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How to Start and Grow a Private Tutoring Business

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

Sandra Dee Bonadonna, educator and entrepreneur, has been teaching since 1995 and focusing on ESL since 2000. Bonadonna has extensive experience teaching in China, including schools in Jilin Province, Beijing, and Tianjin. In addition to teaching, Bonadonna worked with a transfer program between Rutgers University in the US and Northeast Normal University in China. After returning to the US, her most recent endeavor is co-founding S2 International Academy, offering expertly tailored courses to suit each student’s ability and level.


It was 2017, and I was returning to the States from northern China, where I spent the previous school year teaching English 101 & 102, and Speech at university. Things were changing in my family and it was time for me to come back home. Before I left China, I worked with public schools in Beijing and Tianjin, teaching English to classrooms online. The schools used ClassIn as a platform, and I liked it because it reminded me very much of the Blackboard platform that I used in university in the States.

When I returned home I went to work for a Chinese company that worked with the public schools as well as private students. They, too, used ClassIn. For a long time, I didn’t understand all of the tools and abilities that this platform has to offer. (It’s a lot of bells & whistles!)

I began to understand it better as I grew with the platform. Last year, I signed up for the small school package with ClassIn, moving my private students over from WeChat and Zoom classes to a more professional classroom setting. The students are happy, the teachers are happy, the parents are happy, and I credit ClassIn for this.

S2 International Academy home page

From Public Education to Platform-Based Private Tutoring

After coming back from China I was looking to stay in the industry and continue teaching. The hard thing about being an independent teacher is that there’s no safety net for holidays.

In China, something that was so new to me was that holidays can be a full week if not more. Spring Festival in China gives the adults about a week off, and all of the kids close to a month or six weeks off for holiday. During those times no one was in school, so there was no way to earn a living. One of my liaisons at the company I was with suggested that I look at VIPKid to fill my time during holiday seasons when the regular schools and educational learning centers were closed. At this point, I have not really heard of VIPKid, and I was completely unfamiliar with that style of warehouse teaching.

I use the term warehouse teaching, to describe an eight-hour workday where you see one kid after the other every 25 minutes, the material is the same, there is no real individual teaching, and you stay busy. When you are packing that many students into one day it’s very difficult to focus individually on every one of them.

Bonadonna points out that "warehouse teaching" lacks individual focus

These platforms were a hit though, so I looked into them. I wound up finding a very small little start-up company called Palfish, and after I did all of my homework and research I wound up joining them. It took me a while to get used to this new style of online teaching, but before long I knew it I was working 10-12 hours a day six-seven days a week. I pulled away from individual educational instruction and stayed with Palfish for about four years.

I have nothing but wonderful things to say about my time with Palfish. It was a wonderful experience. I jumped on a plane and showed up in their office one day because I just wanted to make sure they were real, and I spent the most incredible few days getting to know the people that work there.

Then the other shoe dropped in China.

Going Independent as the Tutoring Landscape Shifted

All of a sudden everything was changing. All of a sudden we started to hear about the laws changing in China, companies making massive changes, companies closing their doors permanently, and teachers were wondering what to do. Pay was being cut, regularly, and there was no real justification for any of this other than what could or might happen in the future. Teachers were left in the dark. Now what?

I know for me, deciding what to do next was really hard. Palfish was my home. I was a top teacher there for many years and had hundreds of students over the years that I was blessed to work with. I never thought there would come a day when I would leave them. That day came about a year ago.

Continuing on as an independent teacher using ClassIn

I have always been an independent teacher, even before my time with Palfish. I have continued to teach in an online setting once I returned to the United States, and using the ClassIn platform was appealing and natural to me. Over the years, I have continued to teach my private students on this platform. About a year ago, I upgraded my premium platform at ClassIn to a small school. My goal was to find a way to help other teachers who were in the same situation, get started.

ClassIn teaching tools

A Growing Network for Independent Teachers and Students

My private academy has a small handful of teachers and a small group of students. Teaching independently and privately has been the best part of my career. Watching my students grow and learn over the years, is a gift. Recently, we have been working to find a way to be more helpful to independent teachers.

The S2 International Academy Team

We are now launching a program for independent teachers, called the Independent Teachers Academy (ITA). We will be helping independent teachers get started. We help independent teachers by giving them a platform, the ability to take WeChat pay from students, help with curriculum, as well as many other things.

I have been able to make everything happen with the help and support of the ClassIn platform. If you’re not using ClassIn, you should be. It’s the greatest educational resource an independent teacher can have.

I have been able to make everything happen with the help and support of the ClassIn platform. If you’re not using ClassIn, you should be. It’s the greatest educational resource an independent teacher can have.

For new teachers out there - trying to start on on your own is difficult. Learn from the examples and mistakes of others by watching as many YouTube videos, and attending as many webinars through ClassIn as possible. If you are really struggling to get started, you can always contact me, and we can help you begin your journey. We are all in this together, and teachers helping teachers will only help us all thrive. Believe in yourselves! You can do this!

I am looking forward to how we all will grow and change with the new changes. We are all in this together. Let’s all succeed together.

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Related Resources

About ClassIn:

Read more:

How to create EDB files

Tips for an Effective One-to-one Online Lesson with EDB Files

ClassIn Teacher Manual: An Ultimate Guide to ClassIn

Online Learning: What Have We Learned in the Past School Year


*ClassIn is a leading edtech company that provides a one-stop solution for digital learning.

ClassIn software enables interactive classrooms, in-school social app, lesson scheduling, homework management, and school management dashboard, which start free and scale up to meet our customers' needs at any stage of teaching. Today, thousands of schools and institutions around the world benefit from ClassIn's powerful and easy-to-use tools to teach online and offline.

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