Update: Online Courses, New Sofa, Dogs, and Making Videos

The following was recorded live on my Facebook page. Enjoy!

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If you don’t have it already, get my free guide here.

Thanks for watching. Let me know if you have any questions!

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3-Step Writing Process Image

My 3-Step Writing Process: Blogging for Online Teachers

According to my writing app, I write between 12 – 15,000 words per week.

This number includes words from articles, emails, social media posting, and other areas.

I have introduced something new into my writing process that helps improve my articles and reduce the amount of mistakes I make.

In the video below, I go through the different stages of publishing something and share my new trick.

Watch in HD!

My Writing Process

Step One

Get your first draft done. Write down all your ideas and don’t worry about crafting the perfect article right now.

This is all about getting your ideas onto paper (or, onto WordPress!).

I like to do this in one sitting.

Step Two

Go through your first draft and make changes. Take out things that don’t work, move paragraphs around, and add in anything that makes the article flow better.

Don’t worry too much about grammar and little mistakes right now. If you see something, change it – but don’t go looking for them.

Step Three

I then read the article out loud like I am doing a presentation. It helps me notice whether the article flows and helps me spot mistakes I make.

(Note: I noticed some mistakes in the video after publishing it – fewer mistakes not less – but you don’t have the luxury of editing your video in this way unless you re-record it.)

You could get someone to proofread your articles. However, for me at least, this will add up and I need a very quick turnaround.

Over to You

Do you have any tips about writing?

Let me know in the comment section below.

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How to Build First Website

Creating Your First Website: The Tools to Use and What to Include

The first website I put up there for English learners was ugly. The colors didn’t work. The icons were generic. And the copy didn’t excite.

But it worked.

And over time, my website evolved into what it is now. I’ve made lots of small and big changes along the way. It will never be ‘finished’.

I see some teachers get put off getting started because they want perfection right from the start.

But the smarter move is to get something up there as soon as possible. Make it as good as you can make it now – but know that you can always improve it over time.

In this video, I talk about three tools you can use to design your site. Below, I have resources for you and some extra advice about what to include in your first design.

WordPress (The All-in-One solution)

My first recommendation is WordPress.

This gives you the greatest customization moving forward. The good news is that there are so many themes that you can use for your website, including one-page designs (perfect for throwing something up there quickly).

This has the steepest learning curve out of the three. But following my guide and choosing a simple template (you can change this later) will make things easier.

Here is a free tutorial on how to get started with WordPress.

LeadPages (The Easiest Way to Get Started)

Click here to check out LeadPages (affiliate link)

I use LeadPages on this site and for To Fluency. Mainly, I utilize it for landing pages, thank you pages, webinar pages etc.

However, you can use it to have your first online presence. You don’t need to buy hosting for this (although, you could host it on your site) as you can put it on LeadPage’s server. It will look like this: yourname.leadpages.net.

Once your main website is ready, you can redirect traffic from LeadPages to your site.

This is for those who want a good-looking site with minimal effort.

A Website Builder (The Middle Option)

I created my first site using Yola.

This is a website builder that is really easy to use.

Other options include Weebly (aff link), Wix (aff link), and SquareSpace.

The upside of using one of these services is that you don’t need to worry about the technical side of things.

The downside is that you give up some control and it usually ends up being more expensive.

You could always start with this option or LeadPages, and then move over to WordPress when you’re ready.

What to Include on Your First Website

In the video, I talked about having a one-page site that will give you an online presence straight away. You don’t need to worry about having a blog, a contact us page, a pricing page etc. at this stage.

You want people landing on this site to do one thing. This might be to contact you, sign up for your email list, or request a trial lesson.

Once you have your site ready, you can go through your contacts, advertise, and post in the relevant places to drive people to your new site.

This won’t take long at all.

It’s all about getting something up there, getting learners into your lessons, and then taking things from there.

(Note: I go through this process in-depth inside The Teach English Online Course)

Over to You

Do you have any questions about this process? If so, leave them in the comment section below.

If you already have a website, share your experience with getting started.

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Useful WordPress Plugins

Three Useful WordPress Plugins for Your Teaching Website

Useful WordPress Plugins

It’s easy to go plugin-crazy after installing WordPress.

Plugins add functionality to your site and a lot of them do really cool things.

But my criteria for a plugin is that it has to be useful and it has to be secure.

If it doesn’t help your site do what you want it to do, don’t add it. And be sure to only download plugins from trusted developers. Look at the reviews and ensure that the plugin you’re getting is up to date.

The bottom line is: think quality, not quantity.

And with that in mind, I want to share three plugins that I love, starting with one that will help your site be found in the search engines.

WordPress SEO

(Click here to check out SEO WordPress)

I wrote a post a few months back on how I suggest online teachers approach SEO.

In a nutshell: write articles that are valuable for those in your niche and customize your site for the search engines without going overboard.

Write for humans, not for Google.

The easiest way to customize your site (onsite SEO) is to use this plugin.

I use it to modify the title, description, and keywords of a page or post. There is so much more that you can use it for and things can get technical very quickly. Luckily, the kind folks over at Yoast have written a getting started guide to make things easier.

One feature that I particularly like about the plugin is you can change the way your posts look on social media. Here is a screenshot of what you can change:

Facebook Social Share

This means that you can create click bait headlines inside Facebook – “You will not believe the plugins that this English teacher is using! Number 3 changed my life!” – while keeping your original headline on your website!

Just kidding.

I use this to change the description on some posts and ensure that the picture is optimized for the Facebook news feed. This optimal size keeps changing (right now it is 470 x 246 – I usually double it) but it’s worth keeping up with this to make your images look great on Facebook.

SkimLinks

(Click here to learn more about Skimlinks)

Let’s see if you can follow along with this…

This link is an affiliate link that will take you to a site where you can add affiliate links on your site – just like this link. If you decide to start using this plugin and make money from it, I will get a small commission.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Affiliate marketing is where you promote products or services that you haven’t created yourself. If someone makes a purchase through your link, you receive a commission.

I have affiliate links throughout this site. For example, in my tutorial on WordPress, there are affiliate links for hosting, themes, and domain name purchases.

One problem you’ll face if you promote multiple products on your site is that you’ll have to go through the process of signing up with each merchant. Sometimes, the payment thresholds for these merchants are quite high meaning that it might take you a while to get paid. And it can be a pain to go into your account to find your affiliate link every time you need to add it.

Skimlinks has solved these problems.

It works like this: you get an account, install the plugin, and then all you need to do is type the merchant link directly onto your site. Skimlinks automatically turns the links on your blog into affiliate links.

Another benefit is that because they are dealing with high sales numbers, the company often negotiates higher commissions. And they allow those who can’t sign up to Amazon Affiliates due to geographical restrictions the ability to market Amazon products.

It’s difficult to make a living from affiliate marketing, but I certainly don’t complain about the extra income it brings in. And Skimlinks simplifies this for you.

Disqus

This picture below – taken from this article – made me laugh.

blog comments

Source: priconomics.com

I haven’t found this to be the case on my sites; I’m actually quite surprised at how many thoughtful comments are left (thank you!).

A part of this is down to me using Disqus. With most other commenting systems, you leave your name, email, and URL. Your name links to the URL you left. This gets spammers excited.

With Disqus, you can sign in with a native Disqus account (when you click someone’s name, it pops up with a bio), through your social accounts, or as a guest (just your name and email).

This reduces the amount of spam you get.

It looks a lot better than the native WordPress commenting system and there is a really cool thing about it too…

When someone leaves a comment on your blog, you are sent an email notification. Hit reply, type in your response, and your comment will show up on your blog. This saves you from having to go to the blog post each time you reply.

Over to You

Are you going to start using one of the above plugins? Already doing so? Please leave your thoughts below.

And please share any plugins that you find useful.

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Build Trust English Learners

Six Ways to Build Trust with English Learners Online

Build Trust English Learners

Let’s say you have a website, you know your lessons are valuable, and you have a marketing plan that will bring English learners onto your site and social media channels.

It all sounds great, but….

You won’t get paying learners/customers if you don’t gain the trust of your audience.

As teachers, it’s vital that we make our potential clients confident that we are going to deliver for them. And working online makes this more challenging.

Luckily, there are many things that we can do to build trust online, and that is what I’m going to explore in this post, starting with first-impressions.

Make a Good First Impression

First impressions matter.

When learners land on your homepage, click play on YouTube or see your promoted post on Facebook, they instantly form an opinion about you.

If they get a bad impression, they leave/stop watching/ignore your stuff. Therefore, your website should be visually appealing and look professional.

This is because when a learner lands on your site, your design is crucial for getting him/her to stick around and learn more about what you do. People can judge a website in milliseconds.

Now, it’s important to point out at this stage that you may not get this perfect first time. But you should always be taking stock and looking at ways to improve upon what you have.

In addition to your getting the look right, you have to engage your audience with content that is going to impress them.

If you solve a problem that your learner has, then they will want to learn more from you. Having content that is useful will help you build a teacher/student relationship, and this will result in more sign-ups for your lessons. This goes for content on your site and elsewhere.

I have also learned that the way in which you present your content helps too…

Make a Connection through Video

So, now that we know a good-looking website with useful content, let’s move on to the best way to get your message across.

From my experience and research, there are two important factors here: personality and video. Learners want to know the person behind the content and they want to see that person in action.

When I advertised my one-to-one lessons more prominently on my site, my conversions increased once I included a video on my booking page. And since I started focusing on YouTube for my new brand, I’ve received many more requests for lessons without plugging them in any way.

What I recommend is having video across your site. This is easy to do these days and, if your first videos aren’t perfect, you can always replace them at a later date. Again, this is striking a balance between perfection and getting started.

And don’t be scared about sharing small details of your personal life here and there. This shows that you are a real person and it will help you make a better connection.

Be Consistent

Consistency plays a big role in gaining trust, especially if you are building an audience over the long-term.

As I revealed in this post, I lost a little momentum last year. I wasn’t consistent with new videos, posts, and emails, and I know that I lost the interest and trust of some of my learners because of this.

When you’re consistent with your online lessons, email responses, blog posts, YouTube videos, social media posting etc., your learners and potential students see you as someone who is trustworthy and committed to what you do.

And when it comes time to advertise your lessons or launch a new course, people will know that you’re going to deliver on your promises.

Communicate

As I expand my online business, I am looking to outsource my work more and more.

One area that I want to keep under my control as long as possible is email communication. This plays a crucial role in building trust and, ultimately, getting more sign ups.

I use TextExpander to help me with this, but I spend about an hour a day responding to emails and comments.

Giving a response within 24 hours shows that you care and that you are someone who takes customer service seriously. And we all know that when buying something, customer service plays an important role in our decision.

In addition to building trust, reading comments and emails helps you better understand your audience. In my series of automated emails that go out after someone signs up, I ask a variety of different questions. These answers have given me great insight and they have helped me build better products and courses.

Give, Give, Give

No one likes to be taken for a ride.

And, unfortunately, there are many learners out there who like to take advantage of teachers who offer things for free.

An example of this is the trial lesson. Learners have been known to request a free trial lesson even though they have no desire to pay for future classes.

A potential problem with this – in addition to giving free lessons all the time! – is that you can start to feel exploited, making you less likely to give your time to help others.

However, there are two types of people that matter to us online teachers: those who will potentially pay for your lessons and courses (the potentials); and those who will never pay for anything (the nevers).

Don’t let the second group put you off, and instead, make it a win-win-win situation by giving as much as possible.

You win because you build trust with the potentials and also feel good about helping others. The potentials win because they receive great content, trust you, and then go on to take lessons. And the nevers win because they get really good content.

That doesn’t mean that you have to give lots of trial lessons – over time you will learn to filter free trial lessons, for example – but you do need to give in order to build trust and to receive in return.

My favorite way to give is through my blog posts, videos, and social media posts. Interacting with learners, as discussed before, is another way that you can give to receive.

Use Testimonials and Add Social Proof

There is only so much that you can say about yourself to build trust. That is why getting others to do this for you is crucial.

The most common way to do this is through testimonials and/or case-studies. With my online courses, I have never directly asked for testimonials. But if I receive an email from a happy customer, I ask them if I could use their email as a testimonial on my site.

With one-to-one lessons, asking is much easier. The best time to do this is at the end of a good lesson.

Going back to a point I made earlier, a video testimonial is much more powerful than a written one. However, they are harder to get.

In addition to testimonials, you can also build trust by showing off your numbers. If you have a substantial amount of Facebook fans, Youtube or Twitter followers, put something on your site so that people can see this.

Over to You

Please leave your experience of building trust in the comment section below and, if you have further tips, please share them!

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Starting a New Brand

Building a New Brand for English Learners (and Why I Started Again)

Last autumn, I stopped posting content for English learners on the website I started back in 2010.

The reason?

I was going in a different direction with my teaching and wanted to build a new brand that matched this.

I created my first site, JDA English, to promote my online lessons. When a learner landed on JDA English, the one thing I wanted them to do was to sign up for a trial lesson.

However, 2014 was the year I made the transition away from one-to-one lessons into selling online courses and group lessons.

And this is where To Fluency was born.

In this post, I’m going to talk about how things have progressed but, firstly, I want to go through the naming process.

Naming the New Website

One of the biggest reasons why I started a new brand was because I wanted a name that better fit my vision.

The name of my original site came from my initials. Although I wasn’t thrilled about it, I went with JDA English because I wanted to put focus on me as a teacher.

But with the change of direction, I felt I needed something new to get excited about, and that is why I made a fresh start.

There is a history behind the name To Fluency that I haven’t talked about before. In 2008, my wife and I started work on a website where language teachers and learners could meet, and we called it To Fluency. Teachers would be able to post a profile, set their prices, and have learners sign up with them. The lessons would take place in a virtual classroom hosted on the site.

The website never got completed – although, it came pretty close – and I let the domain name go, only to buy it again last year.

I feel the name helps get the message across that learning English is about the journey, and that there are certain things that learners should do on this journey to fluency (more on this later).

One thing to note is that it doesn’t have English in the domain. Having this would have been preferable but it wasn’t a big enough issue for me.

Making the Transition

In many ways, creating this new website was like starting all over again.

For example, I had to create new social media pages and a new YouTube channel. For anyone who has tried to build these profiles, you will know that it takes a bit of time and consistency.

If I had over 10,000 subscribers on YouTube, I would have thought twice about making the change. But when I started the new site, I had 1,000, and although I knew it would be a lot of work, I decided to go for it.

There were many things that made this transition easier. This includes:

– having my old social media profiles to share posts from To Fluency
– having over 5,000 learners subscribed to my email list
– having good traffic to my old site that I could redirect to my new one

Looking back, I made a couple of mistakes when making the transition.

Firstly, I lost a bit of momentum in the months leading up to the launch of the new site. There were times when I didn’t send out an email to those on my list for a few weeks. And secondly, I didn’t build up any excitement before launching.

Because of this, my email open rates dropped, and it has taken a few months to build them back up again.

But having an email list has allowed me to bring over followers from my old site to my new one, and this is another reason why prioritizing email is important.

My Goals for To Fluency and a Quick Update

To Fluency is all about helping English learners make fast progress to fluency in a way that is fun and sustainable over the long-term. I talk about learning methods, motivation, goal setting, and getting into the habit of learning English.

Over the past seven years of teaching, I have learned that lessons can only get a learner so far, and more needs to be done outside of the classroom. Those who make progress are the ones who use English on a daily basis and make English part of their lives.

The feedback I have received from my videos has been really positive, and I’m excited about seeing how far I can take it.

From a business standpoint, income comes from the To Fluency Program (an online course) and although not substantial right now, YouTube advertising.

In my yearly review post, I talked more about my goals and what I want to achieve with this brand, including:

– building my audience
– selling more courses
– posting on a consistent basis

Things have started strongly in all three of the above areas.

I’ve put a lot of focus on YouTube and videos in general. Video marketing is getting more important and powerful each year, and I have a structure so that I can crank out videos on a consistent basis.

I’ve just hit 650 subscribers on YouTube, with 90 coming in the last week alone. I’m really pleased with this, especially because I only started posting videos on a consistent basis in January of this year. My new goal is to hit 10,000 by the end of the year.

At first, it can feel like you’re doing a lot of work (new videos, social media posting etc.) without gaining any momentum. But if you stick at it, things start to click, and that is what I’m seeing now.

Additionally, I’m putting my efforts into areas that are working (80/20 principle). Therefore, I’m concentrating on three social networks while keeping the others ticking over, going all in on video, and spending time communicating with my audience through email and elsewhere.

Over to You

Having a substantial email list gave me a head start with this new adventure, but as I mentioned, it was like starting again with YouTube and social media.

I’m starting to see everything come together, and momentum is building. The ride has been enjoyable so far, and I’m looking forward to building my brand over the coming months and years.

Are you building a brand at the moment? If so, share your experiences in the comment section below.

And if you haven’t done already, click here to get your free guide to the tools and resources you need to teach English online.

Thanks for reading!

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SEO for Teachers

SEO for Teachers: How to Get Your Website Ranked Highly in the Search Engines

SEO for Teachers

It takes less work than you think

Wednesday, 25th April was a strange day for me. And for countless other people too. When I checked my website analytics I thought there was a mistake. I was used to getting 500+ visits a day to my website, the vast majority of these coming through Google search. But only 98 visited. What was going on?

I immediately went to an SEO (search engine optimization) forum to see if this had happened to others. General chaos. It seemed like everyone had lost traffic to their site. There was anger and frustration, and people didn’t really know what was happening.

I checked my analytics the next day and the traffic hadn’t come back. I went back onto the forum and people were talking about a big nasty penguin (the update that Google made to their algorithm was called, “The Penguin Update”).

The search traffic that (I thought) I relied on to get new students, they told me on the forum, wasn’t going to come back any time soon. I was feeling lost and wasn’t sure what to do. I was reading comment after comment from people who had their income slashed overnight due to this one update. I was feeling their pain and nodding along to the posts full of anger. But out of nowhere there was a comment that changed everything.

The comment went something like, “If you base your entire business model on one form of lead generation, especially when this is something as volatile as SEO, then you only have yourself to blame.”

I was firstly in denial, but after a couple of days of comment repeating in my head, it started to really resonate. And it was then when I used different methods to get learners to sign up to lessons with me.

What I Was Doing Wrong

SEO for teachers

Steadily building and then.. DROP!

Once I got some composure back after the initial shock, I took a little time to think about what to do next. I also thought about whether all the SEO work that I did was worth it.

Although I was bringing in 500 learners a day to my site, the percentage of those converting into paying students, quite frankly, terrible. I was getting massive traffic, but I wasn’t getting them to do what I wanted them to do. Why was my conversion rate so low?

– Was what they were reading not good enough?
– Were they coming for the wrong reasons?
– Was I doing a bad job of converting them?

Yes, yes, and yes. I was writing content that was written for the search engines (to make it come higher up in the rankings); I was targeting search terms that weren’t really connected with what I was offering, but instead for terms that were easy to rank; and my conversion tactics were very basic at this stage too.

But what did I learn from this? And should teachers use SEO as a tactic for getting students?

SEO for Teachers

Bringing learners onto your site through the search engines can be incredibly profitable. That is why I spent so much of my time and energy into making this happen for me at the start. But what I was doing to get higher rankings was what caused my sudden drop in rankings.

The good thing about SEO these days is that, on the whole, the things that you should be doing for your website anyway are the same things you should be doing to increase your rankings. There are just a few extra things that you need to put in place first.

Here are some guidelines on what you should do to if you want your website to rank highly (note: I have used these exact tactics to get 2,500 visitors a month to this site through search engines like Google).

Use the Right Search Terms

One of the search terms that brought in the most traffic for my English learning site was “Present perfect simple.” I saw that I could rank highly for this if I did the right (which are now the wrong) things. My hope that it when English learners came to my site that they would see that I offered lessons and want to take them.

But the search term wasn’t exactly targeted. And also my method of converting students at that time was pretty uninspiring. So, it all starts with the right search terms for your niche. And to get this right you have to write about things that are relevant to your audience and what you’re offering.

When I looked at my analytics, my paying customers were coming through search terms like, “Learn English Skype.” Which was exactly what I was offering. This is an example of using the right search terms.

Think about what keywords are relevant to your site and then create content based on this.

Optimize Your Website

To ensure that your site ranks highly you need to optimize it for the search engines. Some people go too far with this and their website looks like it has been written for robots. There are ways to achieve readable and engaging copy while at the same time including what you need to include to optimize your site.

There are certain things that you can do that are quite easy to implement; this includes: having a quick site, the right plugins, a clear menu, and having keywords (the search terms people use) in your title and text. This is much easier to do now when using WordPress, as the themes that I recommend have all of this already built in.

Write Great Content

This is a must for anyone with a website, and not just for SEO. Google’s job is to have the best content at the top of the search results, and they have some pretty smart ways to calculate what is good content and what isn’t (note: they are getting better at this all the time.)

It is your job to write really engaging content on your site. Assuming that you are targeting the right keywords, then this is the area I recommend spending your most time and creative energy on.

If your content is excellent, people will share it, spend more time reading it, and will link to it. When people do this, they are telling Google that your content is worth showing in their search results. And your website will climb up the rankings.

If it Feels Wrong, Don’t Do It

My initial thought back in 2010, when I read that having links pointing back to your site is the most important factor when it comes to ranking, was, “Well, let’s get some links!”

I quickly found ways to automate this process and have hundreds of links pointing to my site. That is why I got the infamous Google Slap. What I was doing didn’t feel right, and I ignored anyone who said that it was going to come back and haunt me.

Now, I just concentrate on having my website optimized, write the best content I can, and share what I write in the right ways. If you build it and share it, links will follow.

The 80/20 Rule

What it comes down to is this: being high in the rankings can do amazing things for our teaching business. Getting targeted visitors through Google and other search engines means that you can expand your teaching business by hiring other teachers and/or offering different courses and products.

But it takes time to get to this stage, and if you try to force it, you will most likely get penalized in the long-term. The amount of time I spend doing or thinking about SEO is very limited now, and what brings me results is what I should be doing anyway (writing my best stuff, sharing it, connecting with others etc.).

It makes me cringe thinking about what I used to do, and the drop in rankings was a blessing in disguise as it helped me realize that I was focusing on the wrong things.

So, take a long-term view and relax knowing that if you do the right things that your site will climb up the rankings, bringing in targeted organic traffic. And more clients/sales along with it.

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Teaching Update 2014

My 2014 Goal Update + 80/20, Batching, and Focus

Teaching Update 2014

In January, I wrote a post looking back on 2013 and also talked about my English teaching goals for 2014. Writing down this helped me process what I wanted to achieve and created some accountability. I also hoped that it would inspire others to get into the world of online teaching.

In the post, I stated that I wanted to focus my creative efforts on podcasting, videos, and building my email list. In addition, I talked about starting group lessons and creating a teaching guide. Here is my progress with this so far:

2014 Goal Updates

Please note that all but one of my goals below are related to English teaching.

Building My Email List

I’ve made a big effort to increase my email list numbers this year. The results have been incredible (a 1000% increase in subscribers). The main reason for this increase was because I started giving things away for free.

I wrote a 16 page book/guide called, “The Five Keys to Becoming Fluent in English.” This turned out to be really popular and was shared extensively by those who read it. In addition to this book, I’ve also given webinars that have proven to be really popular too, and when someone signs up, they get added to my list. I love the excitement of a live event with 200/300+ people watching, and it is great to help so many people at the same time.

Having this list has meant that I can directly reach my followers (and potential students), and this way of communication is much more effective than social media.

(Note: Subscriber numbers are not the be all and end all. A community needs to be served, and to do this you have to continually send quality content. This is true for your emails and what you have on your website.)

(Here is a guide on how to start your own email list)

Group Lessons and Courses

I started group conversational lessons in March and love these types of lessons. I have 2-4 students in a group and we discuss a video/article that I send to them before the class. It works well for students who want structured speaking practice but can’t afford the one-to-one lessons.

Getting students for group lessons has proved more challenging than one-to-one. The main reason for this is that people want to learn at different times. But as my community grows, I will be able to do more of these lessons.

I also started another course in May on WizIQ. There were a total of five live presentations along with other learning materials and assignments. The course went really well: I managed to get 28 learners to sign up and the feedback I got was very encouraging.

I’m doing the same course again this week, and then maybe a couple more times this year. The biggest problem with getting learners to sign up is the timing of the lessons; even though the lessons are recorded, most students want to be able to take them live and interact with me and fellow learners.

I plan on taking the content of this course and putting it into a video course. This will also make it easier for me, as once I have got the content recorded, my only role in this is to market the course, interact with the learners, and keep things ticking along.

Other Products

I’ve also experimented with different products and services. I created a guide for IELTS learners that helps them with their writing and ran an advertising experiment using Facebook Ads. I managed to get five sales, with four out of those five going on to buy another product or service.

The next step is to improve the product (adding a premium package) and go through the sales page and marketing plan to improve it. Once I have done that I’m going to start promoting it again. I’ve got ideas for other products too and will most likely release these in a few months.

Podcast and Videos

I enjoy making videos but they take a lot of energy and time to produce. I was making long videos that were quite creative and I found it quite draining. I decided to take a break from video production to focus on other areas, and I will look at doing them again in the future once I have a system in place and a specific type of video format in mind.

I want to be able to fire out as many quality videos as possible without taking too much time. Therefore, I’m going to brainstorm ideas and start producing again once I have a good system in place.

As for the podcast, I am getting closer and closer to the recording stage. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want my podcast to be about and how it can fit into the overall picture. I was initially going to include my wife in the podcast and create conversational audio. However, we are currently finding it hard to get an hour or so to sit down and record (the nine-month old is the main barrier to this!).

So I have decided to go ahead and make a podcast that focuses on the mentality and methods for English learners who want to reach a high level. I’ve written the plan and a list of episodes, and I’m going to throw myself into this project in this fall (after 3 1/2 years of living in America, I’ve started saying fall instead of autumn. And although I thought it would never happen, I find myself saying soccer instead of football!).

A Teaching Online Guide

My guide on how to teach English (or any language) online will be ready in July/August/September. It is going to be a video course that comes with other learning materials and will cover all aspects of online teaching (focusing on one-to-one lessons, but also including group lessons and course creation), including: setting up, website design, platforms, finding niches, marketing, branding, and much more.

(if you’re not already in my community, click here to join my mail list and to receive updates about this course.)

Things I’ve Learned

During the first part of this year I have also invested a lot of time and energy into my own development. I’ve taken various marketing courses, read many self-development and teaching books, and I have become very commitment to what I want to achieve long-term.

One thing that I noticed was that earlier this year I was spreading myself too thin. I was taking on all types of projects, starting new ones all the time, and didn’t have a clear plan of action.

To overcome this I decided to leave a few projects aside and concentrate on only one or two at one time while setting up systems for everything else. The course that I gave on WizIQ is a good example of that: I put a lot of time and effort into it in April and May, and now I have the course written and I have a marketing plan in place, I can now spend most of my energy on other projects.

I’m also batching my work. Batching is when you dedicate blocks of time to work on similar tasks. For example, I generally reply to emails during a 20 minute window in the morning, create the plans for my lessons on a Friday/Monday, and take my one-to-one lessons at one part of the day (between 12 and four). I’ve found this helped me focus, and made me more productive and creative.

And finally, I now do a 80/20 analysis once every two months. The 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle) states that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. Relating this to marketing, for example, we can say that 80% of sales come from 20% of marketing efforts. This is one of the reasons why I slowed down my video production and put my focus on building my email list. I also explain this rule to English learners in my courses and lessons so that they understand how important it is to concentrate on doing things that actually make a difference to their progress.

Over to You

If you are doing your own thing too, let me know what you’re working on at the moment. And if you are someone who would like to teach online, tell me what you are currently doing to get started.

Thanks for reading!

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Google Hangouts Post Artwork Featured

Using Google Hangouts on Air for Teaching English

Google Hangouts Post ArtworkI had my first experience using Google Hangouts on Air this week. I’m happy to say that it was successful both in terms of the presentation I gave and the technical side of things. I did A LOT of research and testing to ensure that everything went smoothly.

There are a lot of ways that you can mess things up as it’s not as intuitive as you would think. But, once you have done it once, you will be able to get things set up in minutes.

I’ve written this post to tell you about my experience, and also to give you step-by-step instructions so that you can do it too.

What is a Google Hangout on Air?

A Google Hangout on Air (HOA) lets you stream a video live on Youtube to an unlimited amount of people. Basically, it allows you to host your own webinar. It also records the live video and adds it to your Youtube channel.

It was perfect for what I wanted to do this week: host a free lesson/presentation on my website as a way to introduce a new course that I’m going to teach in April.

Google Hangouts on Air is free, easy to use once you know what to do, and allows you to embed the live video on your site. Here is what I did to get around 140 people watching my presentation live on my website.

Get learners to sign up

I created a squeeze page (a page where people can enter their email addresses to sign up) on my website. This is what it looked like:

Webinar Squeeze Page

When someone entered their details, they were automatically subscribed to my mailing list, and then received an automatic message about the lesson. Increasing my mailing list is a big goal of mine, so having people opt-in was really important. It also gave me the ability to remind everyone about the free lesson before it went live, and to send the recording of the lesson to those who missed it.

In total, I had over 1,000 people visit this page, and out of those, over 350 people signed up to the webinar. I’m going to look at ways to increase this conversion rate in the future.

Setting up the event

You need to have a Google Plus profile and a Youtube channel to be able to host a HOA. Setting both of those up is pretty easy to do, and if you need help with this stage, a quick Google search will give you what you need.

You also need to link your channel to your Google+ profile to host a HOA. Think about whether you want to host the hangout from your personal profile or a page that you manage. I hosted mine from my JDA English page.

Create a Hangout on Air, not a Hangout

This is probably the most confusing part. A lot of people have made this mistake (I nearly did too). Don’t create an event, but instead do the following:

Create a Hangout

Select the option below from the main menu on your Google Plus account.

Hanogut Screenshot

Click “Start a Hangout on Air

HAO Screenshot

Then you’ll see this

HAO Form

This is where you enter the details of your hangout. As you can see, there is the option to start it now or later. During my research I read that you couldn’t schedule a HOA for a later date; I guess this is a feature that they’ve just added. However, I decided to get everything set up an hour before my presentation so I selected “Now.”

The reason why you shouldn’t create an event (and choose the hangout option) is because there is a difference between a regular Hangout (where you can chat live with up to nine other people – perfect for one-to-one lessons and group lessons) and a HAO (where anyone with the link can watch your event live – for presentations and big live lessons).

When setting it up, I only shared it with myself (I didn’t make it public). This gave me time to get everything ready. Once you fill in the details of your HAO, you will see this screen.

The Event Page

HAO Event Screen

Your live event will be streamed on this page, on your Youtube channel, and you can also embed the video on your site. I didn’t make the event public because I wanted people watching on my website. More on this later.

You can add a trailer for the event, and there is also the option for people to ask you questions. See the blue start button in the bottom left hand corner? Click this to open up the hangout on air control room (this won’t automatically start the hangout).

The HAO Control Room

Once you click the blue start button, it will ask you if you would like to invite others (I skipped this step), and then you’ll see your lovely face staring back at you. What I did next was mute my microphone and turn off the camera. Here is what you’ll see:

Control Room

There is a big green button at the bottom; don’t click this until you’re ready to start your broadcast. I got to this stage about an hour before the lesson so that I had time to embed the video on my site.

Embed the stream on your site

You can do this before you start. All you need to do is to click “Links” in the bottom right hand corner and grab the code. I modified it a little by making the video a little bigger.

Check settings

As I use an external mic, I went into the settings to select the right one. Make sure that your webcam (if you’re going to show your face) is working correctly.

Screen share

I decided to do a presentation for my live event, and I created this in Google Drive. When creating your presentation, make sure that you use widescreen, and open up the presentation in a new window. Choose this screen to share. You can open up your teaching notes as these won’t be shown on the video. I more or less wrote my entire script in the teaching notes.

Start Broadcast

Once you have everything ready, start your broadcast. I did this about 15 minutes before the time of presentation without turning my microphone on. I wanted to make sure that it was working properly, and got feedback from those who came early.

When it was time to start the presentation, I turned my microphone on, asked for feedback to ensure that everyone could see and hear the video properly, and then began.

Live Chat on the Page

If you decide to have people come to your live event on Google Plus or Youtube, there is the option to leave comments. But, I wanted something a little more interactive. So, I embedded tlk.io next to the video on my website.

I came to the event about 30 minutes early to chat with others and to build the excitement.

Recording the event

Your HOA will be automatically recorded for you and uploaded to your Youtube page. The video will be unlisted, but you can make it public or private if you wish. Additionally, you don’t need a new embed code; it’s the same video link as the live video.

Because I went live before I started the presentation, I cut the video using the editor in Youtube so that it starts right when I start talking. I then sent out the link of the recording to everyone who signed up.

Going Forward and a Question for You

The whole experience was amazing, and I have to admit that I got a big buzz from doing a live online event. I’m glad that I tested it out first, but if you are going to run a test, I recommend setting up a test page and Youtube channel. One of my students told me that he was browsing through Youtube when he saw that my channel was live, and decided to watch my test. He only caught the end, and luckily missed the part where I was moaning at my wife because she wasn’t paying attention to the test stream!

I’m definitely going to do more of these live events and have other ideas for both this site and my teaching site. I want to do more lessons, live interviews, product launches, and spontaneous hangouts.

I’m also going to test making the hangout public on Google Plus (the step I skipped) as I’m sure that a lot of people would have signed up to this and shared my event. But, you do lose the ability to sign people up to your list.

I now have a question for you:

Are you thinking about using Google Hangouts on Air for your students? If so, what ideas do you have?

Leave your comments below. If you would like more information about setting up a squeeze page, marketing your live event, and setting up an email list, then send me a message.

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Online Teaching Projects

What I Achieved in 2013, Projects in 2014, the Baby Effect, and Bill Gates

Online Teaching ProjectsFirst of all, Happy (belated) New Year to all my wonderful readers!

I receive many emails from fellow teachers each day, and love hearing about your situation, what you want to achieve, and your successes. Keep the emails coming!

2013 was a great year for me. On a personal note, our son Thomas was born in August and having him has brought us so much joy. Things have obviously changed a lot since then, but as you’ll see later in the post, having a baby around the house can actually improve productivity!

The best decision I made professionally was to focus on making and cultivating relationships; I have made some great connections with other online teachers which has led to some really incredible opportunities and new learning experiences.

Here is a summary of what I have achieved and learned in 2013.

I improved the lessons that I gave:  I always talk about how going freelance gives you the ability to experiment and grow as a teacher. Well, I took my own advice and added some new features, experimented with different techniques, and made my lessons even more specific to each learner.

I now give my students personalized audio every week that focuses on them getting past their common mistakes. I recommend that they listen a couple of times a day, every day. My students love it, and it means that they can hear my lovely voice wherever they go!

I started making videos on Youtube: I now have five videos on Youtube and the response so far has been really positive. I love making the videos (although it does take a lot of time and can be frustrating, especially when you forget to record the audio!) as I can throw all my creative energy into each one.

It has definitely given me more exposure and I have had many lesson requests from leaners who found me on Youtube. I have also noticed that my videos are shared much more than my blog posts.

I got serious with email: I started a free email course that received nearly 500 subscribers. Most came from a guest post that I wrote for Vocabla. I created an automated email course that subscribers received each day for 30 days. I tried to make it as informative and inspiring as possible, giving away a lot of value (marketing speak) and responding to each email that I received.

I have now made it about 20 emails over 30 days as I got some feedback saying that an email a day (which included action to be taken) was too much. As I gave out some really great information and responded to each email, I feel that I have a lot of dedicated followers. When I now email my list with new posts or videos, I get a lot of feedback and shares.

I have also received a lot of lesson requests from this list. The soft-sell approach has worked really well in this case.

I started this blog!: Starting this blog has not only allowed me to teach online, but to help me get my thoughts on marketing and teaching organized. Writing has been wonderful for me in general. I try to write a little each day whether it be a new post here, on my teaching site, or writing other materials and plans.

I made some really great connections: Connecting with other teachers has been incredible. I started this whole online thing with a lone wolf mindset, and thought that other teachers were competitors (keep away from MY students!). But, connecting with others has brought me into a whole new connected world. As I mentioned, this has brought new opportunities (such as being part of a wonderful MOOC on Wiz IQ).

To use social networks, you have to be social: I used to just copy and paste my links into Facebook groups, on Twitter, and Google Plus. But, to really get a lot out of these networks you have to adapt your message, ask questions, and interact.

I also try to make my artwork standout instead of just using a simple picture (or no picture at all). Visuals are becoming so much more important now due to the vast amount of posts that people see each day.

My son has made me more productive: Having a baby and stay-at-home wife around the house has forced me to change my working habits. I get up A LOT earlier than I used to (I got up at 5am this morning), take care of the morning type stuff, and then get to work. I have about three hours in the morning to do my non-teaching work, with an hour break changing/playing with/looking after Thomas the baby. I then usually teach from 11am to 4pm, and after that it’s family time again. I get a an hour or so at about 8pm to read a few things and do a bit of this and a bit of that.

Before Thomas came into our lives, I was nowhere near as focused. Having a baby not only makes you more productive (by having less time to work on things, I get them done instead of procrastinating), but it also has given me a big boost of motivation to move my business onto the next level instead of just coasting.

Which helps us move on to the next section: 2014!

What Will 2014 Bring?

I have a lot of projects planned for 2014, all of which are focused on finding different types of income instead of just one-to-one teaching.

I love my one-to-one lessons and I have learned so much about the problems that students have through these lessons. I now feel that I have enough knowledge to branch out and enter the world of podcasting, group courses, and other products.

Podcasting: I have the microphone, the recording software, and, as I’ve been told, the voice to make it big in the world of podcasting! I also have a very willing and American sounding wife who will bring an entertaining dynamic to our new shows.

We want to create a fun show for intermediate speakers and up that is based on conversational English. The inspiration has come from many other podcasts, but mostly from Notes in Spanish (If you’re learning Spanish, I highly recommend this podcast). I received an email from them the other day that said that they have had over ten million downloads. TEN MILLION! It blew me away. If we can get just one percent of that in the first year, and a certain percent of those buy our product, then, well.. let’s not get carried away. Instead, I’m looking at it as an adventure and it’s going to be a lot of fun!

More videos: I love making videos and I’m going to experiment with different ways to approach this. For example, I want to make more videos that help learners take charge of their learning. I also received a request from a student to introduce more vocabulary. So, there is a lot to be explored.

I don’t currently monetize my videos on Youtube, but I may look at doing this in the future. At the moment, I use it to drive people to my email list and as a way to better connect with English learners.

More email focus: I’m going to make my email list a priority again this year. 2013 was when I truefully understood how important it is to have people subscribed to your email list. I’m going to offer more freebies and specifically target areas that are included in my niche.

I also redesigned my site so that users know the one action that I want them to take: to sign up. My design before had buttons everywhere and this led to confusion. My sign up rates have doubled as a result of this change.

More niche focus: Niche, niche, niche.. I think this is the most used word on this blog. But, it’s so important, and I’ve found myself falling into an even more targeted niche over the past 12 months: a language coach. I love language learning in general, and I’m also interested in the personal development world, so a lot of what I enjoy writing about now is how English learners can improve through self-study.

I’m also staying with my exam preparation lessons as as preparing students for exams makes the lessons more focused and it naturally has an end point. In a lot of cases, it also makes a huge difference to the lives of my students. Seeing pictures of my formerly frozen Russian students sunbathing in Australia also gives me the sense that I’m doing something worthwhile!

Group lessons and MOOCS: I’m currently putting together a group course that focuses on the change of mindset that is needed for learners to make progress and how learners can do this on their own (with a little help of a certain teacher through online lessons 😉 ).

Doing courses such as these will help me scale my income and will ultimately mean that I can teach less hours.

Continue this blog: .. and complete my guide. I have the first draft more or lesson finished, but there is still a lot to do. I want it to offer A HUGE amount of value (marketing speak again). I’m not putting a date on it, but if I had to guess… no, I’m not even going to give an estimate.

There’s a lot there. Enough to make me want to curl up into a ball and watch reruns of Friends all day. But, let’s bring in Bill Gates to help me get my focus back:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

I’m going to change ten years to one yearand voila, I feel much better. In fact, if I look back to what I achieved in 2013, the majority was done in the second half of the year (after Thomas was born), and was all due to a change of mindset.

The three hour window that I have each day to do my creative work and marketing doesn’t seem that much. But, over a year, I can get a lot done. So, instead of feeling overwhelmed with my projects and then doing nothing, I just focus on what I can do right now to keep myself going in the right direction, and try to enjoy the process as much as possible.

And, if you are starting to think that this focus can be applied to learning languages and that I’m going to include this advice in my self-study course, then you are most certainly correct!

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