This topic is where a substantial amount of the misleading information on tutoring exists. Some tutors swear by creating a price structure based on the degree they have (bachelors or masters). Some tutors insist on charging more for tutoring higher level courses (more for organic chemistry then for general chemistry.) I feel it is best to develop a price structure primarily based on your target market, the people who have a use for what you tutor. I can’t stress that enough. Let’s go back to that organic chemistry/general chemistry example. Organic chemistry is a sophomore-junior year college course. It is much more extensive and difficult than general chemistry, and it takes a lot more skill to be able to tutor it. Seems justifiable to charge $40-$50/hour, right? Wrong. Only cash-strapped college students take organic chemistry. Even though it’s a tougher course and worth more for the skill level, the only people in the market for an o-chem tutor can’t afford to pay more than $20-$25/hour. General chemistry, on the other hand, is less dificult, but it also has a different market. A lot of general chemistry students are still in high school and their parents can better afford $40-$50/hour.
After you’ve identified your target market, shop your competition, and set your price competitive to that. Use any of the top three search engines (google.com, msn.com, yahoo.com), to search for tutors in your area. Tutors also advertise on Craigslist and Kudzu. Tutor directories are also an ideal place to shop the competition. Two popular tutor directories are Directory of Tutors and Tutors Teach. Once you’ve determined the going rate for tutoring your subject, THEN you can tweak it based on your education level, service you’re willing to provide, rarity of tutors in your subject, etc. Even then, do not get too cocky with your pricing. Tutoring is a feast or famine business. It is better to charge moderate prices (relative to your area) and have a more consistent work flow then to be expensive and only work once in awhile.
Once you decide what to charge, consider setting up package deals that are paid for upfront. For example, my by the hour rate is $50/hour, which is a competitive rate in my area. I offer two package deals. One is 4 hours for $190 (which breaks down to $47.5/hr) and 8 hours for $360 (which breaks down into $45/hr.) Package deals are nice because one, clients feel like they’re getting more for their money, and, two, they help ensure you get paid even if the student doesn’t show up for a session. Missed sessions are a problem with tutoring, and I will cover it in more detail in a future post.