Planning for Your Online English Lessons and Where to Find the Best Resources

If you are new to teaching English online, then you might be wondering how best to plan for your new students.

It’s one of the most common concerns that new teachers have.

This article gives you three tips to plan more effectively and includes links to my favorite resources and lesson plans so that you can go into your lessons with confidence.

Watch the video below or scroll down for the text version:

What Makes Online Teaching Unique

There are two main differences between online lessons and classroom lessons:

  1. The vast majority of online lessons are one-to-one, whereas, classroom lessons have many students
  2. You use platforms such as Skype or Zoom.us to deliver your lessons online

This creates a different dynamic and, in most cases, puts more focus on speaking and listening.

The one-to-one nature of the lesson means that lessons can – and in most cases should – be tailored to each individual student. This is a key point and something that will be touched upon throughout the article.

With those two things in mind, here are my three tips to help you plan for your online English lessons.

Planning Tip #1: Go Lesson-to-Lesson

Get your student and then plan.

Don’t feel like you have to build up a pile of resources before you start marketing your services. In fact, it’s advantageous to work with your new learner when coming up with a curriculum.

Every learner is unique and what works for one student won’t necessarily work for another. We can take this to the extreme: an advanced learner who has a weakness in speaking and is studying for the IELTS exam will need different lessons to a beginner who wants to learn some basic phrases and grammar.

How you decide to teach might limit this disparity. For example, if you only focus on IELTS preparation, then this will limit the scope of resources needed.

Yet, there will still be differences between your students and accordingly, a different class will need to be taught.

This can all be planned out starting with the initial trial lesson/consultation.

This is where you are evaluating the student and asking what he/she would like to get out of his/her lessons. A great question to ask is this: why do you need to learn English and how are you going to use it?

Answers to this question will help you both come up with a tailored plan for the next lesson.

Create lessons based on the English they need to know and work on weaknesses that come up during the first lesson. For example, if the student can’t use the second conditional, introduce this into the next lesson. Find resources that will help you (tip number three) with the teaching of this grammar point.

Go lesson-to-lesson and keep everything specific to your learner.

Planning Tip #2: Know that Most Lessons Involve a Lot of Speaking

As the majority of online lessons are one-to-one, there is more emphasis on speaking.

A typical classroom lesson usually includes group work, listening exercises, reading, and writing where the student often does this in silence. These type of activities aren’t as prominent in online lessons and, when given, are done verbally. Or in the case of writing, outside of lesson time.

From my experience, many learners want one-to-one online lessons so that they can get more speaking practice. They want to have an environment where they can express themselves and receive feedback on mistakes they make.

Having said that, this doesn’t mean that lessons have to only be made up of informal conversations. It’s important to still have a certain structure that makes up your lessons.

Here is how I structure mine:

Planning Tip #3: Use Online Resources or Make Your Own

You don’t want to spend hours and hours planning. Luckily, you don’t have to.

There are three ways to approach this:

  1. Use ready-made resources and lesson plans
  2. Create your own
  3. Plan quickly

After gaining experience online, you’ll be able to plan a lesson within minutes based on an ariticle, news story, or a video. Additionally, you will be able to plan while you’re teaching depending on how the lesson is going feedback from your student. With new students, you’ll be able to recycle past plans without having to review them first.

This is a great place to be in. However…

… if you’re new to teaching, this isn’t possible. Instead, I recommend using lesson plans that others have created and if this is in your plan, start creating your own too.

Here are some ready-made lesson plans that I have found useful in the past:

Off2Class: Lesson plans specific to online lessons with a student portal. Great for structured lessons.

Breaking News English: Numerous activities and conversations based on news topics.

Film English: Plans based on short films.

ITESLJ: All the conversation questions you’ll ever need.

Personally, I’ve never used a textbook with a learner. It doesn’t quite work as you both need the book for legal reasons and it’s much easier to screen share an article or parts of your plan using teaching software. You can even embed videos and have the sound play on both ends.

Creating Your Own Lesson Plans

If you create your own lesson plans, post them on your blog.

This not only helps your current learners review what they have done but also can help you attract new learners.

Share these plans on Facebook and with other teachers. This is how I attracted a lot of new students during my first years. One of my lesson plans got shared by the British Council and thousands of new students and teachers found my blog.

Be sure to include a call-to-action (either a trial lesson or a lead magnet) to capitalize on this new audience.

Including a clip of you teaching the lesson plan will help you build a connection with your new learner. Include one if you can.

Over to You

What tips do you have for planning online lessons and which resources/plans do you use? Leave a comment below sharing your favorites with us.

Thank you for reading!

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How to Teach English Online: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started (2018)

teach english onlineSince I started teaching English online in 2011, I’ve seen this space explode.

There are many reasons why online teaching is so appealing.

It opens up a lot of creative opportunities for you as a teacher, giving you the ability to go down your own teaching path and teach the way that you believe is best for your students.

Teaching English online takes away the geographical restrictions. You can access any English learning market in the world, which gives you more leverage to charge what you feel you deserve.

And of course, moving online allows you to teach from home or from anywhere.

If teaching online appeals to you, this article will give you the information you need to thrive in this space.

I focus on helping teachers or teachers-to-be do this independently.

Before I share my best tips, know that there are different options for you.

(Note: some of the resources I link to in this article are affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you sign up to a service at no extra cost to you.)

THE THREE OPTIONS: GET A JOB, FREELANCE, GO INDEPENDENT

There are three main ways that you can teach English (or any language!) online:

  1. You can find an online teaching job (check out VipKid – U.S. and Canadian residents only)
  2. You can post your profile on freelancing websites
  3. You can find your own paying students

I’ve never done number one. I’ve had experience with number two. And I’m all in on number three.

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I got started teaching English through a platform for teachers. I created my profile, made a video, and set my prices.

I soon got a lot of new students and received positive reviews.

When I started, I didn’t have any training or prior teaching experience. I had just got back from traveling and needed something that I could do from anywhere so that I could spend time visiting my girlfriend (now wife) in America.

I believe there are two main reasons why I was successful on this platform:

  1. I spent time crafting my teaching profile
  2. I got in early

The biggest problem with teaching through an online platform is the sheer number of teachers there. Once people find out about new platforms, they get bombarded with new teachers.

If you advertise your services on these platforms, make sure you stand out.

Be clear on who would benefit from your lessons and why. State what you can offer (your teaching niche) and use the platform to get in front as many potential students as you can.

Going independent was the best professional decision I have made. I’ll tell you how this happened…

After finishing college, my wife got a scholarship to teach English in Spain. I enjoyed my initial teaching experience, so I got certified and we moved to Spain together.

I got a job teaching in two companies and in my second year, in a language school. I also offered private lessons during this time. Here is how I attracted private students:

  • I designed website that highlighted what I offered
  • I put up fliers around the city and posted on local classified websites
  • People got in contact with me and I taught them privately

Why Going Independent Might Be for You

Doing your own thing online gives you control over the following:

  • your business
  • what you teach
  • how you teach
  • your earning potential

One of the reasons why I left the original platform was because they changed a few policies. I didn’t have any control over this. If you are investing time and effort into offering value for your learners, it’s wise to do this on a platform you own (more about this later).

Going independent means that you can decide to teach what you want to teach. When moving online, all barriers are broken down. You can target any learning market in the world. If you want to focus on IELTS preparation, then you can. You aren’t restricted by your location.

It also gives you control over how you teach.

I enjoyed my time teaching in Spain, but I had to follow specific lesson plans and use methods that my bosses wanted me to use. When you are your own boss, you can follow your own teaching path and decide how you want to deliver your lessons.

It’s worth stating at this point that this isn’t for everyone. You will need to put in the work if you want the rewards. Additionally, it comes with extra stress and you have to research taxes and everything else.

If you want an online job, check out VipKid (if you’re based in the U.S. or Canada).

But if you want to go independent, then read on to learn more!

WHAT YOU NEED TO TEACH ENGLISH ONLINE (THE BASICS)

You will have to include the following in your initial setup: a VOIP service, a payment gateway, a cancellation policy, and although not a requirement, a headset.

Let’s start with the software we need to have to be able to connect with English learners from anywhere in the world.

Connecting with Your Students

teach English online using ZoomFirstly, make sure that your computer and internet are fast enough and working as they should be.

There is nothing more frustrating than having a bad connection when teaching.

To be able to connect with students online, the best two options available are Zoom and Google Hangouts.

I have moved my students from Skype to Zoom as the connection is better and it has fewer problems.

Google Hangouts has many features, including a whiteboard (through a third party app).

Both allow you to connect with anyone in the world for free.

If you’re looking for a simple solution – something that everyone has heard of – check out Skype. You are limited by what you can do, but the connection has improved a lot over the years and most students have experience using this.

Note: if you want to teach your lessons using your phone, this is possible. Here is a video I made on this:

Receiving Payment for Your Online Lessons

PayPal is the obvious choice for receiving payments; it has been around for a long time and most online teachers use it as their tool of choice.

I have used PayPal for years now, and after researching other options, I still use it.

(Note: if you’re going to create and sell online courses, you might want to use something else in addition to PayPal.)

Getting started is really simple: after signing up, you can easily place payment buttons on your website (more about your website later), and send invoices directly to your students through email.

When you send invoices, your students will receive a link where they can enter their payment details. This money is then transferred to your PayPal account, which in turn can be withdrawn to your bank account.

PayPal typically charges around 2.9% + $0.30 for every transaction, but withdrawing to your bank account is free. (These fees may vary depending on your country.)

A drawback of using PayPal is that it isn’t available in all countries. This link has information about the countries where it is accepted.

A Strong Cancelation Policy

Writing up a cancellation policy is something that every teacher needs to do.

Keep it simple and stick to it. This will cover your back when students cancel or don’t show to your arranged lesson.

Just having a policy isn’t enough; you have to clearly explain this policy to your students, and make sure that they understand what the consequences are when a lesson is canceled, or if they don’t show.

Good Audio

A headset isn’t obligatory, but it certainly helps. Instead of a regular headset, I use the following: these earphones and this microphone.

The value you get from these items is fantastic; the earphones, although very cheap, are really comfortable and they have great audio. The quality of the microphone is incredible, and many professional podcasters use this for their shows.

If you prefer a headset, I’ve heard great things about this one.

In most cases, Apple earphones (or the equivalent) will be sufficient.

When I first meet with my students, I suggest that they use earphones or an external microphone too.

This increases the effectiveness of my teaching, and also my enjoyment of the lessons.

Tax Implications

I’m not a legal or tax expert.

Talk to a professional and ask about legal and tax implications where you live.

Here is a video on this:

TO TEACH ENGLISH ONLINE INDEPENDENTLY, YOU’LL NEED TO GET STUDENTS

Being an independent teacher means bringing in students yourself.

In this section, I’m going to break this down and give you some short and long-term strategies.

There are many things to consider; let’s start with the question of who you are going to teach and what lessons you are going to give.

Your Teaching Niche

Being clear on your teaching niche is the key to thriving to bringing in new students.

It’s not just good enough to say that you teach English online.

Get clear on the following:

  • who you teach
  • how you teach
  • what area of English you teach

Let’s say you want to focus on teaching conversational English. Great! But how are you going to teach these lessons? What type of learners do you want to teach? What materials are you going to use?

Having clarity on this helps you give the best lessons you can and it helps you attract the types of learners you want to target.

Having said all that, don’t let this stage put you off from getting started.

Your niche will evolve over time and it’s impossible to know what type of teacher you’re going to be without any teaching experience.

There are many reasons to work towards becoming specialized in teaching a certain niche (more about this here), but one of the key reasons is making sure that you are targeting students who can and will pay you what you want to be paid.

This brings us nicely to the next point…

A Pricing Structure

pricing online lessonsThere are two different questions to answer when coming up with your pricing structure: how much do you WANT to earn? And, how much CAN you charge for students in a certain niche?

The answer to the first question will vary depending on your circumstances, expectations, and earning goals. Answering the second question helps you find the niche that fits your income needs.

The going rate for many established online schools is anywhere between $20 and $50 an hour (charging more is possible).

To charge these sort of prices will involve you having to think about what type of students you should target, knowing where to find them, and then converting them into paying students.

As well as having your base rate, you should also offer packages at discounted rates. Offering an incentive will bring in more students, and having students sign up for more than one class improves your retention rate and makes things easier for you.

You should also think about how you want to approach giving a trial lesson. When starting out, I recommend giving away free trials.

Implement paid trials once you have more experience and higher demand for your lessons.

For more about pricing, click here.

Sell Courses Too!

At this stage, it’s worth noting that there are various ways that you can bring in an income when you teach online.

Over the past few years, I’ve focused on selling my online courses

Here are six ways to earn money as an online English teacher:

A Teaching Website

teach-english-online-post-website-example

My website is at the center of everything I do

Having a website is a must for the long-term.

This online presence will become the center of all of your marketing efforts.

There are a host of options when it comes to getting your own teaching site. From my experience, and after doing a lot of research, I have whittled it down to three:

1. Have someone to build a website for you.

2. Use a drag-and-drop template based website builder (my recommendation is Weebly), and create your own site.

3. Use WordPress, and again, build the site yourself (see our free step-by-step guide on getting started)

If you want to reduce the starting costs, options two and three are the best. Both of these options will cost you between $3-10 a month if you keep things simple, and you’ll need to buy your domain name separately (use Godaddy for this).

Weebly is great for starting out. I used a similar website builder for my first site but moved it over to WordPress in 2012.

WordPress has become the platform of choice for web designers, and I can’t recommend it enough. There are certain things that you have to learn, but using our guide will help you get started.

For more information on building a website, see this post.

Create a System that Will Convert Learners

teach online system

A system that works

A big mistake I see teachers make is that they create their website without any type of sales system in mind.

A learner will land on their site, take a look around, and then leave.

What we want to do is to create a system that will convert learners into paying students.

We can do this by setting up our site so that our visitors take action by:

  • requesting a trial lesson
  • downloading something for free (and adding learners to our email list)

Choose one of those options and create your site so that this is what they do.

For example, when a learn visits my site I tell them to download my free book.

Once they download this book, they get added to my email list. I send them useful content and information about my lessons and courses.

If you focus on giving one-to-one lessons, you can tell your learners to request a trial lesson with you.

Put a big CTA (call-to-action) on your homepage, about page, blog posts… any page that you create.

Once you have this system set up, you’re ready to bring learners on to your website.

How to Find Students and Build Awareness

I always get asked the following question by teachers who want to teach online: “How do I get students?”

There are certain things that you can do to attract students now, while other strategies will bring in students over the long-term.

The most important thing is to know who your target market is and where to find them.

Being able to define your audience is the first step.

This is often overlooked, but knowing as much as you can about potential students will help you bring them to your website and convince them that they will benefit from taking lessons with you.

Most marketing strategies that are effective in this field can be grouped into two different groups: short-term and long-term.

Short-term strategies include things like advertising and bring immediate results.

This is perfect for when first starting out, or whenever you need to quickly fill your schedule.

Some of these methods cost a little money, but there are many ways that you can do this for free. For example, you can post on sites like Craigslist and offer your services.

Long-term strategies don’t have such an immediate effect, but once you have these established, your initial work will bring in students for the months and years ahead.

These strategies include creating content on your site, improving your site’s search rankings, uploading videos, and using social media.

youtube teach english online image

I love creating videos on YouTube

For example, I create videos for my YouTube channel. At the end of every video, I tell my learners to download the book that I mentioned before.

There are some videos that I made back in 2014 that still bring in a constant stream of students.

How much content you create to help you build up a passive system depends on your goals, where you currently are with your online teaching journey, and what you offer.

You may only want to use short-term methods. That’s fine. But be open to new ways further down the line.

I can’t talk about getting new students without mentioning referrals.

Referrals are the most efficient way to fill your schedule. You should concentrate your efforts on trying to get as many as you can.

Just ask your current learners if they know anyone who would also benefit from your lessons.

Connections and Community

When I started teaching online, I initially had the mentality of being a lone-wolf; I tried to do everything on my own, worked in isolation, and hardly ever asked for help.

But, I have recently changed my approach and have connected with many fellow ESL/EFL teachers. This has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me. 

Since I have connected with others, it feels more like a group effort. I can now bounce ideas off others and ask for advice when I need it.

And, my long-term goal for this website is to create a space where online teachers can connect and work together to succeed in online teaching.

To find other teachers, use Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. Put yourself out there and start creating relationships.

(Click here to follow me on Facebook)

Materials and Resources for Online Lessons

The type of materials that you will use in class very much depends on your niche and teaching style. There are some online courses that you have to pay an initial fee to have access to. However,

There are some online courses that you have to pay an initial fee to have access to. However, there are many great free resources that I have found through my contacts.

Here are three examples: Film English (lesson plans based on films), Breaking News English (lesson plans based on news articles), and for something a little different, ESL Hip Hop.

I’ve used the above sites and many others for my general English lessons.

What’s the best way to find these resources? Go on Twitter or the other networking sites and connect with teachers.

Tools You’ll Need to Teach Online and Other Considerations

I use Google calendar to keep my lessons organized, and several spreadsheets to record what I have done with my students and for other admin tasks.

I save my lesson plans to Evernote.

I use WaveApps to track the financial side of things.

I run my email list through Active Campaign

… I could go on and on. To me, this is the fun part. These tools make our life easier and make teaching online fun.

A quick note on getting started:

This is often the hardest part.

My best advice is this: don’t wait to be perfect because that will never happen.

Teach to get experience. Create videos to learn how to make better videos. Start marketing your lessons now.

And read this if you want to learn more about making this transition.

Thanks for reading. Please share if you found it useful!

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A Day in the Life of an Online Teacher (and Tips for Teaching Online)

This video has been a long time in the making.

I’m pleased to say that it’s finally here! Follow me around for the day as I take you to the woods, my office, and the parking lot (haha!) and show you what I do on a daily basis.

I also share my best tips that will help you get more private students into your lessons and courses.

Resources Mentioned in the Video

I mentioned a lot of different things in this video. Let’s start with my gear:

Free Mini-Course for Teaching Online: get an overview of what online teaching is like and how you can get started.

Email marketing software: this is what I use and highly recommend it.

Email marketing overview: get my best tips on how to use email marketing to grow your teaching business

Different ways to earn as an online teacher: I list 6 ways that you can bring in an income by teaching online

First online course numbers: learn how much I made from my first course.

The video I was editing: check out the finished product and my other YouTube channel

The To Fluency Program: my course for those learning English

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teach online using phone english

Can You Teach Online & Build a Teaching Business on Your Phone?

Things are changing fast.

Online teaching has become mainstream and the ways in which we teach and promote our lessons are constantly changing.

But what about if we only have a phone?

Is it possible to teach and promote our lessons just using one device?

Find out in this video:

There are two things to focus on here:

  1. How to teach lessons using our phone
  2. How to promote our lessons using our phone

Teaching Using Your Phone

The majority of people who video chat do this on their phone these days.

We can use Facebook Messenger, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and a host of different messaging apps to teach lessons online.

Doing it this way is convenient and a lot of learners prefer to do it this way.

One drawback is that it’s harder to introduce interactive elements to our lessons such as text chat, embedding videos, and using other tools to help us teach effectively.

I feel that mobile teaching lends itself to conversational language lessons. If you teach something else (like business coaching) it won’t be an issue at all.

Let me know your tips if you have taught using your mobile device in the past.

Promoting Your Teaching Business through Your Phone

Here is my 3-step plan for getting more students/clients:

  1. Be clear on what your lessons are about and who you help
  2. Create a system that converts browsers into buyers
  3. Build awareness and send more people through step two

I have written about the more sophisticated ways of doing this here.

Let’s instead focus on what this might look like using a phone.

BONUS TIP: You don’t have to just offer one-to-one lessons. You can:

  • Create a paid group on Facebook where learners pay a subscription fee to access your premium lessons
  • Offer writing feedback through Facebook Messenger
  • Offer speaking feedback through Facebook Messenger

Use PayPal or another payment app to set up subscriptions.

I made a video on this here.

Get Students Just by Using Facebook

Assume that you have step one down.

Step two might be to tell learners that you offer free trial lessons and, if they’re interested, to send you a message on Facebook.

Simple, right?

You can use your personal profile to do this or a Facebook page that you create.

You respond to these messages and set up a time when you can both meet.

It’s your job to convince the learner that your lessons are worth paying for during the trial.

This is a simple system and it works.

But how do you build awareness using your phone?

You make videos, share pictures, create mini-lessons and post them on your page or in groups.

Include a call-to-action (CTA) every time you do this.

Your CTA is very simple: you tell people to send you a message if they want a free trial lesson.

This strategy works on Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, LinkedIn or any other social media site.

What Mobile Has Done and Where it is Going

The mobile revolution has dramatically changed the way we consume content and interact with each other.

Business have responded to this by making websites and applications simple.

This restriction helps us focus on what matters…

… connecting with potential customers/students/clients in a real way.

I can only see this becoming more important moving forward.

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Teach English in Spain: My Experience and Some Quick Tips

I was sent a request to talk about my time teaching English in Spain.

And as I was feeling in a good mood this morning, I came straight the office and recorded the following.

I talk about why I moved to Spain, how I managed to get a job straight away, how I got private lessons, what I liked, what I didn’t, and some advice if you’re considering moving to Spain or abroad to teach.

Here it is:

We had a blast in Spain. It was perfect for that time of my life. I had no responsibilities and we really enjoyed ourselves.

I taught for a couple of language schools. Firstly, I gave business English lessons in shipyards in Bilbao. Then, I taught in a language school in Valencia. I also gave private lessons in both cities during this time. Here is a post I wrote on that.

We loved the Spanish culture and made a lot of good friends. I had a lot of time during the day to do whatever I wanted to do. We went out on day trips and did a lot of exploring.

If you’re thinking about moving to Spain to teach English, here are some quick tips:

  • Get a teaching certificate (language schools want to see this)
  • Call around early to try and land a job (or interview) before going
  • Know that you’re not going to earn that much
  • Check out this program  if you’re from America
  • teach private lessons to earn more money
  • embed yourself as much as possible
  • choose a city that suits you

If you have any questions about teaching in Spain, leave them below. Also, please share your experiences too.

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Teach English Online: 16 Powerful Tips to Help You Earn a Living Doing What You Love

Teach English Online Tips

Thanks for stopping by!

Teaching English online independently is a way for you to earn more, teach the way you want to teach, and work from anywhere in the world.

You can choose your schedule, target learners who you love working with, and scale your business over the long-term.

Sounds great, right?

The problem is this: without online marketing know-how, it will be difficult for you to fill your schedule. You’re also going to need a plan of action to ensure that you make progress with this over the long-term.

This post will give you 16 powerful tips to help you get this right.

And if you are serious about doing this, take my free video training (sign up at the bottom of the page).

Let’s dig in…

1: Get clear on your teaching niche and how you teach

To teach English online successfully, you will need to do think about your teaching niche.

Some teachers are super-specific here. For example, you can teach IELTS speaking preparation to learners from Brazil through your own method.

Others offer general lessons to anyone who wants them. Either way, you’ll need to gain clarity on what your niche is.

Your teaching niche includes the following:

  1. what you teach
  2. how you teach
  3. who you teach

The clearer you are with this, the better you’ll be able to resonate with learners. You’ll be able to tell specific learners, with confidence, that you are the teacher for them.

You might not get full clarity straight off the bat. In fact, this will be an ever-evolving process. But consciously going through this – thinking about your current skills, what you enjoy, and who you would like to work with – will lead you in the right direction.

Don’t let this stage stop you from getting started. Get teaching as soon as you can (more on this later).

Take a look at this for an example of a teacher who got this right.

2: Create a website that is set up for conversions

teach-english-online-post-website-example

My website is at the center of everything I do

To sign online students up for your lessons, you’re going to need a website.

Most teachers set their website up incorrectly. They set them up for browsing, not for conversions. They have all this information for people to read, but there is no clear action to take. Learners land on their site, take a look around, and then leave, never to return again.

When creating your site, set it up for conversions. Know what action you want your learners to take and convince them to take it.

The action you choose depends on your current goals. But it usually means one of two things:

  1. downloading something for free
  2. signing up for a trial lesson.

Both of these allow you to follow-up with anyone who takes action and you can…

3: Send learners through a funnel to build trust and desire

What’s a funnel?

Let’s look at an example:

I make lessons on my YouTube channel for intermediate English speakers. At the end of each lesson, I include a call to action (CTA).

My CTA is a book that I give away for free. The learner enters their name and email address and I send them my book.

From there, I send further emails that give them useful lessons. I also build desire for what I offer (in the past, one-to-one lessons – these days, it’s my audiobook and online course).

I then present my offer and convince learners to sign up.

Why is this important?

Because if you send learners you don’t know you yet straight to your offer, you conversion rate will be very low.

Learners take lessons with teachers that they know, like, and trust. And giving away free content and following up through email is the best way to reach that stage with your learner.

This means you will need to…

4: Get an email list from day one

Email marketing is the best way to sell your lessons and build an audience over the long-term.

I use email in two main ways:

  1. To send specific subscribers through a welcoming / sales funnel (as we just learned)
  2. To send content and product launches to my subscribers

I won’t go into the finer details of why this is all important here, but know this: 95% of sales come from English learners who are on my email list.

Here is how to get started with email.

5: Use social media in the right way

Social media has changed everything. You already know that.

But for independent teachers, it means that we reach English learners through content that we create. For free.

Social media can be overwhelming. What’s more, online platforms are noisy places. That’s why, when we’re clear on our niche, we can cut through the noise and resonate with the type of learners we want to teach.

Additionally, use sites that you enjoy using. There is no need to join them all. In fact, if you do, then you’ll spread yourself too thin.

Finally, make content that is natural to the platform. Go to minute 3:05 in the video below to learn what this means:

6: Focus on what you do best and what you enjoy

When building an online English teaching business, you might get overwhelmed with all the different ways you can market your lessons.

For example, you’ll hear people say that you need to blog, start a podcast, join every social media channel, make videos for YouTube etc.

You don’t.

Go with what you enjoy doing and focus on that right now. For example, I have a Twitter account, but I never use it. If I spent time using it, it would work for me. But I prefer to spend my time making videos and writing blog posts.

7: Connect with your learners

creating-videos-teaching-english-online

Even if it’s just one, get a video on your site

Going back to your website, make a connection with your learners.

The best way to do this is through video. Your potential students want to know who you and see you in action.

It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get something up there. A simple one-minute welcome video on your homepage can make a huge difference.

If you’re apprehensive about putting yourself out there, read this.

And if you want to learn how to create videos read this.

8: Get teaching as soon as possible

Maybe you have years of teaching experience. Maybe you have never taught before.

Either way, get teaching online as soon as possible. Make this a priority.

The earlier you get started, the better. A lot of learners are looking for conversational lessons and error feedback. This is something you can offer right now. And if you decide to take formal training, you’ll have context for the theory.

If you’re an established English teacher, get used to teaching one-to-one online using the tools available. Ask a current student if they want to jump online with you and take things from there.

9: Always be improving

This goes for teaching and marketing.

With teaching, take relevant courses, read blogs, read books, watch videos, get feedback from your learners and other students, and review your own lessons.

With the business side of things, learn how to market your online lessons, take action, and then refine.

A benefit of digital marketing is that you get constant feedback on what works and what doesn’t. For example, if you advertise on Facebook or Google, it tells you how many people clicked on your ad and, if you set it up correctly, how many people converted.

If you don’t get the results you want at the first time of asking, make changes. For example, ask yourself how you can improve your ad headline, image, text etc., how you can the page people go to when they click the ad, and how you can improve the sales process.

Don’t say, “This doesn’t work.” Say, “What do I need to change to make this work?”

10: Set a deadline for when you want to do this full-time

deadline-picture-for-teach-online

Set goals with deadlines

If you’re serious about moving online, set a deadline.

Say, “Six months from today, I will be teaching English full-time online.”

Without a deadline, you will keep putting things off. You won’t make it a priority in your life. Don’t do this someday – have a specific date in mind.

With this date, you can then set yourself mini-deadlines. These might include:

11: Know that you will need to hustle to get learners at first

Earlier, you learned that learners click the link at the end of my YouTube video to download my book. From there, they go through a specific sales process.

This all happens on autopilot.

Thousands of learners watch my videos every day. Hundreds download my book each week. But it took me a while to get to this stage.

Making videos on YouTube is a great example of what I call a long-term marketing method. You won’t get results in the first few weeks or maybe months, but once things start gaining momentum, you will attract learners passively over time.

At the beginning, however, you will need to hustle to get learners.

Get that email list set up and then:

  • help learners on a one-to-one basis in groups on social media and include a CTA
  • get in touch with old students or anyone you know who would benefit from your lessons
  • post on relevant websites offering your services

This is just the tip of the iceberg. But know that you will have to work at this to make it effective.

12: Don’t worry about getting your pricing right straight away

pricing-online-lessons-teaching

Don’t get stuck when pricing your lessons

“How much should I charge for my lessons?”

Many teachers get stuck here. But let me take the pressure away…

… you can be flexible with your pricing. What I mean by this is that you can:

  • increase your prices
  • offer different prices for different learners
  • offer discounts

In 2014, I doubled the price of lessons for new students. I had a high demand for lessons at the time and the price increase didn’t affect my schedule. In fact, charging higher prices is a way to attract learners who buy based on value rather than cost.

If you are flexible with your pricing, don’t include numbers on your website.

As for what type of salary you can expect from teaching English online, this varies greatly. But know that you can scale this to wherever you want to take it (more on this soon).

13: Don’t worry about bad apples

A big concern for new online teachers is not getting paid for their lessons – that a learner will take a lesson and then disappear without paying.

Always ask for payment up front and explain to your learner that their lesson is only reserved once you receive payment.

You’ll get learners that request a trial and don’t show. And learners who come to your trial lesson without any intention of paying for future lessons.

This makes you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of. Here is what to do:

  • see if there is anything that you can learn from this experience and make relevant changes
  • forget about it and concentrate on the bigger picture

Certain learners will try and get as much free help as possible. How you respond to this depends on you. I talk more about free vs paid lessons here.

The key is to not let it affect you.

Here is a video that talks about this in-depth:

14: Make connections

In 2013, I made it a priority to connect with as many teachers as I could.

When I was starting out, I saw other online teachers as competition. But one day, I got on Skype with a fellow teacher and we talked about what was working for us and what we were struggling with. From then, I made it a priority to connect with as many teachers as I could.

Connecting with other teachers helps you in several ways:

  • you can learn from others and get support from those who have been there and done it
  • it helps online teaching feel less isolating
  • you get your name out there and your content shared widely

There are countless groups on Facebook to join. Just make relevant searches, join them, and get involved.

15. Save time by using ready-made lesson plans (and get organized!)

A common question I receive is this, “What lessons plans can I use in my online lessons?”

What resources you use depends on your niche. If you’re teaching IELTS preparation for example, then you’ll need materials specific to this.

For general conversational lessons, there is so much out there. For example, Film English has lesson plans based on short films. Breaking News English has in-depth resources based on latest news. Do a search for ESL Ted Talks and you’ll find countless plans. And if you want ready-made lessons that are interactive, check out Off2Class.

Over time, you’ll build up your own library of resources. Use Evernote to help you organize them.

16. Know that there are many ways to earn

Teaching English online isn’t just about one-to-one lessons. You can also:

Over the long-term, most teachers look for ways to earn more of a passive income. This has been my experience too.

It’s worth thinking about what you want to create over the long-term so that you can the necessary steps now to achieve those goals.

BONUS: Take action and get started as early as possible

Earlier, we talked about the different ways to make this transition.

No matter when you want to make this your full-time thing, start today.

Look at your goals (and your deadline for achieving this!) and then be smart about what you should focus on right now. For example, if you want to build for the future, start growing a following by email and social media.

Put stuff out there, learn, and make changes.

Online teaching has changed my life. I am in control of how I teach, when I teach, where I teach, and my future earnings.

Sign up below to learn how you can do this too.

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Reasons Students Dump Their Teachers

The Three Biggest Reasons Students Dump Their Teachers

Reasons Students Dump Their Teachers

The following is a guest post by Ryan Viguerie. Take it away Ryan…

“So why did you choose me?”

Every student who walks through my door for the first time hears this question.

I’ve been a private teacher for about eight years so I’ve heard a lot of different reasons.

Usually – not always, but usually – it’s because of a problem with their previous teacher.

You see, I’m not the cheapest teacher in Prague.

Which also means I’m usually not their first choice.

But when cheaper doesn’t work out, they come to me, and then I hear their complaints.

And these are the biggest – the ones I hear over and over again.

Learn from other teachers’ mistakes, make your students happy, and keep the cash rolling in.

COMPLAINT #1 – “We just talked”

Students tell me all the time, “I just need to talk more.”

But then they complain about their former teacher and say, “All we did was talk.”

What’s going on?

I think the problem is what they want to do is talk, but what they want to pay for is lessons.

It probably feels weird to describe the highlights of last night’s hockey match, evaluate the physical merits of the new secretary, complain about your lazy kids…and then hand over some cash for what felt like an hour chatting with a friend.

SOLUTION: Show Them The Plan

Before the student has bought any lessons, and we’re talking and having coffee for the first time, I pull out a piece of paper that says “Lesson Structure.”

I explain that this is the structure I follow in my lessons.

It’s nothing fancy or groundbreaking, but it communicates right away “I have a plan. I know what I’m doing. You’re paying for more than just conversation.”

Here’s what it looks like. Feel free to rip it off or adapt it to your style.

Minutes

1-5 warm up – easy conversation

1-5 review vocabulary from previous lessons

30-40 discuss article/video/topic of the day

5-10 record and discuss new vocab

1-3 plan for the next lesson

It’s a balance.

You’ve got to give them what they want, but wrap it in something they feel good paying for.

COMPLAINT #2 – DEAD GRANDMOTHERS

One of my students likes to tell the story of a former teacher who often cancelled lessons at the last minute.

After a while, the teacher began to run out of reasons, so he started to use the dead grandmother excuse.

Then he started to run out of grandmothers. But that didn’t stop him, he just kept going…and so did the dead grandmothers.

Other variations of this guy are the teacher who –

  • Is chronically late
  • Cancels often
  • Shows up hung over
  • Walks into a high-priced law firm wearing ripped jeans and dirty sneakers
  • Sits down and asks, “So what do you want to do today?”
  • Hits on his female students and makes them feel uncomfortable

SOLUTION 1 – Upgrade Your Wardrobe

If you look like a teacher…if you look successful…if you look like you’ve got your life together…it’ll carry a lot of weight.

Be a disheveled poet, rocker, cool guy in your free time. But when it comes time to pay the bills, leave the house in your ironed shirt and expensive shoes.

SOLUTION 2 – Teach From A Base

Being two minutes late is one of my bad habits.

But that suddenly came to a stop when I started teaching from my apartment.

I discovered it’s incredibly hard to be late when you’re already there.

But if you live in a haunted house or your pet iguana doesn’t like meeting new people, you could set up base in a coffee shop. Get an account at calendly.com and mark the same chunks of time every week as ‘available.’ 

COMPLAINT #3: “Neverending Story”

For some reason, my Czech students have taken the title from this 80s fantasy movie (and incredibly cheesy music video) to describe their main frustration with English: slow or no progress.

Here’s a better analogy from “How To Learn A Foreign Language” by Paul Pimsleur:

“Learning a foreign language is like filling a bucket from a slow-running tap. If you keep looking in to see if it is full, you grow more and more impatient. You may finally kick it over and walk away. But if the bucket has notches that show when it is one-quarter full, one-third full, and so on, then you can take pleasure in watching the water rise from notch to notch. The filling time is the same, but the psychological effect is different.”

So how do you put notches on the English bucket?

SOLUTION – A Vocab Notebook

As soon as a student agrees to buy one of my lesson packages, I tell him, “Your first homework assignment is to buy a notebook.”

Then every lesson I make him write down the new words.

Soon he’ll have pages and pages of visible proof of what he didn’t know before he met me.

About Ryan

Ryan is from the US but has lived in Prague since 2004.

In addition to teaching, he also runs the website Teacher-Creature.com

If you think there’s a need for a similar site in your city and if you’d like to be one of the first teachers on the site, you can write Ryan at office@teacher-creature.com.

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Rob Howard Guest Post

How to Deal with Learners who Want Everything for Free

The following is a guest post from Rob Howard. Take it away, Rob…

How many of you have ever been introduced as an English teacher at a party and the first response is “Can you help me?” This is nothing new. Doctors are always asked to look at a strange lump. Lawyers are always asked for free advice. Nothing new here. But now, you have moved to or are planning to move online. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

As soon as you start advertising, if you are lucky enough to get visible amongst the myriad of online English teachers, you will open the floodgates to every Tom, Dick and Harry that has an internet connection looking for something for free. My advice, get ready for it.

The Questions

Everybody wants something for free. You would not believe the numbers of people out there that think we are saints and are just here on this Earth to provide free services to them because they have taken the time to contact you. I am messaged on Facebook, contacted through SKYPE, asked through LinkedIn, get emails through my website and at least once per month, I get a phone call through WhatsApp, Facebook or SKYPE. Here are some of the questions I get:

“How is my English?”

“Can you tell me what my level is?”

“Is this right?”

“What does this word mean?”

“How do you translate this word to English?”

“Can you translate this paragraph for me?”

“Will you write my CV for me?”

“Which one of these five sentences is the best and why?”

“Can you write my essay so I can win this contest?”

“Can you tell me how to do well on the TOEFL/IELTS exam?”

“Can you rewrite my Master’s thesis for me?”

“I know you will help me improve by talking with me all the time.”

“Will you just practice with me a little every day?”

“It will only take you a minute.”

“Can you explain the difference between the present perfect and the past perfect?”

“Can you give me hints to get more fluent?”

“Can you give me materials to get better?”

“Can you send me all the grammar differences between British and American English for my Master’s thesis?”

“But you’re a teacher!”

The last is my favorite. I don’t remember taking some type of “Hippocratic oath” stating that it is my duty as a teacher to let no student go untaught… for free. But they think we have. I don’t know of any other profession where people are so adamant about their right to call us at 3:00 am to ask for help. Well, one other. I was married to a doctor. But at least those calls came from paying patients.

How will you respond to this without making an enemy? Remember, what social networking has given you, social networking can easily take away. These people are your market. They are your “likes”, your “sharers” and your “commenters”. The best marketing is word of mouth, or in this case, word of Facebook. You need them. Maybe more than they need you.

The Response

There are so many to choose from and so many you want to say. Here is where your inner conscience needs to kick in. Of course, there is “no.” Plain, simple, to the point. Good luck making friends with that one. There is “I’m too busy.” They keep coming back. You can try “I don’t work for free.” They will whine about how they are from the third world and support a family and can’t afford to pay. Then I whine and say so am I (I’m currently in Brazil) and tell them that I work to support my family too so I can’t work for free. This starts a debate that almost never ends, or ends well.

My favorite, which I used at 3:00 am after being awoken by a sweet girl from the Far East, “Ok, while I’m doing that, you can come over and clean my house for free as I can’t afford a maid.” She unfriended me. I still feel badly about that, but it worked and yes, it felt good at the time.

The Solution

The best solution of all? I started a Facebook group, “ENGLISH STUDENTS.” It’s a place for students to post questions and for teachers to post their blogs and tips and sometimes, answers. When people ask for help, I refer them there. They join, they like, they share, they comment, they help each other and best of all, they don’t ask again. Some have since sent me paying customers.

Many have helped spread the word. An ex-student of mine in the group started a WhatsApp group on the side so they could talk and practice with each other. Problem solved. This is by far the most logical, sane and productive solution. Feel free to send needy students to the group.

Social Responsibility

Now I’m not completely heartless. I try to always have one or two students that I teach for free. The two students I am currently working with don’t have the means and are really working hard to improve their lives. I am proud to be a small part of that. Some of my past free students have gone on to get jobs as a result of their English. One was hired at an international oil company as a receptionist, another at the second largest TV network in Brazil as a producer. Others have received promotions due to their ability to interact with foreign clients.

This is how I give back and I wholeheartedly recommend that every teacher in the world take on at least one student for free. I do feel that it is our duty as humans to give back to society, even in some small way, and it warms the heart to be a part of someone else’s success.

It makes saying “No” that much sweeter too.

__________________________________________________________________

Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center, a live online course for C1/C2 level students.  He is a teacher, tutor, trainer, material designer and writer for ESL/EFL. He is also a consultant and has been a frequent speaker internationally regarding online retention as well as using technology in and out of the classroom. He is also the founder of EFLtalks utilizing social media to build a worldwide PLN for new and future language teachers.

You can reach Rob at rob@onlinelanguagecenter.com

Please join us on Facebook at ENGLISH STUDENTS

For more free advice from other education professionals, including Jack, check out EFLtalks.com.

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Three Mistakes I Made When I Started Teaching Online

When I first started teaching online, I made a lot of mistakes.

Luckily, I have learned from them.

And I want you to learn from them too. So, watch the video below and learn which mistakes you should avoid and what to do instead.

Watch in HD!

Not Connecting with other Teachers

I was a lone-wolf in the beginning.

When I saw other teachers doing the same thing as I was, I felt anxious. “What if my students see this teacher? They’ll leave me.”

However, we are all unique.

What you can offer is different to what any other teacher can offer.

Different learners connect with different teachers.

And, when we come together and share resources, our stories, our struggles etc., then we – us online teachers – can grow together.

Not Putting Yourself Out There

Moving online can be scary.

You need to put yourself out there. Use images. Promote your lessons.

This was daunting for me at first. I know it’s daunting for other teachers too.

I have talked about this before here.

But it’s something we need to do in order to connect with learners and convince them that we can help.

The good news is this: you can take baby steps…

The first picture on my site didn’t really show my face. I don’t think I even told people my last name. But I realized that it wasn’t that bad and started to do new things.

You will constantly be pushing yourself as an online teacher. And every time you do this, you’ll find that it’s not that uncomfortable to leave your comfort zone.

Not Starting an Email List Sooner

Email is powerful.

I won’t go over the reasons why you should start an email list again. I’ve done that here.

Just promise me that you will make this a priority.

Here is how to set one up.

Over to You

Are you making the above mistakes? What mistakes did you make when you first started?

Let me know if the comment section below.

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Advantages and Challenges Teaching Online

The Advantages and Challenges of Teaching Online

The following is a guest post by Elena Mutonono. You can find out more about Elena at the bottom of the post. Take it away Elena…

This weekend my almost-three-year-old son had his first language lesson … online. My son is growing up bilingual in a largely monolingual country. He goes to an American pre-school, talks to the majority of our friends in English, knows the entire English alphabet already and is learning to read… in English.

Since my mother tongue is Russian, I decided early on that I would talk to him in Russian only so he becomes fluent in both languages. As he is getting older though I’m realizing the challenge of keeping him bilingual and finding a face-to-face professional teacher who wouldn’t mind driving across the town to work with him for 30 minutes.

That prompted me to begin looking online. Being an online teacher myself I realize how insanely hard it is to teach teenagers online, not to mention kids! But I decided to send out my request to several teachers, and received two brave positive responses. We ended up going with one of them.

The lesson turned out to be so much more than I expected: my son was engaged, enjoyed meeting a new teacher and talking to him in Russian, showed all of his toys to him and even learned some letters of the Russian alphabet. Obviously, there were a number of limitations to such an online teaching experience, especially for a two-year-old, but in my case there was no other choice. The teacher did an excellent job, and he is definitely hired.

Diving into the Online Teaching Environment

I began teaching online in 2008 when a good friend from my hometown (about 70 km away) asked me to help her with pronunciation and fluency training. It was a similar situation where we had no other choice. I couldn’t be driving to my hometown every week, nor could she come all the way to see me for lessons.

So she installed skype, and we thought we’d give it a try. It worked. She began learning online and really enjoying the additional bonuses of such format: she was saving a lot of time and could have her lessons directly at her work place at the end of her working day. 

After a few years, I was laid off, and so again I had no other choice but to begin growing my online clientele. At the time I only knew one-to-one teaching via skype, but I would soon learn many more formats and become an expert in the business aspect of online teaching – something I’d never imagined myself doing.

The Similarities with Face-To-Face Teaching

Teaching may take different formats, but the essence of it still remains the same. According to the dictionary (dictionary.com), teaching means imparting knowledge or skill, or causing somebody to develop a set of skills or knowledge.

No matter where, what, who and how we teach, our goal is never the method for the sake of the method, it’s always imparting the knowledge and developing skills using whatever method appropriate for a specific age group and available at a specific time.

As experienced teachers, we know that there is a difference between teaching a child, a teenager, a College student, an adult or a senior. There are challenges and there are advantages. And certainly there is our own preference factor. But no matter how, our intention is always on helping the student achieve his/her results.

Online Teaching: Most Common Fears

When teachers consider switching to working online, there’s a series of questions that they keep asking themselves, and those questions are usually prompted by, what we will call, the fears of the unknown:

What if my Internet is down?

This certainly does happen, but it doesn’t make online teaching less reliable that way. Think of the times when you taught regular classes and you weren’t feeling too well, so you had to call in sick for fear of contaminating disease. When you teach online minor colds or temporary sickness/disability will not always keep you away from the classroom. Interestingly, colds happen more often than the Internet/power outages.

What if Skype doesn’t work?

In my 5 years of online teaching I only remember 3 epic skype outages. The first two made me panic. The last one was a breeze because by then I had a back-up plan (Google Hangouts) and was able to use it quite successfully.

What if a Student misses his/her class?

There are different ways of getting in touch with your students, and with the rise of portable devices, and phone-based internet services, my students can send me a quick text message if they are stuck in traffic or if there’s an emergency. Also, after a few months of teaching I knew I had to come up with specific terms and conditions so students wouldn’t “get used” to canceling their lessons all the time.

Today when a student signs up with me, he/she gets a document with terms and conditions, and he has to abide by them, and that means that no skipping-lesson excuse except for emergencies listed in the contract is considered valid. So the so-called no-shows are very rare.

How can I talk to a student whose mother tongue is different from the target language?

This one may sound like it’s tricky, but it isn’t for seasoned language teachers. If you know the mother tongue of your students you’ll be able to teach them from the beginner level. If not, you’ll just be there to help them develop their fluency.

Do I use ____________ (camera/headphones/microphone/iPad/iPhone, etc.)?

You can use all of the above, or very few of the above (just a headset and your computer). It depends on what you’re comfortable with and what your student can work with.

How do I teach a lesson?

The most common mistake is to think that once you begin your online teaching career there’s a set of many tools that you will need to learn how to use. It is true that over time your knowledge will most likely go beyond the use of Skype and Google, but you don’t need to know it all before you start.

My advice to beginning online teachers is to be as simple as you can: call via skype, use the chat window as your board and turn on the camera if you want your student to see the props that you have put together for the class. You can email the worksheets and the homework assignment prior to the lesson and use the relevant tools to make this process a simple one.

Most of these fear-based questions have to do with the technicalities, but they have nothing to do with the teaching itself. If you know how to teach, all you need to do is learn a bit about the basic online tools available for online teaching, and begin using them.

In What Ways is Online Teaching Superior to Teaching Face-to-Face?

Though there are some limitations to the online learning environment, I can think of at least 5 ways in which online language learning, for instance, can be superior to a classroom lesson. Naturally I’m biased, but I think that a lot of teachers are so put off by the fears and the slight learning curve involved that they forget about the generous benefits of online teaching.

Greater focus on listening comprehension skills. If you’re an online language teacher, working online with video camera off will prompt your students to be more alert and attentive, and thus develop their listening skills much faster than in a traditional classroom environment where listening is aided by other types of communication.

Greater focus on learning. In a traditional classroom, there are lots of distractions that may take away your student’s attention and then will take time to bring it back. It’s more difficult to do so online when a student is working on a task, talking or writing.

Wider range of materials, easily accessible on all devices. Having taught online for 5 years, I find traditional classroom somewhat limiting when it comes to retrieving information and accessing a wider range of assignments within seconds. There are plenty of resources on the internet, and that makes your materials more versatile and customized.

Better quality student support. Being online means you are more available than in the classroom and/or during your office hours. You will obviously have to develop some guidelines so you’re not writing/responding to emails non-stop, but better support means better results.

The time saving and comfort factor. There is no commuting involved into online teaching. It’s comfortable, convenient and easy for everybody involved. That increases the happiness factor, which makes the environment more conducive to teaching and learning.

The Challenges of Online Teaching

There are several big challenges to online teaching as well, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot be overcome. With the right training and basic marketing skills, you will be able to tackle those as well. Here are just the top two that I mostly write about when I participate in forums.

  • Finding and retaining new students.
  • Developing your own brand.

One of the best answers to these two issues is writing content. Content will bring people to your website, content will answer your readers’ questions, and content will prompt them to book your services rather than anybody else’s. Creating content takes time and practice, but as you keep looking and trying different means of conveying your unique message, you will find your voice that will speak and win the heart of your future customers.

I hope that this article has inspired you to test out the waters of online teaching and enjoy the pleasure that comes when you move your expertise beyond the walls of a traditional classroom and impact the lives of people all over the world.

More about Elena:

Elena Mutonono transforms traditional teachers into online teacherpreneurs. Visit www.elenamutonono.com for details and deals.

Want to become an independent teacher who is in control of their income and their teaching? Join TEOC today!

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