How to become an online data science tutor

Your expertise in data science may be serving you well in your day job or you are on track to land that next dream position to do what you love. There are many others aspiring to attain your level of skill, and maybe you could consider helping them out... through a side gig of teaching.

Having been in the field of data science for several years, I’ve tried to understand the best ways to both learn and teach data science.

And I hope our team is doing a good job at teaching through MOOCs.

“More than 500,000 students can’t be wrong,” as the ads say.

While online courses are the most affordable way to learn, online tutoring shouldn’t be underestimated.

On the demand side, it’s a more expensive but an extremely effective approach for anyone to advance their data science career.

On the supply side, many professionals are amazing mentors at their data science teams but haven’t considered tutoring as a source of extra income.

In this article, we will explore this issue as a business case of ‘online data science tutoring.’

Image 1, Online Data Science Tutor


The problem


TikTok is hot but easy. It took me an hour to “get it.”

Data science is hot but hard. It took me years to “get it.” Yet, I still feel uncomfortable saying, “I get data science.”

The main reason for this is that data science truly is an endless topic.

No one can ever say, “I know everything there is to know about data science.”

It has numerous different aspects:

  • the creative aspect of designing stunning data visualizations
  • the business aspect of combining data sources into dashboards through BI tools
  • the hard math aspect of machine learning and AI
  • the computer science aspect of Big Data pipelines
  • the salesperson aspect of communicating findings

You get the point.

To be a good data scientist, one must possess a combination of these skills. Plus more.

Some of you can self-learn, others – not really.

Numerous questions will arise throughout the way, and it’s a tremendous help if someone is there to answer them.


The solution


You could be that person! For a certain price, of course.

Are you qualified? If you understand half of the blogs written on KDnuggets, you’re definitely eligible for making extra income by helping aspiring data scientists.

The different ways one can tutor aspirants include:

  • Written answers
    This is what we’ve been doing for years with online courses: answering questions through emails or Q&A spaces. This activity has great economies of scale because after some time, you have seen most of the questions people ask, and you get much better and faster at answering them.
  • Live chat answers
    This is the same as above. The catch is, you don’t have time to prepare or do additional research as you address questions live. This is a big no-no.
  • Live video chat answers
    This is what everyone has been doing for the past year. Make sure you get the questions or code in advance so you can prepare ahead and you’ve got all possible answers ready. You can talk, screen share, pair code–everything you need for a successful tutoring session.

It’s a win-win situation in which you can turn your passion for data science into extra income and probably learn something new along the way.


Target customer


Who will be interested in your services?

Aspiring data scientists who are currently in university, taking online courses, or learning with books. They always need an extra hand.

But, it’s not only them.

Every data scientist who is up for learning something new, i.e., every sensible data scientist, can truly benefit from what you’re offering.

And don’t underestimate seasoned data scientists either.

If they’re the ‘hard math’ type, they’ll most definitely need some data science communication skills.

If they’re the ‘creative’ data visualization type, they might need the help of a ‘salesperson’ type to polish their work from extremely beautiful to extremely persuasive.

And rest assured, you’ll also learn a lot through the process.


How to start this as a business


You’ll need 3 things:

  • Set up an infrastructure to host meetings and get paid.
  • Learn the basics of holding an online lesson.
  • Contact your target customers.

Set up an infrastructure to host meetings and get paid

How do you make sure a video call happens and get paid?

  1. You need a website.

Why? Because people must be able to find you online. More importantly, you need to record data on the number of people that found out about you. Be it a simple booking page or a tutoring marketplace, you must exist on the internet. If you’re looking for something more personal yet easy, then Wix and Squarespace will be a good match for you.

  1. A scheduling tool.

While you’re starting, you can schedule the meetings yourself. But that’s not automated. As a data scientist, you’ll probably prefer to automate or at least semi-automate scheduling. You can make use of Calendly or Hubspot.

  1. A video conferencing tool.

This is old news: Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams save the day!

  1. A payment tool.

PayPal, Stripe, and Revolut are all great candidates.

Integrating these 4 tools, or even at least the video and payments, would be your tech infrastructure.

If you’re too busy or don’t want the hassle, you can go for one of the end-to-end paid online meetings’ solutions. I encourage you to give a try.

Image 2, Set Up Workspace

Learn the basics of online teaching

Make sure you don’t skip this step. It may sound mundane, but it isn’t.

First, you must learn how to prepare for a meeting and lead one. The rules are the same for all types of online consultations. The steps are easy to follow–all related to getting set up, preparing your equipment, gathering your materials, etc. Get yourself well acquainted with this stage, and I highly recommend having a checklist.

Image 3, Todo List

Second, understand the problem the person is having.

You’re not there to teach them ‘all the data science.’ You’re there because they’ve got a specific data science problem that you have the expertise to solve.

Ask many questions. Transfer your data science skills and dig deep until you reach the root cause of the problem. An individual is nothing but an extremely large collection of data.

For instance, they tell you, “I need help with creating charts.” So the conversation could go like this:

What software are you using? You’re coding, aha.

In what programming language? Python! Nice choice.

What’s your preferred IDE? Hmm, Jupyter is good for beginners, but you can consider moving on to something else in the future.

Are there libraries that you find useful? MatPlotLib is a very solid one, but have you tried Seaborn? I think it may be more fitting for your case. An interesting one is also plotly. But if you want to be better at MatPlotLib, I hear you, and I will help you.

So what is it that you’re trying to create exactly? Do you struggle with creating it or styling it? Styling is important. But if looks are what you’re after, MatPlotLib is not for you. Maybe even Python isn’t the right choice. How about trying this in Tableau or PowerBI? I can show you.

You ARE the expert. Mentor them to be a better data scientist and share your mistakes or prejudices.

Contact the target customers

You will need to be helpful to your target customers. Know where they exist or go online.

  • KDnuggets?
    You’re already here. Try writing a high-quality piece on a topic, and people will surely contact you to elaborate on it.
  • Online course discussions (Q&A Sections).
    I know this from personal experience: online course creators are struggling to answer all the questions they get in their courses. Try to be helpful to others. You’ll soon realize that both the students and instructors are noticing you, which is then your opening to pitch to either of them.
  • Forums like Quora, Reddit, StackOverflow.
    These are literally “overflowing” with unanswered data science questions. Place a link to your services in your bio and be as helpful as possible.


Extra thoughts


  • Teaching is unreasonably rewarding. If you help a person with a problem they have, you’ll feel incredibly good about yourself.
  • Don’t be worried that they’ll ask you something you don’t know. Mitigate this by requesting the questions beforehand. If you’ve failed to do this, you can always ask them to come back to them later on. That’s what speakers at conferences do, and no one is angry about it.
  • You’ve got imposter syndrome? If you’re unhappy with yourself during or after the consultation, you can always offer a refund.
  • If you’re a bit more introverted, you may want to consider being more open. Don’t be afraid of the visibility. If people know you’re so interested in data science that you are even tutoring, it can only help you in your career. Remember, you’ll learn a lot along the way. Literally, the worst that can happen is to be ignored online, which is not a bad outcome.
  • As a course instructor, while trying to handle the Q&A for my courses, I was desperately in need of a helping hand. Every time a student answered more than 5 questions, I would contact and ask them to work with us.

Can you actually make this work?

Starting to earn extra income online has never been easier, and I have been an advocate of this for quite some time.

It may sound hard, but you know what? You are a data science expert, not a TikToker!

Your undertakings are usually harder but always more rewarding!