Characteristics of a Good Tutor

The characteristics of a good tutor set a high standard. It is a standard of professionalism, integrity, and deep concern for students and their well being.

But I am showing you how these characteristics work for starting a tutoring business. Just because you are a good tutor, does not mean you should run your own tutoring business.

Listed below are the characteristics of a good tutor AND a good tutoring business owner. You need both to start a tutoring business.


First of all let’s start with honesty. It is certainly a characteristic of a good tutor.

As a person and as a tutor if you are honest and say what you mean, and mean what you say, people will know exactly where you stand. People will respect you.

It may sound real strange but one of the best ways to obtain new clients is to tell parents that you will not be able to tutor their child.

It’s important to perform a simple but thorough assessment of the family’s need for their child. After doing so the tutor decides if they are a good fit for the child and if the child is a good fit for them. If not, the wrong decision is to tutor the client anyway.

Instead it is better to tell those parents that you cannot meet the needs of the child at this time, and hopefully recommend a more suitable tutor. (forming a referral partnership with a tutor with other skills is a great way to get more clients–more on that in later lessons)

In addition, a family who you “turn down” often becomes a great referral generator because they greatly respect that you told them the truth. They will want to tell everyone about how nice you are, and will go out of their way to tell other people about your services.

The other side of this is true as well.

If you can meet the needs of that student you are in a great spot to accept the job with great enthusiasm. But keep in mind in both situations you have done an honest assessment and given your honest opinion on whether or not to continue with the tutoring relationship.

Then both parties can go forward with mutual understanding in the student’s needs and your ability and desire to create solutions to meet those needs.

Bottom line: You should have learned to be honest in kindergarten and that it was the best policy (it is what I teach my kids and what we should all strive for—even though I know I have missed the mark here many times before—haven’t we all?!).

Professionals are straightforward and honest through and through. Everyone benefits. And this characteristic of a good tutor will most definitely make an impression on your clients.

Even when parents are forced to hear their child was lazy and did not work at all in their session? 🙂 Yes, it is best for you to say it.


Another characteristic of a good tutor is that they are competent. They demonstrate their competence in a variety of ways.

One, they are experts in their subject matter. This does not mean that you have to know everything about your subject, so relax. You do not have to pass Calculus with straight A’s to tutor Algebra. But you should have a pretty darn good understanding of Algebra.

Not only are successful tutors competent in their subject matter, they are competent working with the age group they tutor.

Do not work with high school students if you are scared of them and prefer to help kids learn to tie their shoes. And don’t even try to work with middle school students if that “hormone” thing drives you nuts. Love the age group you tutor, or at least find something to love about them.

Competence even means you can handle the job. Students and parents are reassured by a tutor who is on time, prepared, and focused completely on the job at hand. Certainly a characteristic of a great tutor.

I know it sounds silly but I have seen many tutors show up late, always have to ask what their student is working on, and continually answer their cell phone during a session. Nothing destroys yours professional image a more than these actions.


Another characteristic of a good tutor is that highly successful tutors inspire both students and their parents. Students are inspired to keep working and to never give up. Parents are given hope as their child succeeds.

Keep in mind this is a good chance to be honest with students and tell them areas were you struggled when you were learning. Remember that honesty we were talking about?

It keeps you real.

It’s a level of transparency that builds your relationship with your student. And of course how are you helping your students succeed? With your competency!

Honesty helps build the relationship, while your competency as a tutor in that subject helps fulfil the goal of learning. This is inspiring to a student who needs someone to connect with them and help them learn a difficult subject. (Inspiring to the parent who pays your bills as well!)

Sense of Direction

Next in the characteristics of a good tutor is to provide a sense of direction for their students.

Students will feel defeated if you simply tell them, “We’re going to get you an A in Spanish.” This is because they feel the feat is impossible. They cannot see the route to get there.

Instead highly successful tutors start working with students for right where they are at. They focus on using the correct vocabulary, the right verb tense, and how to enunciate words correctly. They utilise drills and create lesson plans.

The one thing all these activities have in common is a unified sense of direction, or purpose, of getting the student to that A (or even to a C if that is the goal).

Of course this is related to a tutor’s competence because a skilled tutor understands the big picture of where a student is at in their skill level and how to reach their goal. (See how all of these characteristics are so interrelated? — they just keep coming back into the picture)


Finally, wildly successful tutors demonstrate credibility.

Actually, a better way to say it is they model the previous four characteristics of a good tutor and thus demonstrate their credibility.

This credibility is important in the tutoring relationship with students and parents. You become their “go-to-guy” or “go-to-gal” when they are in need of some academic assistance.

They come back for more lessons. They continue to be successful. They refer you to their friends.

And you get more business as your credibility grows. And that is certainly on of the characteristics of a good tutor that you want to see in your business! Growing credibility and a growing client base!

As you can see, these characteristics of a good tutor will not only help you in your tutoring, but also in your role as a tutoring business owner.