What I Learned As A College Python Tutor after 7 Months

Back in January of 2021 I was finishing up my last year of college at the University of Oregon. During this time, I was consistently worried about the job market and how I could make a living after I graduated. I had tutored peers frequently in my CS classes but never considered the possibility of starting a serious business. However, I soon realized that online tutoring for computer science is an extremely profitable and rewarding experience. Through trial and many errors I have been able to create a successful side business that generates much needed revenue during the school year and even the summer. Here are a few tips that will help you if you’re interested in becoming an online Python or computer science tutor:

Tip #1 “Narrow Your Target Market (Language)”

If you’re considering a side hustle in programming tutoring you MUST define a target market to serve. Usually, it’s not enough to simply label yourself as a computer science tutor and then try to market yourself to students. Typically, students want help with a specific programming language such as JavaScript or Python. Evaluating your strengths in various programming languages will help you decide this for yourself. I specifically chose Python because so many non-CS students are struggling and require help in their business or biology classes when required to code for homework or projects.

Tip #2 “Avoid Paying For Ads and Marketing Advice”

Nearly all of the clients I’ve connected with and taught have been direct or through tutoring marketplaces. I ran two ad campaigns across both Instagram and Facebook with limited success. I’ve chalked this up simply to “students are looking for programming help, just not on social media.” I would instead suggest procuring students organically through SEO or building a Wyzant profile. The latter has been extremely beneficial for procuring short and long-term students. However, Wyzant does take 25% of your total revenue. But this is generally worked out once you develop relationships with students through email or phone. Honestly, word of mouth and email marketing are the two most useful tools that have allowed me to increase my client base. However, I plan on experimenting with Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads in the future.

Tip #3 “Set a Rate Based on the Market and Your Skill Set”

In my first few months tutoring I made the mistake of pricing my services too low in comparison to the market. However, a small amount of research allowed me to price my service fairly and competitively. I learned that the undergrad college students who seek programming tutoring typically see $35 to $40 an hour as a fair rate. However, grad students are willing to pay upwards of $50+ an hour. In my fifth month of operations I decided to segment my target market by education. Now I’m able to strategically price my service based on my client’s WTP. My advice is to experiment with various price points until you get a good balance of new monthly clients and a rate that is satisfactory to you.

Now What?

When you start a side business as a programming tutor I would strongly recommend that you start by getting your feet wet. Honestly, for this type of business you don’t even need a structured business plan to make a good supplementary income. I’d first sign up with Wyzant and start trying to find students in subject areas that you are confident in. It’s slow at first, but trust me it pays off after a month of dedication.

– The Code Dog Tutor

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