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What Makes A Successful Online Tutor?

Updated on November 10, 2011

Blame the economic turmoil for the job scenario turning bleaker by the day. People have less money to spend and that means demand in general has fallen and is continuing to fall.

There is though a silver lining in every dark cloud, so goes the adage. And the present condition is perhaps no different.

People are learning new skills to augment what they already know, and then teach others with the renewed knowledge. E-learning is quite the norm these days, and consequently becoming an online tutor has now become easy – at least the technical part of it.

Which is to say it is pretty easy to deliver your skill to those who wish to learn it!

But is it easy to package your skill in a deliverable form?

If you’re wondering what the deal is…well there is a difference between packaging your skill and delivering the packaged skill. The image below attempts to illustrate that.

In the following schematic I have divided the process of online tutoring into 2 parts. The first part on the left is about packaging your skill. It’s where you use your knowledge to create a course, usually with the aid of various software and other tools.

The second part on the right is where you actually deliver your course to the students. This article takes a deep look at the core issues of what makes a successful online tutor.

Schematic of making of an online tutor
Schematic of making of an online tutor

Ingredients of Online Tutoring

If you follow the trail of events from conceptualization of your course to its delivery to the students, the main steps to cover can be said to be as under:

  1. Identify what to teach and then evaluate its demand and the target students.

  2. Prepare a broad outline of the course by breaking it down to modules, topics, and lessons in that order.

  3. Write down each lesson starting from the beginning – this is important because unless you do this, the course will never get off the ground or will get stuck later for lack of sufficient clarification in what your goal is.

  4. Transform each lesson into a medium that is deliverable online, like PDF file, or audio podcast, or presentation, or a web video, or all of them (at least 3 of them).

  5. Finalize the entire course for online tutoring complete with marketing articles/videos/promos.

  6. Upload your entire course on to an online tutoring platform, mostly free of cost. A few good ones are Learnable, Udemy, WizIQ, etc. Starting your own website to teach your course is a daunting task though it is always a good idea to do that in addition to offering the course through other websites.

The Step-6 is the second part of the image above where you do all that need you to deliver the course to your students. This step includes the crucial payment acceptance and also marketing your course.

Fortunately, both payment acceptance and a bit of marketing are taken care of by the website that holds your online course. A lot of people feel uncertain about the ability to deliver the online course when in fact they should be more concerned about preparing the course in order to fulfill their dream to become an online tutor.

Out of the 6 steps above, the first five are the most important because unless you create something that is (1) in demand, and (2) created well, nothing else matters at all. This is hard work, and many people fight shy of doing this.

What Makes Money

As with any business, the path to fame and money is about knowing the answers to the 4 basic questions as below:

  1. What to sell?

  2. Whom to sell?

  3. How to sell?

  4. At what price to sell?

Here again, the first question is the pivot around which all the other issues revolve. A lot of considerations have to come together for a comprehensive answer to the question, “What to sell?

Taking a close look at the first 5 ingredients of online tutoring above it becomes apparent that they all have roles to play in crafting your online course.

To give an example, my course on secrets of free web design is a good help for the people in the present situation, concerned as they are to save as much as they can.

Identify Your Strength

It’s easy to say, whatever your skill, there is someone to learn it. That may be true, but you do not know who that someone is. Even worse is that you do not know what your skill is.

Knowledge, passion, and love to teach are all okay, but you may wonder as I do often that lucky are they who know what they can and want to teach!

On the flip side, things are not that difficult really. You will fail, but accept each failure as one step closer to success.

Let me narrate below (after the video) the story of a salesman cum part-time timekeeper who made it big not by virtue of knowledge or passion, but by sheer opportunism.

You may download my e-book, Where Is The Honey!, for more on how to make money as an online tutor.

The Story of a Timekeeper

Prakash Mirdha was one of those ubiquitous salespersons whom you see closeted in shop counters in every place. Prakash was a bit different in that he also used to work part-time in a sports academy that trained the young athletes.

Prakash worked an hour each in the morning and evening, and his job was to record the height, weight and other parameters of each athlete in a loose sheet and pass that over to the respective coach.

The coach would note the performance data of the athlete and also write down his observations, directives given, and suggestions for that athlete in the paper, which would then be filed away by Prakash for future reference and use.

Thus every athlete would have her own file that would be a tell-tale story of the performance of the athlete over a length of time.

Prakash diligently did his duty every morning and evening and attended his sales job in the rest of the day. Life was monotonous and utterly predictable for him with virtually no hope of any grand breakthrough anytime soon or ever.

But he did become famous and rich shortly, not by winning lottery, but by sheer labor and using the opportunity that presented itself.


One evening while browsing the local TV channels he stuck at one of them that showed the different ways of weight loss training. A little later the trainer while rounding up the program commented that most people are not aware of the right ways of doing weight trainings and deeply lamented the lack of good training materials that can help them.

Prakash sat upright, all ears, and as the program ended he suddenly realized that he was in the perfect position to create the perfect learning materials on weight training.

He had the records of hundreds of athletes for a long time, and even though he never did any weight training, he was confident of authoring a highly relevant and useful learning course on the high-demand subject.

Prakash was proved right when he came out with the course, How to Manage Your Weight in 6 Proven Ways, with text, audio, and video tutorials.

His course became a roaring success in a short time. What’s more, even the coaches started referring to it as a kind of handbook in their training schedules.

Prakash didn’t stop at that. He broke down his course into several mini-courses and started offering them as separate courses online.

There was no stopping Prakash in realizing his dream of becoming a successful online tutor.


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