9 min read

Educator stories: Build a 1-on-1 reading class business
See how Bobbi Wells shifted from fun, extracurricular classes to focus on reading and academic tutoring.

Bobbi (Barbara) Wells knows a lot about teaching reading online. We sat down with Bobbi to discuss how she went from teaching group classes to almost solely focusing on offering 1-on-1 reading sessions and how this change has helped her gain success in her online teaching business.

Meet Bobbi

Bobbi (Barbara) Wells has been with Outschool since 2018 and, if you get a chance to watch our interview wit her at the end of this article, you will immediately see that she loves teaching! As a retired educator, she has over forty years of experience teaching in schools. Bobbi also helped over 100 childcare professionals earn their CDA Child Development Associate Credential. Bobbi knows not only how to teach learners, but how to teach educators to teach learners. 

Let’s look at how you can grow your online tutoring business using Bobbi’s suggestions.

Decide what to teach as a reading tutor

“If this is what you choose to do to make a living, then you have to be flexible.”

If you’re thinking about teaching reading 1-on-1, there are a couple of suggestions Bobbi focused on to get you started.

Focus on what works best for you

At Outschool, many educators found success during the pandemic by teaching multiple topics across numerous subjects. However, as with any business, sometimes it pays to focus on what’s working best for you. This may include some trial and error in the process, but the important thing is to focus on what works for you. Just because another educator has found success in one area does not mean that you need to shift gears and try teaching it as well. 

Instead, take some time to think about what you most enjoy teaching. For Bobbi, reading is not only something she enjoys doing, but she loves connecting with young learners and seeing them learn to love reading during the process. 

In a 1-on-1 environment, you can combine the subject you teach best with the learner’s interests. If you’re considering offering reading classes as a tutor, this could mean offering a class on a specific book series, or genre, or even asking the learner what they want to read. Be flexible with the content you offer and try to keep it within a certain subject area.

Get to know your learners

Since the fall of 2022, there have been several reports regarding learning loss and learners falling behind academically, Instead of approaching parents from a negative perspective, show them how you can help identify any areas that need improvement.

“Honestly, I don’t know if it’s because parents are so concerned at this point in time with the fact that their children have fallen behind in academics or because if you look up any of the fun classes I did, there are a ton of teachers teaching them.”

For Bobbi, she felt that the learners she taught before were no longer looking for what she calls her “fun” daytime classes as much. So, what did she do? She focused on reaching learners with academic classes outside of school hours. Now Bobbi says almost all of the classes she teaches are 1-on-1 reading classes.

Bobbi also suggests choosing an age range that you feel comfortable with. When it comes to reading, this means focusing on your strengths. If you work well teaching phonics and fluency, aim to tutor younger learners. If you’re interested in reading comprehension and vocabulary, consider upper elementary to middle school learners. For those who enjoy literary analysis, you may find working with older learners suits you best. 

Knowing who you will target allows you to narrow your messaging to ensure it reaches the right learners.

Get away from a curriculum

“You have the opportunity as a one-on-one tutor to use whatever approach works with that child and use it. […] Because if you try something with a child and they’re not getting it, don’t keep plugging away at it.

You’re just frustrating that child. Back up. If you have to move into a whole new area, find somewhere where that child can be successful and regain some of the confidence she was losing by not getting this and understanding that children are developing constantly. Just because she doesn’t understand it today doesn’t mean if you revisit it a month from now, she won’t get it then.”

According to Bobbi, some of her success comes from being able to walk away from curriculums like those used in a traditional classroom setting. Instead, she noted that working 1-on-1 with a child allows you to focus on the areas where they need the most attention.

Instead of spending the full tutoring time lecturing, think of ways to engage the learner and hold their attention. For example, Bobbi shared that she “might spend five minutes on vowel sounds. Then we might spend another five minutes reading a story and seeing if they can understand what the story is about by doing a comprehension activity. Then we might spend another six minutes practicing matching letters and sounds depending on the level of the child.”

With online learning, there are many tools you can use during your tutoring sessions. For example, digital tools like virtual whiteboards and approved educational games make learning fun while offering something new and different. Concentrate on making reading fun with visuals, discussions, and videos to illustrate key points—all of which will give the topic an unexpected twist!

Create a business strategy

In addition to figuring out what area of reading you can offer as a tutor, you also want to ensure that you are preparing your class listings so that families can easily find them. To do this, Bobbi suggests the following ideas:

List your classes as “1-on-1” or “tutoring”

Keywords are imperative to booking success. Bobbi mentioned that she gets the most traction from classes that clearly state that she is offering personalized attention to learners. 


Be careful using educational jargon or wording that families may not understand or know to look for. Some parents may be confused by ELA jargon such as Lexile levels, word analysis, fluency, or systematic vocabulary. Instead, focus on being clear about what you’re teaching (reading, writing, listening, speaking, or comprehension), the methodology, and how you tutor.

Offer classes at different times

You know your schedule best! Look at times throughout the day that you could block off to offer 1-on-1 sessions. Concentrate on U.S. afterschool hours as well as using time zone convertors to figure out the best time to offer to tutor learners in different time zones like East Asia, Australia, or New Zealand.

As Bobbi suggested, you may even want to think about blocking out several hours when you can meet. These can be opened to fit your schedule, but with enough sections and availability to reach lots of new learners.

Use the metrics

Outschool offers numerous metrics to help you see where your business is and where it can go. Use the bi-weekly insights to see what books learners are searching for, what reading topics parents want, and what’s trending. Keep in mind that trends change often, so you will want to stay on top of what families are interested in.

Be strategic with your pricing

If you have not created a tutoring class before, you may not know what the “going rate” is for a half or full-hour session. As a tutor, Bobbi thinks that “a dollar a minute is more than fair.” At Outschool, we know that pricing is different for everyone, so be sure to check out our suggested pricing structure for additional information.

Build a relationship with parents

Customer service is just as important as teaching when running an online teaching business. This is especially true when parents enroll in individualized learning for their children. Bobbi suggests reaching out to the parents after they register to find out what their expectations are ahead of time. Doing so allows her to build a tutoring class specifically for the learner’s needs. 

Additionally, follow up with families after the learner’s 1-on-1 to share feedback highlighting what the learner did well and any areas that need improvement.

Keep growing

Continuously improve your skills as an online reading educator. This may be through Outschool’s ACE framework, staying up-to-date with the latest teaching methods and reading programs, attending development workshops, or registering for one of Outschool’s business classes.

Bobbi gave lots of kudos to Outschool Business Coach and Professional Learning Specialist Tegan Bombard and the Building Your Outschool Business course (check the Events Calendar on the Library for upcoming business coaching courses). During the live session, Bobbi learned valuable insights about how to promote her classes and organizational tips that have helped her in her online teaching business.

Spread the word

Once you decide to offer reading classes as a tutor, you will want to start sharing your new 1-on-1 classes. You can do this by reaching out to learners who are already taking your classes and offering them time to work with you 1-on-1. If you do not have a large following yet or are new to Outschool, you could seek referrals from friends and family or create discounts and coupons to post on social media.

Finally, consider collaborating with local schools, co-ops, and libraries. See if they would be willing to share your information with families to help promote your business.

. Want to read more about educators using tutoring to grow their online teaching business? Read about their journeys for additional tips and insights.

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