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Friday, November 13, 2009

Private Tutoring Through Wyzant

For the past 9 months I have been tutoring through Wyzant.  Wyzant is one of the larger web-based companies that matches students with private tutors for in-home tutoring.  Wyzant has over 18000 tutors registered across the country.  I have been successful in getting set up with several students through Wyzant.  Billing of the students is done by Wyzant so I don't have to worry about collecting money at the time of the lesson or after the fact.  Here are some details as I understand them

Registering and Qualifying for Subject Area Tutoring
Signing up for Wyzant is easy as a tutor.  Once you are registered you must pass rudimentary subject matter tests before you are listed to tutor in specific areas.  I say rudimentary because the tests are very basic in areas such as physics and math.  These tests do not guarantee a student that a tutor is an expert in the subject but will at least weed out someone that has absolutely no competence in the subject.

Tutor Profile
Wyzant allows the tutor to set up their own profile, describing background, qualifications and tutoring experience.  In the tutor profile you will set hourly rate and you can post the schedule of available hours.  In addition, Wyzant recently introduced a background check through Lexis-Nexis that prospective students can review which can make you more marketable.  You also have an opportunity to produce a video describing your tutoring methods, or write blog entries that may attract more students.

Student Contact
Students can find you by searching the internet for tutors or directly on the Wyzant site.  Wyzant seems to show up at or near the top of the list in search engines.  (More on how to optimize for this later).  A student must contact the tutor through the Wyzant system.  Tutors can set up their account so that a text message will be sent to their cell phone notifying them that there is new student email.  If the targeted tutor does not respond right away the student's email will eventually be posted in a site that allows other tutors to see the need.  At this point Wyzant's text system can also alert other tutors that a particular tutor job (category) is available.  For instance, I received messages that say there is a new physics job in a particular city within my area.

Once the tutor responds and the student has entered their billing information into the Wyzant system then phone numbers may be exchanged and the first session scheduled.  Subsequent tutor/student contact can continue through the Wyzant email or through phone calls.  Wyzant's email allows for attachments, which can be handy in case the student would like to send something for the tutor to review.

Wyzant pays the tutor twice a month either by check or by direct deposit.  Wyzant has a pay schedule based upon the number of hours worked.  The starting rate is 60% of the tutor's advertised rate, gradually increasing to a maximum of 80%.  Tutoring hours are logged through the "Lesson" system described below.  Tutors are not employees of Wyzant but rather private contractors and are therefore responsible for paying their own income taxes.  So far, I have been satisfied with Wyzant's payment system.  I don't have to worry about the hassle of getting the student's to pay and Wyzant has been prompt at their payments.

On completion of a session the tutor will enter in details of the session, including day and time along with a series of questions about the student's performance.  If you are tutoring a younger person your response to these questions will aid the parents in understanding what progress has been made.  I have tutored several adults and these questions seem a bit absurd in that context.  Once you have entered the lesson details your comments and time will be transmitted to the student or parent by email.  The student/parent then has an opportunity to review and agree to your time estimate.  Time can be broken down into increments as fine as 5 minutes.  You can go back later in your account to view lesson history for your students.

Suggestions for improving odds of showing up in a web search for tutors
Originally I set up a basic profile describing my tutoring subjects and experience.  As time went on, as a trial I would search for tutors in my subject area to see where I would show up.  Often it would be low down on the list.  I have purposely updated my profile such that it shows up high in general google searches.  I found that often prospective students will search on "Tutor, Subject Area, and Town/City".  I added all of the towns that I am willing to travel to in my profile and I am very specific on the subjects that I will tutor.  This seems to have worked well.  I will provide updates on other tips for improving tutor profile visibility.

So far, I have been happy with Wyzant.  They have actually matched me with students and they pay promptly (within 2 weeks generally).  They take a good size cut of the overall pay early on, but they provide a lot of visibility for me and I don't have to worry about the hassle of collecting payments from the students.  I would be interested to hear other's opinions regarding Wyzant or other tutor matching services.

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