Launching an online teaching business is exciting. The lure of entrepreneurship, the ability to work from home or anywhere with strong internet – it’s nothing short of a dream job. Over the past year, we’ve talked about launching a website, building a social media presence, a number of other factors that go into growing an online teaching career.
But one of the biggest challenges many teachers face when moving outside of a traditional classroom is how to find students. Let’s take a look at the best ways to market yourself, attract attention, and grow that student roster into a respectable (and profitable) collection of students. As you’ll notice, I’ve hyperlinked to a number of articles which cover topics in more detail. I encourage you to bookmark these and return to them as you focus on that specific topic.
How to find students: where to start
When first starting out, I strongly recommend placing ads and posts on established channels. Craigslist can be lucrative, but I encourage you to find job boards and blogs related to your niche.
You may wish to tutor or teach a few students at for free or at a discounted rate in order to get references and referrals. Word of mouth is often a huge part of building an online teaching business – a happy student is incredibly likely to tell others about their experience.
The next and most important thing you can do is network extensively. Find happy hour meetups, online forums, and conferences related to your subject matter and get out and meet people! You never know who will be there and who they might be or might be able to plug you into. I credit so much of my career to networking. I wouldn’t be where I am without it.
Here are three additional avenues to pursue on an ongoing basis:
- Write guest posts. If you can, find blogs and sites in your field that accept guest posts. A guest post is a blog article written by a guest (you) covering a specific topic in your field. Guest posts are a great way to build your authority and increase the number of link backs to your website, which is great for SEO.
- Sign up with established teaching sites. If you teach in a field such as music lessons, language lessons, or another popular genre, there are likely large companies that offer lessons online and are consistently looking for new teachers. This is a great way to find your first students, build a reputation, and gather feedback. Be sure to get testimonials from your students and place them on your own website.
- Online ads. I don’t recommend starting off with Google PPC or Facebook ads until you have a strong website built, but after you’ve been around awhile these can be effective marketing tools.
How to find students: Optimize your SEO
In our SEO guide, we covered the basics of making your website as appealing as possible to Google. I’m not going to repeat everything here, but I do want to note that catering your site to perfectly reflect your niche is absolutely imperative.
Using a database such as SEMRush, identify the most searched for terms in your niche. Build pages on your site to specifically target those keywords. A blog is a great way to do this, because you can continually create new pages (each new post is a new page) that each target a different keyword and focus on a specific topic inside the niche.
Make sure your landing page is SEO optimized by making the H2 heading be your exact niche. For example, if you teach online guitar lessons, it would read “online guitar lessons.” The title of your site should read John Doe Guitar | Online Guitar Lessons.
My online language school Live Lingua says exactly that: Online language school (see photo below). This means that when people type in ‘online language school’ to Google, my site will be pulled up and if the site is strong, established, and SEO optimized, will rank on the first page.
This takes time and effort, especially if you are in a popular field. I suggest hiring an SEO consultant or, better yet, making sure that the person who builds your website understands SEO before getting started. Have a meeting with him or her specifically related to the site’s SEO and ensure they have a solid understanding of what you are teaching and what you need to rank for.
Once your site ranks, you should see an increase in organic traffic and student queries without much additional effort on your part. This may or may not replace other forms of outreach and advertising, but it will definitely boost your visibility and authority in your field.
How to find students: Email marketing
We published a great article on newsletters and sales funnels, but here’s the gist of it. Building a collection of email addresses into a site such as MailChimp, Mailerlite, or another newsletter service is essential. Sending out a regular newsletter with current news, specials, tips/tricks, and other info as relevant to your niche keeps people engaged and keeps your services top of mind.
Newsletters and sales funnels allow you to automate your sales process in a way that is more engaging and active than your website and blog themselves because the content is delivered right to the inbox of potential students. They bring more clicks to your website and work alongside blogs, social media, and other marketing tactics to tie them all together and encourage action.
Check out the article linked above for tips on starting a newsletter and gathering email addresses. This method takes time.
How to find students: Bringing everything together
Marketing is an ongoing process. It never ends. The process is dreadful for many teachers, but it’s one of those necessary evils that keep business flowing. The techniques we’ve discussed here not only help the business grow but help you gain a greater understanding of what potential students look for.