Articles in the Series:
- Starting a Tutoring Business
- Starting an Online Tutoring Business from Home
- How to Market a Tutoring Business
QUESTION ON Starting an Online Tutoring Business
Do you have any ideas on how I could start a business on the Internet by tutoring elementary students with the basics skills, reading, writing and math? I’ve been thinking of starting an online tutoring business, but I do not know how to begin. – Cecile
Online learning has been gaining huge momentum in recent years. Online tutoring has brought the online study to a new dimension. Getting tutored over the internet is quite an intriguing concept for students as well as parents. It is a unique interactive platform that enables students to get the individual attention in their studies. Now students can connect to an online tutor anytime anywhere. Because of its one to one nature absolute focus of the tutor on the learner is ensured.
What is online tutoring? It means imparting or receiving help or assistance over the internet to/from someone who may be sitting across borders. In an online tutoring setting, the student connects to real tutor via the internet, converse using a voice messenger and also share a common online whiteboard which is similar to a classroom blackboard.
With the advancement in technology, it is now easier to learn and teach over the Web in real-time and interactive manner. As a result, online tutoring has become possible allowing you to extend your reach beyond your zip code.
Creating Your Website for your Online Tutoring Business
If you’d like to start working with children one on one and use the Internet as a marketing tool, start by creating a website. Your website must be clear as to what you offer in terms of:
- Subjects covered
- Grade level covered, including SAT/Test preparation and AP support
- Number of hours for each lesson
- Availability and schedule (hours of operation)
- Mobile access, if any
- Guarantees, if available
- Change or cancellation policies
The key is to make sure that your website factually and clearly states what you offer, without overstating what you can do. Do not say 24/7 access, and then tell the client from Japan that the time schedule they prefer is your sleeping time. Or book a client who needs help in AP Physics, when that is your poorest subject.
Understand that the Web reaches the global audience, so clearly indicate on your website if you want to limit your target market to a certain geographical area (e.g. only U.S. customers).
It is important to understand that you will be competing against online tutoring businesses powered by larger companies that offer 24/7 access to a wide variety of subjects and grade levels. If your online tutoring business is a one-person business, think of what will differentiate your business from similar online tutoring services.
Technology Needs of an Online Tutoring Business
Technology will be the key to the success of your online tutoring business. Consider the implementation of the following technologies:
- Interactive whiteboards
- File sharing
- Video conferencing
- Mobile (for mobile consultation)
- Members-only (secured) section of your website
Given that the interaction between you and the students are all done online, your website must have the capability to engage in chat or telephone conversion. This will allow the student to discuss with you the assignment and what he/she finds difficult, and then enable you to teach the student and clarify and problems or challenges he/she is having. You need to have a file screen and file sharing features so that the student can clearly see how to solve the problem, for example.
If the above technical requirements are not something that you can program yourself, and the cost of hiring a programmer is prohibitive, look around for possible solutions that you can use. Examples include:
- Join.me (www.join.me) – A screen sharing, file sharing, and online meeting solution. It will cost you $149 a year, but free to the other party (your students) though they will be required to download the software. It also allows for recording of the session, which can prove really helpful for your students.
- Skype www.skype.com – Premium account of $9.99 a month offers instant messaging, video messaging, group screen sharing, among others. Free account does not allow for screen sharing, only video and voice calls as well as instant messaging.
- Webex www.webex.com – The free plan allows for phone conferencing, and sharing of desktop, whiteboard and documents.
- Yugma www.yugma.com – Yugma only offers a free version for 15 days, which allows you to do web conferencing with 1 person, public and private chat. The paid version, which starts at $24.50 per year allows for desktop sharing, annotation, and whiteboard tools, share mouse and keyboard control, and change presenters.
There are a number of other tools out there that you can use. Find the best solution that will be easy for you to collaborate and work together with your prospective students. If the recording of a session is important to your clients, look for solutions that offer that functionality. The key is to determine what your clients want and need and find the best tool that you can use for your business.
Invest in a computer system with camera, for videoconferencing. Consider getting notebook or tablet computer for on-the-go consultations with your students.
Marketing Your Online Tutoring Business
Parents are your target market for this type of business. There are two needs that your online tutoring business will address:
- Providing the student with a private tutor on a consistent basis
- Providing immediate assistance to a student in the middle of homework or test preparation at home who gets stuck understanding a concept
Finding a tutor is not always easy. Your online tutoring business will take the legwork out of finding a good tutor for their kids. They can simply go to the Web and get connected with you to help their kids with their studies or test preparations.
Be sure to sell the benefits of your online tutoring business to parents. Online tutoring is more beneficial than physical classroom teaching as it is more focused on an individual’s requirements with less or no interruption at all. Personalized lesson plans have made online mentoring even more helpful for the students because every individual has his own learning style and pace. Plus, it saves from the hassle of traveling or arranging for a private tutor thereby saving a lot of time and money. All you need is a high-speed internet and a headset and you are all set for online tutoring.
In addition to setting up and marketing a website explaining your services and introducing yourself (be sure to include a photo), send out an email newsletter to the parents’ email addresses. Have visitors to the site subscribe by leaving their email address and accumulate addresses as you network.
Of course, you’ll also have to run ads in the classified section of the newspaper, contact schools and get on their tutor lists and all the other traditional marketing techniques.
Most importantly, ask people you know if they know anyone who is looking for a tutor. This simple question (which costs you nothing) is ALWAYS your best marketing tool. Ask and you’ll receive. It works!
For more information on marketing your online tutoring business, read the following articles:
Growing Your Online Tutoring Business
One way to grow your online tutoring business is to expand the scope of your offerings. You can start with elementary students now, but there are a number of ways to expand the business. Some ideas include:
- Expanding to cover additional subjects
- Expanding to add grade levels, such as college
- Include career help consultation
- GED® test preparation
- Adding an adult education and career center, such as
- Assistance for those going back to school
- Career help
- Assistance in crafting resumes
- Assistance in interviews
- Getting the foreign-born adult ready for citizenship exams
- Assistance in GED® test
- Adding support for essay and report writing
An important step in growing your online tutoring business is to find other tutors who can work with you. Instead of just a one-person tutoring business, become a “tutor broker” and manage a network of professional teachers and educators. Your task will then to match these tutors with students in need of one-on-one online tutoring. Your business then expands to an online matchmaker or broker, matching qualified tutors and teachers with children in need of individualized tutoring.
Recommended Resources on How To Start an Internet Tutoring Business
- Start Your Own Online Education Business
- E-Learning Networked Environments and Architectures: A Knowledge Processing Perspective (Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing)
- Make Money Teaching Online: How to Land Your First Academic Job, Build Credibility, and Earn a Six-Figure Salary
- Blueprint For Online Tutoring Success
Article originally published in April 2001. Updated February 29, 2012