7 Winning Strategies for a Successful Online Tutor Business
Have you come across people turning their inconsequential tutoring side hustle into a highly successful online tutor business? We are not referring to those who make a living in online tutoring or those who grab some extra cash freelance tutoring on the side. We are talking about the ones that have hit gold as one of the highly successful online tutoring companies. As it happens, the phenomenon seems to have taken a grip on either side of the Pacific.
Asian mega-success stories in an online tutoring business
So, what’s “highly successful” when it comes to a private online tutoring business? You may have heard of the South Korean tutoring tycoon, Kim Ki-Hoon, whose claim to fame is that he makes 4 million USD a year as an English tutor and moves around in his Mercedes. Kim isn’t the only one who gave his tutoring business a millionaire spin. Asian cities are hubs for academics-obsessed, test-score-chasing school children who do not hesitate to spend money on private tutoring centers to get ahead of the competition. Several mega-success stories have emerged in the online tutoring business in cities like Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.
Thriving online tutoring gigs in the US
Even in developed markets like the United States, some individuals reportedly not only make a decent living in online tutoring but also actually thrive in it. It isn’t uncommon to find people who have been earning upwards of USD 80,000 per annum in this line of work. Graduates who started online tutoring as a part-time side hustle has taken it up as a roaring full-time tutor business. Even teachers with experience have all been entering this space taking advantage of the low entry barriers particularly for elementary tutoring or high school tutoring centers. The COVID-induced surge in demand for online tutoring has also added to the momentum.
Another growing avenue for online tutoring opportunities in the US is test prep tutoring and counseling for college applications, scholarship search, scholarship essays, and the like. Many a rags-to-riches story has emerged in this line indicating a clear market gap. College graduates with barely any teaching experience have turned into millionaires by leveraging their own success at test-taking and capitalizing on this market opportunity.
You may be an academically qualified individual anywhere in the world, with expertise in any subject. What is clear is that, if you make the right moves, you have a great chance of being highly successful in the online tutoring market. But what exactly are the steps one needs to take to succeed in the tutor business? In this article, we have tried to answer this question. We have identified seven winning strategies to help you get there.
#1 Market study before you start tutoring business
Identifying a specialization
The whole online tutoring space is highly granular in terms of subjects, specializations, and verticals. So, when you are starting off in the online tutoring space, you may have the temptation to take up any and all jobs you can find. However, in the long run, you should choose a subject to focus on. Within this subject, you should ideally choose a super specialization where you have unique qualifications, experience, or natural talent. Otherwise, you will just be one the many less successful online tutoring companies out there.
Identifying a growing niche
After this comes the choice of vertical, i.e., what level or type of students do you want to tutor? For example, let’s say English is your subject, and English grammar tutoring is your specialization. Identifying a niche would mean knowing the specific category of students you want to tutor. College tutoring for literature students is one niche you could consider. ACT or SAT test prep tutoring center could be another. Whatever niche you choose, you must have an idea of the scope of the tutor business at least over the next five years.
The tradeoff between a niche and a widespread tutor business
There is a tradeoff between the degree of differentiation and the competition you face. If you choose a highly popular space, you should anticipate facing stiff competition. If you choose a highly differentiated, esoteric subject area, be prepared for a long gestation period before you have enough clients to call it a successful online tutor business.
For example, test prep tutoring is a highly popular tutoring specialization with demand growing exponentially all over the world. You will be competing against a bunch of well-established test prep tutors. But this market opportunity is so big that it is a sure shot success if you are good at it. Now take the example of foreign language tutoring in Japanese. It is a very narrow niche. If you are a qualified Japanese language tutor, you are not likely to have much competition, but you will need more time to establish yourself after you start tutoring business.
#2 Solve for scalability of the tutoring business
Scalability should be your goal from the word go if you are serious about starting a successful online tutoring business. We understand that it is easier said than done. However, here are some pointers to what scalability means in the online tutoring business.
Setting service level expectations
Be clear as to what you are offering. A templatized service is a smart strategy to give your clients confidence about what they stand to gain and your professionalism. More importantly, a degree of standardization in the tutoring business lets you expand faster.
Here is an example of how you can templatize the service. Take the example of SAT math tutoring. You can easily define and communicate upfront the number of sessions, the topics you will cover in each session, the assessments, the communication frequency, etc. You can also standardize what you expect your students to deliver throughout the engagement. Remember, in the service industry, expectation management is a crucial element in customer satisfaction. A successful online tutoring business is when you have a bunch of clients saying, “I got what I was promised”. That is what you should aim for when you start tutoring business.
It will serve you well to keep in mind “the theory of comparative advantage”. As you expand, you want to make the best use of your time to maximize your income. Once you are well past your bare minimum income level and have visibility of further expansion in the online tutor business, you should consider hiring help for non-core tasks. This includes prospecting for a new online tutor business, designing lesson plans, conducting assessments, and gradually even helping you with teaching duties.
#3 Personalize your engagement with each student
This is in contrast with the last point we made about delegating sessions to your junior staff. Bear with us as we draw your attention to how the operations of the most successful private tutoring businesses are set up.
Building a rapport
In the online tutoring business, the most successful tutors are also the most popular ones. Students studying online can feel a lack of personal contact, so any effort you put in to reach out and cover that gap will be appreciated. There are a few things you can do apart from effective teaching practices that go a long way in establishing this contact. Spend some time inquiring about the student’s hobbies and interests, career ambitions if any, and a little about their family without being intrusive. Use these inputs to create references and examples while teaching. Make them feel comfortable to ask plenty of questions. Ask them every now and then if they are able to keep up. Avoid difficult tests at the end of sessions so that your students leave with a sense of achievement rather than failure.
Connecting with parents
In the case of school children, make sure your business is directly in touch with the parents regularly as they have an interest in the progress of the child. Regular email updates and the occasional one-on-one chat is always a good idea. This is one of the practices that will put you among the successful online tutoring companies out there.
#4 Building a personal brand
Every top online tutor in the industry has a certain quality they are known for, apart from the obvious quality that they are brilliant at what they do. Some are known to be very friendly and approachable. Some, very strict and to the point. Others would be known for humor. Give a thought to what you’d like the brand YOU to be.
The “star tutor”
A great rapport with your students in the initial months after you start tutoring business should translate into building a personal brand over time. This brand will endure even as the tutor business expands, and you have more assistant tutors working for you. There is always a “star tutor” around whose capabilities and business philosophy the entire tutoring business rests. The star tutor doesn’t always take the sessions personally. However, she or he makes sure that the lives of all students are touched in a significant way and their presence is felt. This gives them the assurance that their learning is in the safe hands of the star tutor.
Engage a personal branding consultant
If you are keen on a long-term presence in this field, this is a step that’s recommended for you. Start thinking of hiring a brand consultant within a year after you start tutoring business once your revenues steady up and you stand on firm ground. A personal brand consultant can help you shape your views on how to lend your personality to your online tutoring business. They will be able to develop collateral around your brand which includes your profile description for various platforms, your marketing materials, website, customer emails, survey forms, etc.
Ask for Feedback
As an online tutor you are delivering a service to the client. In any service-oriented business, it is very important to seek feedback on a regular basis. Feedback is also a smart way to reinforce your brand promise that you stand for quality and that your students’ feedback matters to you. When you want to build a successful online business, you must be structured about collecting feedback, documenting it, and acting upon it. Make sure the feedback collecting procedure is impersonal so that students can express themselves freely. If there is an issue, redress it.
#5 Smart use of resources
For a successful online tutoring business, get smart with resources. The trick is to make the best use of the vast amount of technology and teaching aids available for free. Avoid spending on paid subscriptions until you have tested the product and searched around for free alternatives.
These days, online tutoring companies cannot succeed without a good grip of the latest online teaching technologies. That said, as a beginner, you don’t want to incur huge technology costs. Fortunately, most tutoring websites have well-designed, user-friendly interfaces. You don’t need to spend on anything more than a good computer or device and fast internet. Additionally, get trained with the use of video chats, video streaming tools, whiteboards, etc. Also, learn how to troubleshoot technical issues and have backup plans. Test out the technology in a couple of dry runs to get familiar with it before using it in a session.
Use of teaching resources
As an online tutor, you are expected to expose the student to a lot more than what’s prescribed in the syllabus. Your instruction will be judged based on the quality of additional resources you present to your students in the form of audio/video streaming, posters, books, podcasts, etc. Therefore, curate the content. Make sure you spend adequate time going through the vast amount of teaching materials available online. A lot of great teaching resources are available for free. Put that to good use before you spend on anything.
#6 Making a positive difference
This is really the bottom-line that you cannot lose sight of. As an online tutor, you should be mindful of the great responsibility that comes with this line of work. The future of the students you tutor rests on you. If you are not driven by the objective of making a positive change in the pupil’s life, then you must rethink your decision to start an online tutor business in the first place.
The micro details
Make it a point to interact with your students regularly and have a thumb on their pulses. We have already spoken about the importance of structured feedback. When your online tutor business grows, it is important to upstream the feedback, make policy changes that can bring about a positive impact on their experience. For example, if several students feel that a certain topic needs more time, make sure you rework your session plan to accommodate that need.
It pays to keep in mind that you grow only if you make constant improvements. Keep inspecting all aspects of your online tutor business to make improvements. Syllabus, study materials, tutoring resources, teaching methodology, and technology tools are some of the areas that you must keep updating.
When you start your first step to be one of the successful online tutoring companies, you will soon realize that you can’t do everything by yourself. Suppose you want to set up a math tutoring business with a specialization in algebra. In this case, you may lose the opportunity to retain your clients for calculus tutoring. If you are keen on broadening your offering, it is a good idea to rope in experts in complementary subjects and connected fields so that your product spectrum is complete. In some cases, you can’t build a business being a one-trick pony.
#7 Understand the bigger picture
The life of an online tutor can be overwhelming with choc-a-bloc schedules and a long task list. Time is very constrained due to the daily grind. The downside of this is that tutors often fail to see the big shifts in the sector. Understand the bigger picture before you start tutoring business.
Changes in the academic landscape
It is very important to keep a tab on the academic developments in the space. A classic example is syllabus change. One way to overcome this is to be part of tutors’ associations that have daily new circulars. That way you will know if and when you need any changes in your teaching.
Changes in the online tutor business landscape
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to this. Therefore, tutors must always find a way to keep a tab on relevant news. Tutors often fail to respond to changes in the business environment quickly enough. Networking with others in this space often sharpens your business perspective which can help you take strategic decisions.
There you have it. These are the winning strategies for a successful online tutor business. The success of online tutoring companies depends on how well they plan and execute on all the elements discussed above. Having said that, the top habit for a successful online tutoring business is self-care. Let’s face it, this job is grueling hard. Keeping oneself on the top of the game several hours a day, 6 days a week can be exhausting and can potentially burn you out before you are anywhere near a success. Therefore, it is critical that you maintain healthy habits around sleep, exercise, diet, and social life.
If you are keen on the online tutoring business, ViTutors is happy to help you start tutoring business in this space with a strong technology platform that attracts thousands of students from all over the world seeking tutoring center services. Good luck with your tutoring business.