Diversification: The Do's and Dont's

The heated panic of summer exams is over, you and your students are still alive (although possibly in possession of a few more grey hairs), and summer is on the horizon. Sounds perfect, right? Well, if you’re a self-employed tutor, it’s a little more complicated than that. In this post I’m going to explore the best way to navigate the quiet summer months, where students can be a scarcity.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, for all the benefits that being self-employed brings, there are just as many hardships. For tutors, I have found the main one to be the seasonal nature of the work – it moves in tandem with the school year, leaving you with inevitable dips in income around Christmas, and for a longer period during the summer. So, what is the best way to get around this?

Diversification. For me, one of the main draws of tutoring over in-school teaching was the ability to teach all ages and all abilities, helping children as well as adults. Here, languages are slightly set apart from other subjects, as it is far more likely that an adult will want to pick up a new language, rather than learn about photosynthesis, but there is a lesson here that all tutors can apply to their business. Expanding the range of students you teach, be it moving into pre-school and early learning ages, or advancing to university students, will inevitably bring you not only more income, but a more constant flow of work throughout the year.

For the majority of us tutors, school-age students form our bread and butter income. The only issue with this is that many of us can end up focusing all of our attention and marketing schemes attracting this specific set of students, leaving us busy from September-June, but completely stuck when it comes to the summer months. If the thought of teaching students outside of your usual age range is daunting, my advice would be to try and practice with any willing volunteers you may have around you. How about your little niece who’s learning to count? What about your best friend’s younger sister who’s in her second year of uni and needs help with her history degree? Have a look around you, and I’m sure you’ll find some willing lab rats.

Alternatively, why not use the summer months, or holidays, to explore some other skills or hobbies you may have? For me, translation and writing have always been key passions, and as I don’t usually get to exercise them during the months where I’m teaching, I use the tutoring down season to diversify my income streams, for example by working on some freelance translation projects. By using different skills you may possess, not only do you ensure an income during quieter months, but you also return to teaching refreshed and invigorated, have engaged a different area of your brain. It’s a win-win!

Tutors and teachers will agree that we entered the profession because of our passion for our respective subjects, and our wish to pass that passion on to other generations. Our primary concerns are never mercenary, but with the cost of living increasing at such a rapid rate (it rose almost 2% within the space of just 1 month last year), it’s necessary that we devise ways to ensure a steady income despite the seasonality of our work. Diversifying your streams of income, and exploring other talents you may possess, will not only help you achieve this goal, it might just make you a little happier too.