online tutoring business concept

5 Marketing Concepts For Your Online Tutoring Business


Can’t keep up?

As an online teacher speaking from the trenches I’m here to share five perspectives on marketing as we know it. Traditional marketing scares teachers because traditional teachers want to teach and not market their wares.  If we were to mindmap the word marketing we’d  come up with mailing lists, subscribers, SEO, Google adwords, website hits, analytics…..

Well, what’s all this got to do with teaching?

I must say that for me;

  • marketing is more of a mindset than a qualification,
  • more of a habit than a time-waster,
  • more a way of being than a way of doing,
  • more of a story than a market,
  • more about connection than analysis.
  • This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t learn SEO or statistical analysis, but it does mean that cold marketing knowledge is useless without the right mindset.

    I’m here to give you a feel for developing the habit of connecting, followed by time-saving tips and further advice from some market-savvy experts in our field.

    The mindset

    The problem with the concept of marketing for teachers is the word marketing itself. Some teachers deal with this apparent mutual exclusivity by not calling themselves teachers and adopting niche-savvy titles instead, whilst others decide to not call marketing, marketing.

    Both mindsets work.

    The instinctive mindset

    I still call myself a teacher, which means that in my own mind I don’t call marketing marketing. This is because I work beyond the business of teaching itself. I do teacher-training, voluntary work for international organizations, blogging, materials design and so on.

    What works for me is understanding the deeper nature of marketing as a human instinct. When I look back on everything I’ve done, I realise that because it was all public work through blogs, webinars and social media, my digital footprint evolved into a natural marketing tool that I had always used without consciously trying to do so. It became my habit, my way of being and my way of thinking without thinking.

    The deeper nature of ‘marketing’ stems from our human need to share and tell stories. No matter what you decide to call yourself as a professional, you will always need to share and tell stories. Social media makes this intuitive and our digital footprints create a trail of impressions that reflect our business personas, values, influence and skills.

    This is the mindset that allows you to save time and market without trying.

    The niche mindset

    Other online teachers have stayed focused on building up a flow of students online by defining their niches. This is what I called not calling yourself simply “a teacher” but specialising as a Business English teacher, pronunciation expert, EAP tutor or whatever. Focused niches help students to find you online by virtue of specific titles in Google searches, the fact that you stand apart from colleagues and the fact that you accentuate how you are professionally unique.

    This is crucial to your success, though I would add that you need to cultivate the instinctive mindset in order to make the niche mindset work for you.


    When you have the wrong mindset, marketing can eat into your working time and you may also find yourself playing to your audience to the detriment of productivity. When this happens you may get disillusioned with social media or email marketing and go back to the drawing board of old mindsets – thinking that marketing is not for teachers and that it prevents them from being productive.

    I fell prey to this opinion myself when I started blogging and publishing more elearning content. I decided that social media was interfering with my work. However, I soon had some great new insights. I realised that all of my publications had to be shared and I wanted to share them. My work was attracting attention that I wanted to attract. Social media had also become a necessary, natural and normal daily habit. A good habit to be nurtured efficiently and effectively. This is what I call ‘flossing the market’.

    When we cultivate a daily habit such as flossing our teeth, we build up massive resilience and quality results. It’s easy, automatic, we hardly even realise we’re doing it and that’s why it works like magic.

    Social media is the best flossing tool I can think of to build up resilience in your brand, your personhood and your reputation. Share your work and share your values. You can share the essence of yourself without sharing extremely personal things in a business context.

    Social media allows you to tell your story and build up your digital footprint, which is the new, dynamic, and ever trustworthy curriculum vitae.

    It will only work if you really are productive. It takes time to create something new – but only a second to share it.

    However, the share must be a very special one indeed. I will describe what a share really means below.


    Most online teachers produce and share via YouTube or blogs – or both together for amazing impact. Although I’ve always been more of a blogger, I have great colleagues such as Jason. R. Levine who puts YouTube into the stratosphere. I have seen the interplay of both blogs and video on social media for deep marketing potential.

    If you take ‘how-to’ videos of your own work, for example, and share them on Facebook, you are creating great value for people who want to learn about those things. When people click on the video, they can find your video channel and subscribe to it. If your video also links to your website, they can see the lessons you offer or read your blog articles. If you are selling lessons packages, ebooks or offering consultations, readers and viewers have the power to contact you and/or subscribe to your mailing list, where you offer more lessons and learning products.

    In my experience, my online class recordings, webinar links, google hangout interviews or asynchronous multi-media presentations are shared online. Beyond that, slideshare presentations and blog articles also provide cross-links to whatever is relevant and useful to readers, viewers or social media contacts.

    At the end of the day, your creative work is honoured, and the sharing, which creates a dynamic online presence, is your daily marketing floss – easy, satisfying, shiny, strong and charismatic.


    In order to manage your work and visibility on a daily basis,  keep some aspects of your work in the public eye and make sure it’s just a floss and not a daily manicure and sauna.

    Of course, on a weekly basis, your business may need some extra TLC.

    Here are some great tips on dealing with email, deeper marketing duties, and the odd sauna you might need in between your daily flosses.

    The first tip comes from Jack Askew.

    Interacting with your community is a vital part of building trust and your brand. The problem is that comment notifications can interrupt your flow. Instead of responding each time you receive a notification, batch email responses and social media commenting. This allows you to get on with other aspects of your online teaching business.

    The second tip comes from Joss Frimond.

    A recurring theme in many of my blogs and reports is the importance and value of your time. It is your most valuable asset, and how you market it will be part of another tip further down. Marketing is a very time-intensive activity. It is an investment. You have to put in the hard yards to get the results (and of course be smart about it too).

    These hard yards should be done in a dedicated, intensive period of one half-day during your week, just like your admin work. In the short-term, these hard yards will mean a drop in your income. I’m not going to promise you riches and wonders beyond your wildest dreams. Life’s not like that. But when the marketing takes hold, and people start to come to you, then you’ll get the return on your investment.

    How long will it take? It could take a month, it could take a year. It depends on your target market, your offer. But it takes discipline and tracking to make it work.

    So, there you go – you get some daily flosses from me and some saunas from Joss and Jack.

    Daily and weekly habits are so important that they can make or break lives and livelihoods.

    The Brain

    Engagement occurs through socially contagious connectivity. If anyone were ever to ask me to share an action step in just one word for eliciting engagement, I’d use the word appreciation.

    Appreciate your networks, readers, subscribers, students & colleagues – they build you up and make sharing worth sharing. Appreciation creates inspiration which creates more productivity, more satisfaction, greater connectivity and so on…

    If we only speak statistics, cost and analysis to our networks, we speak to five percent of the global brain. When we are genuinely and emotionally in tune with the call of those who need our services, we are more adept at giving them what they want, and this is 95 percent of the global brain.

    However, you can’t fake it. Care about your work and students, or live forever in a 5 % universe.

    Subscribers, readers, viewers and customers are not statistics – the magic lies in social contagion and feeling the magic of serving others before they hire you to serve them.

    Pure truth cannot be assimilated by the crowd; it must be communicated by contagion.
    – Henri Frederic Amiel


    Dooley Roger,Brainfluence.
    Askew Jack, Teaching esl online
    Frimond Joss, Linguaid

Sylvia Guinan

is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

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