Put Yourself Out There

Why You Should Put Yourself Out There as an Online Teacher (And How to Overcome this Fear)

 

Put Yourself Out There

Are you nervous about putting yourself out there as an online teacher?

If so, you’re not alone.

I speak to a lot of English teachers who want to move online, but fear is holding them back.

I know how inhibiting this can be: it affected me for a long time. In certain ways, it still does. It’s scary creating something that is centered on you, especially when it has the potential for the whole world to see and judge.

Overcoming this fear is important; if you want learners to take lessons with you online, you’ll need to put yourself out there.

Learners want to be able to connect with their teacher before signing up to lessons or courses, and the best way to do this through your words, pictures, and videos.

I’m going to have some advice for you if you are apprehensive about all of this, but before I do, I want to quickly share my story.

My Battle With This and How to Overcome Fear

I’ve gone from someone who was really apprehensive about posting a photo on my site – you couldn’t really see my face on the first photo that I posted – to someone who now creates videos and does live webinars.

Looking back, getting started was scary. I was nervous about what people would say about my pictures, my voice, and my content.

It took me a long time before I made videos, started an email list, and really got things going. I think the following explains why:

– I was worried that my content wouldn’t be good enough
– I was worried about what my old friends would say if they saw my videos
– I was scared of it all failing
– I hated hearing my own voice
– I was worried about trolls

However, I managed to slowly overcome these fears, and now I want to share my experience and some advice for you if you are apprehensive about moving online.

What to Do to Overcome These Fears

I’ve been asking teachers in my recent interviews if they felt nervous when first putting themselves out there.

If you have watched these interviews, you will know that all the successful teachers that I have talked to were apprehensive when first starting out, especially when it came to posting videos.

They had the same concerns as I did. But what did they (and I) do?

They wrote their first post/created their first video/recorded their first podcast for those who they wanted to serve, and built on this initial post.

Baby Steps and Improving Over the Long-Term

Something that I think is really important to know is this: your first homepage/article/video is not going to be perfect. It takes time to find your voice and make something that people enjoy and derive value from.

But keep in mind the following:

– You don’t need to publish your first draft
– You can get feedback from others to help you improve on what you have
– You’re going to get better if you keep doing it

When I created my first video for English learners, it took about ten takes for me to be content with it. My website for English learners has gone through about 12 redesigns. I have edited/proofread this post on five separate occasions.

You are going to get better, and it will all get easier, but you still have to start.

If you’re really nervous about publishing that first post, send it privately to a few learners first and get the validation you need to share it publicly.

Putting Ideas Out There

I was a little nervous about starting this blog as I was talking about something that no one else was at the time. Putting ideas out there is scary too, especially if what you’re talking about can be divisive (input vs output in language learning, vegan vs paleo, religion etc.).

In my opinion, it’s all about gaining the confidence that your ideas and materials for English learners are going to help others. And the more you teach, write, and do, the more you will have to say, and the more you will improve.

Focusing on one area of English (IELTS, pronunciation etc.) will help you create things that others are going to really like. You will become an expert in this area, and therefore, the articles on your website, your videos etc. will be of higher quality.

Another concern that I’ve heard from other teachers, and something that I definitely felt, is when you see what is already out there, you might think that your materials won’t be beneficial. Making comparisons can be paralyzing.

But what you offer is unique, especially if you have one area of English that you enjoy teaching. The right mentality to have is to think about the problems your learners have and solve them. Don’t worry about what others are doing and how your materials compare, especially at the beginning.

If you dedicate yourself to this, then you will soon have valuable and unique content to share.

Dealing with Trolls and Criticism

I was really worried that I would receive a lot of comments from others who just want to be negative.

This hasn’t happened that often (there is one guy who uses has troll in his usernames and turns up every six months or so), and when it does, it’s not that much of a big deal. Sometimes, it can affect you, but this feeling doesn’t last long.

One of the best things about your site, YouTube Channel, and social media profiles is that you can delete comments and ban users. That is what I do now if someone is trolling: I delete it, ban them, and move on.

It’s very easy to get sucked into what they ultimately want you to do: feed them. This happened last week, actually. A guy emailed me with a bunch of abuse. I responded to his first email in a very brief way (mistake), he replied with an essay of attacks, and I was into my second paragraph when realized what I was doing was a mistake. I discarded the draft and moved on.

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is different. It’s great to get feedback from others, and I encourage you to ask for it. I ask my learners what posts they like, what posts they don’t like, and how I can better help them, and this feedback is invaluable.

Fear of Failure and Committing to Success

Something else we all have an issue with is fear of failure.

I’ve talked to a lot of teachers inside TEOC and over email, and fear of failure is holding a lot of people back. The thought of investing yourself in something like creating a site for your English lessons, making videos or even a course, and then for you and everyone else to see it flop, can put you off starting.

One thing that I’ve been working on in this area is to see everything as a learning experience to detach myself from the results.

It’s easier said than done, but the idea is this: if you commit to making a success out of teaching English online, work through the obstacles that are put in front of you, and are willing to learn and pivot as you go, then you will get there.

If your first website doesn’t work, make it better. If your first video is terrible, rerecord it. If your student doesn’t show to the trial lesson, email them and do something to find other learners.

Success isn’t based on your first attempt – you may get it right early on – but on committing to this for the long-term. It’s beautiful seeing someone embark on the journey and making improvements over the weeks, months, and years.

Over to You

This post is based on my experiences and conversations with online teachers and online teachers to be. And as you will have picked up, the main theme running throughout this article is to get started, focus on your learners, and improve the content you produce as you go.

What I want to know is if you are nervous about putting yourself out there, and if so, why? Also, if you have overcome this fear, please share your story.

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  • Bob Lejkowski

    I have started putting my face online – my real face on vk, youtube and facebook and need to pluck up the courage to do my first real video. I have put out about 6 videos on youtube using powtoons (The free version!)

    As you suggest it is better to do little steps and see where it goes. If I don’t like my photo I can always change it later.

    • Thanks Bob. A photo can be replaced and is the first stage. A video takes a bit more courage, but as you and I mentioned, it’s all about getting the first one out there.

  • I think this topic is huge, and I can relate 100% with the fear of failure holding me back. For me, the best remedy is in the second line of your post:

    “You’re not alone.”

    The problem with teaching English online as a profession is that, quite often, we are alone, at least physically. I’ve worked as a freelance online English teacher for about three years now, and I’ve never had the pleasure of so much as a handshake with a colleague. So much of our interaction happens through Skype, email, social media, etc, that it can be difficult to make real, meaningful connections. I’ve struggled with that very much in the time I’ve spent doing this. It’s only this year that I’ve made connecting with other teachers a serious priority.

    The other thing I’ve found to be extremely helpful is to broaden my horizon beyond English teachers, to listen to and read about the stories of other internet entrepreneurs (especially those who market subscription-based programs), because they’ve had to face the same internal challenges described in your article.

    Here’s to building a community!

    • It can be a lonely world, especially if you don’t connect with other teachers. I live in an area with lots of daily interaction, and this really helps balance the online teaching.

  • Getting over fear is a tough thing. As teachers, we’re constantly trying to encourage learners to break free fom their fear of making mistakes… But you’re right, what about the teacher’s fear of mistakes and failure? Like Chris said below, making a community and not feeling alone is one of the best remedies for fear. Love the TEOC Facebook page and all the encouragement and advice there. 🙂

    • That’s a great point, and we can talk about this fear with our learners to relate to their learning.

  • Excellent article.. I have been online for 15+ years and truly love it.

    • Thanks for your comment Candace. Congratulations on your 15 years!

  • ElfinW

    Fear of putting myself out there, fear of having nothing to say, held me back for over 4 years. Then, I had an accident, lost my offline job and I had no choice but put myself out there. I used to be shy of putting my name in a blog comment, so this may be the best thing that has ever happened to me
    I still work for agencies, my health will not allow me much more than that,but I am doing things that, just a year ago, would have terrified me so I am quite proud of myself and I am more confident.

    So when the time for a blog and a video come, that is soon enough, I know I can do it. It will be embarassing, it won’t be easy but I will do it and slowly I will get used to it and will wonder what all the fuss was about.

    What other people said here, about professional loneliness, is something I really hope to work on somehow.

    Thanks for this post, very good article.

  • G.A. T

    Excellent discussion. For many people getting in from of a classroom or public speaking is a scary proposition. I applaud your efforts. Most teachers in the past didn’t have to market themselves except to a local school of institution to get hired.
    Now new tools allow many people to create a stage to connect and share around the world. It can be uncomfortable as an educator trying to get into the information and marketing business of the modern age. But the trends are moving forward. Teachers and students won’t need to be in the same time zone to get the services they are looking for.
    One thing I would hope you address is payments. Aside from Paypal, what options are there to get paid. For example for a UK/EU teacher. I am in Japan and most people pay in cash or via bank transfer which is about $2.50USD. How do you handle your payment challenges. Thanks.

  • Anne Bursey

    What an encouraging Post! Thank you! I LOVE your articles….

  • Med Amine

    I am quitting my job to start teaching online, i can totally to relate to this blog post!! excellent stuff from Jack as always!! my fear is based on the fact that i am not a NATIVE SPEAKER, i don’t really have a British/American accent to dazzle student with … but i have a very unique interactive way of teaching that prooved to be successful with the ones i teached face to face, i just have to just translate this to an online platform and i am good to go!! wish me luck and thank you for all the content you share with us!!
    Cheers from Africa 🙂

    • I wish you luck! Play to your strengths and tell your learners what makes you special and how you can help them. Let me know if you ever have questions.

  • Katsiaryna Dubovik

    And I’m not afraid of being hated by myself, but the biggest problem is to sort out the ideas and to have the right start. Even reading your article I caught one more, to collect the puzzle is the big thing for me. Many thanks to you and your blog. Great pleasure to read you!

  • Nina

    Thanks Jack for this useful article. I am still struggling with the starting it’s probably a result of a hidden fear. However, your article really attracts my attention to many points and reminds me that the beginning is always the hardest part of any thing in life.

  • Luciana Gomes

    Excellent article, Jack! All things listed caused me fear. I have exactly asked this on your Youtube Channel. Thanks for answering me through this article. Your words came to me. Another thing that causes me fear is that: I teach Brazilian Portuguese for English speakers. So, even I speak English well, of course, my fluency is not as a native. To make videos, for example, probably I need to speak my non-native language to teach a second language (Portuguese). As you said, the first step needs to be done. I need more courage to do it. But I will have it! Any suggestion? This is my website: http://www.boostbrazil.com

    • From your site, it seems like you’re all in on teaching Portuguese.

      Try this: start with Instagram videos. Record them on your phone and keep them simple. The 1-minute time restrictions is a positive constraint and means that you won’t spend too much time thinking about what to include in your video.

      From there, start making videos on Facebook and then YouTube. Keep us posted!

      • Luciana Gomes

        Very great tip, Jack! I will try Instagram first to “unblock myself”! I will let you know how things are going… 😉 Thanks a lot!

  • Terri Grady

    Well, you pretty much listed all the issues I’m having with starting up online. I’ve been using other reasons such as finding the right platform to use, payment method, etc. While those are legitimate reasons, I’m dragging my feet because I’m scared!
    Thank you for this article. I found it both informative, and inspiring.