A tutoring business plan is crucial to your success whether you're just getting started as a tutor or you have already been tutoring for years. In this guide we will walk through all the essential parts of a business plan as well as give you a step by step template you can fill out to create your own tutoring business plan.
Why do tutors need a business plan?
If you want to start a tutoring business, the temptation may be to simply dive in and start tutoring. Many tutors do this and try to figure out all the business details along the way. Unfortunately this trial-and-error approach creates a lot of problems. A simple business plan will help you avoid a lot of potential problems as well as make it easier for you to run your business so you can focus on your students.
Let's look at the main reasons why every tutor should have a business plan:
A business plan gives you a goal to work towards
It has been shown over and over again that people who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them. Your goal might be to tutor full-time and leave your current job, it may be to help you save money towards retirement or any other goal. Instead of having that goal floating around your head, writing it down and putting it into place in a business plan will actually improve your chances of succeeding!
A business plan helps you prioritize
There are many different ways you can work to improve your tutoring business such as advertising, social media, networking, joining in local events, school visits, webinars, and on and on. With so many different choices and possible actions you could be taking, it can be hard to stay focused on the tasks that matter the most. A business plan will help you work out what tasks are the most important for your success and it will give you clear steps on what you should be doing.
So instead of wasting time on activities that may not help you reach more students or grow your business, you can focus on the activities that will make a difference.
A business plan gives you control over your business
It might sound strange but if you don't have a business plan, you don't have control over your business.
Imagine a dog owner taking her dog to a beach or park for the first time. The dog is excited and wants to run around everywhere. If the owner uses a leash, she is in control over where the dog goes and what he does. She can directly control the dog while still giving him freedom to move around.
On the other hand, if the owner doesn't have a leash, the dog may run around endlessly, may not respond to commands and may cause problems with other people, dogs or traffic. If you have ever run after a dog that has come off of a leash, you know how stressful it can be!
In this example the leash is your business plan. It allows you to steer the direction of your business and head towards the goals that matter to you. With the business plan you have control over how your business operates and what direction you move. Without the business plan, you may become distracted with things that don't matter or you may lose sight of your goals.
What makes a good business plan
What makes a good business plan? You use it.
The best tutoring business plan in the world will be useless if it is never used. You could write up a perfectly formatted and detailed plan, but if it sits in a drawer collecting dust then it's useless.
The goal of this guide is to help you create a tutoring business plan that you will actually use.
What you don't need in a tutoring business plan
When Aaron from The Tutor Circle Team studied business at University, he had to write up detailed business plans for various types of businesses as well as study real business plans from large organizations. The plans often were well over 100 pages, had long mission statements and were very effective at inducing sleep 🙂
But when it came time for Aaron to write a business plan for his own tutoring business, it quickly became clear that most business plans are terrible and focus on the wrong things. Most of what was included in a Fortune 500 company's business plan was irrelevant for a tutor.
Here's what DOESN'T make a good business plan:
- Fancy headings and layouts
- 100+ pages
- Long and wordy 'mission statements'
- Cliché phrases like 'innovation', 'synergy', 'push the envelope'
- Overly technical language, business jargon or acronyms
- Pointless information to make it sound impressive
The above points can be found in a lot of business plans from small and big businesses. Using fancy sounding words and over the top mission statements don't do anything to help you succeed as a tutor. The reason these points are so common is because business owners and managers mistakenly feel that a business plan must sound bold and impressive. The truth is that a 100+ page business plan filled with long mission statements and cliché phrases won't be used at all.
Your first lesson when writing a business plan is that you don't need to have a big document filled with mission statements and lengthy spreadsheets. A big and complicated plan wastes your time and won't be used.
This guide will help you create a quick and simple plan that you will actually find useful.
So what does make a good business plan if most businesses don't create good plans?
Here are four questions to ask to determine if a business plan is useful or not:
- Is the Plan Simple?
- Is the Plan Specific?
- Is the Plan Realistic?
- Is the Plan Complete?
Notice there's nothing about mission statements, length or use of business jargon. A good business plan achieves a purpose. Let's have a look at each of the four above questions to understand what's really important in a business plan:
1. Is the plan Simple?
A simple plan is extremely important. A business plan is simple if you can quickly look at it and know exactly what you need to work on right now. A simple plan will have clear points on what needs to be done and how. Compare a simple plan to a complicated plan full of pages of wordy executive summaries, mission statements and milestones and you'll quickly see why simple wins. A complicated plan won't help you reach your goals because you'll spend too much time figuring out what needs to be done. A complicated business plan may feel overwhelmed and may even prevent you from doing what needs to be done!
Simple means simple to read and simple to understand. Using plain and simple English ensures there's no confusion with jargon or acronyms. Use simple phrases and avoid using long words to make your plan sound impressive. A simple and successful plan is impressive.
While a simple business plan may not impress a bank, it will help you succeed.
2. Is the plan Specific?
You should be able to look at your plan and straight away know exactly what you need to do. That's the whole point of the plan - to take action. You should use your plan as your guide to success as a tutor. Whenever you're not sure what you should be working on, you should be able to take a look at your business plan and follow the specific steps.
To be specific you need to avoid vague actions and strategies. A very common goal tutors write in their business plans is to 'provide students with an excellent learning environment'. That might sound like a worthwhile goal, but it's terrible for a business plan because it is vague and doesn't give you clear direction. What does an 'excellent learning environment' mean? How will you provide it?
You need to explain exactly what you will do to achieve your goals.
The main benefit from a specific business plan is that it will tell you at any point exactly what you need to do. So if you go on holidays for six months you can come back and straight away know exactly what needs to be done. Being specific eliminates confusion or doubt.
3. Is the plan Realistic?
The problem businesses usually have is they use their business plan as a way to set unrealistic goals such as 'become a world leader in ...' or 'make $10mil in the first year'. Tutors often set unrealistic goals when they overestimate how many students they can fit into their schedule.
Unrealistic goals can actually hinder your progress. Setting realistic goals and targets is essential to keep you going when you hit hard times. Realistic goals are useful because they're something you know you can reach if you try hard enough.
Remember that you can always update your business plan in the future with bigger goals so start out small and build your tutoring business from there.
4. Is the plan Complete?
This doesn't mean you need 50+ pages, it only means that you should have all the relevant information you need to achieve your goals. There's no point only having step 1 & 2 in your plan if you don't know what step 3 is. Work out exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals and write down all the steps to achieve it. While things may change later on, at least you will have a complete set of actions to work towards.
So if you set a goal to tutor 20 students per week and you currently have zero students, your plan should explain step by step how you're going to go from 0-20, what you need to do and what you will do when you reach 20 students. Try to visualize all of the steps you need to go through so you have a complete plan to work on.
One reason why it's important to have a complete plan is because it forces you to research. If you're not sure what step 3 is in your plan, you can do some research and find out what it should be. Researching what you need to do will prevent a lot of problems later on as well as help you work on the activities that can lead to your success.
What to include in your business plan
Now that you understand what makes a good business plan we can look at what you actually put into it. Here's a quick breakdown on what you should include in your business plan:
- Step-by-step actions to achieve each goal
That's it!? That looks deceptively short doesn't it?
Think about it for a minute and the purpose of the business plan. The whole point is to help you succeed. The only elements we need to succeed are to figure out what we want to achieve (goals) and how to achieve them (actions). Anything else can be thought of as non-essential. By focusing on these two points you will have everything you need to succeed.
Big business managers would likely scoff at this simplistic view but these two points are the essence of what it takes to succeed in business. If you don't know what your goals are or you don't know what actions you need to take to achieve those goals, then you'll have a hard time succeeding. Resist the urge to complicate your business plan and focus on what really matters.
Examples of Goals
Remember that every goal you think of for your tutoring business must be: Simple, Specific, Realistic and Complete.
Here are a few different examples of goals you could include in your tutoring business plan:
- Tutor 10 students per week
- Tutor 5 students per week online via Skype
- Set up a website to promote my tutoring business by July
- Leave my full time job to tutor from home with an income of $800 per week
- Hold a workshop for my local community in October
- Earn $50k over the next 12 months
The goals above set a clear expectation on what you want to achieve. Having a vague goal like 'attract more students' won't be effective as you won't know when you've achieved your goal or how far away you are to achieving it. Changing it to 'tutor 10 students per week' will allow you to keep track and know exactly when you've achieved it.
Examples of Actions
With every goal you come up with, you need to figure out exactly what you need to do to achieve that goal. Find out step-by-step what approach you should take. Here's a few examples for the above goals:
Goal: Tutor 10 students per week
- Set up a website using this guide.
- Create a Facebook marketing campaign and ask friends to spread the word
- Talk to local schools and place an ad in their newsletter
- Keep track of how many students I have and how new students find out about me
- Continue to promote my website using Facebook
Keep in mind that you may choose different steps for the above goal. Everybody will take a different approach to any goal. The point is to figure out step-by-step what you should do. As long as you have a clear set of actions to take, that's all you need. With the above goal, the tutor can know at any point in time what step they should be working on. If their website isn't complete, they should continue working on that.
Goal: Earn $50k over the next 12 months
- Work out how much money I'm currently earning
- Work out how much extra I need to earn every week and how many students I need to gain
- Set a goal to attract the number of students I need to earn the extra money (create actions for that separate goal)
- Keep track of my income and adjust hours worked as needed
As these are only examples not much detail has been given. Yet you can still see clearly what needs to be done for each goal. Your actions may have more steps and a bit more detail, but they shouldn't take up pages and pages.
Limit your business plan
The final point to consider when creating your business plan is how many goals you will work on. We recommend having no more than five goals at any one time as it will be too much to work on. Focusing on one or two goals at a time will be a much more successful approach. You only have so much time you can use to work on your tutoring business so focus on the few goals that would really make the difference.
If you have one goal that is really important to you, then it's completely fine to focus on that one goal. As long as you have a plan in place and you use it, you will improve your chances of reaching that goal.
Keep your plan up to date
As explained at the start of this guide, the best business plan is useless if it lives in a bottom drawer. Using your plan is crucial and making sure your plan is always up to date will make sure you continue to use it. As you achieve your goals or your goals change over time, make sure you update your business plan to reflect those changes. An out of date business plan isn't useful and won't motivate you to take action.
Extra tips and best practices
Here are a few tips and best practices from other tutors on how they get the most out of their business plans:
- Print it off and stick it up somewhere you will see it regularly. One tutor even stuck it to the outside of her showing facing in so she could review her plan every morning.
- Limit the number of goals you work on at one time. Even if all your goals are important to you, try to focus on one or two at a time.
- Remove any choices from your list of actions. If you need to stop and decide which marketing method to use or how you will do something, it means your plan isn't specific enough. Make the big decisions now so you don't need to later on.
- Set a due date for every action. If you want to achieve your goal in six months, make sure you plan out every step along the way and figure out the due date for each task so you can complete your goal in time.
- Block out time in your schedule to work on your business. Scheduling a 30 minute block every couple of days to work on your business can quickly add up to a lot of work done. Don't wait until you have a 'spare moment' - schedule time in advance to work on your tutoring business.
Every tutor works in different ways, so figure out what works best for you and create your business plan based on how you prefer to work.
Download our tutoring business plan template
Now that you understand what needs to be done, you should create your own business plan right away. We've created a simple business plan template to allow you to create your own business plan based on the advice above.
Have a question?
There are so many different goals or actions you could include in your business plan. You may even feel unsure or overwhelmed if you're just getting started as a tutor. Have a look through the Q&A section to see if somebody else has asked about the issue you're having and if not, ask us and we'll help you out.