A look at Online English Teaching
Starting an online English teaching business is an exciting venture. And with over 1.5 billion learners out there, it is a potentially lucrative initiative. The basic concept is a no-brainer, but what about all the paths that lead to and fro? Where will they take us? Are they costly? Can we avoid those that make us cringe with loathing?
If you’re just starting out you may be wondering what I mean by paths. These are the little ‘sub-journeys’ you must take in order to nurture your business to its full potential. During my presentation we will be taking a detailed look at these paths which include the responsibilities, elements and tools involved in and available to us as online teachers. But before the air raid of a myriad of details, I wanted to let you know that I started out just like you. I had a computer with an integrated webcam and mic and experience as an EFL teacher. I had no big picture, no details. My only regret is not having started sooner.
Walk the Path in your PJ’s
Online EFL teaching has many advantages over in-person training: better time management, no travel expenses and the option to work in your slippers!
It is however a multi-faceted endeavour and requires the command of many disciplines: teaching, method development, administration, marketing, IT and we can’t forget about residual and alternative income sources.
If you are making the transition from in person training to online, you may have to make adjustments in your method. Actually, the online teaching experience you are offering should be richer for the learner, as you have so many more resources at your fingertips if you’re at a keyboard. You also have the technology to make the homework more dynamic, and most importantly, mobile.
Marketing your online course is also much different than promoting your in-person training. Whereas you limit your publicity to a specific geographical location when you are promoting your face-to-face classes, running your business online means reaching out to others all over the globe.
Where to start? Some folks are huge advocates of the mailing list. This is a free and not very time consuming way to reach former and potential clients on a regular basis. But what if you don’t have a list? Here’s a hack for you: with this one post on LinkedIn I built a mailing list from from zero to 600 in a week. The key is to give away what I call ‘free bananas.’ Feel free to copy and paste this text (well, don’t forget to change the free bananas!):
I’m sending my FREE guide, “50 Phrasal Verbs for Business” to all who ask me for it.
Just leave your email address below and I will send it as soon as possible. Periodically I send mails with ideas and proposals to improve your fluency in English. You can unsubscribe at any time.
IMPORTANT: Do not forget Deactivate the option “Send an email for each new comment,” to not receive an email whenever users leave their e-mails. And please, check your spam box.
Of course online teaching has some technological challenges. If you live in a big city you likely have a good internet connection, but if you’re out in the boonies like me, establishing a solid connection can be contest between you and your provider. I get around this problem somewhat by using zoom.us for the lessons. Zoom is specifically designed for low bandwidth, it’s a freemium service (the zero cost package is perfect for one-to-one classes), is more professional looking than google hangouts, and has features that Skype doesn’t have such as being able to record and a whiteboard.
And don’t forget about your retirement! Now is the time to start planning for it. This is where the passive income becomes so important. In addition, writing a book or having a course with good reviews on Udemy for example, gives you credibility.
Some Paths are Rockier than others
Not all these hats fit every head. If you find that you have difficulties in any of these areas, perhaps it’s a good idea to outsource.
In my case, I’m a tool at IT. In the beginning I made some pretty brave attempts at a webpage, all epic fails. They failed to attract customers, UX sucked and they were as interactive as a photocopy taped to a telephone pole. It was frustrating to have such a great method to share and no way to share it. I identified the problem (my relationship with IT) and then the universe took care of the rest.
Raúl came into my life as a client. I guess he felt sorry for me because he offered to make me a new web site in exchange for classes. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse! I was very lucky to have met Raúl. He is a talented computer engineer who was able to translate my vision into code. The moral of this story is: when you’re starting out you may not have money, but you do have a lot of time. Trade your time for products and services.
Nevertheless, choose your bedfellows wisely. Raúl and I made up a little contract in which it is stated that the code behind the site is mine — thanks Raúl! That was very thoughtful on his part, as this detail certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me.
Walk the Path With others
Another resource for inspirations and practical hacks is a Mastermind Group. Sound awesome? They are! A Mastermind Group is a collective that gets together virtually on a regular basis to discuss problems and share solutions. Sometimes you may brainstorm and sometimes you may muck through mundane processes. Regardless, these multidisciplinary groups often provide succinct solutions to a multi-faceted conundrum.
You can find Mastermind groups on Facebook but most of these have a fee. I suggest starting your own. It’s as simple as inviting a few folks to participate. Perhaps some profiles on LinkedIn have popped out at you. Reach out to those people, introduce yourself and invite them to join. In my opinion, a really great group has about half a dozen members and meets on a weekly basis.
Being part of a well-rounded group is like having a CFO, a CMO, a CTO and all the other Chief Officers you can imagine on your team. I belong to a few and I’ve reduced the time I spend googling through an infinite internet universe incalculably.
Here I’ve given you just a glimpse of the different paths that lead to and from online teaching. During my presentation, I will share a mind map with you that situates these routes on a field guide. Warning: you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information but don’t be discouraged. Prioritize according to your skills and seek support in the areas where your know-how is lacking.
Where will these paths lead you? To a successful online teaching business, of course! Are they costly? They don’t have to be. Can we avoid those that make us cringe with loathing? The short answer is ‘no.’ Remember, all roads lead to Rome.