Build Teaching Business on the Side

How to Transition into Online Teaching while Working a Full-Time Job

Build Teaching Business on the Side

Each month, I speak to dozens of teachers about making the transition into online teaching.

While some are able to work full-time on their new business, others have other things – jobs, young children, university, travel etc. – that get in the way.

I often get asked questions like, “Should I quit my job and just go for it?”

In most situations, I don’t recommend doing this. I believe the better option is to build your online teaching business on the side and then make the transition when the time is right.

Before I talk about how to do this, I want to start with a story.

How I Transitioned into Online Teaching

When I was in Bilbao, I created a website called Inglés Bilbao. Although I was teaching in a language school at the time, I wanted to get some private students to earn extra money on the side.

I stuck up fliers throughout the city, posted on classified websites, and invested about $50 in Google Adwords.

After a few weeks, I had a group class of three (earning $50 an hour), and 3-4 other private students ($32 an hour – but usually 90-minute lessons).

As the year progressed, my website started to show up in the rankings and I got more and more requests. I received plenty of referrals, too. If we had stayed in Bilbao, I would have gone full-time with this. But we moved to Valencia and I started the process again.

In Valencia, I added a page for Skype lessons and expanded my reach to other cities in Spain and Italy.

To finish the story: I realized the potential for online lessons and started a new site that wasn’t restricted to Valencia. I built this up while I was living in Spain and then started full-time when my wife and I moved to the U.S.

I managed to build these sites and build up my online presence while working a regular teaching job.

And you can do this too.

How to Transition into Online Teaching

Hopefully, my story highlights that there are ways to get into online teaching without having to quit what you’re doing now.

Although there will be situations where ‘just going for it’ might be the best approach, I feel that for most cases, building something on the side and transitioning when the time is right is the safest option.

Here are some tips to make this process work for you:

Set a Date When You Want to Make the Transition

When I knew I was going leave Spain and move to the U.S., I had a specific goal (20 hours of online teaching) with a specific deadline (January 2011).

If you have something going on at the moment, it can be very easy to have a ‘someday’ mentality and keep putting things back..

For example, after reaching my initial goal, I had plans to expand my online business (products, courses etc.) but I kept putting this off.

It wasn’t until I started setting deadlines again for my specific goals that I actually made progress.

Write down when you want to make the transition and set a deadline for this. Create breakthrough goals too. This helps you break things down so that you can build momentum.

Use Project Management Software

Getting things down on paper (yes, I know, software isn’t technically paper!) takes the pressure off trying to rely what’s in your head.

I use Asana for every new project I embark upon. To give you an example, I’m writing a free ebook for English learners that will fit into my email responder. There is a lot to do here. However, all the tasks, ideas, files etc. are organized inside this app.

I highly recommend using Asana or a similar app to help you stay organized and on top of things. After going through your plan of action, create separate projects in your software and give deadlines for each one.

Build Your Online Presence and Your Audience

You will need an online presence if you teach online. The earlier you start building this, the better.

Don’t get overwhelmed with having to create a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Instagram account etc. right from the get-go. Instead focus on the basics: get a website/web page up there, a business email account (this will come with your hosting), and an email marketing account.

Start bringing people onto your site and into your audience and write for this audience on a consistent basis through email and/or a blog post.

What you write about will ultimately come down to the type of English you want to teach and who you want to target. Understand the problems your audience has and be valuable by solving these problems.

Get Teaching

Write down times during the week when you are available to take lessons. Then, get teaching.

You will learn so much from giving lessons online, even if it’s only one hour per week.

It makes everything real. It helps you practice what to say in a trial lesson. It will make you a better online teacher.

Use the methods that I used in Spain (I go into much more depth with this inside TEOC) and bring in your first learners as soon as possible.

Find Time to Work on This

A job, partner, kids, friends, hobbies, TV, sports… there is a lot going on in our lives that make it hard to work on building your business.

That is why I recommend taking a look at your schedule to find slots during the week that you reserve for this project.

For most, this will be mornings, lunchtimes, evenings, and weekends. You might find time during your working hours too – for example, if your student cancels, get to work. But I recommend setting boundaries, otherwise, your work could suffer.

There might be weekends when you spend hours working but, over the long-term, you will want to make it sustainable.

Beware of Legal Implications

I receive messages from teachers working for certain companies telling me that their contract states that they can’t do their own thing while working for these companies.

In fact, I heard from a teacher that one company bans anyone doing their own thing one or two years after leaving. Crazy!

You don’t want to find yourself in trouble further down the line. Therefore, know if you are legally allowed to do this while working your current job.

In most cases, it’s fine. But it’s worth checking.

Enjoy it and Celebrate Your Successes

There are times when I do get stressed about my online business. When I do, I just ask myself, “How can I do this while having fun?”

Switching off from it all helps too. Turn off notifications and set boundaries for when you do your work.

Celebrate your successes no matter how small. And enjoy it. This is a lot of fun and I’ll never take the freedom that comes with having my own online business for granted.

Over to You

Have you made the transition into online teaching? Are you currently making this transition?

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!

Want to Teach English Online?

Get the tools and resources you need to get started.

I will also send you my best tips about how to become a successful online teacher.

Click the button, enter your details, and download it now.

DOWNLOAD NOW >>

  • I had to laugh reading about the legal part.

    One of the English schools I freelanced for online said that I wasn’t allowed to talk to any of the school’s students for 2 years after I left. Another one had a “non competitor” clause, saying I couldn’t work for any other English companies while I worked there! That one I ignored, hoping that particular clause wouldn’t hold up if they tried to enforce it since I was just a freelancer.

    Those kinds of restrictions show me just how much possibility exists for those of us who teach online — language schools guarantee a flow of clients yes, but they often underpay the teachers who keep them in business! There is very little stopping us from becoming successful on our own.

    • Thanks for sharing, Chris. I agree completely.

  • Tanita Laktionova

    Thank you for sharing ur experience, but for me it doesn’t work as I have started my teaching from online sphere and I don’t have another stable job

    • Still set deadlines, use Asana, get teaching right away etc. Good luck. Keep me posted with your progress!

  • Hello everybody, first time poster and French teacher here 🙂 Reading Chris’ comment, it reminds my of the school I was working for a few years ago. We weren’t allowed to teach students from this school for 2 years (what’s with the 2 years that is so popular!) after we left. We would have had to pay a big fine if we were caught teaching. How ridiculous is that. And the worst is, all the teachers were hired as freelancers, but working full time.

    Oh and btw I’d like to thank you Jack, because even though I’m not an English teacher, I’ve used your tip on audio assignments and my students love them. I also give my feedback on audio and it adds a real value.

    • It is terrible, Caroline. Thank you for sharing.

  • Carol Nuttall-kitsou

    Thanks again, Jack. I just have one question. Do you still use course books with your students, or only online materials?

  • Ekaterina Ivanova

    Dear Jack,

    Thank you so much for having shared the article with me. I completely agree with your advice. I’ll have the opportunity to transition to online teaching completely as I need to leave my current full-time job due to family circumstances. Let’s see how it will work for me. Thank you again!

    Kate

    • Get in touch whenever you have questions.