Espresso English’s Shayna McHugh sells e-books and courses to help her students improve their English skills. She started small, but after just one year, her blog was generating 90,000 visits per month.
Impressive enough, but now, in 2020, her everyday-English blog logs over a million monthly visitors, and her business generates more than just a full-time income.
What you’ll learn in this interview:
Blogging, YouTube or both?
Presell your course before you make it
Don’t be afraid to promote your products
Shayna’s simple but effective launches
Flexible time schedules
Tips for Langpreneurs
Shayna started her blogging journey way back in 2012 while teaching English as a second language in Brazil. During the day she taught in-person classes and later wrote the lessons up as a blog post four times a week.
Her goal at the time was to generate a small sidestream income which would help reduce her extensive teaching and travelling hours. The blog increased steadily, and after a few years, Shayna became a successful, full-time entrepreneur.
“I started in a classroom teaching 6-7 people at a time; now my lessons are impacting a million people a month. It blows my mind.”
Should you start a blog or a YouTube channel?
Your language business needs to provide content in more than one format to cater to the varied ways people learn, but which platform should you start on? Shayna says, start with what feels natural to you.
If you love to read and write, begin with a blog and put out useful content that people are searching for. It takes time and patience to create a successful blog, but the content builds up gradually and will bring in traffic for years.
“Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint; something you invest in for a long time.”
However, it’s no longer enough to post solely on your blog; nowadays, you need more visibility to attract organic traffic. So Shayna advises new bloggers to seek out guest post opportunities and to collaborate with other bloggers. Publish on platforms such as Medium, too, to get more eyes on your posts.
If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, you’ll probably start with YouTube first. You do need video in a language business so that your students can hear and see the language.
Of course, most of us post our content on more than one platform, which can be a real strain on time and resources. Shayna’s got a solution to that too; repurpose everywhere.
“I publish weekly and it’s the same post on all the platforms. I start with a video; pull out the audio… and publish it as a podcast. The text from the video script becomes the blog post, and also gets published on Facebook and Twitter.”
Presell your course before you make it
When Shayna began to create products, she decided to presell her 30-day course at a reasonable price to her email list. Then, she made one lesson each day and sent it out to the early adopters.
At the end of the month, she had a whole course, plus valuable feedback from her students. Then Shayna made the entire thing available as an evergreen product.
“The people who believe in you enough to invest early are also going to have great insight into what could be added, improved or changed.”
When you repeat this process, you can end up with many evergreen products to your name. Price them fairly, and they’ll bring in passive income for years.
Don’t be afraid to promote your products
Many Langpreneurs struggle to balance teaching and generosity with promoting their paid courses. But one purpose of your business is to create an income, which means you have to promote and sell your products.
“If you’re confident in the products you’re creating and you know these will help people, you also need to promote them confidently.”
Shayna’s weekly email is currently half content and half promotion and includes:
One free lesson
Marketing of the paid course that relates to that concept for those who wish to go deeper.
Shayna’s emails give value by offering free content and marketing the next-level course, in a way which is neither wishy-washy nor pushy.
Shayna’s simple but effective launch process
When your course or product is first available, you need to launch it into the world with a fanfare. Launches can be exhausting, so Shayna now follows a launch strategy that suits her style and business, sending an email every other day over the 7-10 day launch period.
Announce the course in advance
Have a 7-10 day window
Offer an early bird price
Include a deadline after which the price goes up.
She alternates content and promotion emails during the launch, including a sample lesson, FAQs, a student case study, and a ‘last-chance for early-bird pricing’ email 24 hours before the deadline.
Shayna likes to streamline her sales pages too. She targets her students’ pain points and uses their own words (taken from comments and questions over the years) to express their feelings and lead towards the course.
“People who are learning English as a second language don’t want to scroll through… walls of text … I keep things concise yet powerful and visually illustrated on my sales pages and I think that definitely helps.”
Collect email addresses
Shayna has collected email addresses from day one and markets consistently to her list. Emails don’t have to be fancy, she says, but they do need to be regular, consistent and provide quality content.
A good email gets right into people’s inbox and avoids the problem of social media platforms arbitrarily deciding which content to show your followers. Make it entertaining and useful to keep your open rates high.
“Email is still the most reliable way of getting in touch with people.”
Follow a schedule that works for you
“When you’re a private teacher you get paid for the number of hours you put in. I wanted to disconnect my income from the time I put in.”
Shayna says the best thing about having an online business for so many years is how it allows her to have a flexible schedule. Typically she works 3-4 hours per day, but that can increase to 40-50 hours a week when creating a course. Conversely, she works less when her personal life gets busy.
“When you only have 3-4 hours per day to work you really have to choose what will be the most impactful… it forces me to use that time wisely.”
Being flexible gives you the freedom to travel too. You can work anywhere with an internet connection, or prepare everything in advance and take time off.
Shayna’s tips for Langpreneurs
Learn for free by deep diving into Google
There’s plenty of free information out there for online businesses. When you want to learn a new strategy, listen to podcasts; read case studies; join other people’s funnels to see what they’re doing. Then adapt it all to suit your business.
There’s no secret formula that works for everyone
Things will work for some people and not for others, even in the same niche. You have to research and then forge your path.
Approach business experimentation like a scientist
Disconnect your emotions and think of the trials like an experiment: trial and error. Find what’s working and cut the flops.
Build an audience of people who are willing to pay
Provide free content, of course. But to be a business you need paying customers too.
Consider your audience’s income when pricing your products
Will you go cheap, mid-range or premium? Know what your people can afford and what seems fair to you and them.
Join a mastermind with others in your niche
Valuable because you’re talking with people on the same journey, in the same business model and you can go in-depth with your questions.
When you’re starting, give yourself a year of your best effort
“You’ve got to try things. You can read about lots of theory and case studies, but until you put it into practice in your business, you don’t know if it’s going to resonate with your audience and business model. Don’t be afraid to try things and then double down on the things that work for you and ignore the things that don’t work.