Last spring, I gave up an eight year teaching career to pursue a career in writing for children. I knew that working as a teacher left no energy for writing. However, my writing career wasn’t paying a stable income. I didn’t have books that were paying advances or royalties, and I needed to be involved with children in order to capture their voices on the page. How did I solve the problem of generating a stable income, maintaining contact with children, and having the energy to write stories? I became a writing tutor.
The recent emphasis on State Educational Testing has pushed schools to overload for writing instruction. The State Test requires students to write everything from essays to explanations about their math answers. The SAT includes a written essay, while college applications require essays. The students are frustrated with the amount of writing expected. The teachers are overloaded with large class sizes. They don’t have enough time or resources to teach writing. Plus, the majority of teachers are not writers.
However, this was my area of expertise. I had been a teacher. I was familiar with education, but more than that, I was a writer. I was pursuing an MFA degree in Writing for Children with Vermont College. My articles were starting to appear in small writing magazines. I could be a writing tutor. In a tutoring business, the workday hours could be in the afternoon, after my writing time was finished. I would be around children, and yet, I would not be exhausted at the end of the day. It was the perfect solution.
How did I set up my tutoring business? First, I found a local organization of professional tutors. These tutors were independent. They had created businesses around their tutoring. They were not associated with the larger Sylvan Learning Centers. Once a month, the tutors networked and focused on the business of tutoring.
I learned how to set up a small tutoring business with the State of Washington. I opened a checking account, and filled out the paperwork which established both my tutoring and writing as a small business under the same name. Next, I created a flyer that listed my writing tutoring services. Some of my services included: essay writing, research paper writing, SAT writing preparation, college essay writing, writing preparation for the State Tests, and creative writing. I posted flyers advertising my tutoring services in libraries and community centers. I also called the local school district office and gave them my name. Then, I wrote a letter to the high school guidance counselors and enclosed a copy of my flyer.
In setting my price, I discovered that the local chain tutoring business charged $44 an hour for groups of three. I set my price at $50 an hour, and emphasized that was for one-on-one tutoring. Clients who could not afford the price were encouraged to split the session with a friend from the same class. At the professional meeting of tutors, I met a woman who had been tutoring in reading for seven years. She had room in her tutoring space, and invited me to share the space for a small fee each month. My first clients were her former reading clients. After a few weeks of tutoring, I created a referral rewards program. The referral rewards program offered various local tickets to ice skating shows, museums, and even the zoo if a family referred a friend to me. The rewards program worked to build my client list. Most families knew someone through a sports organization or school who needed tutoring.
It quickly became apparent that the tutoring business was more lucrative than the writing. However, including my writing under the same name of the tutoring business meant tutoring could absorb costs of my writing. My writing expenses for supplies, postage, mailings, and health care were deducted from my income.
Owning a tutoring business allowed me to be in control of my work day. I set my hours based around my writing. I accepted as few or as many clients as I needed in a month. I had a steady income, and best of all, I stayed with the children who were in my stories.
Mindy Hardwick is a writing tutor-consultant in Everett, Washington. She has published freelance articles on education, writing, and curriculum. She is working on a trilogy of magic realism young adult novels and is a student in the Vermont College MFA Writing for Children Program. You can read more about her tutoring at http://www.tutor-hall.com.
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