The Ultimate Guide to Getting Students For Your Online Private Lessons

Hands down, the number one question that I get asked from fellow online teachers is, “How do I find more students?”

I have a big interest in all things marketing, so thinking about the different strategies that can be implemented to get students is one of the things that I most enjoy about having an online teaching business. I’m a stats guy and love analyzing and testing different methods to see what is effective.

I’ve tried many different strategies, and have talked extensively with other teachers about what methods are successful for them.

This post is my longest and most in-depth post to date, giving you all the information you need to fill your schedule with dedicated and paying students.

But, that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything listed here or over-complicate things.

Your marketing plan will be based on your niche and your short and long-term goals.

What works for one person may not work for another. Your target market is unique in that you are offering something that no one else can: your English teaching skills.

You are also offering lessons to a specific group of people. And, these different groups, or target markets in marketing speak, resonate with and respond to different messages.

As an online teacher, you will have to define your market, know where to find these English learners, bring them to your website, and convert them into paying students.

I’ve talked about how you can define your audience in a previous post; now it’s time to look at the rest of this process. Each step is equally as important, but our focus here will be mainly on how to bring more visitors (English learners in your niche) to your website.

But before we do, let’s divide our marketing strategies into two categories: short-term and long-term. I’ll also give you some general marketing advice and tie everything together.

Short vs Long-Term Methods

Sometimes we need to find a student right now. This is usually the case when first starting out as our schedule is empty and we want to start filling it up, get teaching, and bringing in income.

There is a lot of things that we can do that brings in students straight away.

An example of this is advertising. Most platforms will approve your advert within a few minutes, and it’s quite common to receive a lesson request soon after your advert goes live.

On the other hand, there are long-term strategies that we can implement. These methods take longer to produce results (paying students), but in most cases, are much more powerful than advertising, for example.

Creating videos is the perfect illustration of this. It takes some time to produce and market a series of videos with the end goal of bringing in new students. But, if done properly, then the potential to attract English learners to what you offer over the long-term is huge.

I split the methods listed here into these two categories, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t advertise once you have a good schedule. There are many short-term strategies that I implement every now and then, and I know teachers who do nothing but advertise to attract paying students.

Your Goals Will Define Your Strategies

My first website was primarily concerned with getting students to sign up to take lessons with me. At the same time, I was also really interested in learning about search engine optimization (SEO). So, I put my energy into ranking highly to attract English learners to what I was offering.

I wasn’t necessarily focused on creating the best content out there for learners; I just wanted to bring in students. In that regard, what I did was a great success.

My goals have changed and this is reflected in how I now market different websites.

The best way to approach the different marketing strategies listed later in this post is to think about your long-term plan.

Do you want to just bring in students (like I did)? Or, do you want to create something else? Is creating a website that attracts thousands of learners each week part of your plans? Does making videos with thousands (if not millions) of views excite you?

If you want to create something bigger than just offering private lessons, or at least leave this open, then there are certain things that you have to consider before you jump in. These things can be introduced later, but it is smart to at least have something outlined from the beginning.

The most important thing is your website, and we’ll sink our teeth into this very soon.

As I see more teachers create their own resources these days, mainly down to the tools that are now available, it excites me to think where things are now, and where they potentially will be in the future.

If you are a teacher who wants go that extra mile and create something that makes a difference, then stick around as this is something I want to explore through this blog in the months and potentially years ahead.

A Teacher Should Always Look His/Her Best

First impressions are important, and if you want to attract paying students, then everything that you do has to be of the highest quality.

This includes your website, your adverts, your videos, anything that you put out there. You need to make the best first impression no matter what you do.

On classified websites, I’ve seen too many teachers just post a line or two and say the same thing as everyone else. But, to make your campaigns more effective, you have to do something different and stand out from the crowd, wowing your potential students.

Both the look of your advertisements and your copy are important. But, approach the design as a way to support your message.

Knowing what will resonate will depend on your target market. But, always leave a good first impression.

Website Website Website

Your website is going to play a vital part in filling your schedule, so investing a little time and money upfront (you can get things started for around $60-80) is going to make things much easier for you.

If you don’t have a website, WordPress will soon become your new best friend. Anyone can build a teaching website with just a few hours work (check out my free tutorial on how to get started with WordPress if you haven’t already).

There are no limitations with WordPress; it can be used to build something simple and small, but is also powerful enough to easily implement forums, paid membership sites, and lots of other great features.

The reason your website is such an important part of this process is because it is the platform that we use to firstly attract English learners, and then to convince them that they will benefit from taking lessons with us.

Finding Where Are English Learners Are Hanging Out

Fortunately for us, English learners are everywhere.

I prepare students, predominantly from Russia, for the IELTS exam. Some of my students were purposefully looking for an online teacher such as myself, and therefore found my website through search, a referral, or by other means.

Other learners were hanging out in different corners of the internet, and while not actively seeking a teacher, once they learned about what I offer, they got excited about preparing with me over Skype.

There are many ways that we can bring students to our website, ultimately turning them into paying students.

And so, we have now reached the nitty gritty of this post: my list of marketing strategies that will bring English learners to your website and ultimately to take lessons with you

Let’s dive straight into it.

Start With These

We’ll start with three strategies that you will bring in students right from the off. These can also be used when you quickly need to bring in more students.


Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn are three of the most common platforms on which to advertise.

My favorite is Google Adwords as it has always brought in the best return on investment (ROI).

LinkedIn is more expensive, but if your niche suits that type of platform, then it could be lucrative. You can target people by location on all three above; this is really important if your lessons are specific to a certain area.

Another way to advertise is to target websites that attract the type of visitors who are in your niche.

My advice is to create a relationships with website owners before requesting advertising space. Start with researching which sites are related to what you do, and make a list of potential partnerships.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started. And, at the moment, my recommended hosting plan is offering a $100 voucher to spend on Google Adwords – Click here for more details.


One of the best free ways to bring in students is to find online classified listings that are specific to your niche. Unless you are looking for students based in the country where you are now, you will have to research a little and find the classified website where your target market use.

Include lots of great information on your classified posting, and make sure that you have a professional picture too. Make your listing stand out, and create something that will make your potential students excited about taking lessons with you.

Use Your Network

Sometimes, you just gotta hustle. Take a look at your contacts on different social media platforms, and think about the best way to approach those who are currently learning English and could possibly be interested in taking lessons with you.

I feel the best way to do this is to send a personal message stating that you are now teaching one-to-one English lessons, offering a free 15 minute chat over Skype.

You shouldn’t hard sell anything. In fact, ask your friend/ex-student if they know of anyone who could benefit from your lessons, and ask kindly if they wouldn’t mind sharing your website with others. They most likely will do this, and might start taking lessons with you themselves.

Long-Term Strategies

As mentioned earlier, many teachers get by on just using the three initial methods above. But, if you want to create something bigger, something more exciting and engaging, and potential something that could evolve into something more than just private lessons, then creating content and being active on social media is what you should be doing.

Although not a direct way of bringing in students, a lot of these methods are much more powerful.

Your website becomes more important as you start to implement these strategies. Let’s start with the type of content you can implement before talking about social media.

Content on Your Website

Having great content on your website will attract learners, while also showcasing your skills as a teacher.

The type of content you create will very much depend on the lessons you are offering. Most teachers focus on creating lessons, explanations, or exercises.

You can do this by introducing different media, such as video, pictures, audio, and some interactive elements. Many teachers love to do this, and take great pride in creating useful content for their students.

Creating content is the best way to organically attract learners in your niche without spending money. If your content offers great value, people will share it on social media, and it will rank highly in the search engines (more on SEO later).

Content Elsewhere

As well as posting on your own site, you can create content on other platforms to attract learners to a landing page.

Two of my favorite methods are: creating videos on Youtube and writing guest posts or articles on learning blogs.

To give you an example, let’s imagine that you give preparation lessons for the speaking part of the TOEFL exam. You can create a video where you give tips for the speaking section, and then include a link back to a page that gives more information.

On this landing page, mention that you give one-to-one preparation lessons in a way that excites your visitor. If you do all of this correctly and take the time to promote your video, you will attract large numbers of students to your site that convert at a high rate.

Social Media and Forums

Being active on social networking sites is another great way to bring in students over the long-term. There are two important features of social media that make it such a powerful tactic.

The first one is using it as a way to connect with your students and learners in your niche. Setting up a Facebook group or page is really easy to do, but you have to work at it to make it worthwhile; to make social media work for you, you have to be social.

You also want others to share your content, whether on your site or elsewhere, with others. Make this as easy as possible do, and don’t be afraid of asking others to do this.

If you have a large following on one of your platforms, then you should you use this as social proof. What I mean by this is that when a potential student comes onto your website and sees that you have a large following on a specific platform, they will feel much more confident that you are going to offer them great value. On the other hand, if you only have three “likes” for your page, you should hold off putting this on your site.

The thought of being active on platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, and online forums can be a little daunting.

A lot of teachers choose one or two platforms, the ones that are suitable to what they are doing, and put their time and energy into creating something worthy. Researching which sites your target students use, as it may be best for you to target one outside of the big four.

A lot of traffic can be gained from social media if you engage your audience, offer value, and interact with others.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is linked to the three previous strategies. Getting targeted traffic from the search engines takes time to come to fruition, but there are things that you can do right now to optimize your site.

There are two types categories of SEO: onsite and offsite. Onsite SEO means doing everything possible to make your website search engine friendly, targeting the search terms that are related to what you do. Using the example from before, having a landing page that targets the search term, “TOEFL exam tutor” will bring in learners who are searching for exactly what you offer.

Offsite SEO is mainly concerned with getting as many inbound links as possible. In addition, social media “likes” are becoming more important too.

There are ways to “game the system” by posting links to your site using software or by buying links. But, as Google is trying their best to punish those who engage in such practices, I don’t recommend doing this. In addition, it’s not the best thing to focus your energy on.

Concentrating on creating the best content you possibly can, getting links and “likes” naturally using the methods explained above, and optimizing your site for the search terms for your niche, will put you in a great long-term position to rank highly in the search engines and potentially bring in thousands of visitors every month.

The Referral

I love referrals.

There is no better feeling when a student contacts me after being recommended by one of my students.

Firstly, it gives me satisfaction to know that my students are happy with what I am doing and want to tell their friends and family about my teaching.

In addition, a referral comes to you already sold on what you offer. Your students can sell your lessons and your methods to others far better than you ever will. When I receive a request for a trial lesson from somebody who has been referred, I know it’s just a matter of ironing out the details and ensuring that our schedules line up.

Do everything you can to get more referrals. This all starts with offering lessons that truly benefit your current students, and looking after them in such a way that they want to share you with others.

And don’t be afraid to ask for your current students to recommend you.

Connect With Others

I suggest that you do this anyway as teaching online can be quite isolated if you don’t have a support network. But, creating relationships with teachers who do something similar to you can lead to a situation where you can pass on and receive students from each other.

At the moment there is no real platform to be able to do this. I’ve just created a group on LinkedIn for online teachers to connect, and I hope this grows into something useful for everyone who joins.

If you are have a LinkedIn account, you can find out more about the group here – ELT Online LinkedIn Group.

Do What Works For You and Your Long-Term Goals

Using the well-known Pareto principle that states 80% of the effects will come from 20% of the causes, I recommend looking at what works for you and focusing your efforts on that.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what you will end up doing to bring in students will depend on many factors.

Having a long-term vision of what you want to achieve will help you decide whether you want to implement some or all of the strategies listed above.

You will also have to think about your niche and how this will affect your strategy.

Interested in Teaching Online?

If teaching online and being in charge of your teaching and income is something that interests you, or if you are already an online teacher, then sign up to receive updates, resources, and to connect with me.

I have a lot of exciting posts and projects in the works, and would love for you to be part of that.

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Please Share

Thank you to everyone who shared my recent post (How to Teach English Online).

If you have found this post useful, please share it with your network. I really appreciate you doing this, it means a lot.

Defining, Refining and Choosing Your English Teaching Niche: Two Questions to Ask

This post will greatly help you if you already have a teaching niche idea or if you are stuck trying to find one. Even if you are planning on offering generic English lessons, I’m sure that the following information will help you think about how you are going to offer your lessons, and how you are going to find students.

There are two questions that you definitely should ask before getting started. Doing this will help you define your niche and will go a long way to helping you avoid making the same mistakes that I (and many others) did when starting out.

The most important questions to ask before starting

1. Can and Will They Pay?

You can have the best website in the world, the best teaching methods, and the best promotional campaign, but without students who both have the ability and willingness to pay, you’ve basically got nothing.

This may seem simple, but I’ve seen English teaching websites come and go because this initial question wasn’t asked. One site built its whole brand around the keywords (what you type into a Google search), “English speaking course.” This is a term with over 12,000 searches in Google per month.

At first, this seems like it may seem that this keyword is golden. It is targeted towards English lessons and it has a high search quantity. But, when you delve deeper, from those 12,000, over 10,000 come from India and Pakistan.

This is such valuable information because the vast majority of people from these two countries don’t have the necessary credit/debit card to be able to pay online. In fact, Paypal isn’t available in Pakistan at all. Also, most people who are reading this will want to charge much more than the average person from these two countries can afford.

When answering this question, don’t just focus on the country potential students come from. A student’s ability to pay isn’t just limited to geographical demographics (more on this below).

2. Am I going to enjoy teaching this group?

I won’t include any examples here as I don’t want this discussion to be about stereotypes, but I’m sure that you will all agree that certain students are much more enjoyable than others.

A lot of the time, this isn’t determined by nationality (from my experience anyway). But, there are certain types of students that are highly motivated, dedicated, and don’t cause any problems. And on the other end of the spectrum, there the kind of students who cause a whole variety of problems.

You don’t want to start with a new niche and find out later that you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing. Loving what you do really important in general, but even more so when teaching.

Those are the two questions to ask. Now let’s take a look at finding out exactly how we can define our niche and how we can find better answers.

Defining our niche: how to answer these questions with two more questions

What turns my niche on?

What makes your audience tick? What do they like? What turns them off? Are they motivated? Are they potentially good students? What are their values?

These are are questions related to what is called, “Psychographics.” This is important because you need to know who your audience is before you decide to go ahead with your niche, and when you do decide, you’ll need to know what resonates with them (remember this when you start marketing to your niche).

Knowing the psychographics of your niche will greatly help you know whether you are going to enjoy taking lessons with this niche and whether your student is able and willing to pay.

Who is my niche?

This is less sexy than question two, but equally as important. Demographics will play a large role in deciding our niche. Here are some variables to think about:

  • Age
  • Nationality
  • Current location
  • Job
  • Wage
  • Sex

A note on the last variable: If you are a female teacher, you will find it impossible to get male students in certain countries, and vice versa.

Defining your niche through demographics is especially important when doing the research on whether your niche will be able and willing to pay.

(Re)Choosing Your Niche

If your original idea now seems dead in the water – Good! I hope that I have saved you from going into something that won’t work out in the long term. If this is you, or if you haven’t decided on a niche as yet, then don’t worry, there is something that you can do to help you find the perfect niche for you.

(Note: Look at what you enjoy teaching and what you have experience in first. In most cases you can offer something quite general, but then target specific students within that general category).

Firstly, think about your perfect type of student (psychographics). Next, think about what type of students are willing to pay you what you you want to charge (demographics and psychographics). List the traits, countries, jobs, etc. that define this super student.

Once you have done this, think about how you can best target this person. What type of lessons could you offer this group of students, and how can you word your website so that your message resonates with them?

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Get a Student Today

The number one question I receive from other teachers who want to teach online is, “Where do you get your students from?”

There are a million and one ways to get students: Most of them include starting up a website, driving traffic to your site, and then converting that traffic into trial lessons. But, if you’re new to online teaching, then there is something that you can do right now to get your first student(s). All you need is Skype, a Paypal address, and this easy method.

It took me a while to start doing this. I wanted to do the complicated things first before actually getting started. So, I built my website, advertised, did a whole lot of posting in forums and classifieds, and got a few students.

Then, after getting my schedule around half-full, I decided to contact some of my old students from Spain to see if they would like to take lessons online with me.

Three students signed up straight away. The funny thing is, I didn’t need to build a site, think about my marketing plan, or do anything else to achieve this. If you’re new to online teaching, I suggest that you do this first. The transition and learning curve will be much easier if you get something started with familiar students. And, it’s easier to move forward once the ball is rolling.

Posting on Facebook or Twitter is just hoping that someone will bite. Instead, contact each student directly and take the time to write them a nice, personal message; ask them about their English learning and their life; offer them a twenty minute free catch up on Skype so you can convince them to start taking lessons with you again.

The Newbie Approach

Don’t have any past students? How many non-English speaking friends (or contacts) do you have? Would they be interesting in talking to you online to improve their English? Offer them online lessons for a great price, and then, once you start gaining confidence and improving as a teacher, ask them to refer you to their friends.

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. But, there is no better way to get the ball rolling by getting a student, getting paid, and taking it from there.

So, start TODAY and get teaching online. Then, come back here and let me know how it went.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: Marco Raaphorst

Join the Growing Movement

If you have ever considered teaching online, be sure to join other teachers who have signed up to receive my free updates and resources.

I love helping other teachers get their start online, and signing up to receive my updates is a great way to connect with me.


If so, join the 5-Day Email Marketing Challenge for FREE! Sign up to get the first lesson instantly delivered to your inbox!

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