Academic tutors work with students who may be struggling in the classroom and with those who want to boost test scores on admissions and placement exams. Opening a tutoring center can afford you the opportunity to use your teaching skills and credentials to help students prepare for their future. You may choose to open your own independently-run center, or you might want to take advantage of the established reputation and brand recognition that a franchised tutoring center can offer.
Develop a Business Plan
A great business plan gives your tutoring center direction, enhances your chances of getting funding and shows that you're planning for the future. In your business plan:
- Describe how you'll fund and operate the center
- Describe how you will acquire a facility
- Set management policies
- Delineate administrative tasks
- Draft marketing ideas
- List the grade levels you'll serve (and why you have targeted this audience)
Create a Financial Plan
Open a bank account to establish the legitimacy of your tutoring center. It's important to identify where funds originated so there's no appearance of impropriety when the center is audited as part of your annual accounting process. If you've loaned yourself money to launch the business, put into place a schedule of repayments plus interest. Treat donations, bequests, endowments or contributions the same way: implement a repayment plan to keep finances on the up and up. Track every cent you receive that's used to launch your center.
Secure Licensing and Permits
Check with your state's Department of Education for rules governing private schools and whether your proposed tutoring center falls under their jurisdiction. You will also need to check with local authorities on applicable rules and regulations for starting a business in your community. A local office of the Small Business Administration can help you navigate a business start-up. Many cities and towns also have a business development office that can provide guidance.
Complete background requirements, forms and other documents mandated by each agency. Double check documents before you return them to make certain you've answered everything and included required backup material. Make copies of the contents of the package, include appropriate fees (drawn from your new business checking account) and begin the process of setting up the facility.
Select a Location
Find a location for your tutoring center in close proximity to public schools. Space will dictate the number of instructors and teachers you'll be able to manage at any given time. As for layout and design, make certain the setup meets zoning and habitation guidelines. You'll need adequate restroom facilities, enough space to construct noise barriers so learning isn't hampered when multiple tutoring sessions are going on at once, ceiling tiles and flooring that are engineered to absorb noise, and plenty of instructional aids (blackboards, whiteboards, study carrels and shelving for materials).
Ensure Building Compliance
Complete the build-out of the center. Place furniture, set up an office space, stock the shelves with materials and begin recruiting tutors. At the same time, have the Department of Health, local zoning or occupancy board and other agencies sign off on the completed facility. You may be required to have an inspection conducted by the fire department, and if there are elevators in your building, they could be subject to evaluation as well.
Research the fee structures of tutoring concerns in your area of the country. Making phone calls and visiting websites should get you within the fees ballpark so you can price your services accordingly. If you plan to do all of the tutoring yourself, a single rate structure should cover overhead and your salary, but if you're hiring instructors, you'll want to inflate your fees to cover their salaries. While you're investigating and setting fees, contact your insurance broker to purchase the most coverage for the best price. Remember that you not only have to cover the facility, but the people who work there. Some tutoring centers require employees to be bonded, so check into this as well. Most require tutor background checks.
Establish Business Policies
Put policies into effect before you start recruiting and helping students. Avoid losing money by making it your policy to collect fees up front. If you bundle session packages and offer a price reduction, ask for a substantial deposit before enrolling the child in your program. Regardless of the financial arrangements you set, have every client sign a standard contract for your tutoring services. This won't guarantee payment of every cent owed to your business, but contracts improve your chances.
Build Your Business Through Marketing
Market your business. Use every tool available to attract clients. Solicit invitations from the PTA, social organizations, churches and other places parents frequent. Post notices on message boards at supermarkets, day care centers, laundry centers, libraries, and community and park districts centers — anywhere you'll find kids and parents. Meet with school principals to talk about your services. Bring with you copies of your fee structure plus testimonials, certifications or other credentials that give your tutoring center legitimacy. Advertise on Craigslist and make your presence known on social media. That's where parents frequently turn to get what they need.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.