What Makes a Great Online Tutor?

how to become an online tutor Jan 05, 2016

If you’ve found yourself on this page, you’ve likely considered or are now considering venturing into the world of online tutoring. There’s great news: the online tutoring industry is expanding every year thanks to the movement to online education portals, digital textbooks, and free content videos from platforms like Khan Academy. Online tutors vary in age, location, educational background, and professional experience, so I invite you to explore the traits that make an online tutor a good one. If you’re currently running a successful in-person tutoring business, you may be thinking, “Hmmm…I know I can teach, but can I really do it online?”

Scroll through these following traits and see how many can apply to you. A good tutor is: patient, self-confident, resourceful, persistent, professional, internet savvy, enthusiastic, results oriented, adaptable, and compassionate. Let’s take a look at each of these and how they play a part in molding a good online tutor.


This falls on a spectrum. Each student will command a certain level of patience. For example, patience gives you the ability to return to a problem that a student hasn’t learned or yet mastered. Patience can be given to your student when he or she is having trouble being patient with the tutoring process. Sometimes students can become easily frustrated, and showing the student patience can give him or her a model to emulate.


You have to sell yourself to yourself before you can sell to anyone else. Believe in your strengths and believe in your service.If you don’t believe in yourself, then it will become extremely difficult to convince a client to move forward with your services.

It is one thing to get a potential client to agree to work with you, but it is another to sell them on your services, pay you in advance, and take responsibility for failure to attend a tutoring session. Be so committed to your business that your clients can’t help but commit to a tutoring package or a regular schedule of your services.


One of the beautiful things about teaching online is the access to a world of knowledge. Online tutors have unlimited resources that can aide in instruction: online dictionaries, photos, videos and graphs. It’s wonderful to pull up vocabulary definitions as the lessons progress. Also, photos and videos sometimes help explain a word or concept better than words alone.

Accessing material on an as-needed basis affords the student some independent lesson control: if a student wants to delve deeper into a concept, typing a few key words will populate innumerable hours of information.

As a tutor you can encourage listening and speaking skills, especially in younger students, by engaging in casual conversation as media is loading. If you find a link or image not cooperating, quickly move to an alternative demonstration or come back to the topic another time. It can be easy to feel frustrated, but remember that these things are often out of your or the student’s control. Take a breath and remember the purpose of the tutoring session.


Refuse to give up on your students, and tailor a method that works. Some kids are used to people giving up on them. This has been a pattern in their lives and they have become quite accepting of it. Some kids will test you. Do not give up on them. Establish a point where you and the student will jointly review what works and what does not work. Three months is a good reassessment point because the skills that students acquire in this period of time are truly remarkable. Students generally enjoy seeing this progress, and you can use this to elevate tutoring sessions to the next level of difficulty.


Professionalism is key, on and off the screen. Dress the part of an education professional. Working from home is not necessarily a free pass to conduct tutoring sessions in pajamas. It is important to carry yourself with a quality that you want students to see (and possibly copy). When determining whether something should be said or done in front of a student, ask yourself, “If I saw myself from another person’s eyes, would I appear professional?”

Professionalism necessitates starting and ending tutoring sessions on time. It’s disrespectful to the students and parents – who likely lead busy lives – to conduct business any other way. These students and parents hold you to a standard because you are now a type of role model. Being late to your own sessions puts your business (and perhaps the industry) in a bad light.

Optimized Online Presence

Some people that get started as an online tutor have never had an online presence, commented on a blog or liked something on Facebook – detrimental behavior for a budding online business. An optimized online presence lays the foundation for online tutoring success. Approach your online marketing from the client’s perspective: if you were hiring an online tutor, what would you want to know about the tutor? What would you want to see on his or her website, Facebook page or blog? Would you care if the tutor belongs to a professional organization? Would you care if the tutor is a certified teacher, or would you prefer someone who is an expert in the field of math or science?

Once you’ve mulled over those questions, you can create a blog on WordPress for free. Optimization, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is the use of certain key words frequently (i.e. online reading tutor) in your blog so your blog shows up on the first page of search results. On your blog, or your Facebook page, post information that is relevant to online tutoring, a new study regarding online education, or statistics about students in the age group you like to work with. Your enthusiasm for your subject and your age group is evident to your audience of prospective clients, which we will address in just a moment.

Content Knowledge

Be confident and interested in what you are tutoring. You would be amazed at the large number of people that want to teach something with very little knowledge of it. First, identify the content that you know well. Second, ask yourself if you would enjoy helping a student learn that content. If the answer is no, ask yourself what content you are interested in teaching. If it’s content you have not yet mastered, go master it. Your enthusiasm and interest in the subject rubs off on the student. Clients love referring good tutors to their friends (since it is often difficult to find a tutor that is understandable, enthusiastic and results-oriented). Please make sure you are teaching content you’re interested in to an age group that you feel most connected to. This strategy molds you into a results-oriented tutor.

Results Oriented

Tutoring is a results-oriented practice. Parents are committing to tutoring services for an anticipated result (improved grades, increased confidence, performing at or ahead of grade level, increased motivation, et al). Please ensure you and the parents agree that you and the student will be working toward an agreed upon goal so your tutoring sessions are geared toward reaching that goal. Education is an investment, and these parents expect a certain ROI (return on investment).

By the end of three months (or a tutoring package, for example), you should be able to provide an assessment that describes student achievement, room for improvement, and whether the goal was met.

For tutors currently operating face-to-face practices, examine progress of your current and former clients to find results you can market. If you’re a math tutor who turns grades from Cs to As, that’s your result. If you’re a reading tutor who improves reading comprehension for dyslexic students, that’s your result. If your students, regardless of age or content, are reporting increased confidence and trying harder at school, that’s the result you can market.

Personable Demeanor

Be pleasant to work with. Personable people focus on the relationships with their students and make the students feel comfortable working through problems and making mistakes.

As a tutor, you don’t need all of the answers when you’re working with a student. You do, however, need to facilitate a pleasant relationship and learning experience for the student. An excellent tutor encourages and guides the student to figure out the answer, especially to a question the student wonders aloud. Creating a personable relationship that a student wants to be a part of is critical in maintaining student interest and cooperation in a session even when he or she doesn’t feel like cooperating.


One of the biggest gifts you will have as an online tutor is the ability to adapt. If a student all of a sudden needs help understanding an old concept or a new idea, then you can focus on that material using a variety of tools in the tutor’s toolbox. Adaptability also affords the student to take responsibility for his or her learning; the student can begin the session by sharing what he or she doesn’t know, or would like to know more about.

With adaptability comes autonomy: the ability to determine what avenue will best explain a concept. You may find you have a student that can memorize anything if it’s put into a song, so you may provide a video that sings the Preamble to the US Constitution. If a student is struggling with a meaning of a word and is a visual learner, you may ask him or her to draw a picture of the definition of the word. If the student learns best by doing, you may ask the student to use the word in a variety of role-play scenarios. Words can be added to a list of words to build long-term memory and increase word usage. (We will discuss the different learning styles and how to determine a student’s learning style in a separate post)


Compassionate listening is the tool that you will utilize to determine what your student needs during instruction. It is also a tool that can be used for empathy. Sometimes your student may have a rough day, may be distracted, or may feel sick. A compassionate tutor is able to identify when the student has an “off” day and adapts to the student’s needs, expresses patience throughout the lesson, and the skills discussed in this article to instruct the student effectively.

So do you have what it takes? Maybe you have already started tutoring online. If so, then I would love to invite you to schedule a Simple Success Strategies Consult with me https://www.timetrade.com/book/QVPQL free of charge. I would love to service everyone, but this is a one time offer for people that have not had a free strategy session with me. I am excited to support and move tutors to the next level with their online tutoring business. If you have these qualities, then you have what it takes.

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