The following is an article I wrote for the September 2013 edition of The Master's Bulletin, Chess.com's monthy PDF magazine for titled players.
Growing Your Chess Coaching Business with Chess.com by John Bartholomew
In the early months of 2011 I was a bit clueless. I had just made the questionable decision to quit law school in order to pursue chess teaching full-time, and I had only a vague notion of how to search for students. The only thing I knew for certain was that I was a passionate and competent chess teacher. Unfortunately, this would mean very little if I could not reach my audience!
Enter Chess.com. I had created a Chess.com account back in 2009, but in those unemployed winter months (during which I was also recovering from major knee surgery; thus, I had lots of time on my hands), I truly began to recognize the value of being part of the world's largest chess site.
Some two and a half years later, I have a thriving coaching business with dozens of satisfied current and former students. The vast majority of my clients come from Chess.com, and I conduct 90%+ of my online lessons via the Analysis Board in Live Chess. Chess.com has provided me with a wonderful platform to succeed, and I would like to share some basic steps you can take to market yourself in a similar manner.
If you are a teacher interested in finding chess students online, I would recommend the following:
Create a Coach Profile – Your Coach Profile is the “face” of your Chess.com presence. It is likely to be the first thing a student examines when deciding whether to take lessons from you, so make it your place to shine! Including your bio, accomplishments, rates, and contact info is nice, but be sure to gear your profile towards your audience. Ask yourself: what can I, the teacher, offer the prospective student? It is especially helpful to include information about your teaching style and links to Chess.com content you have produced (see below). Important: An underappreciated aspect of the Coach Profile is the comments section. Ask your current students to post honest reviews of your services. Prospective students will appreciate these, and you may be surprised by how many more inquiries you will receive. For example, FM Valeri Lilov is a respected coach whose Coach Profile nearly sells itself based on his numerous positive reviews.
Blog – Blogging is one of the simplest ways to advertise yourself and interact with the Chess.com community. I began blogging in March 2011, and each blog that I write now averages 2000+ views. It is fun, and you can write about any topic you please (I typically blog “diary style” about my tournament and chess travels). If you blog consistently and include interesting content like games, pictures, trip reports, and problems, you will build a following. Just be sure to avoid huge walls of text! If you're stuck, peruse the Top Bloggers list and see what users like to read.
Contribute Content – Producing content for Chess.com is a one-two punch: you earn money for your work, and you reach thousands of users who may want to hire you. Take full advantage! Articles, videos, Chess Mentor courses, and Chess.com/TV are just a few Chess.com avenues that can generate future business for you. In the fall of 2011 I recorded a three-part video series called “Sensing the Critical Moment”, and it has been a definite boost to my coaching business. I am able to refer students (via my Coach Profile) to this series as an example of my teaching style, and I routinely receive inquiries from would-be students who saw and enjoyed my work.
Participate – Above all, make an effort to engage with your fellow Chess.com users. It is not enough to be a great teacher or a strong Grandmaster looking to earn side income if you do not routinely use the site yourself. See an interesting forum post? Leave a comment. Run across an insightful article? Let the author know! I mean, why not? It costs nothing, and it shows you care. Playing on the Live Chess server is plenty of fun, too. (I'm addicted to bullet, but you can also try blindfold). By the way, that new student you just took on? He probably expects you to know what the Tactics Trainer is, and he appreciates it if you can operate the Analysis Board efficiently. Familiarize yourself with the numerous resources here, reach out to the users (some of which may wind up as your students), and, most importantly, enjoy your time on Chess.com.
Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions about this article or coaching via Chess.com. Best of luck!
International Master John Bartholomew (fins0905 on Chess.com) is a 26-year-old chess professional from Eagan, Minnesota. He is an active teacher in schools and online, and he has also coached at the World Youth Chess Championship and United States Chess School. John is a regular contributor to Chess.com and holds a degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.