The most difficult part about teaching English online as a freelancer is finding students to teach. These days, social media is a powerful tool for finding and connecting with potential students. The best part? It’s free!
I’ve been teaching abroad and online since 2010 and in this blog post, I’ll share some of my top strategies for using social media to find students to teach online as a freelancer.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission when you make a purchase using my link – at no extra cost to you. This helps me continue to provide free content for teachers. Thank you!
How to Optimize Your Social Media Accounts
Choosing a Freelance Teaching Niche
To begin, you need to choose a topic, or “niche,” of English to teach. For example, my ideal student is a Spanish speaker who is preparing Cambridge English exams. You may be targeting business English students who want to improve their pronunciation. Or, you may want to target Arabic speakers who need help with writing.
If you aren’t sure which niche to choose, I recommend choosing something that is a combination of what you are passionate about teaching, what you are qualified to teach and what’s in demand. You may need to do some market research to see if the topic you’d like to teach is in demand. In general, Business, Medical and test prep English pay better than general English classes.
Your Social Media Bio
Your social media bio can be optimized to help you find students to teach online. You’ll want to include: “I help (ideal student) (transformation)”
In my case, my bio would read: “I help Spanish speakers prepare and pass Cambridge English exams.”
The transformation should be what students can expect to achieve while working with you. Can they expect to improve certain skills or gain confidence? You want to offer a transformation that solves one of your students’ problems. In my case, I’m helping them pass important exams they need to study or work abroad.
You want your ideal student to read the “I help” sentence in your social media bio and think, “hey, that’s exactly what I’m looking for!”
The next step is to add a clear, easy to follow call to action. Once a student is interested in what you have to offer, how can they contact you?
Some ideas are:
- Send me a DM (direct message)
- Fill out my survey (I like Google Forms. Survey Monkey is also a good option.)
- Visit my website (you can even send them to a landing page with a downloadable freebie)
- Send me an email (make sure it’s a professional email)
You’ll want to choose ONE call to action. Too many ways to contact you will overwhelm and confuse students.
Your Social Media Username
Another place where you can optimize your social media account to find students to teach online is your username. Choose something with “English” “learn” “teacher” or another related word to your niche.
A username like learnwithalex will be easier for students to recognize and search for than alex1999.
Additionally, on some social media platforms like Instagram, you can add keywords next to your name. These terms will also be searchable.
Try something like “Alex – English Teacher” instead of just “Alex.”
What Content to Post to Attract Potential Students
Now that your social media bio is set up, it’s time to discuss what content you should be posting. You want to be seen as an “expert” in your topic. To do this, you’ll want to post easy to helpful, actionable content related to your niche.
Do NOT post random things. Everything on your social media should be related to your chosen niche. This will help attract your ideal student and will make it easier to plan your content.
You want to provide your student followers with “quick win” – quick tutorials they can put into action, resources they can use and tips they can test out.
How to Plan Your Content
The easiest way to plan out your social media content is to create a content calendar.
First, choose pillars of your online teaching business and turn them into theme days.
For example, in my online teaching business of helping Spanish speakers prepare for Cambridge exams, my content calendar might look like this:
Monday: Skill (tips for listening, speaking, writing and reading, alternating one skill each Monday)
Tuesday: Grammar tip (I will share a video or static post with a grammar tip or exercise related to the exam)
Wednesday: Question of the Week (my goal for this post is to get my student followers engaging with the weekly question)
Thursday: Vocabulary (students need to know and use a lot of vocabulary on the exam. Each week I’ll provide new words for them to learn)
Friday: Test strategy (something specific to help them pass the exam)
Weekend: About me (here’s where I can share information about my personal life to help students know, like and trust me)
If you are just starting out on social media, choose 2-3 days per week to post. Do NOT start posting every day. It’s more important to show up consistently than daily. This will help prevent burn out.
You can download these free Canva social media templates created for teachers to start your social media posts off right!
Instagram square post template
These Canva templates were created by Gregory, who is a fellow ESL teacher as well as a designer. He has been teaching English for just over ten years and manages his own ESL Conversation Topics website where he posts lots of conversation ideas for ESL teachers and learners.
For more guidance on WHAT to post, download my free Social Media Cheat Sheet with ideas for both static and video posts!
Which Social Media Platforms to Use to Find Students
The most important platform to use is the one your ideal student uses. If you are using YouTube but your students use TikTok, then they most likely won’t see your content. If you aren’t sure which social media platforms your students use, do some market research before choosing a platform.
Again, start small and be consistent. Start with 1-2 platforms where your ideal student hangs out and master it before adding another social platform.
That being said, video is HUGE right now, so I highly recommend choosing at least one platform that uses video (YouTube, TikTok or Instagram).
Branding for Social Media to Attract Online Students
Branding is so important when it comes to your freelance online teaching business. If you want to be seen as a professional teacher, there are a few steps you can take.
1 – Create a brand kit on Canva. If you don’t have the pro version (needed to create the brand kit), then you can use this link to try Canva Pro for 1 month for free. On Canva you can select 2-4 brand colors to represent your brand. You can also choose 3 fonts – heading, sub-heading and body text.
Using these same colors and fonts on all your posts helps create a brand identity that students can trust. On Canva Pro you can instantly change any template to your brand colors and fonts with just one click.
2 – Get a logo professionally made on Fiverr. There are designers at all different price ranges and they will customize the logo for you and your brand.
3 – Create a folder with images of you in different settings that you can use in your posts. You should have a few professional shots, some pictures that are more casual, photos of you doing your favorite hobbies and pictures in your online classroom.
4 – If you are overwhelmed by the idea of creating all your content, then you can invest in a VA (virtual assistant) to create and post your social media posts.
Instagram Best Practices for Online Teachers
Instagram is a fantastic platform for interacting with potential students. Here are some best practices to follow when using Instagram to find students to teach online:
- Use all the different features. Static posts, carousel posts, reels, live videos, messages and comments. The more features you use, the more chances you have for interaction with your audience. The more your audience interacts with your posts, the more likely the algorithm is to push out your content to new people.
- Respond to your comments and DMs. This is a place where you can build the know-like-trust factor. Give helpful advice and suggestions.
- Collaborate with other teachers and creators in your niche. Instagram now has an option to tag another creator in your post. If you do this, your content appears in your feed and the other person’s feed, doubling your chances of getting seen.
TikTok Best Practices for Online Teachers
TikTok is growing rapidly and is a great place to find students. Here are some best practices to follow when using TikTok to find students to teach online:
- Have a hook within your first 2 seconds. This is necessary to draw attention since it’s so easy to just swipe through TikTok. To create a strong hook, talk about the struggles and common problems of your ideal student. Ask questions or give quick tips.
- Use a mix of trending audio and your own original audio. While trends can be fun and a way to get more eyes on your account, original audio will bring in your ideal students.
YouTube Best Practices for Online Teachers
YouTube is not only a social media platform, but a search engine. Content lasts a lot longer on YouTube than other social media platforms. Here are some best practices to follow when using YouTube to find students to teach online:
- Fill your video titles (both short and long videos) with searchable keywords. This will help potential students find your videos. I use TubeBuddy to help me create searchable titles for my long YouTube videos and YouTube shorts.
- Create a series of mini-lessons. If a student reaches out and is interested in taking private online classes with you, you can send them a link to a series of mini-lessons so they can see if they like your teaching style. Think of this as a “try before you buy” playlist.
- If you are serious about using YouTube to build your online teaching freelance business, I highly recommend working with my YouTube coach Danie Jay. Click here to get on the waitlist for her online course, the Magnetic Creator Academy.
Facebook Best Practices for Online Teachers
Facebook is a well-established social media platform and is a wonderful place to host communities. Here are some best practices to follow when using Facebook to find students to teach online:
- Start a private group. Anyone can start a public or private group on Facebook to nurture their community. You can either create a private group for students who have worked with you or a community for potential students (make sure the group name is searchable!)
- Create a business page. Use Meta Business Suite to schedule posts to Facebook and Instagram at the same time.
- Use the polls feature to interact with your audience and get content ideas. You can ask them what topics they are most interested in, which class they’d like to take, etc.
LinkedIn Best Practices for Online Teachers
LinkedIn is under-utilized by creators! Since fewer people are posting content on LinkedIn, it’s more likely that yours will get seen. Here are some best practices to follow when using LinkedIn to find students to teach online:
- Update and optimize your LinkedIn profile to help attract your target students. This includes your bio, banner and previous experience and certifications.
- Start a business page for your teaching business. You can even add this as your workplace.
- You can post longer form or short videos on LinkedIn. You can either share videos from other social media accounts or repost the original videos.
Social media is a powerful, free tool that online freelance teachers can take advantage of to find their ideal students and grow their online businesses. If you need any extra help setting up your online teaching business, I offer 1:1 private online teacher coaching.
If you have any questions, you can find me on Instagram @eslteacher365 or fill out my survey and I will email you back!