Skip to content

Do You Target The Right Student Market You’re Aiming To Teach?

Thema verfehlt! As they would say in German. Point missed! A teacher rarely has to write these words when marking student work, but it happens. It’s aggravating for both the student concerned and the teacher who has to write them. Who’s ultimately responsible for the failed learning?

If you’re getting the wrong kind of students enquiring for your lessons, you are responsible for the mismatch. If you teach classical music and only get enquiries from students wanting to learn how to play jazz or R&B music, you’ve missed the point in your efforts to find new students.

Marketing and its corresponding marketing jargon often lies at the heart of why so many teachers don’t find students. Instinctively they know this and avoid doing the work. To find the right students, you need to know exactly how to ‘speak to’ or market your lessons to that particular student market. You have to first start with a demographic…

Huh? What is a demographic?

What is a demographic?

What is a demographic? Do all your students have the same interests? The same level of knowledge?

The Internet is abundant of teaching services searching for the demographic student. However, the search for the right student lies deeper. So let’s start at the top layer with demographic students – your demographic audience:

Demographic students are a group of students willing to learn, attending the same school, learning the same subject and at the same level.

Unfortunately, these students are not all the same. That is where the problem lies, yet many teaching services stop their research here.


In a freelancing world, students come in all sizes and packages upsetting this balanced picture. Personal tastes, interests, time pressures, career related knowledge pressures, and level of knowledge are thrown into the pot. A mismatch is easily realised if not recognised in time. For example:

  • An avid 11 year old child interested in ornithology (the study of birds and their habitats) may have as much knowledge as any adult in a class.
  • An adult needing to learn a new language has different needs to schoolchildren who have studied the language for 3 years.

A mismatch occurs with the wrong information. This happens all too frequently when teachers try to market their lessons purely on demographical information and find they’ve attracted the wrong kind of student.

A Student Needs Analysis places a student in the right learning environment with the right teacher. A freelance teacher wanting new students needs the marketing equivalent. A Target Profile.

What is a target profile?

A Target Profile is similar to a Student Needs Analysis.

Defining a Target Profile is no different to filling out a Student Needs Analysis form (the form you fill in with all the personal particulars of the student sitting in front of you). The difference lies you find and interview ONE favourite student (or business company where you teach).

Why only one, you may ask. Because this targeted student profile is your ideal match. The one student you would like to have many more of.

The information this student is going to relate to thousands of other students with the same problems, the same needs. And they’ll all be just like your preferred student – the one you like most of all to teach.

To repeat:

Pick your favourite student because this student is your favourite type of student – the one you want to teach!

You may feel embarrassed to ask a student, or feel it’s easier (if a bit more work) to create a target profile spreadsheet in Excel with all the information you have to hand – taken out of the Student Needs Analysis forms. Why talk to a real student when you can create an imaginary target profile with all this data?

An imaginary person is a Persona Profile and not a Target Profile.

What is a persona profile?

An imaginary student you’d just love to teach! How realistic is that? That student doesn’t exist. He’s a piece of fiction. A product of your (admittedly well researched) imagination. Not to mention the pitfalls dotting your objectives path such as believing you know exactly what your students want or need. Do you really?

Why you need a target profile and not an audience or a persona profile

Can you use the exact words to describe his feelings he feels when he can’t understand or knows he’s missed the point? Which words would be use to describe why he started looking for lessons, what he hopes to achieve with the lessons, what would happen if he didn’t take lessons, etc.

The curse of too much knowledge (or statistics) can blind you. You shouldn’t put yourself into your students shoes. You have to ask him to tell you himself:

  • what problem made him look for lessons in the first place
  • how he found your lessons
  • why he chose your lessons
  • what he wanted to achieve with the lessons


That is a Target Student Profile. He chooses the words you write up to describe your teaching service. The words describing the problem that brought him to your lessons and what he hopes to solve by taking your lessons – a real student with a real background and history of learning problems and achievements.

Otherwise, you’ll write your teaching information for a student that doesn’t exist or for a demographic student portraying your teaching service as Jack of All Trades.

And the danger of Thema verfehlt! of missing the point is only too real. A mismatch between you and your student.


1.   Demographic students:

  • Demographic students is a group of students willing to learn, attending the same school, learning the same subject, and (preferably!) at the same level.
  • A demographic student audience is not who you want to teach. The Internet is full of teachers aiming for every kind of student – an anonymous audience of students.
  • A demographic audience (a group of students) is not the student market you want. You need to find the right student to teach. The student you want to teach. The student looking for your kind of lessons.

2.   Persona profile:

  • A persona profile is an imaginary product of your imagination. He doesn’t exist. Where’s the point in offering your teaching service to a student who doesn’t exist?

3.   Target Profile:

  • A target profile is a real student. A student you can talk to over a cup of coffee about his fears, problems and hopes. You can note his words and repeat them when you write up your teaching offer. They are authentic and cling true in the ears of all students with the same fears, problems and hopes reading your text. Your target profile student is not an isolated case… there are thousands just like him out in the student market.

A Target Profile is neither a demographic student nor a persona profile. He’s your real live student.


Can You Do Me A Favour?

I’d love to hear about how you found your Target Profile. Leave a comment in the Add Your Comment box below.

Be specific. The collective insight of the Entrepreneurial Freelance Teachers community will help us all realize what we can do to find new students and how we write up the one critical problem on our websites, brochures, etc.

If you like this article, please spread the word? Use the “LIKE” button in Facebook or send a Tweet.


2 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Hi Janine,

    You are such a determined, giving person! Thank you for all your efforts and help!

    I think you need to include this/a comment box at the end of the article one opens the email with, ie in this case the google translate. I missed the link until I went down the article carefully.

    Actually I use google translate everytime I have a translation to do (Dt – Eng.) Naturally it is far from perfect, especially the noun choices, but in general I find the grammar parts pretty reliable, and the actual translation seems to be getting better. It also gives me another viewpoint of the translation if I get a mental block, then I can usually see my way forward and get the gist of the text. But in the end I always read through the German text to make sure the translation is correct. It would be a very funny translation otherwise!

Leave a Reply to Lawrence Harris Cancel reply

Get a Gravatar! Your Name

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.


  • Newsletter (it’s free)

    You’ll receive information, ideas and tips, as well as simple and practical methods (with step-by-step instructions) on becoming an entrepreneurial freelance teacher in a professionally ethical and legal manner.

    Subscribe for the newsletter and receive your first free eReport:
    How To Find Customers And Students”.

    Emails are once every month (1st of each month).

    Newsletter Subscription