How To Start An Online Tutoring Business In 5 Simple Steps

Updated on

Note: Get more students on any tutoring website.

Read the Tutor Starter Pack post.

Online tutoring is a great way to earn some money, share your knowledge, and you can do it remotely from the comfort of your own home.

BUT – only if you can find students to teach! 

The 5 steps you need to successfully start online tutoring:

  1. Start broad with a big list of niches
  2. Look at Google autocomplete suggestions
  3. Snoop on a tutor website
  4. Figure out which niches have demand
  5. Create a listing on tutoring websites

Now, let’s look at the details…

How do you figure out what tutors are in demand?

Imagine you can teach math. 

Saying you’ll teach math to anyone is great, but it’s also a very diluted message. 

Are you teaching high school students or elementary students? 

Are you teaching for the SAT or do you specialize in teaching Calculus? 

Specialist or Generalist?

Let me ask you this: 

If you had a heart condition, are you looking for a heart specialist or a primary care physician?  

Similarly, if someone is looking for help with Algebra at high school level, they’re going to be a lot more drawn to you if that’s what you specialize in – “Algebra for high school students”. 

Find the balance though: Get too specific and you may not have enough people looking for you, and get too broad and your message doesn’t resonate with anyone. 

Here’s how I’d go about it…

Step 1: Start broad with a big list of niches

Let’s say I could teach any math topic to anyone. 

I’d start a document to list the topics I could teach, and to whom. 

Here are some angles I’d drill down to identify specific niches:

By level

  • Math tutor for elementary school
  • Math tutor for middle school
  • Math tutor for high school
  • Math tutor for college students

By subject

  • Algebra tutor
  • Geometry tutor

By subject and level

  • Algebra tutor for high school 

By exam or certification

  • Math tutor for SATs
  • Math tutor for GMAT
  • GMAT math tutor

You get the general idea… Make a big list and think about the different ways you can slice and dice your subject area and target student audience. 

At this stage, I’m just doing a brain dump of as many variations I can think of to get a few ideas on paper.

Next, I’d do a bit more research to find other subject areas / keywords / levels / exams that I hadn’t initially thought of. 

Step 2: Look at Google autocomplete suggestions

I’d type “math tutor” on Google and start looking through the autocomplete suggestions. 

Then I’d add the word “for” and see what comes up.

This is already giving me a sense of what other people are looking for. 

I’d add any of the suggestions that I think could be potential niches I could look at. 

I’d then cycle through the alphabet and see what comes up. 

For example: 

The suggestions with “A” gave me a range of useful ideas, but “B” wasn’t as useful. Although, it did give me a reminder that I need to think about a location angle as well. 

Even though you’re thinking about this as an online tutoring business, it won’t hurt to think in terms of location especially if you’re in a big city or a university town or similar. 

Going through the alphabet on Google will give me a bunch of other niche areas that I hadn’t initially considered. I’d add all of the ones that interested me to my document. 

Step 3: Snoop on a tutor website

I’m just going to head to Wyzant for this. 

But really, you’ll see you can do this kind of research on any tutoring platform. 

In the search field, as soon as I entered “math”, a few suggestions came up. I hadn’t thought of ACT math, so I’d add that to my list. 

In one of the next steps, it asked me to pick from this list of subjects. Which I thought was extremely useful. 

Remember: The goal of this exercise is still to figure out what subjects are in demand for tutoring. 

So I purposely kept it board and selected “Math”. 

In the next steps I picked “High school” as my level.

Next…

I’m guessing Wyzant knows what topics within math are most in demand, and so they’ve suggested these here. 

This is great. I’m going to add all of these topics to my document. Thanks, Wyzant! 

Go back a step and change it to “middle school” and the topics they’re suggesting changes…

All this is doing is giving me some insights into the “most popular” topics that students are looking for.

I selected “Just search for “Math” and looked at the results that showed up. 

Now I’m looking at what other tutors are offering. 

Specifically, I’m looking at their title, short description (which is visible on this screen), and long description (after clicking into their profile).

I might come across other areas within math that tutors are teaching. 

I also changed the level to see what else came up… 

At this point my document has a pretty big list of niches, and it’s time to start narrowing down. 

Step 4: Figure out which niches have demand

Now that I have a reasonably large list of niche subject areas that appear to be in demand, and I also have a general idea of the levels (elementary, middle, high school etc).

Next I want to start eliminating some niches that either aren’t as appealing as when I put them down, or perhaps didn’t appear to be in much demand.

The results page gives me sense of the number of tutors showing up for “Math”

If I look at “Algebra for middle school” I end up with 6574 tutors.

And “Statistics for middle school” has 872 tutors.

So…

Algebra could have more demand

OR

Algebra could have more competition

I’m a little undecided whether the lower number of results for statistics might make it easier for me to make inroads there quicker, but it’s something to consider. 

To figure out what subjects / tutors are in demand, I’m also looking at the prices, number of reviews, and number of hours taught. 

Do Algebra tutors have a lot more reviews than statistics? Does that mean they are that much more busier? 

I found the way these results kept showing up was pretty random, and so the numbers I was looking at was pretty inconclusive. 

And it doesn’t need to be conclusive. 

All you’re trying to do here is eliminate any niches on your document that clearly have no demand. 

What are students searching for on Google? 

If I knew how many people are on Google looking for algebra tutors vs statistics tutors, that would give me a much better idea on where there’s more demand, wouldn’t it?

Here’s the thing though… 

No one knows the exact number of searches for any search term on Google. But a few tools can give you a reasonable guesstimate. And that’s all you really need at this point. 

One free tool I use is Ubersuggest

I typed in “Algebra tutor” into Ubersuggest, and a many variations of this phrase had over 1300 search queries a month. 

But for “statistics tutor”, most variations had around 500 search queries each month. 

Clearly Algebra tutors appear to be more in demand than statistics tutors, but it’s not like there is no demand for statistics tutors. 

Also, from the previous research step on Wyzant, I saw there was about 7 times as many Algebra tutors compared to Statistics tutors. 

So what’s the verdict? 

Well, both Algebra and Statistics seem to be viable niches. So they’re still in the mix for now. 

Once I’ve gone through my list of niches, I’ll discard any that don’t have enough demand, or have way too much competition. 

And ideally I’d like to end up with 5-7 niches that I want to pursue. 

Step 5: Create a listing on tutoring websites

Now that I have my niches selected, I’d create a profile on the most popular tutoring websites. 

But… 

On each website, I’d only focus on one niche. 

So if my niche is “Algebra for High school”, then I’d write my profile specifically targeted towards that. 

The title, short description, long description and any other information that the site requires should focus on the specialization of my niche. 

In the next post, I’ll show you how to write a tutor profile that shows how you understand the student’s needs and difficulties, and how you are the best choice to help them overcome their challenges in the subject area. 

Not getting students on tutoring websites?

Students are looking for tutors on these sites.

But no one is contacting you.

You don't understand why no one is clicking on your profile.