I’ve been asked many times, by either (prospective) employers, colleagues, business partners, & potential clients, “how do you manage to charge $388/hr for tutoring?” My answer is always, “it’s simple matter of supply and demand.”
My hourly rate is determined by a track record of success and straight forward economics–supply and demand dictates the equilibrium price. I believe that the most precious commodity along the path of pursuing medicine, or life in general, is time: the only irrecoverable resource. So efficiency is my #1 priority when I’m my own boss. I often advise students against tutoring more hours with me beyond the point when I think they are ready. Prospective students simply need to decide between working with another tutor for 6-10 hrs or working with me for 1 hour.
I started tutoring at 10 years old. I tutored for free initially. It was fun for me. I love the moments when the “light bulb goes on” in my peers. I find learning so much more interesting when other people’s welfare in addition to my own depended on how well I learned. I guess that was an early sign that medicine would appeal to me. I relish the challenge and the privilege of someone else’s well-being weighing on my shoulder. It somehow made what I do more meaningful than if I were to just do it solely for myself.
Then in 10th grade, I started charging $10/hr for tutoring AP sciences. I loved it. I was the favorite of teachers & parents, many of whom confided in me all their worries about their kids’s academic performance and future prospects. I felt that not only was I helping the student acing AP tests, but also I was somehow part of their household harmony.
I continued to tutor in college. I worked for tutoring companies at first. Ecstatic at the pay raise, $23/hr, when I saw the newspaper ad. Only to learn that I was to drive to students’ home, in Bay Area traffic, pay for gas and maintenance for my car, foot the occasional car accident bills because I was so tired and distracted trying to find new students’ houses all over Bay area.
It came down to about $5/hr of my time, way worst then when I was my own boss in high school, when it was a solid $10/hr plus I had free rides, free food, and made my own schedule. The worst thing in working for others (tutoring companies) was to learn that my students paid my boss $65/hr while I got $5/hr.
Then I said to myself, “screw this. I’m not going to let some talker business man eat off my back when I’m doing all the hard work.” So I quit all my jobs where I was not my own boss. I put my credentials, experiences, tutoring results, student testimonials, & CV on craigslist. Before long, I was getting tutoring requests left and right at $23/hr, with students coming to where I am (so no driving, no getting lost, no parking tickets, no car accidents). I tutored the hours I wanted; I made the curriculum myself.
Shortly after my craigslist advertisement went up, I could not keep up with the demand of tutoring requests. So I said to myself, instead of working like a dog to fulfill every tutoring request, I’m going to raise my hourly rate, until I can comfortably satisfy the demand & still take care of my other responsibilities and still go out with my friends and have a life.
I continued to tutor because I love teaching and being my own boss. After Mini was born, students came straight to my house, paid me $100/hr, and were so understanding towards my role as a mother that I could put Mini in a front sleeper/carrier and tutor at the same time.
Did I say I love being my own boss?
I continued to tutor throughout medical school and into residency, as I take on more responsibilities in my medical training, & Mini demands more intellectual engagement, I had fewer & fewer hours allotted to tutoring. Yet, I still had lots of demands… more than I could fill.
So I kept increasing my hourly rate, to the peak of $420/hr while still in California. Now, I’m perfectly content with the equilibrium price of $388 for the past 2 years.
This was my journey of discovering & living how wonderful it is to be my own boss. I like getting paid for what I think my time is worth.
How about you? Have you ever felt overworked and underpaid like I did when I made $5/hr working hard?
Would you like to work smart and be your own boss, at least in a side gig (if you main job is a W2 job like me)? What product or service would you render?
p.s. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make 100k last year tutoring. I just made about 10k… which was just 26 hours of tutoring, averaging one hour every other week tutoring. That’s where I am happy. So if demand goes up at this price, I’d increase my hourly rate. If my time becomes even more limited, I’d increase my rate too 🙂 If you or someone you know wants a rockstar tutor/ standardized test strategist, you can find out more about my service here. Ace that test!