Elena helps teachers to work smarter, less, with more satisfaction, and get paid well for their work. She’s originally from Ukraine, and started teaching online back in 2008. Two years later, she moved to the US and continued teaching online after work. In the first six months, Elena became incredibly busy, mainly gaining clients through worth of mouth. The problem with her online teaching job, however, was that it wasn’t very stable. Some months were super busy, but she hardly taught at all during the months of December and January.
Her students were mainly Russian speakers, and when that market collapsed in 2014, she needed to look for other ways to continue her online teaching business. That’s when she started offering accent training to students in other markets, and she also started helping other teachers to work smarter. In this interview you will learn: – Why you first need to get clarity about yourself before choosing a niche – How to build an audience by connecting first – How to redesign your teaching business so that you can work smarter
How to Grow your Online Teaching Business the Smart Way
Step 1: Get clarity about yourself
Before deciding what specific group of people you want to help, it’s really important to first get clarity about yourself. What are you passionate about and what change do you want to make?
If you’re like most people, you won’t have any idea of what your business will eventually become, and what kind of people you really want to help. In the beginning it’s more a direction that you choose, and that’s ok. It took Elena six years to gain enough clarity and really discover who she wanted to help. Finding out what niche you really want to serve is challenging, but crucial. Many teachers tend to choose the most lucrative niches, but that doesn’t often work out well in the long run. The key is to choose a niche you are passionate about and can, at the same time, make you a good living.
The key to building a successful business is to show authenticity and confidence in the offers you’re putting out. You also need to have a real desire to help your followers. That’s something that you cannot fake. If you’re trying to sell something you’re not passionate about, you’re going to have a hard time. What are you passionate about and what group of people do you want to help? Sometimes the only way to find the answers is by getting started and finding out as you go.
‘’Marketing is not about what product I am going to put in front of people, it’s about what change I want to make’’
Step 2: Choosing your niche
Now that you have an idea of which people you want to help, it’s time to ask yourself the following: – What are the challenges, frustrations, motivations and ambitions of this group of people? – What are your skills and how you can use these to help people in your niche? Let’s take a look at examples of language teachers who work with Elena in her Smart Teacher’s Library, who designed unique niches around their passion:
Helping senior professionals with their English communication skills
(Shanthi from englishwithatwist.com)
Helping book-lovers and readers capture their own experiences, in writing.
(Trisha from vagabondenglish.com)
Helping people to understand authentic speech in English through movies
(Cara from leo-listening.com)
Helping female immigrants to feel at home in Dutch society, by working on their Dutch speaking skills and a positive mindset.
(Charlotte from soulfuldutch.com)
Do you see how narrow these niches are?
The only way to stand out from the crowd is to be specific and serve a certain niche.
And remember, the teachers didn’t “pick” niches, they created them. There is no big book of niches out of which we can “pick.” That’s a huge, misguided concept that thrives in the online language teaching world.
Because people feel like niches are something to be “picked” they get frustrated about how long it takes them. But true niching takes time, it’s like peeling off layers.
Also, clearly mention the benefits of what you’re offering.
Don’t say ‘I teach business English’, but rather something like ‘I help senior professionals with their English communication skills so that they get unstuck in their careers’.
Sounds more powerful, right?
Step 3:Find out where your potential customersare – and connect!
After you’ve chosen a niche, it’s time to find out where your target audience is. What social media platforms do they use? If you already have a few of what you consider a ‘dream client’, you can just ask them what social media platforms they use or which online communities they’re a part of. There are various ways to connect, depending on the platform where your customer avatar hangs out:
On Facebook for example, look for existing Facebook groups where the people in your niche hang out, before you start your own group. Help people in these groups by answering their questions. Once people start to notice you and you’ve built relationships, you can invite them to your own group. It’s important, first, to connect before you build your own page.
Also, on Instagram it’s key to first connect to other users. You can do that by searching for hashtags relevant to people in your niche, like photos of other users, and start conversations by sending them direct messages. Observe the conversations that are going on in these communities and try to really get a clear understanding of the pain points and ambitions of the people in that group. How can you use your skills to help these people? Choose one social media platform to focus on in the beginning, and laser focus on that. That’s the fastest way to get noticed and get traction.
Step 4: Building relationships
The most powerful way to connect to your potential clients on social media is to provide value to them (by answering their questions for example, but you can also do it by giving away lots of stuff for free!). Many teachers seem to have a problem with this idea in the beginning: ‘Why do I have to give away stuff for free, who is going to buy from me?’, they might wonder.
This is a mindset shift that you have to make if you want to become a business owner rather than a teacher. Of course, you need to be strategic about what you’re going to give away and to whom.
Step 5: Making the sale
So, first you need to find your ideal customers and get to know them well. Listening is key here. What kind of problems do they have and how can you help solve them? A great way to get to know your customers is by getting on Skype with them or meeting them in person. Once you understand their challenges, you can simply offer them a solution and simply say, ‘here’s how I can help you’…
The more clarity you have about yourself, what niche you want to serve and what results you want to help your students get, the easier it will be to make sales.
Let’s first talk about the differences of growing a business vs. scaling a business. Growing your teaching business means more students, more teachers, a more complete structure in your business, and more work. Scaling is faster. There is more exponential growth and less work involved. It basically means better results for your business with similar or even less effort. In short; – Growth is more results with more effort – Scaling is similar or more results with less effort
In order to scale your business, you might need to redesign it.
Ask yourself the following question: If your students usually take five lessons per month with you, how can they achieve similar results with only one lesson per month? – Maybe by providing your students with study materials? – Or an online community with native speakers they can practice with, and that keeps your students accountable? – Can you give them certain assignments they can do on their own? Think about ways to get your clients from point A to point B, that doesn’t involve so much of your own time. By asking herself these questions, Elena went from teaching 120 hours per month to ‘coaching’ 120 hours per year!
What changes do you want to make in the world? Get clarity about yourself.
Don’t just tell people what you teach, instead say what results you help people get and what narrow group of people you help. Finding a niche that fits you and building a real business takes time, especially in the beginning. Be patient and ideally have a revenue source on the side.
In order to think like a business owner you need to change your mindset and redesign what you sell.
You are replaceable as a teacher, and there are alternative ways to help your students better and that involve much less of your time.