How To Successfully
Teach English Online
Thinking of starting online English teaching?
Not sure where to start? Lacking confidence?
Here are some tips and suggestions to help you become successful as an online English teacher.
With the current Covid-19 situation, lots of teachers are now teaching online which means the competition has suddenly increased massively.
I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and have specialized in teaching English as a second language online for over 7 years.
I can help you to get started and be successful.
I’m going to start with 3 basics to get you started, in future articles I will go deeper and offer more tips and suggestions.
The 3 basics are Strategy, brand and niche.
For the past 7 years, I have solely taught online and made a successful business of it.
Here’s some of my experiences and tips to help you get started.
How are you going to get started?
How will you advertise?
Where will you advertise?
What multimedia will you use?
Which conferencing/communication platform?
The list is endless and as the old adage goes, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’.
It’s crucial to sit down with pen and pad, or finger and iPad and start to make a plan of action.
Advertising & Marketing
What do you want to achieve?
How are you going to achieve those goals and which will be the quickest way to do it?
For years my main way of advertising was Gumtree and I found this to be the most cost-effective way.
I would always receive 1 or 2 students within a day of renewing my ad.
I’ve recently found that this has changed, probably due to the sudden increase in online tutors now advertising their services.
It took me a long time to enter into the world of Facebook advertising, but I finally stepped over into the dark side and up to now I haven’t found it to be a particularly effective way of conversion when compared to the amount of time and input that you put in.
One of my areas of expertise is SEO and so for me, a good ad campaign backed up with a good SEO friendly website has always been the most effective method of attracting new students. I built my own website 7 years ago and have seen a lot of conversions through it.
It now ranks number 26 on Google for certain keywords which I’m extremely happy about considering the number of big language schools and academies out there pouring thousands into internet ads and marketing.
If you would like help with SEO, web site building or advertising then contact me and we can discuss it further.
Firstly, you need to build a ‘brand’.
What do you think when you hear ‘Big Mac’? McDonald’s of course.
‘The Whopper’? Burger King.
‘What about, ‘Just do it’?, ‘Think Different’, ‘Because you’re worth it’?…
What about Joe Bloggs English…not much eh?!
It’s important to try and create a name that will become a kind of brand for your advertising and marketing, whether a website, Facebook, Gumtree or any other medium. You have to stand out from the rest.
It has to be something simple, that will make your potential students choose you over the next teacher.
Years ago after trying a few online English teaching companies and not being happy with the pay, or the conditions I decided to go it alone. After much thought, I decided on the name Simple English. It seemed to sum up what I was trying to achieve and what I stood for.
I built a website, created a logo and started to advertise.
It was meant to be a sideline business and at first, it was slow and I wondered whether I had wasted too much time and effort. Slowly but surely my students started to increase along with my confidence. My teaching methods improved and my resources grew.
I made a lot of errors on the way and learnt a lot, but within a few months I was able to teach as many hours as I wanted and it became my only job. I had always wanted to work for myself, call my own shots and teach ‘real English’.
The second thing is to find your niche. In a saturated market, it’s essential to try and focus on a specific way of teaching.
Although this seems daunting and may look unbeneficial as you are limiting your student base, it actually has the opposite effect in the long run.
Here are a few reasons why:
• Niche teaching enables you to do cost-effective and targeted advertising and marketing.
• It helps students who are interested in your specific services find you.
For eg. If a student is searching online for a tutor to help them pass IELTS, they will see 100’s of teachers and it will probably be overwhelming.
Imagine they see in your ad headline that you are a specialist IELTS teacher, then it’s more likely that you are going to get contacted.
They are looking for a specific service and you are offering that service, it will instil confidence in them that you can help them achieve their goal – passing IELTS.
• The majority of language schools and academies cater to beginners and intermediate learners.
Once a student gets proficient in English they will more than likely seek out a personal 1:1 tutor.
This is where freelancers can compete with companies. A lot of companies charge students twice as much as they pay the teachers who work for them. Logically, this means that there are a lot of students who are willing to pay more than you receive at the moment.
You can cut out the middle man and charge more.
Focus On A Speciality
I started out teaching general English in language schools and online but quickly realised that most of my online students wanted to focus on pronunciation more than anything else. I think this also had something to do with my philosophy that pronunciation is probably the most important aspect of learning English. I see it as a foundation that other things should be built on.
Just think, when did you learn to speak? After speaking for a few years we then go to school and start to focus on written words.
What a shock when we realised that words that we spoke every day were spelt differently to how they are pronounced.
Some argue that this is fine for a native speaker who is immersed in the language but non-native speakers need grammar and vocabulary first and put more focus on these.
Language schools have been doing this outdated way of teaching for years.
Harmer (2001, The Practice of English Language Teaching. London) expressed that the first thing that native speakers notice during a conversation is pronunciation. He went on to say that, Grammar and vocabulary are important elements of language, but they can be useless if the speakers cannot pronounce those elements or words accurately. Native speakers can understand people, despite their grammatical errors, if they use accurate pronunciation. Communicative efficiency can be guaranteed by correct pronunciation.
Whilst teaching in language schools, I was often frustrated when we were following books that spent most of the lesson on grammar and about 5 mins at the end touching on pronunciation. I found that the majority of times I didn’t understand a student wasn’t because of bad grammar but bad pronunciation. I even had higher-level students who probably knew English grammar better than I did and possessed a wide range of vocabulary, but they struggled to communicate with native speakers on a day to day basis.
This began my journey to learn as much as possible about English pronunciation.
What makes it different from other languages?
Why do certain speakers struggle with certain syllables or consonant clusters?
Why do most Spanish not differentiate between B and V?
Why do Polish speakers struggle with V and W?
Is word stress important?
It was an interesting journey and I slowly built up a wealth of knowledge and resources to help non-English students master English pronunciation in as simple a way as possible.
In future articles, I will focus on specific language learners and common problems and difficulties they face.
What’s Your Niche?
Just because this is my forte and niche doesn’t mean it has to be yours. Whether it be grammar, business English, exam preparation or just general conversation, it’s important to think about where your strengths lie and start to focus on a more channelled aspect of English teaching. This way all your effort towards improvement, advertising and reaching potential students can be more channelled and will ultimately have more success.
Keeping up to date with trends and new policies can be an effective way to choose or change your direction.
For eg. The recent Brexit has made a lot of foreigners in the UK worried about their position. New laws have come in requiring people to have certain levels of English who wish to live, work or study in the UK. Students need to do a SELT to receive a UK student visa. Now might be a good time to focus on IELTS preparation.
English Learners Are On The Increase
There are plenty of English learners and they will start looking for online teachers now if they haven’t already.
Now is a great time to get more students and increase your online business.
– All or nearly all (99-100 %) primary school pupils in Cyprus, Malta, Austria and Spain learnt English as a foreign language in 2017.
– In 2017, 95 % of pupils in upper secondary education in the EU were learning English as a foreign language.