Up until third grade, I always floundered at the lowest reading level.
I felt anxious and embarrassed when paired with the other kids who were infamously deemed “behind.” My mom scheduled after-school tutoring sessions with my teachers and librarian.
Still, I struggled until I was finally fitted with a pair of glasses. Now, I enjoy reading (just started “Harry Potter,” by the way), but I won’t forget my frustration.
Joanne Kaminski had a similar experience. She’s 40 now, but when she was in sixth grade, her teacher encouraged her mother to read with her at night to help her advance.
“You read a page; she reads a page,” the teacher advised.
The book was “Anne of Green Gables,” and Kaminski was hooked.
“It was the very first time where I could really understand what I was reading,” she recalls. “I could see the images inside my head and make that mind movie.”
Kaminski ended up graduating at the top of her college class with a reading specialist degree — and eventually a master’s. She taught for 10 years in the public school system until she became frustrated and felt too constricted.
So she did something about it. In 2010, Kaminski started an online reading tutoring business.
Now, she’s working her own hours — from home — and rakes in $5,000-$6,000 a month. Plus, she’s helping kids learn to read all over the world.
How Kaminski Started Her Own Online Tutoring Business
Kaminski worked within the Wisconsin school system for 10 years.
In addition to teaching, she schooled other teachers on reading instruction — and even taught the teachers’ trainers. Eventually, she assumed the title of leading curriculum coordinator. But, as each year ticked away, she became increasingly frustrated with the system.
“I just couldn’t make as big of an impact as I wanted with these kids,” she says. “Really, what my heart wanted to do was to work one-on-one with kids.”
Her cue to leave came in 2010 when she fell ill — a chronic pain that turned into a six-month hospitalization stint and stumped doctors. With three small kids in tow, Kaminski decided to stay at home to focus on her girls and her health.
After five other failed businesses, Kaminski decided to try online tutoring.
Back then, there weren’t any companies looking for reading tutors. Being the determined woman she is, she started her own business — The Online Reading Tutor.
What’s It Like Being an Online Tutor?
Six years later, Kaminski is still experiencing great success.
On average, she tutors for about 25 hours a week. Her schedule ranges, but no matter what, she sets it herself.
For instance, she refuses to take any Saturday sessions so she can cheer for her girls at their soccer games.
A typical session runs 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the kids’ age, attention span and scheduling needs. She first assesses the child to see what areas she needs to focus on. Then, she develops a customized plan for the student.
However, this plan might change — which is what Kaminski loves about working one-on-one outside school. In classrooms, she says teachers are told what to teach, how to teach it and when to teach it. Plans can’t be individualized.
“Teachers aren’t allowed to make individualized decisions based on each of their students,” Kaminski says. “Here, I’m able to determine exactly where the child is reading, where the gaps are in the instruction, then I’m able to teach to those gaps to close them so they can read better.”
She says found the perfect system — for herself and her program.
And if you’re wondering about how she maintains authority through a screen, Kaminski hasn’t had an issue. She says only positive things come through it.
“I’ve noticed that kids open up more and are more comfortable in their own home setting,” she says.
She notes another perk: The kids with ADHD constantly have to move.
“I don’t know about you, but when I have a kid I’m trying to teach, and they’re squirrely-mirley, it drives me crazy,” she says. “Online, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Plus, it gives her the ability to connect with kids from around the world — including Australia, China, the Dominican Republic, England and Greece.
How Much Does She Make as an Online Tutor?
Hint: It’s more than she made as a teacher.
“I’m able to charge more today than I was ever making in the school system,” Kaminski explains.
Kaminski charges $75 per hour. For each student, she suggests 8-12 hours of instruction to close a one-year reading gap, which equates to $600-$900. That’s still cheaper than any ole tutoring program — yet she’s banking $5,000 to $6,000 a month working about 25 hours a week.
How Can Someone Start Tutoring Online?
Six years after Kaminski started her business from scratch, she’s seeing a high demand for online tutoring — and not only for reading.
She says there’s a real demand for specialized assessments. (Think: PSAT, SAT, ACT, LSAT and GRE — the dreaded acronyms.)
And the online part? Well, that’s just easy. Kids have full schedules, so being able to hop online for an hour at a scheduled time eases the stress a bit.
In order to succeed, of course, you need patience and compassion (consider the parents’ struggle, too). But what about your own education?
Kaminski says, really, anyone can start tutoring online.
“It’s not like you have to have all these degrees,” she says. “No one ever asks me what my degrees are. I was really shocked, but to tutor, you need to be able to get results.”
Her results are pretty darn good, so she’s able to charge more. Kaminski suggests newbies with little experience start charging around $30.
And on that note, you need some business skills, too. Perhaps you know how to teach — great — but you also need to know how to get clients and be open to teaching yourself along the way.
Kaminski runs a Facebook group you can join if you’re interested. It hosts a bundle of different people — some who’ve been doing this for years and some who are just starting.
Either way, she’s happy to mentor.
Your Turn: Are you interested in becoming an online tutor?
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.