How to respond to a tutoring request

Someone just asked you to be their tutor. Now what?

TutorBloom Staff · Mar 7, 2021 · 5 min read

You've painstakingly created your TutorBloom profile and shared it with every last person on the planet. Then it happens—one of them asks you to be their tutor. Congratulations!

Thoughtfully, your reply begins: "Dear Wonderful Person, Yes." Then—crickets. You're not sure what else to say.

If I've just described your future self, don't worry. In this step-by-step post we'll cover everything you need to kick things off like an absolute pro.

Step zero: set up your tutoring business

It goes without saying that you need to set up your tutoring business before you fling open the doors. You'll need to know basic things like which subjects you want to tutor, where and how you want to meet, and how much you'll charge.

In my intro story, you've already created your profile, and so you've already answered such questions. But maybe you haven't really done that yet. Well, now is the time! Just check out our blog post, How to launch your new private tutoring business.

When your learner wants just a session or two

In this case, it's pretty straightforward. For this kind of engagement there's usually a specific, short-term goal, such as preparing for a test. So ask about that and decide whether you can help. In most cases you aren't guaranteeing any specific outcome with respect to a test, so it's useful to mention that if it applies to your situation.

Ask the learner (or the learner's parents) to review your profile, and offer to answer any questions. Then schedule the session(s).

When your learner is looking for an extended engagement

If your learner asks for a more extended engagement, then surprise! It's a job interview—doubly so if you're working with a learner's parent. And like any job interview, your goal is to work together to figure out whether there's a likely match.

Assuming the learner contacted you through TutorBloom, you will be able to see some key learner stats in the initial request, such as the number of initial meetings and paid sessions. Such stats can inform your decision as to whether to take the learner on. Someone with a lot of initial meetings but few unpaid sessions might be using the initial meetings as free tutoring sessions. Someone with a history of paid sessions is probably a good bet. Someone with low activity might be just getting started on the site.

If everything still looks good, ask for an initial meeting.

It's up to you, but we strongly recommend treating this as a free initial consultation. This helps to protect you from certain issues arising from mismatches, such as bad ratings and reviews, and demands for refunds. (Only learners who have paid sessions with you can rate and review you.)

You can keep it a short 30 minutes if you like, though a one hour session will give you both more information for making a decision.

After that, schedule the initial meeting.

Photo by bantersnaps

Conducting the initial consultation

To prepare for your initial consultation:

  • Secure a quiet, distraction-free environment with a good Internet connection, appropriate decor and good lighting.
  • If you're using a free version of a video-conferencing tool, be sure that your meeting length doesn't extend past whatever time limit there might be.
  • You should be appropriately dressed, turn the camera on and face the camera. From personal experience, if you have multiple monitors with multiple cameras, be sure to look at the right camera. (I once did an entire job interview looking at the wrong camera. That was embarrassing.)
  • Log into the meeting a bit early, and wait for the learner. This lets them know they're in the right place when they arrive.

In the meeting itself:

  • Introduce yourselves, and ask the learner to help you to properly pronounce their name if it isn't obvious.
  • Have some light conversation. Small talk is tough for some people (like me), but it's hard to overstate the value of being able to quickly put people at ease. So practice it at the grocery store or Starbucks if it's not something that comes naturally to you.
  • Discuss your respective needs and expectations. For example, something a tutor might say would be: "My goal is to help you learn. I am glad to help with homework problems, but I cannot do them for you." Be sure to ask the learner what they expect of you if they don't offer it on their own. Key topics would include the general timing and duration of sessions, how long the learner expects the engagement to last, and so forth.
  • If there's time, work with the learner on a smaller problem to gain a better feel for how well you would work together.

After the meeting:

  • Thank the learner, and give them some space to make a decision. Something like "Thanks, I enjoyed working with you. Take some time to think about whether you'd like to move forward. Please let me know when you've decided."
  • If you haven't heard back in a few days, a follow-up communication is appropriate. Be respectful if the learner chooses not to continue. Also, you might not hear back at all. In that case it's usually best to let it go and not take it personally. That can be an awkward conversation and some people just avoid stuff like that, rightly or wrongly.

If after the initial consultation you both decide to continue, then congratulations are once again in order. Prepare for some rewarding and purposeful work. A good starting point for that preparation is learning more about the powerful technique of asking your learner what they already know.