Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson Interview
Starting a Tutoring Business
Welcome to our interview with tutoring consultant Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson, author of Becoming a Better Tutor: A Data Driven Approach to Tutoring.
After several years working as a classroom teacher, Alicia started a part time tutoring business in 2007 working from home.
Her business expanded from there and today Alicia offers coaching to tutors worldwide, with clients in the USA, Canada, China and the UK. In addition, Alicia runs her own tutoring business based in Round Rock, Texas and has also developed curriculum and online courses for both school systems and major educational publishing companies such as Pearson, The Learning House, and McGraw-Hill.
Hi Alicia. Thank you very much for taking part in this interview with Successful Home Based Business.com.
What prompted you to start your home based tutoring business in 2007?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: Tutoring has always been in my life because I truly enjoy helping others learn and grow. I started tutoring in high school helping my friends in math and science and continued to do so in college. My lifelong dream has always been to be a teacher who could impact others and help them believe in themselves and go far. My second year of teaching, which happened to be at the elementary level, I had more than 90% of my students do well on their state assessments in math, reading, and science, parents reported that their child had more self-confidence in their work, and they could see a difference in their child. Parents, including the assistant principal, were requesting their child to be placed in my classroom. The following school year, 100% of my students had passed their state assessments and parents reported the same thing. It was clear that I was impacting students both academically and emotionally.
The next three years, I went back to teaching middle school math and science. For the first time teaching middle school, I had 100% of my 6th and 7th graders pass their math state assessments, which was shocking to me. I had taught middle school math my first year of teaching, but did not have these type of results.
It was during this time that I thought that I would start tutoring again because parents were emailing me because they had heard about my teaching strategies and how I could help children become better at their studies and motivate them. Therefore, I started to tutor students at my home. I started out with one client and just from one referral, my clientele increased to 5 students. This was a lot because I was still working full-time in the classroom and was a full-time mom. Since I worked with students one-on-one, it worked out perfectly.
Each year, my clientele doubled and students were being successful both academically and emotionally. Students were able to believe in themselves and go far.
The bottom line is that I started my tutoring business because I truly enjoy helping others, but most importantly, I have found that tutoring is my god-given talent and I have accepted it. Both my personal and professional goals are to be in a position to help others learn and grow and impact our world. In tutoring, I can do just that because I can work with clients around the world.
I like to look at tutoring as a platform in which one can truly focus on making sure that individuals are reaching their potential. It’s a way to invest in our future and to give back to our community. Not only do I have a tutoring business, I also volunteer my tutoring services in the community.
How has your business developed since then?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: In 2009, I began looking for office space because my home was not accommodating my clients. Therefore, I officially moved into my new office in June 2010. Now, I am able to accommodate more clients and hopefully will hire two more tutors very soon. Also, I have developed products to help parents with their children at home and now to help other individuals start their tutoring business as well. In January 2011, I quit my teaching job and went full time on my tutoring and consulting business.
In addition to tutoring, I also develop curriculum and courses (traditional and online) for major publishers, private clients, and school districts. I have over 10 years experience doing this type of work and truly enjoy it for the same reasons as tutoring—my services impact others on a global level.
Also, I work as a freelance writer and specialize in writing test item assessments, grant and proposal writing, technical writing (handbooks and user manuals), and article writing. I enjoy working on these types of projects because they help others in a positive manner.
Last but not least, I work online as a professor and teach Education and Business courses in Organizational Development, Leadership, and Ethics. When I am not working with clients, I am working online with college students trying to help them reach their lifelong dreams.
What experience and skills does someone need to start tutoring?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: Tutors need to build their tutoring business around their skill set. For example, if one is good in math, then he or she needs to have a math tutoring business and eventually expand by increasing one’s knowledge about other subjects or hire additional tutors to cover other subject areas.
It is in a tutor’s best interest to get the highest degree possible to stay competitive in the tutoring market. Parents will choose tutors who are knowledgeable, but can also transfer that knowledge in such a way that others can learn it. Mainly, prospective clients are looking for tutors, who are friendly and effective. These characteristics will determine if clients will receive the instruction that tutors are delivering to them in tutoring sessions.
In addition, tutors should try to join professional associations such as the Association of Tutoring Profession (ATP) and the National Tutoring Association (NTA) to have an opportunity to gain various tutoring certifications. These certification courses will teach tutors how to refine their skills and be more effective tutors for their clients.
Educators who are looking to start a tutoring business have an advantage because they already possess the state teacher certifications in their respective content areas. However, they should also try to join the aforementioned associations and gain tutoring certifications as well.
Are there specific laws that tutors need to comply with (in the USA at least)?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: Yes. Professional tutors need to make sure that they have a business license to conduct tutoring sessions in their home or office space. Also, it would be best for tutors to try to get state teacher certifications and/or tutor certifications.
Is tutoring always face to face or can it work long distance?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: Tutoring can be conducted face to face or long distance. Online tutoring has become more popular around the globe. In my private practice, I cater to what the clients want, but also introduce them to having tutoring sessions online with me in a secured online classroom. Depending on the client’s ability to use technology, we work together online.
In addition, I work with clients that are not in my geographical location via online tutoring. Online tutoring has helped me reach more students and adults to help with their learning needs.
What sort of subjects and age groups are in demand?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: All areas of Math, Science, Foreign Language, Reading, and Writing are in demand. Here’s a specific breakdown by grade level:
- K-5: Reading, Math, Science (5th grade)
- 6-8: Reading, Math, Science, SAT/ACT Test Prep
- 9-12: Math, Science, SAT/ACT Test Prep
- College Level: Writing, Math, Science, Foreign Language
What is a good way for home tutors to find customers?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: A good way for home tutors to find customers is to use craigslist, TutorsTeach.com, or other online tutoring directories. Once individuals have one client, then word of mouth will bring more clients to help. Tutors may want to develop a website and get business cards because these are great ways to find clients. My website alone brings in at least 5 or more clients per month.
Can high school students tutor too?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: Yes, high school students can tutor too. However, I highly recommend that the high school tutor is at least 17 or 18 years old, depending on the state, to start a tutoring business. High school students have a huge advantage in starting a tutoring business because they do not have all the extra responsibilities that older tutors have and can really take their business to the next level quickly. The same is true for college students too. Think about it….isn’t that how the “facebook” concept came about…in Mark Zuckerberg’s college years (and possibly an idea in high school).
One of the biggest challenges in a small business is to find clients. Is this likely to be a problem for someone starting a tutoring business?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: No, I do not think so. It really takes a tutor to have one client to be considered in business. That one client will spread the good news to family, friends, and coworkers about how he or she has helped their child.
Another reason why finding clients will not be a problem is the fact that school districts are facing extreme budget cuts. Due to this fact, tutoring is about to be in high demand because many teachers will be jobless due to budget cuts. What does all of this mean? It means that teachers will be looking for another job and tutoring is a natural pathway for them. In addition, students that are still in the classroom will need one-on-one assistance more so than before because the student-teacher ratio will be extremely high. Therefore, more students will need extra assistance to supplement their learning experiences at school. This does not include the general population that seeks tutoring throughout the school year. New tutors need to keep in mind that parents are looking for affordable, quality tutoring for their children. Most parents prefer one-on-one instruction and so do students.
If there are teachers who do lose their jobs, is it worthwhile for them to consider starting a tutoring business?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: Yes, I think that it is worthwhile for teachers to consider starting a tutoring business. Tutoring is a great avenue for them to still use their skills and find a renewed vision for teaching. It is much more flexible than being in the classroom, but it also helps teachers keep their teaching skills until another teaching position comes open. This is also a great way to use tutoring as a supplemental income once they decide to return to the classroom.
What is your book about?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: The book, Becoming a Better Tutor: A Data-Driven Approach to Tutoring, is about helping individuals plan their tutoring business strategically. It teaches tutors how to:
- Develop a curriculum that fits the needs of their clients.
- Grow their client bases and keep existing clients happy.
- Accurately track student progress.
- Set goals for their clients and themselves.
- Manage expenses and credit.
Individuals who purchase this book will be left with information that they can use and many examples and resources that are included in the book to help them get started with their tutoring business.
What services do you offer to help home based tutors?
Dr Alicia Holland-Johnson: I offer affordable tutor coaching packages, which include coaching sessions, email-support messages, a welcome packet that include a free copy of my book, “Becoming a Better Tutor: A Data-Driven Approach to Tutoring and other resources based upon the tutor’s needs.
Also, I offer affordable tutoring webinars twice a month starting in June 2011. Please visit www.becomingabettertutor.blogspot.com for updates about the webinars and to gain access to FREE information on various topics related to one’s tutoring business.
Last but not least, tutors can purchase additional products to help with their tutoring business, such as ordering original test questions for their clients.
Thank you Alicia. That's a huge amount of valuable information you've given for anyone looking at starting a tutoring business working from home. Also your passion for tutoring really comes through.
If you would like to read more of what Alicia has to say, you can find information about tutoring services at RMC Tutoring. For more information about freelance writing and curriculum development please visit www.drhollandjohnson.com
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