Want More Online Students? Just Ask

When it comes to getting online students, one method is often overlooked. It can be an effective way of either getting your first student or adding to your existing group of students. The best thing is, you already have a network of people that can help you with this method. You just have to do one thing. Ask.


The power of your network

Want more online students? Just ask

When you start tutoring online, it's important to get some students as quickly as possible so that you don't lose motivation and think that this whole 'tutoring online thing' can't be done. It can. There are many ways to market your tutoring services but before you start putting up posters around your neighbourhood or spending lots of money on Google Ads, think a bit closer to home. Don't overlook the power of your existing network of friends and family to help you get online students. Ok, so your mum might not need a maths or science tutor but maybe she knows someone who does. Uncle Dave may have perfect English but in today's international world, it's quite possible that he knows someone who could benefit from some English tuition.

The important thing to remember here is that your family members and friends know you and want to support you. They are much more likely to recommend you to one of their friends or contacts and this kind of personal recommendation goes a long way. When getting started, this approach can have a much higher chance of success compared with trying to persuade complete strangers on the internet to buy a lesson from you.

Friends and family will support you

Friends and family support you with online tutoring

Before we get started, it's important to note that this method does involve asking people you know for help. This might be difficult at first but if you are willing to push through that barrier and reach out to your network, the likelihood of you growing your student numbers and resulting income is significantly increased.

Step 1
Email outreach
Email outreach for online students
  1. Start by looking through your last 150 emails.

  2. Create a list of the 25 people who know you and will most likely help you.

  3. Personally email each person and ask if they know anyone who might want some online tutoring in the subject(s) you offer.

  4. Every time you get a positive response, write the name and contact details of the potential student down on a piece of paper or a spreadsheet.

Click here to download a free Outreach Spreadsheet to keep track of who you’ve contacted

Have you emailed 25 people? I recommend setting yourself a target to achieve this first step in 24 hours or less. So, instead of sending just 1 or 2 emails, block out a chunk of time in your day and keep going until you've sent all 25. Then reward yourself by taking a break. You've earned it!

Now that you've added your top 25 email contacts to your list and contacted them individually, it's time to move to Step 2.

Step 2
Facebook outreach
Facebook outreach for online students
  1. Go to your Facebook profile and click 'friends'.

  2. Add the names of your 25 closest Facebook friends to your spreadsheet.

  3. Send a personal message using Facebook messenger to each person to ask them for a referral (anyone they know who might want some tuition in the subject you offer).

  4. Add any contact details of potential students to your spreadsheet. (If your friend is not able to pass on their contact details, give your email address/phone number/Skype ID and ask them to pass it on).

Not sure what to say? Here are some example messages you can use for the Facebook outreach:

  • Message 1 - Hi, (insert first name) how are you?

  • Message 2 - (When you get a response and start chatting), I'm starting a new project where I will be tutoring [insert subject] online. Do you know of anyone who might be interested in having some online lessons?

  • Message 3 - (If they respond positively) Great. What's the best way to contact them to talk more about how my online lessons can help them?

Quick note. The key to this method is not to spam your contacts. I don't recommend shooting off 25 identical messages to your closest friends and family asking for referrals, without any kind of initial conversation. Chat first, then explain what you're doing, answer any questions (most people are interested in how online tutoring works) and finally ask.

When you've completed steps 1 and 2 (and suitably rewarded yourself with chocolate), it's time to reach for your phone.

Step 3
Phone outreach
Text message outreach for online
  1. Take out your phone and look at the last 25 people you sent a text message to.

  2. Add to your spreadsheet the names of anyone who you know and will probably help with your search for online students.

  3. Send a personal text message to each person (the same as with the Facebook outreach) and add any contact details you receive to your list.

  4. Repeat the process for the last 25 phone calls you made and call anyone who you have not already sent a text message to. Don't forget to add to your list the names of people you have contacted and any names/contact details you receive.

If you've made it this far, excellent work! You are taking positive steps forward to getting more students and having a successful online tutoring business. Now it's time for step 4 and that means logging in to your LinkedIn account. If you don't have a LinkedIn account, focus on other social media accounts you do have (like Twitter) as well as any contacts you have made in person.

Step 4
LinkedIn outreach
LinkedIn outreach for online students
  1. If you have one, login to your LinkedIn account, go to the 'My Network' tab and click 'connections'

  2. Create a list of your 25 closest connections and add them to your spreadsheet (this should be getting quite full by now).

  3. Important note – As before, don't be tempted to spam your contacts! By this time you will have written a lot of personal messages but it's important to keep doing this for each person individually before asking for a tutoring referral. Click on the name of your connection and at the top of their profile click 'Send a message'.

By the end of this outreach you should have contacted about 100 people to ask for referrals (but don't worry if it's a bit less than this). Over the next few days, you should receive lots of responses so keep checking your emails and messages so that you can continue the conversations and work towards asking for referrals. It's important to keep on top of who you have contacted and what their response was so that you can follow up with anyone who didn't get back to you.

​Step 5 - Contacting your potential students.

​This is the most important bit (this step can also be done after each outreach). By now you should have some names and contact information of potential students. It's time to contact these people and find out if they are interested in having some online lessons with you.

Because you are the one contacting them, it might not be something they have considered or they may not know how online tutoring works. So rather than going straight for a sales pitch, this first contact should focus on explaining what you offer and how this will benefit them. The best way to convey this information is on a live Skype call so if you are sending an email or a message, try to encourage them to meet on Skype for a chat. This could just be for 15-20 minutes so that you can demonstrate how the lessons work and find out about their learning needs. At the end of this call, when you know what their problems are, you can offer a convenient solution in the form of your online tutoring sessions.

Online Tutoring
Skype for online tutoring

It's a good idea to have your payment system set up before you start making these Skype calls so that if someone shows interest, you can demonstrate how to pay for a lesson or lesson package straight away. If the first or second person you speak to doesn't sign up for any online lessons, don't be discouraged and quit. Keep going through your list of contacts and arrange as many Skype/Zoom calls as you can. The more people you speak to, the more likely someone will say yes. It's a great feeling when you get your first student and this can lead to many more students through word of mouth and 100s of lessons in the future. I'm still teaching my very first student who started with me over 4 years ago...!

​Step 6 - Follow up

When you've contacted every referral on your list, you can send some follow up messages to your friends and contacts who didn't reply to your initial outreach. People are busy so don't always have time to check or respond to messages. Leave it 2 or 3 days before following up to see if they received your first message. To avoid pestering people, make a note on your spreadsheet who you've followed up with and add any contact information for referrals that you receive. Repeat Step 5.

Follow up with the referrals you contacted as well. As with your own contacts, leave a few days from your initial message before contacting them again and record on your spreadsheet when you send the follow up. If you receive no reply after the first or second follow up, make a note and move on. They might reply to you later or they might not be interested. Either way, avoid pestering them and focus your attention on other referrals.

Over to you. 

PS. You can do it.

Matt Thompson

Matt is an online English tutor and founder of Smart Online Tutoring. He's a big fan of technology and when he's not teaching or helping others with their online tutoring businesses, you'll find him on the badminton court.

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