Defining, Refining and Choosing Your English Teaching Niche: Two Questions to Ask

This post will greatly help you if you already have a teaching niche idea or if you are stuck trying to find one. Even if you are planning on offering generic English lessons, I’m sure that the following information will help you think about how you are going to offer your lessons, and how you are going to find students.

There are two questions that you definitely should ask before getting started. Doing this will help you define your niche and will go a long way to helping you avoid making the same mistakes that I (and many others) did when starting out.

The most important questions to ask before starting

1. Can and Will They Pay?

You can have the best website in the world, the best teaching methods, and the best promotional campaign, but without students who both have the ability and willingness to pay, you’ve basically got nothing.

This may seem simple, but I’ve seen English teaching websites come and go because this initial question wasn’t asked. One site built its whole brand around the keywords (what you type into a Google search), “English speaking course.” This is a term with over 12,000 searches in Google per month.

At first, this seems like it may seem that this keyword is golden. It is targeted towards English lessons and it has a high search quantity. But, when you delve deeper, from those 12,000, over 10,000 come from India and Pakistan.

This is such valuable information because the vast majority of people from these two countries don’t have the necessary credit/debit card to be able to pay online. In fact, Paypal isn’t available in Pakistan at all. Also, most people who are reading this will want to charge much more than the average person from these two countries can afford.

When answering this question, don’t just focus on the country potential students come from. A student’s ability to pay isn’t just limited to geographical demographics (more on this below).

2. Am I going to enjoy teaching this group?

I won’t include any examples here as I don’t want this discussion to be about stereotypes, but I’m sure that you will all agree that certain students are much more enjoyable than others.

A lot of the time, this isn’t determined by nationality (from my experience anyway). But, there are certain types of students that are highly motivated, dedicated, and don’t cause any problems. And on the other end of the spectrum, there the kind of students who cause a whole variety of problems.

You don’t want to start with a new niche and find out later that you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing. Loving what you do really important in general, but even more so when teaching.

Those are the two questions to ask. Now let’s take a look at finding out exactly how we can define our niche and how we can find better answers.

Defining our niche: how to answer these questions with two more questions

What turns my niche on?

What makes your audience tick? What do they like? What turns them off? Are they motivated? Are they potentially good students? What are their values?

These are are questions related to what is called, “Psychographics.” This is important because you need to know who your audience is before you decide to go ahead with your niche, and when you do decide, you’ll need to know what resonates with them (remember this when you start marketing to your niche).

Knowing the psychographics of your niche will greatly help you know whether you are going to enjoy taking lessons with this niche and whether your student is able and willing to pay.

Who is my niche?

This is less sexy than question two, but equally as important. Demographics will play a large role in deciding our niche. Here are some variables to think about:

  • Age
  • Nationality
  • Current location
  • Job
  • Wage
  • Sex

A note on the last variable: If you are a female teacher, you will find it impossible to get male students in certain countries, and vice versa.

Defining your niche through demographics is especially important when doing the research on whether your niche will be able and willing to pay.

(Re)Choosing Your Niche

If your original idea now seems dead in the water – Good! I hope that I have saved you from going into something that won’t work out in the long term. If this is you, or if you haven’t decided on a niche as yet, then don’t worry, there is something that you can do to help you find the perfect niche for you.

(Note: Look at what you enjoy teaching and what you have experience in first. In most cases you can offer something quite general, but then target specific students within that general category).

Firstly, think about your perfect type of student (psychographics). Next, think about what type of students are willing to pay you what you you want to charge (demographics and psychographics). List the traits, countries, jobs, etc. that define this super student.

Once you have done this, think about how you can best target this person. What type of lessons could you offer this group of students, and how can you word your website so that your message resonates with them?

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  • Emine Sharma

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you creating this blog. I’m a teacher in Detroit, but I’m interested in teaching online. I really like the idea of being able to get creativity, managing my own time, and not having to deal with unrealistic bureaucracy.

    Quick Question – I’m sure you’ve heard of Duolingo. Do you find the site to be competition? If so, how do you market yourself to be better? Do you use it in any way to be a supplemental tool with your students?

    • Hello Emine. Sorry I missed this comment the first time (I know we have spoken since then).

      Duolingo is really popular, and in my opinion, is no competition for English teachers. We have to find creative ways to implement tools like this into our overall teaching.

  • rebecca lacroix

    Hi Jack
    great Blog. very informative and motivating. I have been looking for some helpful clear information on online teaching and am really happy to have stumbled upon your blog.
    Thanks 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment Rebecca. It’s great to have you here!

  • Olga Tyumicova

    Hello, Jack
    Thank you for your article, very useful. Have defined at least 5 niches.

    • Thanks Olga. Feel free to send these over by email and I’ll give you my feedback.

  • Caroline Knudson

    Hi Jack,

    I think I may be a bit behind but I’m very interested in starting my own online school. I’ve taught ESL both in Germany (where I’m currently located) and the U.S. I’m wondering…can children be a good market for online teaching? I really enjoy teaching children the most and that would most likely be my niche market but it seems it would be very difficult to motivate them. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks so much!

    Caroline