In the very beginning an online teacherpreneur experiences overwhelm and overwork that comes from lack of clarity and focus. I believe knowing what’s ahead is the best way to reduce stress and anxiety and cut through the noise. This post will help you with that.
If you’re only beginning on the path of an online teacherpreneur, you’re probably asking yourself a series of very predictable questions:
- How am I going to recruit students?
- What kind of a blog/website do I want to have?
- How can I promote myself in huge market where it’s easy to get lost?
- What can I offer that will actually sell?
- How can I get momentum and keep adding to the number of students I already have to reach my financial goals?
Once you’ve worked for some time and have actually felt the excitement of recruiting new students, teaching them, getting positive reviews and more referrals you find yourself overworked.
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You’ve got to teach and do the marketing, you need to write materials and some blog posts, you should do a lot of social networking and even advertising.
And that is on top of lessons preparation, some basic book-keeping, and other organizational matters. Then you reach a point where you ask yourself: what’s next?
- Should I now hire somebody else?
- Should I continue working like I have been working?
- Should I raise my fees?
- Should I provide more VIP services so I could work a bit less to free up some time for more professional development, for instance?
It may feel a bit daunting, but it’s actually a good problem to have because it shows that you’re growing.
So my today’s post is just about that: the first 2 stages (out of 4) of your online venture development – what to expect and what to do so that you don’t feel like you’re pointlessly spinning your wheels.
I’m basing all of these findings on my own teacherpreneurial experience and a number of great books I have read/online courses I have attended that have helped me not to give up when it felt like work was absolutely overwhelming, and finding some “conventional job” that didn’t require wearing 5-10 hats sounded appealing.
1st stage: a sole online language trainer
Your general work description (or to-do list, rather) has the following major points:
- Recruit private students to work via skype or any other medium (Zoom*, for instance).
- Teach them for a certain period of time.
- Develop programs for them (customized programs since perhaps you’re working in a 1-to-1 setting).
- Encourage referrals and bring in more students to teach.
- Develop different packages to suit every student.
- Set up a 3-page blog/website: about you, what you offer, how to contact you.
- GOAL: Create a sustainable clientele (25 people: 12-15 of current students, 12-15 students whom you have taught or given a few seminars).
At this stage you’re probably offering a competitive (or slightly lower) price in exchange for a more valuable asset: your students and your reputation.
Set yourself a goal of adjusting the price as soon as you reach your first goal: recruit 10-12 students who are happy and cannot keep themselves from telling the rest of the world how great you are.
Your efforts at this stage must be focused on keeping your clientele satisfied and delivering results (add free lessons here and there, create interesting and engaging materials, choose the materials in accordance with the students needs and likes), and on getting more referrals.
Before you focus on referrals though you need to find your first client, and this is hard work, but it will eventually pay off. Just today I read this short article listing some good points on how to find new clients and then encourage referrals – do read and implement these tips.
Try to make it easier for your students to send their friends your way: offer 1 30-minute lesson in exchange for 1 student they bring, give a larger one-time discount; if you’re into graphics design, create a cute-looking e-gift certificate that they can pass on to their friends via email, post it on Facebook and/or other social networks.
As soon as you get a student find ways to encourage them to refer their friends to you! In my experience the students that come through a referral have a 95% chance of sticking with you than somebody who just randomly finds your profile on Facebook.
2nd stage: moving forward
Here’s a tentative to-do list.
#1. Raise your prices:
Once you achieve a minimum of 10-12 or perhaps 15 students you know that you can’t be teaching all of them at once and offer them the same kind of quality – and quality is important – so go ahead and adjust your prices).
#2. Start looking for another teacher/co-worker/hire help.
You’ll need someone to help you out when you’re gone or on vacation. You need to keep your business going, so it’s good to begin looking for a partner at this stage.
#3. Teach your students for a specific period of time.
You may work with them for some time, then pass them on to your affiliates. This is a good strategy if you’re a non-native English speaker like myself. Work with your students while the need you and need your common language as a medium, but then once they feel very confident you need to pass them on for more practice without heavy reliance on their mother tongue.
If you’re a coach, you can hire someone to help you with ongoing tasks: on-boarding clients, sending confirmation emails, scheduling people, processing payments, etc. You may also use this time to get your website cleanup (and I know just the right person for that).
#4. Encourage referrals (you still have to keep coming up with creative ways of doing that).
Focus on marketing and your niche-related blogging. The latter means you may need some basic refresher course in writing (I highly recommend Cathy Presland’s course on Becoming a Writer*) or if you used to write a lot at some point, just look over this fantastic presentation on how to write a darn good sentence.
Create an email-marketing campaign: on your website there has to be a sign-up for to allow your readers to get more juicy stuff, discounts, and free materials from you.
The form is linked to an email marketing campaign, and if you want to get your feet wet in email marketing without being overwhelmed, sign up for my free List Growth Digest course. You will love reading her every email, and you will learn more than you will ever need in a language that is understandable to a 5th-grader.
#5. Develop a clientele that keeps growing.
#6. Develop different packages. Format 1-to-1.
Even though you are now working with a large number of students, you will begin noticing some patterns in what they want to achieve and how you can help them.
Don’t give a huge list of what you can potentially offer (although I know this is so tempting, I have to keep myself from offering too many things), but focus on 1-3 things that you do well and deliver them with excellence.
You can later leverage your time by offering other solutions, but for now this is a solid beginning.
These are the first 2 stages of creating and growing your own language learning platform. Where are you in this process? What are your greatest challenges? Do you feel like you’re moving in the right direction? What is holding you back? What other tips can you give (or creative ideas, perhaps) to encourage more referrals and look for clients?
In a few days I’ll write about the 3rd and 4th stages of your online venture. Stay tuned and engage into our conversation!