The demand for online tutors has been increasing thanks to the improvement of technology and high speed internet access. The growth will continue to improve as more and more people turn online for their educational needs.
In this article we will cover the basics on how to start tutoring online. There are many different approaches and options when it comes to online tutoring so this article will keep things simple and focus on the very basics. Once you start tutoring online with basic tools and start to promote yourself, you can then dig deeper and look at some advanced options.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Here is a quick list of what equipment you need to start tutoring online:
- Webcam (internal or external)
- Microphone (internal or external)
- Fast and reliable internet access
- Decent quality PC/Mac
- Desk lamp or multiple lamps
This Q&A explains each of the above points in detail. Read through it to find out whether the equipment you have will be suitable or not.
As you can see from above, the equipment needed to tutor online is pretty straight forward. If you have a recent laptop, you will likely have everything you need to get started. Even if you don't have a webcam, for under $100 you can purchase everything you need to get started.
Online Tutoring Software
You have quite a few different options when it comes to what software you use. In this article we will explain how you can use Skype as it's the easiest to get started with (plus it's free), but you should see how Skype compares to full featured online tutoring platforms. Check out our article on Top Online Tutoring Platforms so you can see what features are available with other software. Another very similar option to Skype is Google Hangouts.
Skype is a great and simple way to get started with online tutoring. Not only is it free, but it's incredibly popular - so many of your potential students will already have it ready to go.
With Skype, you can:
- Free video calls
- Group or one-on-one lessons
- Instant message
- Share your screen
- Share files
There are other features, but those main features are what you will want to focus on in your lessons.
If you want to use Skype, here are the steps we recommend taking:
- Download Skype
- Register and log in to Skype
- In your list of contacts you will see 'Skype Test Call' or similar. Click that contact and select 'Call'. This places a test call so you can check if your connection works properly. Follow the instructions you hear
- Ask a friend or family member who has Skype if you can give them a test video call. Find out their Skype username and add them as your contact
- Make a test video call so you can get a feel for Skype's layout as well as check your connection speed and reliability
- Give a practice lesson to your friend as if it were a real tutoring lesson to get a feel for how to use screen sharing and positioning your webcam
Once you decide on what online tutoring platform to use, you can move on to promoting your lessons.
Using a Whiteboard with Skype or Google Hangouts
The only main feature Skype or Google Hangouts doesn't have compared to full online tutoring platforms is an interactive whiteboard you can use with your students. The below screenshot shows what an interactive whiteboard looks like from a full online tutoring platform:
As you can see, you can use it during your lesson to interact with your student. You can use it to write notes, draw diagrams, attach images, etc. Tutoring online with an interactive whiteboard will be essential for some tutors (eg: academic based subjects) while not as important for other tutors (eg: music tutors).
While Skype doesn't include this feature, you can easily use other third party programs such as IDroo during your Skype call. As mentioned, if you want an all-in-one platform that includes both video calling and a whiteboard, you will want to consider an online tutoring platform instead of using Skype.
If you use IDroo, all you need to do is let the student know how to log in during the Skype call. Then the student can have your video in the corner of their screen while you both interact on the whiteboard.
We recommend experimenting this with a test call to a friend or family member before trying it with an actual student.
Sharing Documents With Online Students
There are a few different ways you can share documents with your students. Sharing documents or files with your students is an important part of your lessons. You can give them written worksheets, PDFs, diagrams, etc.
File Sharing with Skype
Skype has an inbuilt file sharing system so you can easily send files back and forth between you and your students. Read Skype's step by step instructions on how to share files here.
Another great way to share documents with your students is to use Google Docs. This free service allows you to create documents as well as give your students access to those documents. That means they can access them before, during or after your lessons. It also means the both of you can have the document open at the same time and work on it together. It's also a handy option for any homework or assignments as you will be able to log in at any time and check your student's progress as well as leave notes or comments.
Online Tutoring Platforms
Many online tutoring platforms also have file sharing. The difference here is that some even let you open the file in the shared whiteboard which is a great way to focus the student's attention where you want. So you can open a page of a PDF and start adding notes while explaining the topic.
Getting Paid for Online Tutoring
The chances are you don't want to work for free 🙂 so let's look at how you can collect payment for your online lessons.
If you are after the quickest, easiest and cheapest way, then PayPal is likely to be your best choice. As it's incredibly popular the chances are your potential students will already have a PayPal account. Even if they don't, they can still pay via Credit or Debit card.
The way you would collect payments is to manually send an invoice to your student's email address with the amount due. It's as simple as logging in to PayPal, clicking the 'Request Money' option.
As you can see from the screenshot above, you simply type in the student's email address, enter the amount and currency and you're good to go. PayPal's fees are usually between 2-3% which is extremely low when you see the next option. If you charge $50 per lesson, the fee works out to roughly $1.50.
We recommend billing your online students either fortnightly or monthly to reduce the number of times you need to send out invoices.
Online Tutoring Platforms
Some online tutoring platforms handle payments for you. If the platform is connected to a marketplace (like a directory), the chances are they will also manage payments for you. While this does make your job easier, keep in mind it also means the website will take a fee out of your payments. This can be anywhere from 10% all the way up to 40%. So while it may be convenient, it can quickly become an extremely expensive option. If you charge $50 per lesson, the commission the platform charges could be anywhere from $5 to $10 per lesson. That's a massive difference to the $1.50 from PayPal.
If your student is in the same country as you (remember it's possible to tutor a worldwide audience), a bank transfer would be a far cheaper option. To accept bank transfers you would need to give you bank account details to your students. Because you would be giving your details to strangers, we highly recommend setting up a separate bank account purely for online lessons to protect yourself. Some tutors even set up an account with a completely different bank to ensure their usual banking details will always be protected.
It is possible to set up a merchant facility and accept and charge credit cards directly from your students, but due to the costs and security issues, we don't recommend this option. It can leave you open for problems that aren't likely to occur with the other options.
How Much to Charge for Online Lessons
The amount you charge for online lessons depends on a lot of factors. Some people say that you will earn less from online lessons compared to local lessons. That is not true. Some people will tell you that online tutors earn between X and Y. Again, don't listen to that advice because it's misguided. The amount you can charge depends on the following factors:
- The subjects you tutor
- How well you promote yourself
- Your perceived credibility
- The quality of your lessons
- What countries you target
For example, a tutor who spends a lot of time working on promotion and building up a credible website will be able to charge higher than a tutor without a website. A tutor who is active on social media, blogs and gets involved in forums is likely to be able to charge higher than somebody who doesn't get involved online. A tutor who offers lessons to a worldwide audience will likely earn a higher amount than somebody who only offers lessons to people in their country.
As you can see, the amount you can earn depends on a lot of things. Don't be fooled into thinking that you have to take a pay-cut when you tutor online. We've seen a lot of tutors who earn more online compared to their local lessons.
The best way to work out what rate to charge is to follow the instructions explained in this guide: How much to charge for tutoring. The same advice applies to local or online tutors.
Promoting Your Online Tutoring Lessons
So you've bought all the equipment you need, have a tutoring platform ready to go, ran a test video call and have your PayPal account ready to accept payments. Time to sit back and wait for the students to roll in, right?
Well... not quite.
Now it's time to get busy promoting your online lessons. How to promote yourself is a massive topic and not one that can be covered in one article. While you might read other websites that give you a list of tips on how to promote yourself, that type of advice is unfortunately misguided (although they usually have good intentions). Don't think that you can simply follow a few quick tips and expect it to work. We've been studying online marketing for years and we know it isn't that straight forward.
As much as we would love to give you '5 easy marketing methods that work', that's not what it takes to succeed.
There are three main ways we recommend tutors promote their online lessons:
1. Your own website
This is the best long term method to attract online students. The reason it's a long term method is because it takes time to build and grow your website. The biggest mistake we unfortunately see tutors make is to put a few pages together and let the website sit untouched. Don't think of your website as an 'online brochure' - think of it as a living and breathing place where you can constantly improve. When done right, your website can bring you a consistent stream of students for the rest of your tutoring career.
If you don't have a website yet, it's essential you get one. You can either set up a website yourself, or if you're not comfortable with running and maintaining a website, get a professional to set one up for you.
If you want to succeed as an online tutor, make sure you have a well thought out website.
2. Online tutor directories
This is often the easiest and fastest method to get your name out there and start attracting students. Most directories are free and within 30 minutes you could have an effective profile ready for potential students to find. We will be creating a guide on how to get the most out of online directories so make sure you're registered as a free subscriber for updates.
3. Social media
Social media is hard to start but can eventually become a big source of new students. When you also consider options such as Facebook Ads, there's a lot of ways you can use social media to grow your online tutoring business. Social media is way too big a topic to cover here so we will be creating multiple guides and tutorials in the future for the different strategies possible.
Our main recommendation for now is to start off by listing on free tutor directories, then create your own website. After you build up your website, you can then start to look at using social media. That's the strategy that has worked the best for tutors we've helped out.
Don't try to do everything at once - try to do one thing at a time and do that one thing extremely well. An excellent profile on a directory that took 30 minutes to create will be far more effective than a mediocre profile that took five minutes to throw together. A website that has been gradually built up over 6 months will be far more effective than a website that took 2 days to create.
Download PDF Checklist
Need an easy to follow checklist to apply the advice covered in this article? Simply log in to access our printable checklist.
Have a Question?
Tutoring online is a massive topic and we can't cover all the important details in one guide. If you have a question, have a look through the Q&A section to see if somebody else has asked it already and if not, ask us and we'll help you out.