So you’ve got your headset, you’ve figured out how to use Zoom and now you’re all set to teach, but now you’re wondering how to find online English students. Of course, there are no online English classes with no students.
Millions of people are learning English as a second language online at any one time. But when you are one tiny teacher in this huge online ocean, it can be hard to find students strangely enough.
It’s not always easy to make yourself known and you’ll have to be willing to try a few different techniques to find your students
In this post, I’ll show you 8 ways you can try out to find online English students. You’ll find everything from offline methods (yes, really), to strategies for beginners as well as those who’ve been online for longer. Whatever method you choose, the key is – go where your students are!
For a quick overview of these 8 strategies for finding online ESL students, check out the infographic below. And then keep scrolling for more information on how to make each strategy work for you.
#1 Use Your Network
Your network is your net worth as they say. But really, a great place to start whenever you’re looking for clients for any business venture is with your network.
You can contact friends, family, colleagues present and past, anyone and everyone you can think of to let them know you’re looking for students.
You never know. Someone might know someone. Even if they’re not from a teaching or education background, they may work with or know someone who is an English learner. It happens. I got my first student this way, thanks to a colleague who wasn’t able to teach her.
For best results, I recommend writing to people individually rather than sending one email to multiple contacts. That way you can personalise each email a bit more.
You don’t have to write a fancy sales pitch or anything complicated. Just let them know you’re getting started teaching English online and that you’re wondering if they know anyone who’d like lessons.
That’s it. For more on this technique, check out Alexandra Franzen’s blog and learn how she used this method to kick start her writing business.
#2 Go Old School
Just because you’re teaching online doesn’t mean you can’t use old school methods for finding students. Flyers and brochures still exist, even in the digital age.
Think about where your potential students might be hanging out and create a simple flyer with information about your lessons.
For instance, if you live in a town with a university, that could be a great place to leave some flyers or business cards. If you’re allowed of course. You could also try leaving them in cafés or at the library or in other public places.
The advantage of looking for online students locally is that you’ll have a chance to meet in person before you start working together. This can help the potential student develop trust in you.
You don’t have to do this, but it could be a nice step to take if the person is a bit nervous about learning online. Putting a name to a face can be really reassuring.
#3 Use Craigslist And Other Online Classified Ads
If you want to keep things local, but online then why not use Craigslist, Nextdoor and other similar classified ad websites. You can create an advert for your services without the bother of printing flyers by just announcing them on the site.
You may also be able to find bulletin board style sites specially designed for teachers looking for students. For instance, in France there’s a website called “Superprof” which lets people looking for classes in a variety of subjects browse teacher profiles.
These types of sites will display reviews from your students and they will also take fees so bear this in mind when you create your profile and set your rates.
Have a look at what’s available in your country in terms of these classified ad sites, whether specialised or generalist.
#4 Go On Online Teaching Platforms
If you live somewhere where there aren’t a lot of students looking for classes locally, then your best plan is to look on some of the online teaching platforms.
Some of the most famous language learning ones are iTalki, Verbling and Preply. On these sites, you’ll be able to set your rates and availability. But these platforms don’t guarantee you a certain number of hours.
You’ll have to generate visibility for your profile by creating a good intro video to explain your lessons and teaching style. You’ll also need to find ways to promote your profile outside of the platform, on social media or in a newsletter for example.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the platforms will take a percentage of your lesson rate. And when you start out on this kind of platform the general rule is that your rates will be low while you’re establishing yourself.
You can raise them as you gain reviews and experience, but you’ll be charging quite low rates at the start, around $10 per hour.
#5 Network With Other Online Teachers
It might seem strange to suggest networking with your “competition”. But in fact, this can be a smart idea.
Some teachers will find themselves in periods where they have more students than they can handle. And it would help them to be able to hand off these students to a colleague.
That’s where you can come in. Also, if you’re savvy, you’ll focus on a specific area of English language teaching such as exam preparation or writing skills. Your colleagues might get enquiries from people who want something they don’t teach and think of you.
Obviously, don’t wade into groups for online teachers and ask for people to share their students with you off the bat. It’ll take time to build up relationships and trust. But in time, you can get to the point where people send you students and vice-versa.
If you’re looking for groups to meet other online teachers, you could consider joining Cecilia Nobre’s Facebook group, Private English Teachers Reloaded
#6 Contact Former Students
Have you already done some teaching before in an offline environment? If so, you can contact your past students and see if they'd be interested in taking online English classes with you.
Contacting former students is a great way to fill up your schedule fast as they’re more likely to say yes because they already know, like and trust you. You’re not just another profile they’re scrolling past on a tutoring website.
Even if you don’t have former students, perhaps you have former colleagues you could contact (see suggestion one).
For instance, if you’ve worked in an international company or environment, you may have met people who were using English as a second language.
#7 Create Social Media Profiles Or A Website
This is a longer-term strategy, but if you create social media profiles or a website then you can also attract students.
If you create content like blog articles or videos, your students will be able to find you thanks to the magic of search engines.
But this does take some technical know-how and it’s not an overnight thing. It will take time for Google to start ranking your website and for your content to show up in search.
You can get traction quicker by going on social media, but then again, this takes some skill. You can’t just share posts saying “buy my lessons” every day. Instead, think of social media as an opportunity to get to know your potential students.
It’s also a place where they can get to know you – why do you teach?, what inspires and motivates you?, how do you help people?
#8 Guest Post Or Get Invited On Podcasts
Are you completely unknown on the internet? When you’re getting started, an excellent way to get your profile out there is to guest post for others or get invited on their podcast or YouTube channel.
Start small by finding other blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels to follow. See what sort of things they post, like them, comment on them and show that you’re into what they do. Look for common ground – maybe you’re from the same country or have the same interests.
When you make contact, be sure to have some specific ideas in mind for your blog post or video. Don’t just send an email saying “wanna collaborate?”.
Think carefully about how you could add value to their website by proposing a piece of content that would be useful to their readers, viewers or listeners.
How To Find Online English Students: Be Strategic
So now you have some ideas for how to find online English students. When you first start teaching English online, you might not know what you want to specialise in.
Platforms like iTalki etc can be a great way to get your feet wet, meet some students and get an idea of who you really want to work with.
Once you know who your target or ideal student is, then you can be a bit more strategic and go to the places they’re hanging out. This will make it easier to find the right students for you.
For instance, if you want to teach medical professionals, contacting the local hospital’s HR department will probably get you the most traction. If you want to teach business professionals, LinkedIn would be a great place to network online.
You get the idea. Go where your students are so that it’s easy for them to find you! And, as always, be clear about how you can help them achieve their goals.
If you're serious about teaching languages online and learning how to find students, I recommend checking out CeOLT.
This online teaching qualification not only helps you become a better and more qualified teacher, it includes a unique “business building” component that will help you easily find new paying students and even build your own online teaching business!