Shanthi Guest Post

How To Get New Students through Blogging

Note: the following is a guest post by Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat…

As online teachers, you are already used to the online world and all that it entails. So, the world of blogging is not going to necessarily be alien to you. Some of you may already be edubloggers, while some of you may be contemplating starting.

In this post, I want to show you why I think blogging is an excellent way of reaching out to learners and acquiring new clients by sharing my blogging experience with you. I also want to show you how to go about starting your blog and engaging your readers.

There are many reasons why teachers blog. So, the first thing you need to do is to:

Ask yourself three questions

Why do I want to blog?

  • Do you want to use your blog as a marketing tool?
  • Do you want to use your blog as a way to develop professionally?
  • Are you looking to create a Personal Learning Network (PLN)?
  • Do you want to share teaching ideas through your blog?
  • Do you want to acquire more clients through it?
  • Do you want to help learners improve their English?

My experience: I started my blog in 2013 with the primary goal of creating and developing my digital footprint as an independent teacher. I needed to acquire new clients, but how was I going to get new clients if they didn’t know anything about me? The only way I could build a reputation of trust and professionalism online was by creating good-quality content for learners. Blogging was the easiest and cheapest way for me to do that.

What do I want to blog about?

  • Do you want to blog about teaching ideas, share lesson plans?
  • Do you want to share learning tips with learners?
  • Do you want to set yourself up as an expert in one skill set like grammar, writing or as a generalist?

In my case: I wanted to write about anything and everything to do with the English Language and English Literature. That could be random musings, my teaching experiences, topical issues and so on.

Who is my audience going to be?

  • Teachers or learners?
  • If learners, adults or teenagers? What levels – all or targeted? Business people?

Me: I decided to focus solely on adult learners both for Business and General English but not exam preparation.

Creating the template

You’ve got the above three questions answered and now it’s time to create the template. Let’s assume you’ve decided your audience is going to be learners. You need to engage your readers whose L1 is not English.

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes: Just as we tell our learners to think of their audience when presenting we need to keep our readers at the forefront of our minds when we write. So,

  • keep your posts brief – long posts are off-putting especially for learners
  • think visually – use pictures, good spacing, colour-code vocabulary and explain what the colours refer to (blue – collocation chunks; red – phrasal verbs)
  • keep your explanations short and simple- if you don’t understand them, no one else will!
  • use plenty of examples that are easy to understand and visually clear especially grammar posts

Variety is the spice of life

Write about a variety of topics such as grammar, literature, listening skills, idioms, learning tips, current events, topical issues – basically anything and everything, well almost everything! You might want to steer away from PARSNIPS.

Variety makes your posts and, therefore, your blog more engaging and interesting.

Language is everywhere

So make sure you show your learners where to find it. It could be in jokes, films, videos, a caption, while out shopping, jogging, at the gym.

Think of a topic and explore the language that emanates from it. It could be while you’re doing your tax return and think of sharing vocabulary related to taxes or you’re at the hairdressers’ and decide to share that experience and vocabulary with your readers.

Use a conversational style with your readers so they can experience how the language flows seamlessly.

Make it real; make it resonate.

Share your personal experiences; by doing so you allow your readers to see the real you. I often share my experiences, sometimes painful, with my readers. I use those experiences to highlight language relevant to the topic. For example, I wrote about my father-in-law’s funeral and with that post I shared the vocabulary related to funerals and bereavement. I received comments of condolences from my readers and also thanks for sharing language that is not normally taught in ELT.

Write about real issues. This follows on from the previous point. Learners need this language whether it’s about gardening, tax returns, ethical shopping, books. I tend to avoid politics, religion and sex but I am more than happy to talk about gender equality and human rights. These issues are not found in coursebooks so it’s your chance to be different.

Share your students with your readers

Teaching experiences or a recent lesson make great post subjects. Blog post ideas often get formed while I am teaching a student. For example, I was working on interview skills recently with a client and that prompted me to share our lesson with my readers. It was a huge success (it was even shortlisted for the Teaching English British Council Blog Post Award for October 2015).

Teaching anecdotes, in other words, stories that come out of a lesson can be a great source of inspiration.

Your students’ ideas could be another excellent source. I had one student who told me that she learned a lot from watching Jamie Oliver’s videos and shared what it is she liked about the chef. This triggered a series of three posts on cooking, food preparation and dining.

And finally…..

  • Be yourself – let your personality shine through. Your readers want to find the real person behind your words
  • Engage your readers with humour through words and pictures
  • Let your blog help you discover your creativity, make you a better teacher and reach out to learners everywhere.

I hope these tips are helpful. Thank you for reading and happy blogging!

About Shanthi

Shanthi Cumaraswamy StreatA freelance teacher and blogger, I teach Business and General English to adults online and offline through full immersion courses in the UK and Business English workshops abroad. I use my blog, English with a Twist, to reach out to learners and teachers.

www.englishwithatwist.com

Over to You

What blogging tips can you share?

Leave your comments below!

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2015 Review

2015 in Review – And What I’m Going to Do in 2016

What an amazing year!

If you read on, you’re going to hear all about it…

… because this post will look back at 2015 – what went well and what didn’t – and look forward to 2016.

I do this to see what I have done over the past year and to set new goals for the upcoming year. And you will (hopefully!) get something from this lengthy post too.

To give you some context, here’s a quick recap of my story:

  • In January 2011, I started working full-time on my business, teaching one-to-one English lessons online.
  • In May 2013, I started this blog.
  • In April 2014, I started making video courses for English learners.
  • In August 2014, I released TEOC.
  • And in November 2014, I released The To Fluency Program and rebranded my site for English learners.

In my last review, I wrote down my goals for 2015. Those were:

  • To build bigger and better audiences.
  • To post content on a schedule.
  • To keep building and growing my courses.
  • To automate and outsource.
  • To find a routine.

One thing that I’ve learned is that publically stating what my goals makes me accountable. I also have them written down in various places and remind myself of what I want to achieve and why. This keeps me focused on what matters on a daily basis.

If you’re looking to make the transition into online teaching – or if you are already teaching online – I recommend you go through this process too.

In fact, I’ve created a guide and worksheetto help you with this. It’s a 5-step plan for achieving your goals in 2016. And it’s free…

Click here to download now

2015 in Review (What I’ve Done)

2014 was all about trying new things.

I started giving group lessons, created a course for English learners on WizIQ, launched TEOC, and then launched The To Fluency Program.

Last year, I focused on improving these programs and improving my marketing funnel. Doubling down on what I had already built.

However, there was one big change…

Rebranding (To Fluency) and Starting Again on YouTube

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 12.34.15 PM

Because I rebranded my site for learners, I had to start all over again on YouTube.

Video was at the center of nearly all my content in 2015. I published nearly 100 videos on the TF channel. Subscribers have gone from 0 to 4,000. Total views are now over 150,000. Over 1,000 people have subscribed to my email list directly from YouTube. Not a bad first year.

Halfway through the year, I made a big change: I started uploading videos straight to Facebook. Facebook is a big player in video content now, and they prioritize native video (video uploaded to Facebook) over YouTube links. Users prefer watching a video on Facebook instead of having to go off the site/app.

This means that I am now essentially building an audience through video on both these platforms. Although this means that my YouTube audience isn’t as big as it could be, I prefer it as I can potentially reach more people. It doesn’t affect what I want to focus on: building my audience…

Building a Bigger and Better Audience

This was one of my goals for last year. And the years before that. My main focus is to grow my email list (as stated numerous times on this blog), but also build on other platforms (like YouTube and Facebook).

I’ve done well in this area for both my teaching site and my English-learning site. Email sign-up rates are increasing all the time. My new book for English learners has proved to be very popular (this is free to download, more on this later). And because my audience is increasing elsewhere, more people are joining the email list.

But it’s not just about the number of people. It’s also about the quality of people and what you do with your email list.

If those on your list never have the intention of buying what you offer, you don’t have a business. And if you don’t work your list in the right way, people won’t pay attention. This is the same for social media.

This year, I have been far more active with email. I put people through a welcoming series of emails (automated) that differs depending on what they download. During this automated series, I ask many questions and respond to every email I get.

I have moved email service providers too. Email marketing can get very sophisticated, and because I have two products that are selling well, I can maximize conversions using this new software. I will have a post on this coming in the early part of this year.

New eBook and Audiobook

5SP Premium - Rezied

I wrote a new book this year.

It’s a quick read but it’s proven to be very popular. The book can be downloaded for free, but there is the option to purchase the premium version for $7. This includes the audiobook, a couple of PDF reports, and two video lessons.

This alone isn’t going to make a lot of money.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very pleased with the sales from this.

But the $7 purchase does three things:

  • It shows the value that I can offer in my course – building up desire
  • It makes the first transaction easier (just $7 instead of the $250 for the course).
  • It’s easier to sell to current customers than new ones.

15% of those who buy the audiobook have gone on to take my course. I’m very happy with this figure.

I’ve run experiments advertising the book on Facebook. Sales for the premium version covered the costs – the profit comes from the upsell. I am going to optimize the sales funnel for this and advertise again in early in January.

I’ve Grown My Courses

TEOC

In 2015, I added a lot to both courses. New videos, tutorials, worksheets.

Sales have been great (I hit my goal of making six figures in sales) and I’m getting great feedback and seeing inspiring results.

A big reason for my sales numbers has been down to…

Automation and Scaling Systems

I’m really pleased about this area.

I have automated a lot of what I do and I have started to scale what’s working.

You see, once you have a system that works – I’m talking about a product/lessons and sales funnel – the next stage is to scale it. As I mentioned before, I’ve experimented doing this through Facebook Ads and I’ve reached the stage where I’m getting a great return on this advertising spend.

I did a couple of presentations in 2015 where I said that “Online teachers don’t have a traffic problem, they have a conversion problem.” What I mean is: once you have a sales funnel that works, you can buy traffic.

That’s why your marketing system is vital, whether you offer one-to-one lessons, books, courses, or anything else.

To help me get this point across, I ran a test with an opt-in page for my free book. I changed the headline and nothing else. This roughly doubled conversions.

All things being equal, this one change should have doubled sales.

Always be testing and experimenting. There is always room for improvement.

Content Schedule

My goal was to post articles and videos on a regular basis. For this blog, I posted once a week – taking a couple of breaks of 2-3 weeks. For English learners, I’ve made roughly two videos per week.

This is more than double what I produced in 2014.

For the first three months, I am going to cut back on this slightly, but with something else in mind (see my plan below).

Things I Have Struggled With

My Routine

The biggest struggle for me this year has been trying to get things done on my limited routine. A little context: my wife started teaching at middle school in January. She has to get up at 5:45 AM. On most days, my son wakes up at the same time. Therefore, I have my son from 5:45 AM until I drop him off at daycare at 9:00 AM.

Sometimes – like this morning when he refused to put on clothes for 20 minutes! – I feel exhausted when I come back home to work. I also pick him up at 4:00-4:30 PM and have him for an hour before cooking dinner. This means that my working day is around 6 hours on a good day. I get about four hours in over the weekend. I would LOVE more time, but this is my situation right now.

One benefit of this is that I have a clear separation of work and family time. And because I have limited time, I am focused and get things done. Spending as much time as I do with my son is a blessing.

I have managed to change my routine slightly this week, but I still have limited time to work.

Little Problems

The bigger you grow things, the more problems you face.

My checkout page wasn’t working properly for a couple of months; I’ve received some nasty emails from people who wanted a refund after the deadline is over; there have been countless small things that have gone wrong.

Sometimes, I let these issues affect my mood. Even though I have a very low refund request rate, when someone does ask for a refund, it can affect me. This is the rollercoaster of being an entrepreneur.

However, I know I can do better. I shouldn’t let the small things affect me and just roll with the punches. To be honest, I have done a lot better in this area over the past few months. For example, there was one person who was, well, being a HUGE pain. I decided not to waste time and energy on this situation. Additionally, I’ve had a few trolls this year and they haven’t affected me one bit.

Having problems like this comes with the territory. One change I made was to set up systems so that I deal with things like this at a certain time. This means that a snarky email won’t interrupt an article I am working on.

Hiring

I made a video on this recently. I want – actually, need – to bring others in.

I have made some progress on this, but not enough. I’m stuck between bringing someone in who can do a lot of things and outsourcing certain tasks to specific people.

This has risen to the top of my list in the new year.

Personal Development

My limited schedule has meant that I haven’t taken as many courses / read as many books as I would have liked. This is an important area, summed up perfectly by Jim Rohn: “Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development.”

I feel guilty if I spend part of my day reading or taking a course. This is because it’s taking time away from producing something. However, learning is important if I want to keep growing.

Prioritizing health is also important. When I feel energized, I feel enthusiastic. And enthusiasm is contagious. When I give lessons that are full of energy, my learners respond. I’ve done well in this area, but still want to improve upon it.

Things I Have Learned

Here are a few things that I have learned or have been reinforced in 2015.

  • Spend 80% of time maximizing and scaling what’s working and 20% on new projects.
  • Most online teachers don’t have a traffic problem; they have a conversion problem. Traffic can be bought once a system works.
  • Use social media site natively.
  • Momentum is vital. The first stages are like pushing a rock up a hill. It takes hustle to get things moving. That’s why consistency is key.
  • Once you have momentum, you’ll see the compound effect come into play.
  • Sticking to your values and being honest means you will win over the long-term.
  • You have to enjoy what you do.
  • Working for yourself allows you to grow as a teacher, a marketer, and a person.

Goals for 2016

Here is what I want to achieve in 2016:

  1. Double course sales
  2. Build a team
  3. Grow my email list by 500%

These are big goals but ones that I’m confident of hitting.

At this stage, I don’t have a full year plan for how I am going to achieve these goals. However, I have a plan for the first three months. I will reassess based on where I am at the end of the first quarter.

My projects for the first three months include:

  1. Close enrollment for TFP and then open it again / launch a new course for learners. (This is an experiment to see if opening and closing enrollment for my course is more optimal compared to having it open year-round.)
  2. Outsource tasks that I’ve wanted to outsource for some time.
  3. Fine-tune my current advertising campaigns.
  4. Create high-quality and shareable content. (For the last few months of 2015, I was posting three videos per week for English learners. I’m going to reduce this to two, but create videos that are longer – and a little different to what I have been doing.)

On a personal note, I am making health and fitness a priority this year.

Like I said before, when I eat healthily, exercise, and meditate, I feel energized and enthusiastic about work. I did quite well in 2015, but I wasn’t consistent. I am strategizing on ways to be consistent through the entire year.

(One way I’m doing this is going to the gym with my wife and son. We get to exercise and my son has a lot of fun in the play area. And, as a bonus, I am going to listen to audiobooks / podcasts while I exercise. Birds and stones.)

Most Popular Posts of 2015

Lesson Plan Christmas Shelby

  1. Christmas Lesson Plan (Guest Post by Shelby Fox)
  2. Interview with Teacher Diane
  3. Using Google Drive to Collaborate with Learners

Have a lesson plan that you want to share?

Click here and send me your outline.

Over to You

If you got this far, thank you for reading!

I also want to thank you for being part of this blog. I’m very grateful to have you here.

Now it’s your turn. How was your 2015 and what are your goals for 2016?

Leave your comments below!

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If you're curious about online teaching, get my free video series on how you can get started. Click the button and enter your details to get instant access to video 1!

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