“Say, what?” You mean I can’t just be teaching but I have to devise some sort of a strategy? You mean students may not exactly be running to me for lessons? You mean I have to create a “sales funnel” of sorts? So now I have to find time for this email marketing?


Last week I ran a 2-day #GetStrategy event that launched Express Email List Builder – my course I wish I myself had taken a few years ago. It was an intense, 2-hour training to help online teachers move away from the exhausting, non-stop 1:1 teaching to a smarter way to teach online by setting up their long-term strategy.


If you’re an online teacher and you didn’t get a chance to watch these sessions, keep reading – there’s a lot of useful information packed into this post and a chance to purchase this 2-hour training + the powerful practical exercise below.


First things first.


During my #GetStrategy webinar I focused on 4 very important areas that get neglected while people are rushing to start making money online. If you begin your business by focusing on them first you will find yourself working much smarter and not getting yourself into the grave by teaching 5-7 hours a day. I’ve been there, and I know it’s not a walk in the park. So here’re the 4 things you need to focus on if you want to design a smart online-teaching strategy:


  1. Choose your niche.
  2. Create content that’s related to your niche.
  3. Build your sales funnel.
  4. Grow your list.


As a follow-up to my #GetStrategy training participants received a hands-on exercise where they had to choose their niche, create content, grow their list and sell their content to their subscribers.


The participants that sent me their assignments for review are now enrolled in the Express Email List Builder course, and all of them have already chosen the niche. If the niche hadn’t been chosen I gave an example (build a sales funnel to sell your Grammar course).


Let’s look at the actual exercise together and then I will show you some of my participants’ answers (most details have been changed to protect their ideas) and focus on some common mistakes that online teachers make when they begin building their strategy. Most importantly, I’ll talk about how these mistakes can be fixed and give some examples to illustrate my point.


Finding your niche


Niche finding is the key.


Everything starts from it, and that’s not an easy process. In my second #GetStrategy seminar I gave an example of starting out a few years ago with this idea in my mind (very common for all online teachers who don’t think like marketers): the more options I have the better.


As a result I put together a great variety of content: on vocabulary, Grammar, listening, speaking, pronunciation, translation, learning techniques, etc. which didn’t convert. Why?


Let’s say a student is looking for some specific answers to a couple of Grammar questions. They find my blog, read their answer, and they’re excited they found something as helpful as this. Then they look at my next blog post and find content that is on how to learn English words (not exactly what they like doing). Then they find a post on a book I recently read and how helpful it might be for language learners (again, not exactly their thing).


What happens in the end? The person doesn’t stick because what I offer is not what they are interested in. They want more Grammar content, but they can’t find much of it because my posts are on a number of topics, and I’m busy writing everything for everybody else hoping to reach the few that I need.


I know this first hand, and that is the reason so much of my precious, valuable content isn’t bringing me clients or even free subscribers because my blog is about everything. I have 30,000+ views a month on that blog (5 times more than this one), and I make $0 out of it and very few subscribers (!).


So if you’re an online teacher think about your niche. Here’s one example from the assignment above where I had to help the person narrow down their niche:


I want to teach fluency – that’s my niche. Great. But you know what? It’s a bit too broad. Everybody and their brother are teaching fluency and the concept needs to be narrowed down.


If you teach French fluency (for instance), what is one most important problem that you enjoy helping your students solve?


Is it fluent skills for traveling to the target country (and being able to deal with all the emergencies without worrying about how to say that)?


Is it fluency to impress their future employer? That would be fluent Business English skills, but even that’s too broad.


Do you want to teach fluency skills for an interview or for business negotiations?


Do you want people to speak fluently for their interview at the Embassy before they go abroad?


Do you want to teach French fluency to American chefs who want to move to France and open a new restaurant there?


Hand-in-hand with niche-finding goes the concept of targeting a specific audience. A typical answer that I get from these exercises is this, “I want people to learn this Grammar concept so they can do ….” My next question is – what “people” are you talking about?


After we decide on the niche it’s important to target a specific group of people. Who are you most comfortable working with? Who has brought you the most money? See where the two answers overlap and choose your target audience.


It’s common to say I want to work with business people, but business people in their 30s are different from the business people in their 60s. Female and men. Working-from-home and working for big corporations. Travelers and homebodies.


So focus on your niche and then target a specific group of people.


Smart Kit image (a downloadable guide)


Design your content


Content building, aka content marketing.


People will fall in love with your content if it’s narrow focused. You will attract the right kind of people, and they will stick with you – why? – because nobody else is offering what you’re offering.


Niche-finding  and “client-profiling” helps with the agonizing headache of writing blog posts. I remember when I was writing everything for everybody I had this haunting feeling every week when it was about time for me to write my new blog post, “WHAT am I going to write?”


Now the only thing I think about is what do I want this post to accomplish? How does this post fit into my overall strategy? How will this post help my targeted audience?


Great content building follows a ruthless process of niche-finding, fine-tuning and zeroing-in on a specific audience. The narrowing down process takes time, and with the time you will discover that what you thought yesterday was a great niche now is too wide and needs to be narrowed down.


Content is important because if you write it well you can later monetize it by putting it together into e-books or even courses.


In my #GetStrategy exercise (again, see the image above) I ask people to come up with 7 blog posts, and the process is pretty tough. Usually what happens is people write about very generic things, for instance (let’s say the niche is using English tenses correctly):

  1. How to use Present tenses.
  2. How to use Past tenses.
  3. How to use Future tenses.
  4. How to use Perfect tenses, etc.


If you’re honest with yourself and if you’ve searched google for these topics at least once, you will know that this type of content is all over the place, and it’s no longer new. How can you make it more “alive?”


This is where you need to think about your target audience. If you’re working with College students who are learning English to be a star at a medical University in the UK here’s how you can change the focus of topics:


  1. Five ways successful medical students in the UK use Present Tenses in their papers.
  2. Past tenses: Fix these major mistakes that can cost your patients their lives.
  3. Future tenses: 5 Ways to talk about your future career as a doctor in the UK.
  4. Perfect tenses: Talk about your accomplishments during your interview at a UK hospital.



Obviously, I’m coming up with these topics on the spot to illustrate my point. What you should learn from this is how you can spice up common topics to target your specific audience in your own niche. 


Want to learn how #email can help you sell your #online #products and #courses? Check out this step-by-step guide for #online #teachersClick To Tweet


Ready to learn more about building an online teaching business on your own terms? Check out my book


Opted out book and journal image (click to learn more and buy)


Build your Sales Funnel


Now is the most important step. If you did your homework and thought through your niche and your content, sales funnel strategy is going to be a piece of cake. Obviously, you’ll have to be very flexible and change or tweak things as you go, but building a successful sales funnel in your niche for your audience and using your content is going to be much easier than trying to pull 50 posts on all different topics hoping to make some money off of it.


Sales funnel starts with converting your visitors into your subscribers. This may not look like a big step to you, but it’s a huge step for your audience. They just happened to find your content somewhere online, and now they are reading and loving it. Are you inviting them to get more of this content?


Most of the time teachers think that the best invitation to “convert” their visitors is by offering them a free trial lesson, which doesn’t always work. There’re various reasons why it doesn’t happen – just watch this short fragment from my #GetStrategy training to learn more about incentives to convert your visitors and then selling your online lessons through it (or whatever your other goal might be).


Grow your list


After you have narrowed down your niche, chosen your audience, started writing your content and built your sales funnel it’s time to think about growing your list. In fact, once you begin posting your content it’s important that you have your sign-up/opt-in forms in place.


There’re various ways to grow your list, and if you want to learn more tips and tricks I invite you to check out my free email course.


One of the (relatively) easy ways to do it is to run events together with other online teachers. That gives you twice as much exposure and divides your work in half. While collaborations may or may not work for you, I invite you to consider it as a possibility, especially if you do it right.


Here’re some things I’ve learned that you might find useful (based on the feedback I got from the exercise, but also on my personal experience):


1. Do your homework and find the people you would like to work with. Create a list.


2. Writing to people on Facebook forums saying, “Hey! I’m working on this project – would you like to collaborate?” isn’t professional and frankly is a waste of time and energy. If you’re offering collaboration do your homework and pitch the people you want to work with. If somebody else posts their “let’s collaborate” post on the forum leave it alone. Most likely the person doesn’t know what they’re doing, and it’s a time-waster.


3. Establish some kind of a relationship with the people you want to pitch in the future. If you like their content – be their fan and share what they’re doing (obviously, it all has to be sincere and work for your audience as well). Write to them and let them know that you really appreciate their work. Then pitch.


4. When you think of doing a webinar with somebody think how both of you can be involved and how you can benefit from each other. Also think of what your next step (or steps) is. Do a webinar within your niche. Don’t change your niche just to fit with somebody else, it’s going to be a disaster (please trust me on this one). Position yourself as an expert in your area. 


5. Next step(s). I’ve seen so many webinars where people just say, “Hey, let’s get together just to talk and discuss some issues about English grammar.” While this is quite a common way to conduct a webinar,  let’s just say that some people might be too busy to talk aimlessly for an hour (unless you’re not, then please never mind my babbling and keep doing what you’re doing).


If you want to monetize your webinar you need to think what you want to sell. Create a bundle that includes both of your offers and sell it. Create another magnet with an automation to follow.


6. Don’t forget why you’re running the webinar. One of the mistakes I’ve made and I see other teachers make consistently is wait until the last moment to offer that big/small thing that you want to sell. You wait until the last minute, and by then a lot of people have lost any interest in what you offer. So talk about why you are doing this webinar in the beginning, in the middle and at the end of your presentation. Come up with different ways to emphasize your offer. 


This is just one strategy to grow your list, but even if you employ it you should think a few steps ahead of yourself, even if the steps are small and (seem) insignificant.


If you’re serious about your strategy, email marketing, sales funnels, email list building I invite you to sign up below to get more email marketing savvy.


Please let me know what your questions are, and I would love to help you. As always, thank you for reading this post and if you find it useful please share with your colleagues! If you just stopped by and enjoyed reading – thank you for your time!


The post was updated in April, 2021.


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