traffic conditions.
3. Wider peak hours
With in-person tutoring, nearly everyone wants to meet during the after-school hours on weekdays. That means your day between 4 and 7pm can be super packed. Add in rush hour traffic, and it can sometimes be hard to fit in more than two sessions during these peak hours.
Online tutoring, however, means that you can meet with students from around the world. So you can spread out the peak tutoring hours across multiple time zones and can fit in many more peak hour tutoring sessions. For example, the peak hours in New York, run from 4pm to 7pm Eastern time. But 7pm Eastern is 4pm Pacific, which is exactly at the beginning of peak hours for students on the West Coast.
If you want even more flexibility with your schedule, you can even tutor students on another continent, where peak tutoring hours could be in your morning or earlier in the afternoon.
4. More consistent meetings
Many of the typical reasons for canceling face-to-face sessions don’t have to apply to online tutoring. Students can still meet when they (or you) are out of town. Snow days, accidents on the freeway, coronavirus fears… These things don’t have to cause cancellations.
5. Fewer germs
For those days when either you or your student is sick enough to be contagious but not so sick to be unable to study, online tutoring is a great way to make sure you’re not spreading germs. This is also great when the student themselves might be feeling fine, but there’s definitely sickness going around in their family.
6. Find more students
It goes without saying that there are more students looking for a tutor in the whole world than there are students looking for tutoring in your town. Especially if you tutor a less common subject, such as some foreign languages or graduate level math or science, you may have an easier time finding students if you widen your search to include online students in other locations.
7. Online tutoring is growing
Online tutoring is projected to grow at a much faster rate in the coming years then in-person tutoring. Getting started with online tutoring now can position you well as the industry as a whole continues to move in that direction.
The cons of online tutoring
I don’t want to just paint a rosy picture of online tutoring without acknowledging that it might not be best for everyone. Here are the cons.
1. Your own comfort level
Obviously, some of us are more at ease with technology than others. If it will take you a long time to get comfortable with the tools for online tutoring, you may find it more efficient to just stick to in-person tutoring. Nothing at all wrong with that, and it’s good to play to your strengths.
2. Random tech issues
Even for those of us who are very comfortable with online tools, you never know when there’s going to be something a little glitchy. Your students may run into tech problems that you need to troubleshoot, and it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what the problem is when you’re not physically there.
3. Tech cancellations
Even though it’s totally possible to hold online tutoring on snow days, it’s impossible to meet with a student online when their internet is out or their power is out. Of course, if their power is out in the evening, it might be a little awkward to have an in-person tutoring by candlelight anyway…
4. Pricing expectations
Some tutors advertise online tutoring prices lower than there in-person tutoring. Sometimes this reflects the lack of transportation costs in online tutoring, but other times it is the way to convince families to give online tutoring a try. If you want to tutor online, you may therefore be up against preconceptions that online tutoring should be cheaper. It’s unfortunate, but it does come up sometimes.
5. Misconceptions about online tutoring
If someone hasn’t yet tried online tutoring, they may feel that it will be difficult to build a personal connection with their tutor. Sometimes this can prevent them from considering online tutoring, or can make them more hesitant. In my experience, once students actually try online tutoring, most of them find it to be just as personal a connection as in-person would be.
The trick is to get them to try it.
Who is online tutoring best for?
Now that you’ve heard the online tutoring pros and cons, I want to share a few thoughts on which tutors are especially well suited for online tutoring.
Tutors looking for flexibility
Online tutoring is definitely more flexible than in-person tutoring, both in terms of your location and your hours. If flexibility matters to you, you definitely want to check out online tutoring.
Tutors wanting to work in the morning
Unless you are tutoring adult students, it’s typically hard to fill a tutoring schedule with morning students. That’s exactly when they are in school! So if you want to tutor in the mornings, exploiting time zones with online tutoring is likely your best option.
Tutors without a local market for their subject
If there’s not a lot of demand for what you tutor in your area, moving online to be a great way to find more students. I tutored LSAT while living in Hawaii, and just the sheer geography and population size of Oahu would have made it difficult to find enough LSAT students if I hadn’t looked online.
How to get started
Interested in online tutoring, but not sure what your first step should be? Or not sure how you would actually find students from other cities?
I’ve got you covered. My Tutoring Business Starter Kit includes a section on how to find online students. Sign up below to get your copy.
And for more tips and tricks for running an online tutoring session, join the Private Tutoring Society Facebook group.