When you start teaching online your goal is to make money fairly quickly, so you work long hours, trying all kinds of strategies you’ve read about.
The sad part is no matter how hard you try random tactics, they give you very little results because they’re usually out of sequence.
Think about, for instance, how easy would it be for you to cook following this recipe:
- add milk to the mixture.
- pour the mixture into the pan.
- break 3 eggs.
- keep the mixture on the stove for 5 minutes.
- beat the eggs.
- cover the pan with the lid.
- set your stove to medium heat.
- add spices.
- grade the cheese.
- 1 cup of milk.
- half a cup of mushrooms.
- don’t cut the spinach, just tear it.
- mix the eggs with the milk.
This is absurd. Can one really make an omelet using these kinds of directions?
But online teachers do this all the time! I did it for years. Use random, disconnected tricks to build an online business without a basic step-by-step recipe.
What comes out of such chaos are 3 legitimate results that can be avoided with some basic strategic moves.
In this post I will list these 3 expected outcomes, give a short description for each and provide a quick solution.
So when you start teaching online here’s how you feel:
- You are overwhelmed.
- You are overworked.
- You are stuck.
You start teaching online and you feel overwhelmed.
The overwhelm happens because
- You read too much and then try to apply all at once.
- You want to do everything and succeed yesterday.
- You compare yourself to others and think that they’re so much better.
- You buy several courses at a time, each giving you too much information.
- You (a teacher who rarely did anything else) suddenly need to become an expert in everything, starting from website design to marketing.
Going back to an example I used in my earlier posts, it’s like learning something from a person who doesn’t understand what they’re teaching you. Remember those snobbish professors at Colleges? They knew so much, they felt it was a waste of time to make explanations easy.
So they would spend 15 minutes answering a basic question, and at the end of the explanation you would still not be clear.
When you start teaching online you’re in the same situation. Because no matter how many “gurus” you follow, the truth is… are you ready for this?…
You are your own teacher. You may follow 10 brand strategists, but ultimately you make your own decisions when it comes to your brand (or your niche, or your marketing, or your web design). And since you have 0 experience in any of the above, you become that teacher who doesn’t know the answers to any of your own questions.
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You start teaching online and you feel overworked.
The overwork happens because
- You don’t know your uniqueness, so you just offer lower prices (and have lots of students).
- You can’t say “no” to potential clients.
- You try to work in your business and on your business (create content, do marketing) – all at the same time.
- You can’t afford a break, so you work all year long.
- You’re stretching yourself too thin trying to cover “all your bases online.”
I’m writing “you,” but I’m including my early teacherpreneurial stage in this description, too. It’s hard to find that balance because you “have to do what you have to do” (i.e. pay the bills), but you also have to think ahead and make decisions that will impact your bank account 5 months from now, not just now.
The cheap private lessons model doesn’t allow for this to happen because there’s just too much pressure from everywhere. You may start by raising your prices, figuring out your niche and getting deeper instead of “wider,” especially when it comes to creating content.
Practically speaking, if you do podcasts, just do podcasts, don’t try to create videos and write books and run a live TV show all at once. You may be able to do it in the future when you are able to hire somebody to help you. At the early stages, trying to have a wide reach, can be detrimental to your brand (and health!).
You start teaching online and you feel stuck.
You feel stuck because
- You’re overwhelmed and overworked.
- You have so much information in your head you don’t know what to do next.
- You try out another strategy, but you can’t follow through because you’re too busy. So, no results.
- You’ve tried too many things that don’t seem to be working.
- You may have launched a course/program/product and nobody bought anything.
Years into this going back-and-forth, from private lessons, to hiring, to managing, to invoicing, to keeping it going, to losing it all I knew I had to change something.
The first change: I had to quit being my own teacher and had to allow somebody else to teach me.
Being a teacher myself I would get frustrated when students wouldn’t listen to my recommendation but would “find their own activities” to teach themselves English. Then they would blame me for not helping them achieve their goals.
So why would it be different for my business? Why did I have to listen to my own whim in my business and not allow somebody else to teach me?
The main reason was simple: I was tired of trying out new methods that didn’t work. So my first challenge was to find a short program that taught me one thing without overwhelming me.
So I looked for short and quick wins as opposed to full-blown programs that answered every question. If a teacher could teach me something that I could easily implement, I would learn from them.
Notice the big change from trying to learn everything to cutting out all the overwhelm and deciding a) to learn something from somebody else other than myself, b) to learn just one thing, c) to learn and implement.
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The post was updated in April, 2021.
Great post Elena. I really think you hit the nail on the head here, and it goes back to the point that we’re teachers by profession, not marketers or salespeople.
Breaking out of the teacher focused mindset is not an easy thing to do – especially when all you want to do is help people.
You’ve really addressed one (of the two – I think?) barriers which block online teachers from succeeding: feeling overwhelmed.
The advice, learn one thing at a time and focus on implementing it, has earned people a lot of money!
Thanks for sharing!
Sam, it’s so helpful to hear feedback from other online teachers who’re a bit farther along the road and can tell the world, “Yes, this is true!” I appreciate your input.
So clear and leading straight to the point!
Alone form this post, teachers can learn so much: becoming leaner, better structured and creating a logical structure for their students leading them to success and moving their business in the right direction.
You are a great inspiration, Lena!
Sending you love,
Dilyana, thanks so much for your inspiration, too! All the best to you 🙂
I’ve come to the same realization recently. I’m looking forward to learning with you on the 5th!
Gordon, that’s so true, isn’t it? But until people realize that they need a bit more guidance they will continue teaching themselves and not getting anywhere. Looking forward to “seeing” you there!
Hi……very interesting……I’m already overwhelmed abd I haven’t even started!……two things you accidentally wrote October 30th i stead of September 30th….and how much will the session cost? Thanks…
Hey Liz! There’s something about me and the dates that just doesn’t go well together 🙂 The deadline to sign up is September 30, and I’ve just made the changes and added an extra link for your convenience. I hope you can make it! Thank you!
Describes my situation very well. Overwhelmed and stuck. A bit overworked, too but I raised two kids on my own while working full-time and in shifts, so it’s difficult to make me feel really overworked. I would like to participate but I already have a lesson scheduled at that time. You wrote that there will be a recording. Would that be enough? And to what extent is the content aimed at ESL teachers? I teach German, not English.
The recording will be good enough. That and the workbook. I understand that not everyone can make it at that time, some people will not be able to make it at any time that’s good for me because they live in Australia and New Zealand, hence the recording is provided for them. You can send your questions before or after the event, and I will respond to them. Plus you’ll have the workbook, and that’s valuable. As for the ESL vs German, I don’t think this actually applies. I will use English as an example because that’s what I teach (and I can’t really talk about anything else), but I will give pointers to people who might teach other languages or even subjects. I hope you can make it!
Elena always gives far more than you expect and while some bits may not be applicable to other subjects, they will apply to ALL language teachers!