A friend mentioned that they needed a math tutor for their daughter. When I was in college I did tutoring for math and science. These are subjects I like and I like to teach and help people. I thought, what a great idea for a business.

I really set-up my tutoring business in one evening ... for real. But before I jump into how I did it let's look at what it takes to be successful.

Keys to Success

The key to a successful business is keeping your costs low. It is very tempting to spend money on your business because you feel like you are doing something. Don't believe, "You have to spend money to make money". All you are doing is spending future profits.

Certain businesses are very well suited for the home. Other businesses are well suited for potential customers who are people you know and who are close by. Tutoring is a business that is all of the above. People want to feel comfortable with the person teaching their child. Who wants to be tutored by someone half the way around the world in a different time zone?

The other thing a successful business needs is a competitive advantage. What can you offer that the your competitors don't? You need to have a competitive advantage to make customers choose you over someone else.

What is your Competitive Advantage?

With tutoring you can offer standard 1 hour sessions but also offer micro-tutoring sessions. Picture a student doing their math homework and they are stumped on a problem. They need help NOW. They don't want to schedule an hour with you next Tuesday.

The solution? A 10 minute live on-line tutoring session. The help you need when you need it in the privacy of your own home.

Look the Part - Be professional

To make my tutoring business look professional, I needed to have a web presence but I did not want to spend any money. I also wanted to have a business that would allow maximum time flexibility so I wanted to be able to do the work on-line.

Using the Right Tools for Zero Out of Pocket Cost

Here are the tools I used to get started:

www.wix.com is a site that lets you create and host a website for free. I spent a couple of hours creating the pages for the site with my rates, my contact info and a video demonstration of how I do on-line tutoring.

www.dimdim.com is a free web conferencing software that lets other people see your screen. There's a white board that each party can write on so it's just like being there.

www.gmail.com is my free e-mail provider.

www.skype.com provides free phone service if you want to save on long distance or over-seas calls.

www.craigslist.com let me post a free classified ad on-line where I got response in 24 hrs.

www.paypal.com is free for a basic account to let you collect money for your services on-line. People do not need a PayPal account; they can use their credit card.

The Result

So you see in one day I had a complete end-to-end business up and running. From advertising to delivery to payment all on-line and all for free.

Now you can make some flyers and put them on cars at the library, Chuck E. Cheese, the swimming pool parking lot where you live, etc. This is not free but very inexpensive to get some B&W copies made at Kinko's. You can print business card too if you get the Avery card stock at the Staples or OfficeDepot.

I also used Twitter and FaceBook to promote my business.

As you build up a client base you update your site with testimonials. Emphasize that you offer help on the spot with micro-tutoring sessions to get students un-stuck.

It will take time to get going but it's a rewarding side job with lots of flexibility.