As a tutor, there is one question I hear a hell of a lot: tutoring sessions are too expensive!
Believe me, I know. The price of tutoring at this point is just pushing out so many parents who would love to get extra help for their children. It makes sense why they would ask the question. I know I would! Even if I could afford the sessions, I’d grumble about it. Who wouldn’t?
For me, though, understanding why things are the price they are helps me to feel a little better. So, allow me to introduce you to some of the reasons why tutors charge such high prices. Most of the reasons are fair and make a lot of sense. However, there is one that I disagree with
Here are the biggest reasons why tutoring costs so much.
Table of contents
- Expensive Tutors Usually Have Years of Experience
- The Fee Covers Preparation and Planning Time
- More Qualified Tutors Are More Expensive
- Tutors Who Live in a High Cost of Living Area Charge More
- Travel, Resource and Software Costs Are Expensive For Tutors
- Many Good-Quality Tutors Could Make a Lot of Money in Other Careers
- High Prices Are a Vetting Process For Some Tutors
- Supply and Demand
- To Deter Parents When They Don’t Want to Work
- Some Parents Don’t Trust Tutors Who Charge Too Low
- They Can Get Away With It
Expensive Tutors Usually Have Years of Experience
Most tutors don’t start off by charging expensive rates. Early on in our careers, most of us work for much cheaper. After all, at that point, we don’t really have the experience or the references to justify high prices. It’s only when we’ve built up a good reputation and excellent tutoring strategies that we can start to think about upping rates.
If you want someone with years of experience, it’s going to cost more than the average tutor. Experienced tutors have a better understanding of what we’re worth. We know that we’re good at what we do, and we have a good track record of helping our students to improve. That’s going to come with a bigger price tag.
That doesn’t mean that tutors with less experience or cheaper prices are bad! I mean, how else do tutors get experience? They hope that a parent will trust that they can do the job well. Then, they rely on referrals from there.
My advice is this: if your child’s tutoring is low-stakes, it is absolutely fine to go for an inexperienced tutor. A student in year 7 doesn’t need to have the most experienced tutor in the world because they aren’t working towards any important exams. So, it’s the best time to go for a cheaper, less experienced tutor. Then, by the time your child is sitting their exams, the tutor will know them so well that they’ll be the best fit!
On the other hand, if the tutoring is high-stakes, go for lots of experience first. Your child will have to sit an exam very soon, so the added knowledge of an experienced tutor will be a huge help.
The Fee Covers Preparation and Planning Time
Lots of people don’t realise how much time goes into tutoring. It’s easy to think you’re just paying for an hour. The tutor shows up, teaches your child and then leaves, right? Well, not if they’re any good!
Good tutors plan and prepare before they start a tutoring session. When they’re in the session, they also note where a student is struggling. That helps them to plan their future sessions.
I call this responsive tutoring. It’s one of the biggest ways tutors add value to their students’ educations. The sessions are completely tailored to each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. They base their planning of new sessions on what they identified from past lessons.
All of this planning requires time, though. Often, it can take between 15 minutes and an hour. It depends on how unique a child’s needs are and if the tutor needs to make resources from scratch.
Since the planning is for your child, your tutor will likely be factoring that into how expensive their sessions are. It’s going to up the price quite a bit. It also explains why I charge different prices for different kinds of tutoring.
While £20 might sound like a fair amount for you, it just might not be worth it for your tutor once they factor in their planning time. If your child has some unique needs or requirements (like an unusual exam board or a disability), this might result in your tutor being paid £20 for 2 hours of work.
With everything your tutor has to do, they might end up earning less than minimum wage if they don’t charge higher prices.
More Qualified Tutors Are More Expensive
If you want a Russell Group uni-educated tutor with QTS and a master’s degree, that will cost you quite a bit.
Highly qualified tutors are going to be more expensive for multiple different reasons – some of which we’ll discuss in other parts of this blog post. The obvious ones are that they are in high demand and they could make a lot of money doing other jobs. However, there is another subtle reason.
There are very few highly qualified tutors out there with rich parents who can pay for them to go to uni. Most of us have to take out student loans to get where we are! A high-quality education isn’t cheap. The BA, MA and PGCE are going to add up! Personally, I have over £50k in student loans – and the government doesn’t pay me enough as a teacher to pay it all back!
So, naturally, student loans are going to make up a big chunk of expenses for highly qualified tutors. If we don’t want to be in debt for the next 30 years (or even longer with the new student loan plan), we’ve got to charge more. Frankly, if I started making six figures tomorrow, my student loan would be the first thing I’d pay off!
We’re trying to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and make a living. In this economy, we need to pursue higher education to succeed. That’s what we get told when we’re at school. So, we go to uni and then try to find a job. Since jobs are in such short supply, that’s not enough! So we go back to uni to upskill more. It all comes at a price.
We’ve got to fund all this bootstrap-pulling some way!
Tutors Who Live in a High Cost of Living Area Charge More
The prices tutors charge will depend on where they live. It’s so dependent on location that it can actually vary in different parts of the same city! A big part of that comes down to the cost of living.
Some tutors do this job full-time. Others use it to supplement their income or as a part-time job while studying. Whatever the reason, they are going to have expenses they need to pay for: rent, groceries, electricity, phone contract, etc. It’s just like everyone else!
The annoying thing is that there’s a huge cross-over between places with a high cost of living and the demand for tutors. Cities are going to have a higher demand because there are more people. That means that there are more parents who think that tutoring is a good idea and have the money for it. Plus, classes in cities have more students in them. So, each student has less one-to-one time with their teachers.
The fact that I live in London is part of the reason why I charge what I do. I mean, rent for a 1-bedroom flat here is well over £1000 a month. It would take me a lot of tutoring sessions each month to be able to pay for all my expenses.
Unfortunately, since I don’t have regulars at group classes right now, I have to rely on one-to-one sessions at high prices per student.
If you are interested in joining a group class to benefit from cheaper sessions, register your interest here.
Travel, Resource and Software Costs Are Expensive For Tutors
Every session costs tutors some money to run. Depending on when and where the session is happening, these costs might be different.
For example, if a tutor is coming to your house, they will have to pay for public transport or petrol. They also lose time that they could have spent on tutoring to travelling. That’s why I don’t tutor from students’ homes anymore.
On the other hand, if a tutor is doing an online session, they have to pay for the software needed to run the session. Zoom isn’t cheap!
Then, there are the costs of resources. When a student comes to my home, I print worksheets for them. That costs more money than you’d think. I also buy books regularly to make sure I’m staying on top of the newest knowledge in English. That’s not cheap, either.
In fact, the cost of making sure I’m always a good, effective tutor is so expensive that I actually have an Amazon wish list where people can donate a book to help me!
As the cost of living crisis is raging through the UK, the cost of delivering a tutoring session has risen massively. Zoom upped its prices. Books are more expensive. The electricity and internet that we need to run sessions has gone up, too.
If we want to make a fair profit from our sessions, we tutors have to raise our prices to match.
Many Good-Quality Tutors Could Make a Lot of Money in Other Careers
One of the big problems with teaching right now is how little it pays. It’s a great job! I love it! However, we haven’t seen a pay rise in line with inflation for at least 12 years. That’s driving great teachers away.
This problem is really visible in maths. Why would an Oxbridge graduate of maths with a first-class degree become a teacher? Unless they love helping people and working with kids, what incentive do they have? They have to do another year of studying for a starting salary of just over £25k. Lots of maths graduates from Russell Group universities could earn £10k more than that in other jobs!
Good quality teachers are usually people who have amazing prospects in other industries. They love what they do, so they stay. However, if they didn’t love it, it would be very easy to jump ship and get paid a hell of a lot more for less stress, less responsibility and a better work-life balance.
That is causing us to bleed great teaching talent as a country. Lots of high-quality teachers love working with young people, but just not enough to suffer low pay for their whole working life. The options are either to go on strike or to find a different job.
The situation is quite similar in tutoring, too. The best quality tutors could do lots of other things with their life for amazing pay. Some tutors decide that they just need to make their sessions more expensive to compensate for this. Others decide to leave tutoring completely.
When good quality tutors stay in the profession, they raise the quality of tutoring as a whole. There’s just a price tag that comes with that.
High Prices Are a Vetting Process For Some Tutors
Once, I tutored the sweetest little girl whose mum tried to squeeze me for all I’m worth. Apparently, my low prices at the time were like a sign on my head saying, “Exploit me!”
This was back in 2017 when I was charging £18 an hour. For a London tutor, that’s nowhere near expensive! In fact, it was on the low side of things!
The woman haggled it down to £15 an hour. Fine. At that point, I got almost all of my work through MyTutor, which paid me about £15 anyway. I still had my student loan, grant and scholarship for high grades from my uni. So, I didn’t need the extra £3 that desperately.
When the girl came to my house, her mum left her for three hours. She didn’t tell me beforehand, either! So, I did the first hour and an extra 15 minutes and called home. The mum informed me that she was at work. So, since her daughter was already with me, it would make more sense for her to pay me for tutoring, rather than send her to a babysitter.
Sweet! £45 when I was only expecting £15! Sounds good to me! So we switched from maths to English and then science.
When the mum came, she slapped £15 into my hand.
What?! It’s been three hours! The mum said that since we had only agreed to £15, she would only pay £15. She grabbed her child and ran out the door.
Usually, the parents who exploit tutors will start by trying to pay as little as possible. They don’t see why they should pay minimum wage, let alone proper compensation. So, being more expensive as a tutor helps me to vet parents. No one’s tried this since I’ve upped my prices.
Supply and Demand
We live in a capitalist society. Supply and demand rules.
Thanks to the lockdowns a few years ago, tutors are more in demand than ever now. Students missed out on a whole lot of school. While their teachers are trying their hardest to make up for this lost time, I can understand why parents are keen to take things into their own hands.
Even before the lockdown, though, demand for tutoring was on the rise. The boom in online tutoring platforms and software meant that it was more accessible to people from all over the world. Plus, we got more people seeing tutoring as a full-time career, rather than something they did on the side because their teaching salary was too low.
Tutoring got more visibility. More parents saw tutoring as an option for their kids. Sure, there were way more tutors out there, but most of the jobs went to the successful people with plenty of references and qualifications to their name.
As tutors realised how in demand they were, they made their sessions more expensive. It meant that they could be more picky over which students they chose to tutor. They chose the students with the money to make their income as high as possible.
Tutors only have so many hours in a day. So, if they want a pay rise to afford nicer things, they have two options:
- Up their prices.
- Spend more time on group sessions.
Most tutors did both. The demand for them allowed them to do it. If people weren’t willing to pay the price, they’d have to charge less again.
To Deter Parents When They Don’t Want to Work
Many tutors raise their prices during times of the year when they know they don’t want to work as much. This works for two main reasons. One, it deters parents who think the price is way too high. Two, it means that the sessions they do carry out are much more motivating to them!
It’s a tactic used by tutors when they aren’t so good at saying no. They don’t want to gain the reputation of turning down too many parents. So, they gain the reputation of being out of parents’ budgets instead. That way, it’s on the parents’ hands if they choose to turn you down. It’s like not wanting to be the bad guy in a breakup.
Then there are the times when tutors get approached by difficult parents. While most parents are lovely and cooperative, there are some who are very entitled, rude and demanding. For those parents, tutors will try to be as expensive as possible to deter them. It’s better than the difficult parent giving a bad review because you said you didn’t want to work with them!
Plus, if they do pay the higher price, the tutor feels like they are being compensated for dealing with a difficult family.
I usually charge more for tutoring on my birthday. Working on that day for my usual price just makes it feel like an average day. How depressing! So, I use the expensive sessions to deter the average student who wants me to tutor them. That way, I get a break! If they pay the price (knowing that it’s cheaper any other day of the year), it must be urgent. Plus, I get a bit of a bonus for my big day!
Some Parents Don’t Trust Tutors Who Charge Too Low
The funny thing about the high prices of tutors is that we’re kinda stuck there now.
Thanks to supply and demand making all the prices of tutoring sessions go up, most parents expect tutoring to be expensive. So, when they see a tutor charging barely more than minimum wage, they can ask themselves “what’s wrong with them? Why aren’t they charging a normal price?”
There’s a big difference between feeling like you got a good deal and feeling like the price is suspiciously low. If I found a brand new PS5 in the box selling for £50, I’d think they were just selling me the box! The same is true for a tutor who is way too cheap.
Back when I used to charge £18 per hour, I actually found it harder to get tutoring jobs than I do now. Parents looked at my profile and saw that I was highly qualified, but chose to go for a tutor who was much more expensive than me.
You might say that it was because I grew up, got more experience and became a better prospect for them. However, I’ve tried it again since. When a parent sees that someone with a master’s degree and a teaching qualification is charging the same as someone with just a bachelors, they assume there’s something wrong with my tutoring.
It’s all psychology stuff, really. Seeing an expensive price on a tutoring session makes lots of parents feel like they’re getting a premium tutor. It doesn’t matter that I was premium either way! That’s what my parents tell me, anyway!
So for lots of tutors, they would be shooting themselves in the foot if they weren’t expensive.
They Can Get Away With It
Ok, so I’ve given you a lot of very good reasons why tutors would be so expensive. However, there’s also just one big one: they can get away with it.
As much as I want to have faith in tutors, I know that money is a very powerful motivator. Tutors set their own prices. They get to choose how much they work. It’s up to them if they want to be as expensive as they can. They know someone will pay whatever they ask for.
To be honest, I find this frustrating as a tutor. Expensive tutors are one of the many ways that rich people can put their kids above poor kids. It’s one sign that we don’t live in a system of equal opportunities. People who already have wealth can use it to put themselves at an advantage.
And when lots of tutors raise their prices as high as possible, it forces the rest of us to put them high, too. Otherwise, parents will wonder why we’re so cheap.
I know this might sound pretty rich coming from me. I mean, I’m still charging for tutoring. That means I’m still advantaging parents who can afford tutoring over those who don’t have a penny to spare. This is something I want to work on. I want to make my services cheaper while getting a fair living myself. That’s why I’m keen to start group tutoring, courses and memberships.
While I do that, though, I really don’t want people to make the problem worse. Right now? They can get away with it. So they do.