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How to tutor online, earn real money, and make a difference in 6 steps

Learn how to tutor online, build your student base, and earn a living. You’re ready to become an online tutor, and this guide will help you get started.

TL;DR

6 steps to start tutoring online

Online tutoring is a lucrative way to work remotely and teach subjects you’re passionate about. Here are six steps to start tutoring online and earn a consistent income:

  1. Choose your subject area and niche
  2. Decide if you want to work for an online tutoring platform or independently as a private tutor
  3. Gather your teaching materials and classroom technology
  4. Find your first students
  5. Build a membership community for your students
  6. Diversify your tutoring income through digital downloads and courses

These steps will help you establish an online tutoring business that grows with you over time so you can make a difference in the lives of your students.

A few years ago, I got my first remote job as an online English tutor. Working with students from all over the world was fun and fulfilling, and I loved the flexibility that came with the position.

Being an online tutor was somewhat rare back then, but today, the industry is booming.

The worldwide e-learning market is expected to be worth $374.3 billion by 2026 , and there are over 220,000 online tutors in the USA alone.

Online tutoring is popular because instructors can control their schedules, teach topics they love, and work with students from anywhere, all from the comfort of home.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to start earning money as an online tutor in just six steps. Whether you’re interested in teaching academics, hobbies, languages, or career skills, keep reading. You’ll be on your way in no time.

Step 1: Choose your subject area

One of the best parts about online tutoring is choosing your subject area. You can teach anything you know well, including traditional academic topics, professional skills, hobbies, and more.

For example, Podia creator Nicole Saidy teaches beginner UX/UI skills for students who want to launch design careers.

Study with Andrea offers pronunciation and exam preparation courses for English language learners.

If you dream of teaching math, writing, gardening, or toy-making, you can. Any subject with an audience is fair game.

But too many options can sometimes lead to decision paralysis. How will you ever choose which subject to tutor in?

The Passion/Profit Matrix can help.

To use the Passion/Profit Matrix, start by brainstorming all the topics you might be interested in teaching. You can plot these ideas on the chart below.

The ideas you’re most passionate about should go at the top, and ideas that have the most profit potential go on the far right.

An idea with high profit potential addresses a pain point that people already spend money to solve.

Ask yourself, are individuals buying books, paying for services, investing in courses, or spending money on other solutions to remedy this issue?

If so, you can assign that topic a strong profit potential ranking.

Ideally, you want to choose something that scores high on both metrics, so topics in the top right quadrant are your best bet.

With your subject area in mind, it’s time to set up the logistics.

Step 2: Decide how you want to work

Next, you’ll need to decide how to structure your online tutoring business. There are two main routes you can take.

Option 1: Work with an online tutoring platform or website

An online tutoring website lets teachers list their services and connect with potential students. These platforms are convenient because they handle behind-the-scenes tasks like payment processing and scheduling.

Some platforms even match tutors with students and provide lesson plans. This means you don’t have to worry about outside prep work.

On the flip side, some tutoring companies have strict requirements, like professional teaching experience or a bachelor’s degree, which could be a barrier to entry.

Some platforms also pay teachers a fixed rate, which could limit earning potential.

That said, many online tutors prefer these sites for ease of use and simplicity. Here are some popular platforms:

Outschool: On Outschool , you can teach K-12 students in a group setting. You can offer academic subjects like math and reading or extracurricular topics like art and video games.

Preply: With Preply , you can teach any subject you’re an expert in. Students are typically adult learners from 180 countries around the world.

The platform is popular for teaching languages, but you can also offer lessons in subjects like math, business, and music.

Cambly: Cambly is a popular platform for teaching English as a second language. The site allows students and teachers to video chat in a casual online learning environment.

You can also tutor on-demand, making this one of the most flexible options. Cambly offers video tutoring services for both adults and children.

italki: italki is a language tutoring platform. With italki, you can teach any language in which you’re fluent.

I’ve used italki to learn two languages, and I love how easy it is to find tutors and schedule lessons.

Tutor.com: With Tutor.com , you can offer tutoring services in a one-to-one environment. You can teach academic subjects to learners of all ages and provide homework help on your own schedule.

To get started, fill out an application with your platform of choice. Once you’re approved, create your teacher profile and upload information about your tutoring packages. Students on the platform can find you and book lessons if you’re the right fit.

This option is ideal for tutors who want to get started quickly with minimal marketing responsibilities.

Option 2: Start your own independent tutoring business

Starting your own tutoring business means that you’ll create your own lesson content, find your own students, and offer sessions when it suits your schedule.

As a private tutor who works independently, you’ll have a bit more work upfront but additional flexibility in the long run.

One big benefit of being an independent tutor is that there are no formal requirements other than knowledge of the subject area. As long as you know the material well, you don’t need to have specific degrees or certifications to get started.

You can also choose your own prices and create an individualized curriculum, allowing room for creativity.

The downside, however, is that you’ll need to find your own students. You’ll also be responsible for handling administrative tasks like payments and scheduling.

That said, doing things independently allows you to structure your business exactly how you like. You can choose which students you want to work with, adjust your rates as needed, and even control your own branding .

Here’s how to start tutoring online as an independent teacher:

  1. Set up a website about you and your business offerings

  2. Create an account on Zoom , Google Hangouts , or Skype for running online lessons

  3. Use a tool like Calendly or Acuity to manage your schedule and accept bookings

  4. Set up PayPal or Stripe to accept payments

  5. Start an email list to keep up with prospective clients

  6. Begin marketing to new clients (more on this in a minute)

Need an easy way to manage everything in one place? Podia’s all-in-one platform works great for online tutors.

With Podia, you’ll get a website , email marketing tools , payment processing, and a simple way to offer 1:1 tutoring sessions through our coaching feature . You can even create and sell digital products in your subject area for additional income.

Click here to try a 14-day free trial of Podia .

All in all, starting an independent online tutoring business is best for tutors who want maximum flexibility and control over when, who, and how they teach.

Step 3: Gather your materials

Once you’ve got your tutoring page set up, it’s time to gather your teaching gear and materials.

On the technology side, here’s what you’ll need for a successful virtual classroom:

For teaching materials, make sure you have lesson plans, props, PowerPoint presentations, and activities to use in your classroom. It’s also a good idea to have a whiteboard for displaying visuals on camera.

Lessons should be as interactive as possible to keep students engaged. In your presentations, include pictures, videos, and audio clips to reach students of all learning styles.

If you’re not sure where to start with lesson planning and activities, there are some great sources where you can find materials created by other teachers.

Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where educators can buy lessons, activities, quizzes, and presentations across all subject areas.

You can also find free teaching materials on sites like Share My Lesson .

Once you have your lesson and materials in order, practice running through your session with another person to see how long it takes. It can be hard to estimate how long your lesson will last until you practice in real life.

Now that your classroom technology and teaching materials are in the works, it’s time to find your first students.

Step 4: Find your first students

Finding your first students can feel daunting, but it might be easier than you think. There are several ways to attract learners to your business.

If you already work as an in-person tutor, you can start by encouraging your existing students to take lessons online.

When Podia creator and classical piano teacher Joseph D’Amico started offering online lessons, he found that many students preferred remote learning over traditional face-to-face instruction. Virtual classes, he realized, “could lead to crazy-good self-sufficiency for students”.

Often, switching to online teaching gives you more availability in your schedule (goodbye, long commutes), so this can be a win-win for everyone.

If you’re building your client base from scratch, here are some other ways to find new students:

Publish free, informational content on YouTube, a blog, or social media: Many tutors find success by sharing mini-lessons and tips on the web. You can do this through blog posts , social media content , or educational videos.

English tutor Tiffani uses YouTube to promote her tutoring brand, Speak English with Tiffani . Her channel has over a million subscribers, and she includes links to her tutoring website, digital products, and helpful student resources in her video descriptions.

Providing valuable free content can be a powerful tool for any business, so leverage this as you build your clientele.

Ask your network: You never know which friends and acquaintances might be in need of your expertise. Start by asking your immediate network if anyone needs tutoring in the topics you offer.

If you tutor elementary school math, for example, reach out to loved ones with children to see if they or anyone they know could use extra support.

Promote your tutoring services in relevant Facebook groups: Facebook groups can be another great place to find tutoring clients.

You’ll need to make sure to follow group guidelines about promotional posts, but there are tons of pages devoted to learning different subjects where you could reach your target audience.

Our advice? Spend time offering helpful insights and comments before asking to pitch your tutoring business. Once you’ve provided value to the group, you’re more likely to be approved when promoting your services.

Use tutoring job boards: Websites like The Tutor Website , Indeed , Care.com , and even Craigslist can be a great place to find online tutoring jobs and new students. Check the job board section of these sites to see if any listings match your specialties.

Update your LinkedIn page: Make sure your LinkedIn page has information about your online tutoring services so aspiring students can find you. Include links to your website and booking calendar so prospective clients don’t have to go on a scavenger hunt.

Asking existing students for referrals: Once you’ve got a few happy students, try asking those clients for referrals. You can even reward them for recommending new students with a bonus or discount.

If you run your tutoring business through Podia, you can create an affiliate program using our built-in affiliate marketing features . This lets you offer incentives whenever a new customer enrolls using an existing student’s referral link.

Once you’ve got your students happily learning, your next step is to nurture those connections and provide value beyond your tutoring sessions. A community is a great way to do that.

Step 5: Build a community for your students

An online community is a central spot where your students can enjoy your resources, receive premium content, ask questions, and connect with other learners.

Communities can be free or paid . The main goal is to give students a place to return and continue their learning over time. Having a consistent touchpoint helps your learners get more out of their lessons and builds loyalty.

You can build your community on a platform like Facebook, but if you want the ability to charge students for community access, Podia’s community feature makes this a breeze.

For example, Middle School Math Adventures runs a paid membership community that provides math teachers with digital resources they can use in their classrooms. This allows them to provide value to their members on an ongoing basis.

If you want an easy place to share new material and connect with your students, creating a brand community could be a great addition to your online tutoring business.

In the next section, we’ll look at more ways you can grow your income as an online tutor.

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Step 6: Diversify your tutoring income with courses and digital products

Did you know that you can make money tutoring online beyond offering live sessions? Selling self-paced online courses , educational materials, and resources for fellow teachers are all excellent ways to earn more while working fewer hours.

Sell online courses

A popular way to branch out beyond one-on-one tutoring is to create an online course in your subject area. Courses can be extremely lucrative for teachers, and it’s expected that the ecourse industry will be worth over $25 billion in 2025 .

Courses are a great way to introduce prospective customers to your teaching style. They are also a convenient way to house pre-recorded lessons for students to work through at their own pace.

Time constraints may limit the amount of students you can teach live, but online courses allow you to impact many learners simultaneously without additional effort.

The Podia creators behind Heart of Travel offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced Spanish courses to students online.

Each course includes videos that students can watch at their own pace, as well as a community to ask questions. If students need extra practice, they can also book live tutoring sessions.

You can also use online courses to teach recurring live sessions to groups of students.

That’s how Podia tutor Amy Weinberg runs her TEAS exam prep courses. For several weeks, students meet for real-time virtual lessons to cover test prep training materials. This builds accountability and provides Amy with a streamlined way to work with several students at once.

Unsure about what topic your course should cover? As Podia creator Ryan Kulp discovered, your audience likely has the answer.

After noticing that their followers and friends were always asking the same questions about entrepreneurship, Ryan came up with a course that directly addressed these pain points.

The result? Ryan earned an impressive $20,000 within two weeks of launching .

You can follow a similar strategy by doing audience research with your tutoring students. Ask your existing clients and followers what they’re struggling with. What would they like to learn more about?

For example, language learners might request more information about verb tenses. Geography students might desire resources to help them remember capitals.

Use their responses as the backbone of your course.

Creating an online course gives your students more ways to learn from you. You also free up time, which is always a win for hard-working tutors.

Sell informational and educational resources

In addition to creating online courses , you can also diversify your income by writing an e-book or study guide about your subject area.

These items are quick to create and can be sold indefinitely.

For prospective students, these products demonstrate the value you provide as a tutor. Selling digital products also increases the lifetime value of your existing students by giving them more resources to purchase.

Here are some ideas for digital products you can offer:

  • E-books

  • Flashcards

  • Study guides

  • Notes sheets

  • Practice worksheets

  • Activity books

  • Supplementary videos and tutorials

  • Templates

For example, Mr. Shane from Thinker Learning sells worksheets and guidebooks to complement his science tutoring sessions.

Students can use these resources to reinforce challenging concepts and practice the material, which results in greater comprehension.

Simply put, selling educational resources and informational products can simultaneously boost student learning and your own income.

Sell your teaching materials to other tutors

If you’ve created your own resources to use with your tutoring students, you could earn extra money by selling these materials to other teachers.

Many educators sell resources like:

  • Academic teaching materials: Bundles of lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, quizzes, teaching videos, worksheets, projects, assessments, interactive digital activities, short stories, and printable flashcards

  • Creative teaching tools: Classroom decorations, rewards, visual aids, printable posters, clipart, fonts, and vector images 

You can list your items on Teachers Pay Teachers, your own website , or an all-in-one platform like Podia for other educators to purchase.

In the USA, 85% of K-12 teachers use Teachers Pay Teachers to find classroom resources, so the market for these items is large.

When I was tutoring, I sold printable decorations, rewards, and props for other educators in my niche. It took about a month to make each item using Canva and a drawing app on my iPad, but once they were finished, I could sell them forever.

Helping other teachers felt great, and it was definitely worth the time investment since digital downloads can be sold passively.

Podia creator Sonia Teach also sells resources to other online teachers. Her materials help aspiring tutors get organized and land their first students.

Selling digital products can be a fun way to earn extra money on the side, and once they’re created, they can generate income long into the future. As your tutoring business grows, these products can help you do more in less time.

At the end of the day, online tutoring provides a unique opportunity to work online and make a difference by sharing your expertise.

With a good system, some creative marketing, a bit of patience, and a passion for teaching others, you’ll be on your way to a successful online tutoring career.

About the author

Nicola is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. She lives for lizards, loves to travel, and can often be found cooking up new recipes in the kitchen.