Dana teaches Italian online. But so does Erika. And Chiara. And Aurora. And Sofia. And Greta. And Federico. And Gabriele. And Lorenzo. And Alessandro.
All of them have Instagram accounts called @ItalianWith________ (insert a name).
All of them hate Grammar, textbooks, traditional teaching methods, stifling memorization.
All of them are patient, motivational, and passionate about their subject. They explain Italian in simple language. They focus on speaking. They know what their clients “really need.” They use the topics that their students “really love.” They use movies.
These teachers incorporated the three magic Italian flag colors to make sure their clients remember them on Instagram. They post helpful and entertaining information.
And yet…none of these amazing teachers gets any traction online. They’re frustrated and desperate. This online teaching business sure is a pain. How can they stand out online, create radiant brands and attract their ideal clients?
Relying on word of mouth, while useful, isn’t sustainable in the long run. In the end, the referrals dry out and the online students who found them through Instagram never materialize.
Will they ever be able to gain any traction? Sell online courses? VIP coaching? Retreats? What should they do? YouTube? Blog? Facebook ads?
Who cares if there’s another Italian teacher when Dana, Erika, Chiara, Aurora, Sofia, Greta, Federico, Gabriele, Lorenzo and Alessandro are already doing all this much better than me?
If you’re in a similar place, especially when it comes to social media, you will find this post useful. I will share with you how even small people can create brands that stand out and become memorable.
Solution #1: Look at your past.
I don’t mean the universities and continued professional development courses. There is something in your past that made you choose the kind of work you’re doing and something that keeps you going (I bet you it’s not your diploma with honors, huh?).
You may wonder what your immigrant childhood, your work at the Arts museum, your backpacking through Europe, your struggles to communicate without stuttering and even your disease can do for your brand.
But when you dig deeper you will find that precious jewel that no “language tips” can give to your client.
The jewel is called empathy. If you talk about your life as an immigrant, you will find fans among immigrants whom you want to teach. If you’ve done backpacking through Europe and discovered something unique along the way, use that. If you’ve struggled with speaking because of stuttering and anxiety, share it.
Your past is rich with experiences that people can relate to. Use it.
Your radiance doesn’t come from being a little different from someone else. Your radiance comes from being who you are.Click To Tweet
Solution #2: Show where you live.
You may not live in the country where the language you teach is spoken. But you can always use the pictures of where you live to draw parallels, make connections and talk about your memories. Mundane places that we see every day are new and exciting to your audience.
Share pictures of nature, write about your local events, and don’t be afraid to bring people into a tiny corner of your world. It’s unique and powerful.
Want to learn more about how to make your business remarkable? Check out my new mini-course:
Solution #3: Explore your cultural heritage.
As teachers of language we have no excuse not to talk about cultures when we teach languages. Consider these ideas:
- Are there expressions in one language that don’t translate directly into another? Can you elaborate why? (e.g. the Russian language doesn’t have a word for privacy or identity. Is there a reason for that?)
- Are there foods/food expressions that communicate something about the people, their lives and values?
- How are people of one country different when it comes to their relationships with pets, money, cars, trash, etc.
- How have you seen your own culture (or your new culture) remind you of another culture?
- Share the new words/expressions in the language you’re teaching and elaborate why they are popular and how that connects to our lifestyles.
Solution #4: Share what you’re learning.
Make learning your priority, and you will acquire a special empathy for your client who says he/she doesn’t have the time to learn.
You’ll know what it’s like to carve out time for things that are important, to make room for meditation, mindfulness, interacting with others, or reading in another language. You’ll understand your client’s struggle better and can relate to it as a sojourner with empathy, which is more effective than a patronizing tone of “we all need to learn stuff.”
Instead of teaching your audience a new tip, strategy or idea, share with them what you have learned in your studies, how learning has changed you. Inspire them to make room for learning. When they do, they will hire you.
Solution #5: Talk about your leisure activities.
“But what if I have no time for leisure? What if I work all the time?” I’m sure you’ve heard your client say this as well.
While you can’t really change your client, starting with yourself and documenting your journey, sharing your small leisure activities (even the “common ones” like reading, doodling, journaling, walking) will inspire people to change something about their lives.
Why would people be compelled to hire you when you choose to share more of your leisure activities? — Because when you connect online remember that you’re connecting with people, not just learning robots. Even language nerds sometimes need to sleep, eat, read, drink and do things that pull them away from textbooks.
Share what you do outside of teaching a language and you will see a lot more engagement with your audience.
Creating a radiant brand is possible by looking inside. You might be tempted to scroll through your feed or read all the blogs to make sure you’re not like others, but in the end your radiance doesn’t come from being a little different from someone else.
You radiance comes from being who you are.
The more thought you put into mining and discovering what makes you unique, the more radiant your brand will be online, the more traction you’ll get with your community and the greater impact your message will make.
Try out these tips for a few months then come back and share what has changed.
The post was updated in February 2022.
Hi Elena, this article was exactly what I needed to read at this point of my journey. Thank you 🙂
Great to hear it, Barbora! Thanks for reading!
Hey Elena. I agree that you definitely need to share more of yourself online to stand out. But where does niche come into all this? Because if personality is enough to stand out, then it would suggest niche doesn’t matter.
If you look on YouTube, this seems to be what happens. A bunch of people do a video on “10 words you’re mispronouncing” but one is funny, one is dressed like Mr Bean, another one is sexy etc. They’re not niched, but they all have different brand personalities.
If all the Italian teachers in your example have a similar brand, can they not also stand out through niching? Maybe Italian isn’t the best example, because it’s a smaller market. But aren’t niche and core message the two pillars to build your brand on, along with personality? Because if personality were enough, then we could all preach the same thing and just differentiate ourselves slightly with different hobbies etc.
I hope this makes sense. I just feel like relying on personality will make some people believe that they don’t need to bother with niching. Do you see what I’m getting at?
Hey Cara! I wrote this on assumption that people already have figured out their niche, client and core message. Without those “basic” things these strategies won’t work. But think about it (though you don’t have social media so it’s a bit different): so many people decide they want to “focus on movies” as a part of their niche. Maybe even your niche — teaching expats to listen so they can integrate better. Well you can do words of the day, phrases of the day, movie clips as part of your social media or you can talk about how each part of content applies to you, connects you and your ideal client. Of course for that one has to know the audience and the niche, but even knowing what you want to do doesn’t always make you stand out or prevent you from stamping out content that looks like everyone else’s.
I totally agree with you! I think that clients do not only look for the “content” they need, They also look for the right person who helps them learn and enjoy the process! Instead of copying from other colleages. I think that we just have to be ourselves!
Right, and finding who we are is a long process, so we should be realistic that this isn’t just a quick-fix solution. There will be lots of trial and error 😉