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Starting a Tutoring Service

Put your skills and talents to work by teaching others how to do what you're best at.

Humans have been tutoring each other since the dawn of history-how else was the making of fire learned and passed on? This need for face-to-face attention continues today: Proponents of e-learning are saying their programs are most effective when blended with one-on-one mentoring and hands-on-experience.

People are hiring tutors in almost any area in which skills can be taught and acquired: academic subjects and computer use, athletic skills and hobbies. While most independent tutors have students come to their homes, some go the clients' homes or may be able to use space at the students' schools, or if they're helping students with a sport, they'll use the appropriate kind of field or facility.

Academic tutoring has been in particular demand because of the increased expectations placed on high school and even grade school students. As one tutor told us, "What used to be taught in college in the old days is now taught in high school." Crowded classrooms don't enable the individual attention many students require, and parents are finding that their children are not sufficiently prepared for college nor for the entrance examinations necessary for admission. They realize their children often need more personalized attention than they can get from classroom instruction.

Taught without the pressure of peers or authorities, many students learn through tutoring what they don't absorb in a classroom. As a tutor, you'll customize what you teach to the level and needs of each of your students. While tutors who specialize in computer topics will need equipment for their students to use, most tutoring requires little in terms of books or materials.

While the students you would typically work with are those whose parents can afford to pay for this service on their own, a growing area of tutoring is subsidized under federal law. These tutoring subjects are the children in public schools who are falling behind under the No Child Left Behind Act and children with learning disabilities. Understand, however, that if federal funds are involved, teaching or other credentials are needed.

Beyond academics, you can also teach or tutor any skill someone wants to learn. Music, the arts, and sports like baseball and tennis are a few such areas where both children and adults need additional help. And remember, it's going to be easier to sell yourself if you have teaching experience or are degreed in the subjects you're tutoring.

Tutoring is a word-of-mouth business but to get to this point, you'll need to take the initiative to develop a base of students. This is best done by calling on teachers in the subject areas in which you specialize as well as talking to school office personnel and counselors. You should also spread the word among your neighbors and friends-it's likely you'll find your first students among people you already know. Posting fliers on community bulletin boards, writing articles for or buying ads in local publications and having a Web site are other ways of generating business.

Tutors generally work on an hourly basis. Though some tutors charge less and others more, the general fees are $20 to $60 an hour. Rates will vary depending on the subject you're teaching, grade of your students, your experience, your community, and travel time (if you travel to your students' homes).

To get more information on how to start your own tutoring service, contact the National Tutoring Association, the leading professional organization in the industry.

Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. You can contact Paul and Sarah with your questions at www.workingfromhome.com.

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