How to get more students for private tutoring or language classes

a map showing the english language schools in Barcelona
22 Oct Shelley Vernon 6 Comments

If you have a language school or you are a private tutor this blog post may help you find more students. It's relevant for all ages and all types of new teaching business.


I've started several teaching businesses and I was always successful at finding new students. So many people want to learn English today, I'm sure you can be successful too, even if you have no money to start out with.


Choose your business name

I suggest A1 English + your town.

- Why A1? Because if you advertise in the local phone book or yellow pages, listings are in alphabetical order. A1 will be a the top.

- Why your town? People in Barcelona want a teacher in Barcelona. People in Shanghai want a teacher in Shanghai. To be found online you need to be as precise as possible. I just searched for "English lessons" and found over 700 million results. Searching for "English in Barcelona" there were 27 million. And "English in Poblenou Barcelona, 100,000. 


Make your business card or flyer

Start by making a business card: A1 English Barcelona. Native speaker. Fun lessons. All Ages and Levels. FREE trial lesson, just call ......... or visit


Give students a great reason to come to you

- Offer a free trial lesson and put that on your business card - that way you get people in the door!

- Have a nice space for lessons. It's fine if it's at your home. Make sure it's super clean of course!

- Be local. If you are near your students, it's easy for them to get to you.

- As soon as you can, offer small groups, that can be cheaper per pupil, but more money for you in total.

- Propose an English outing that is free for all your pupils, anyone welcome, where you go and see a movie in English, or go to a restaurant together - like an Irish pub, and everyone has to speak English all evening. Students buy their own tickets or meals.


Free local advertising

- Using your business cards, advertise in all the local shops where you are allowed to display a free ad. There might be noticeboards at the local supermarket, or shelves for business cards in shops, libraries and learning centers, waiting rooms, anywhere people are allowed to post an ad or leave a card, leave yours.

- Start with everything surrounding your house or the location you plan to use for lessons and work out from there. Leave cards in the halls of buildings around you. The more it's local, the easier it is for people to come to you. Would you rather have a teacher next door or the other side if town?

- If you have a car, get stickers on it with your business name and phone number. Leave this step till later if you are on a tight budget.


Target learning centers

- Go to the local schools and ask to meet the head of department, offer your services for any pupils struggling, leave your contact details and business card.

- Hand out your business cards outside schools when parents collect their kids. Introduce yourself, say that you help with homework and in particular with English, and offer your card.

- Put notices in the university library and language department. Go back and re-post them every week - some people might take your notices the beginning, you need to be on it!

- Go into business buildings, leave your cards at reception, or on a noticeboard, or post them in the letter-boxes. Offer a free lesson to the boss, or the human resources manager.


Do not shoot yourself in the foot

- Do not register with a company that offers tuition - you won't be able to teach on the side during, or even after your contract, because they have non-competition clauses in their contracts. Those companies charge a fortune to customers, but you only get paid peanuts. It's best to find your own clients and go direct. You can undercut all those online companies easily and still earn more.

- Don't be too cheap. Giving lessons for peanuts undermines the value of your lesson. Price yourself at market value, or slightly more. If you want to help people who struggle financially, put them on a waiting list until you have a small group. Each participant can then pay peanuts, but you still end up with a proper salary.

- Even if you don't have many customers, don't take people who are the opposite side of town so it takes you half an hour to get to their house and half an hour to get back. That lesson will take you two hours, plus ten minutes to prepare, and you are only being paid for one.

- Do not buy dozens of teaching resources. Why am I saying that? After all, I sell teaching resources for a living! Teachers often throw money at resources and don't use half of them. You only need a few GOOD resources to get started. For your trial lesson don't use a book. Use games and have your student participating the whole time - not sitting there reading out a paragraph in a book. They can do that at home without a teacher.


Your shop front is your business card and a simple website

You only need a simple, one-page website to get started. Students need to know who you are, where you are, how much you charge and how to get their free trial lesson. 

Use Facebook, or a popular trusted social media site for your country. On this page tell customers:

- how to contact you

- how to get their free trial lesson

- a location map showing where the lessons take place

- the full address of your teaching location, to help searches online be specific

- a nice picture of yourself, smiling, looking straight at the camera, where people can see your open, friendly face clearly

You don't need a super-duper website to get started. A free one will do. It's just a contact page to get people to contact you for their free lesson. This is your shop front, it's who you are and what you offer. You'll be able to put testimonials on there from existing students in time.


Yellow Pages and Google Maps

Get your teaching business listed in the yellow pages and on Google maps and your local equivalents. You may have to pay for this, but it's worth it. If you have no money at all, skip this step and come back to it once you have the budget.


The secret to your success is this

If your lessons are effective and fun you will keep your students long term. In addition, they will recommend you to others. That's the key to success. Eventually you won't have to run around putting flyers out. You'll have your base of customers and a network of people who recommend you. Be sure to use my resources that will save you time preparing for lessons, and make sure your lessons are fun!


Kind regards

Shelley Ann Vernon


Hello Shirley. Thank you for all the tipps you send me. I teach business English to adults at their workplace. My real challenege is to get them to talk. Although I give them samples of answers I am expecting from them, loads of ideas, etc,., they say "I just can't think of anything to say, even in their own native language". After they have had loads of practise as regards the various tenses, and after giving them a sample of a very short story, when I asked them to construct their own story, something that had happened to them, but using the appropriate tenses, they couldn't manage it. Perhaps you would have some ideas? Another issue which these adults raise with me is, although some of my classes are very advanced, I mean C1 standard, it is the "little words in between" which holds them back from speaking more fluently. Any tip on this issue?. Thanking you in advance. Nora
Dear Nora, Hello there and thanks very much for your comment. An easy fix for your students, who can't think of anything to say, even in their native language, is to have them choose topics around their interests and passions. Let students choose their own topics. I'm going to do a blog on this subject, with more discussion ideas for you and I'll post you here when it's published! In the meantime, have you got my book for teens and adults? It's got loads of ideas, and it will definitely help you with this recalcitrant lot, who are probably tired! Kind regards Shelley Ann Vernon
I have had some success with encouraging clients to speak using role play. Shopping, including asking for a particular colour, size, price, Then advancing to making a complaint, returning an article for a refund. Depending on their profession or job we role-play job interviews or sometimes I give them a scenario and they become a news reporter and question me about something in the news and vice-versa. Other topics can be how to make their favourite cake/soup/sandwich. I think some professional adults have a problem suddenly becoming a student again and allowing them to assume certain roles can make them feel as if they are in control
Dear Amanda, Thanks for your comment. I agree, it's helpful to give students roles to play, with a fixed viewpoint, that is imposed by the role. Students feel less exposed when arguing a point in a role, rather than having a personal argument with someone else in class. Shelley
Very helpful Shelly.....thanks.
Thank you for the helpful tips and strategies. I don't have a question. I just enjoyed reading.

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