Friday, September 12, 2014

$10k a month as a tutor? Think again.

I think by now you should have read this post about a tutor who earns $10k a month. Most of what is mentioned in the article is quite true and I can vouch for its accuracy. Some comments on it though, before you quit your job to become one:

1. There's no CPF contribution by employer, leave, benefits, company dinners, health insurance sponsored by company. There's no company benefits at all.

You must learn to take care of your own affairs. Being a tutor is not just about the teaching part. You have to learn to manage your own affairs, save up for your own retirement and do your own accounts and tax. If you really hate these kind of admin stuff and do not want to pick up stuff like accounting, investment, insurance and a million other things that normally people take for granted, then you should seriously consider another job. It's essentially a one man show.

2. Learn marketing

If you're so good at teaching, it doesn't mean that students will naturally come to you. You have to learn how to sell yourself so that you have a constant stream of students every year. Besides learning your craft, the next biggest thing to ensure longevity of your business is to learn how to sell yourself and market yourself well enough so that through word-of-mouth, you'll get constant referrals.

3. Love what you're doing

If you're in this just for the money, I can assure you that you're going to hate this job. In certain months, there's no life at all. You practically work from Monday to Monday. You'll hate public holidays and weekends. You'll no longer have friends who will ask you out for dinner because you're working. You'll get messages throughout the day from panicky students asking you for help to solve this question and answer that query. Your work is weaved so intricately with your life that you cannot differentiate when work stops.

And so, you had better enjoy what you're doing. Do this for the money? You're not going to last long. Students are also not stupid. They can tell quickly if you really care about them or not.

4. Have a support group

It can be a lonely journey. But fortunately, my wife is also working odd hours just like me. We enjoy shopping when people are working and working through the night when others are relaxing. I can't imagine if one of us is working normal hours and the other odd hours. The conflict and schedule clashes should be quite hard to manage. It's good to have someone walking the journey with me.

5. Learn to be a counselor and a mentor, rather than a mere tutor

 You'll be surprised how often I've to settle issues other than those related to studies. Not everyone comes in all motivated to learn. More often than not, I'll have to find my way to reach out to the person. Sometimes, I failed and sometimes I succeed. That's what makes the job so interesting, once you're past the stage of knowing what to teach or how to teach. It's a combination of listening, observing and motivating that makes a person want to do well for his studies. To me, it's never about the exams. It's a way to touch the inner fire within each person, igniting it strongly enough so that it can glow and touch others too. It's a magical feeling that makes you want to experience it again and again.

That's what keeps me going.

6. Be comfortable with the seasons of work and play

You're never going to have a stable pay. Face it and accept it and plan for it. Each year, your income might drop by 50% or more and you'll have to work hard to recruit new students just to match up to the previous year income. This makes a fixed monthly pay such a luxury. Face it, accept it and plan for it. If you're not ready for such a drastic change in your pay schedule, you're going to feel very jittery in the dry season from November to January.

Ten years playing this game, I've learnt to look forward to my dry months when I'm busy with work and looking forward to work in the busy months when I've had enough play. Worry also no use. Learn to flow along and learn to let go. Bad times don't stay forever, so do good times.

You think it's so easy to earn $10k? Try it and see if you can handle the downsides first.

Related post:
1. Self analysis of tuition business
2. Unstable income stream from tutoring
3. The other side of being a tutor


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


It's like reading the headline of an insurance or property agent making 10K per month.

Jump in then you realise it's a hunter profession - no kill; no dinner.

Herbivores stay out. It's for carnivores and omnivores only.

Feast and famine kind of lifestyle is not for everyone.

SMK said...

Lp, you captured an important part of the essence of being a selfemployed.

Sillyinvestor said...

Hi LP,

Some of my colleagues leave the service for many reasons, those they leave to become tutors never cited money as a reason.

Those that stayed, always think money is the reason they left, pasture is greener on the other side ma...

Seriously, if you ask me, if 10K is a lot of money? I say no, my friends who always "wow", forget to count CPF, both employer and employee share, bonuses and connect plan payout in their calculation of monthly pay.

If a person take home pay is 4k, his actual pay in tuition fees should be 7K to compensate for the above.

So, if you ever take home 6.5K you are actually a 10K tutor le.

Createwealth8888 said...

Once the pay of remisiers were debated at Parliament of Singapore.

So far, I know one Remisier King, Peter Lim. May be I didn't read enough. There are more many Remisier Kings. LOL!

Createwealth8888 said...

Instead of looking headline monthly number, it is may be better to look at

1. Return per Unit Time (What is the dollar value for monetizing your waking time?)

2. Return per Unit Stress (How stressful for you to get paid for doing it?)

Read more Passive Income??? Why must have more of it! (2)

Cory said...

The key point, there's 10K job out there on your own. Life is not so bleak for those complaining about miserable 2k or 3k. One thing for sure, there's a lot more singaporeans drawing total monthly 10K (including CPF) than we think.

la papillion said...


I like the way you phrase it - this job is something like sales, it's for carnivores! You got to go out there and sell your service, can't just sit there and wait for rain to come :)

Indeed it's not for everyone. I've seen a few pple who are so panicky when it stops raining. Maybe they haven't been saving the water during the flood times.

la papillion said...


Thanks! You must be self employed too?

la papillion said...

Hi sillyinvestor,

I really agree with you. Most didn't count their cpf contributions, bonuses and benefits. If they did, they would realise that 10k is just 'okay' for a degree holder. There are benefits in corporate world that I wish I had, but I have to do without. It's a life I chose.

Or perhaps they didn't count the CPF as their money? LOL

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

These days remisier cannot make money already. All my broker (except 1) left their job. Those times are over I think, esp with those low commissions thing coming.

But I would prefer to talk to someone if I've a problem that cropped up, not to some computer.

I agree with you we have to look at the $/time. Have to include travelling, meal times, basically all times that are used to support the work that you do, but is not paid. I know my own rate very well, so I know when not to take up a student or when it's worthwhile to take up someone.

$/stress? Doesn't really work for me. It's a -ve value for me. Whenever I'm feeling depressed, I can always count on teaching to make me feel balanced again. It's quite a destressing activity that earns me money as well. It's like I know someone depends on me, so I better wake up my idea.

It's just occasionally not enough sleep LOL

la papillion said...

Hi Cory,

Totally agree. There's a way out, instead of complaining. But you know, I realised that some people just like to complain. It's their way of dealing with their situation without changing it. I learnt now not to intefere too much.

Kyith said...

good post.

My 15HWW said...

Hi LP,

I thought about you when I first read this article and was pretty sure you will write something about it. =)

I think many just caught the headline about the 10K a month and went "wow, wow, wow" and didn't read the article in detail.

I could sense the melancholy in him as he talks about the sacrifices he made when choosing this career.

And if you think about the conditions below, one won't think $120,000 a year is a walk in the park.

a) He works 7 days a week.
b) No time for girlfriend.
c) Even less time for friends.
d) No guarantee that there will be a pay increase the next year. Actually a decrease is a real possibility.
e) The monthly pay is volatile (feast and famine)

And I am pretty sure he is one of the better tutors out there. So I definitely won't begrudge him.

So to those that think LP's job is easy, why not just go out and give it a try?

la papillion said...

Hi Kyith,


la papillion said...

Hi 15Hww,

Ya, how could I not write about it right? Haha

I know someone who works as a private banker, earning easily 5 digits per month. But he quit after working for a few months because that kind of life is not suitable for him. Money is just a number after a certain point.

You've got to face yourself when you wake up in the morning and ask yourself why you are doing this lol

Anonymous said...

The more "gifted" you are, the more choice you have in choosing the way you want to live your life. That is provided money is not your be-all and end-all.

My wife's neice is serving her GIC's scholarship bond yet money is the last thing on her mind.
She is more into the ARTS, not money. She intends to serve her bond then she is free to do what she wants in her life.

So a doctor (that's not he wants in the first place) wants to be cook is usually feasible & achievable but not vice versa.

Ordinary folks like us have very little to no choice to earn a living.

Rolf Suey said...

Hi LP,

I use to be a part time tutor for 10 years between age 20-30. It was the ten years where my work is extremely hectic and juggling between work and tuition is not easy esp I travel frequently.

You ought to love "teaching" and not just for the money to persist long enough. You are absolutely right!

My first student from primary 4 till junior college did well in work as an engineer and also just got married this month at age 26. I am so proud of her.


la papillion said...

Hi temperament,

I agree with you. Passion is not something that everyone can choose in their job. Sometimes, bills had to be paid, regardless of whether you like your job or not. I think that if your job is something that is aligned with your passion, that's great - not everyone can do that. But if it's not, do not go around looking for the perfect job throughout your life - just use the money and find something that makes you happy.

Practical, and sensible too.

la papillion said...

Hi Rolf Suey,

Yes, there's a certain level of satisfaction that perhaps somehow, you've made a life better, that made teaching so fulfilling.

It's like you know there's a certain meaning in whatever you're doing. This kind of stuff makes me work through some of the darkest hours of my job.

Thanks for sharing!

KK said...

Hey LP, machiam you disguised as Benjamin for the $10K tutor interview izit?

la papillion said...

Hi KK,

No lah, thought it sounds a little like me haha!

KK said...

How come u seldom visit chatbox nowadays?

Too busy earning $20K per month?

la papillion said...

Hi KK,

Exam seasons, that's why super busy :) Cbox isn't what it used to be in its prime, so yup...

Good to have you back :)

esther said...

hi, i would like to know more about full-time tutoring. i am now a part-time tutor. let me know if i can email you for discussion. thks :)

la papillion said...

Hi Esther,

Sure...just email me.