Organize Time Teacher TESLO

Organizing Your Time As an Online Teacher: What to Focus on and How to Get Things Done

Get things done

Don’t get stressed. Get organized!

When you have your own online teaching business, things can get a little hectic.

There are lessons to teach, marketing to be done, admin to be taken care of, planning, strategizing, advertising, posting, connecting, and whole bunch of other things to spend your time on.

And sometimes, you just sit there in front of your computer screen. Clicking.

As I have expanded my online teaching business over the years, I have had to get organized with my time to ensure that the important things get done; things that are actually going to move my business forward.

In this post, I want to share with you what currently works for me when it comes to organizing time, knowing what to focus on, and actually getting stuff done.

And it all starts with a plan…

Set Your Goals and a Plan of Action


My goals for 2015.

In my 2014 summary post, I talked about the big goals that I wanted to achieve in 2015.

Having a goal to aim for gives you clarity on what you want to achieve in your teaching business. And once you have this goal, it means that you can plan on what actions you need to take in order to get there.

So, think about your goals for the next 3, 6, 12 months, and then break up this goal by deciding what smaller projects/tasks are important.

So, as an example, let’s say you’re just starting out with your online teaching business and your goal is to have things up and running within three months.

From this, you make a plan to find your niche, create your website, and get some students into your lessons as soon as possible.

You can then break up these projects into tasks; for example, coming up with a site plan, buying a domain name, getting hosting etc.).

Give these tasks a deadline to be completed, and then make them a priority during your working hours.

Doing all of the above ensures that you are working on things that are going to help your teaching business.

Start Timeboxing and Batching Tasks

Time Boxing

Don’t leave things open

When you leave your days open, you allow your emotions, your energy levels, and other people’s agendas to dictate what you do.

This is how you end up spending two days exploring a new social networking site after reading about how one guy made $6,000 in five days (I’ve been there!), and completely ignoring what you should be doing.

Instead, plan out your days and weeks based on your goals and your plan of action, getting as specific as possible.

This is called timeboxing.

For example, every Monday at 10:30 I work on a new post/video for English learners for one hour. And on Wednesdays at 14:00, I work on my course for English teachers.

This is why teaching during a certain block of time helps too; it means that you can focus on teaching at a specific part of the day and spend the other part of your day working on everything else.

Also, try batching tasks (like sending emails) so that you’re not always moving from one task to the next. This helps you get into a rhythm and be more productive.

So base your daily and weekly work schedule based on the goals and plan of action that you come up with.

I even make some time on Fridays to reevaluate my long-term strategy, which stops me from thinking about the big picture when I should be getting things done.

Time boxing can be a little strange at first, and you might be thinking that it’s too regimented; but it has worked wonders for me.

Additionally, your schedule will evolve over time; I’m constantly changing things up on a weekly basis.

Focus and Avoid Distractions

Use apps to help you stay focused

Use apps to help you stay focused

Time boxing won’t work unless you can focus on the task in hand.

This is a constant struggle for me, and for nearly everyone I talk to who are working for themselves.

One thing that has helped greatly is the Stayfocusd app for Chrome. It works like this: you enter the URLs of the sites that you don’t want to visit while working, and ban them for a specific period of time.

When you try to go to a blocked site, you get a blank screen telling you that you should be working. This helps you refocus on your task.

It was amazing when I first started using this how often I would automatically go to my email or The Guardian or Facebook or Youtube, or even The Weather Channel.

I soon realized that I did this whenever I came to a sticking point with what I was doing; when I needed to really think about something in more depth.

Additionally, avoid other distractions by muting your phone, letting others know that you’re working, and by listening to music/putting on noise canceling earphones.

Having a deadline works wonders too. I’ve done this for my two big courses, and there is nothing like restricting your time to get you focused on what needs to get done.

Get Organized and Trust Systems

Three Productivity Tools for Online Teachers

My post on productivity tools

It took me a while to take the plunge and start using apps that I knew were going to help me. I’m just glad that I ended up getting them!

I talked about Asana and Evernote in this post, and the more I use them, the more I realize just how valuable they are.

Asana is the hub of everything I do: I use this to plan my projects, write down all my tasks, collaborate with my students and those who are getting mentoring from me, and to write down all the ideas that come into my head throughout the day.

Using applications like these takes a huge weight off and helps you focus on what’s important in that moment.

Outsource Where Possible

Chris Ducker Book

A great book on outsourcing

As a perfectionist, I find it difficult to pass tasks on to other people. But I’ve started doing more of this recently.

Last year, I was trying to do too many things that I wasn’t qualified for, or tasks that were repetitive and take up a lot of time.

For example, I started work on transcribing 40 videos for English learners, but soon realized that it would take me forever. I ended up paying someone to do this, and spent my time on other parts of the course that I was creating.

If you are new to online teaching, then you might be bootstrapping right now and doing everything yourself. Two things on this:

– You can always improve what you do now (logo, web design, welcome video etc.) at any time – so don’t feel like it has to be perfect right away (you should see some of my old sites!).
– Outsourcing doesn’t have to be expensive – there are plenty of things you can get done on Fivver, for example.

Here is a great book on outsourcing by Chris Ducker to help you get started with this.

Separate Work and Play, and Get Distance

Something I really struggled with last year was work vs play.

I spent too much time, especially in the evenings and at weekends, not really working and not really relaxing. I was watching football while trying to write an article, for example.

But over the last few months, I have managed to separate the time I spend working and the time I spend not working quite effectively. There are many tips for this (like working only at a specific location), but for me, having a work schedule and time boxing have been the deciding factors.

Getting distance from your work is important; it helps you come back fresher, more motivated, and with more creative energy.

Additionally, when you have specific times when you can get stuff done, you become more focused as you realize that this is the only time you have to do it.

Over to You

All the of the above is still a work in progress for me, but as I mentioned, I have made huge improvements with organizing my time so I’m more effective and productive with what I do.

Please leave any tips you have on this topic, or any thoughts you have on this post, in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!


Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!


Interview with Teacher Diane

Interview With a Location Independent Online English Teacher – Teacher Diane

Teacher Diane is someone who I have been following online for the last year or so.

So, it was a nice surprise when she reached out to me to connect. I soon realized that I wanted to give her the platform here at Teaching ESL Online to share her story and the valuable advice she has for other online teachers.

In our interview, Diane shares with us her experience of being a location independent online English teacher, and how she has managed to build up a large student base.

As you’ll see, she has some creative ways (and tools) to teach her lessons and make videos for her followers.

Here is the interview (watch in HD):

If you would like to teach English online, click here.

What We Discussed

Diane started teaching English five years ago, firstly in Brazil and then in Chicago. After two years of teaching in the language school in Chicago, she got the travel bug and decided to start her own website so that she could teach and travel at the same time.

Making the Transition

Diane was a little hesitant at first, but started with an old student and realized that she could do more online than in the classroom – screen sharing, links etc. – and she found that is was more comfortable to teach at home.

Diane uses a Wacom Tablet for her teaching, writing and drawing on this tablet. Her learners can see this on their screens along with her webcam.

She also uses the tablet to make her very unique videos for Youtube; here is an example:

Bringing Learners onto Her Website and Into Her Lessons

Youtube has been one the best sources of students for Diane, and she places a link at the start of each video and also in the description box under the video to bring people onto her site.

We then talked about putting ourselves out there on video, and how it can be strange to hear your own voice at first. I know this can be a concern for teachers when starting out, but this does become easier the more you do it.

Diane now schedules her posts on Facebook and batches this work every Sunday. She has three types of posts: a question post, something humorous, and then a post with a link back to her website.

She uses Facebook to build her brand and also to give more exposure to her videos and other materials.

Planning Lessons and Hiring Other Teachers

Diane has a tailored approach to her lessons where she is specific to each student, although she does have certain students who fall into a similar category. She has build up many resources over the years.

Diane has contracted other teachers to help with her workload, hiring teachers who she has met on her travels.

Plans for the Future

Diane’s plans are to focus on marketing her website and learn more about SEO and social media marketing.

She plans to create other sites for specific types of learners (English for doctors, for example). And in the long-term, she wants to write a grammar book and open a language school in the US.

Summary and Over to You

It’s great to see how successful Diane has been with her online teaching and her site does a great job at converting learners into paying students.

One thing that I took away from our interview is this: if you put quality stuff out there, work hard at it, and stay consistent, you are going to get rewarded.

At first, it might seem like you’re doing a lot for small reward; but as you build up momentum, you’ll start seeing some really good results, and have opportunities to hire others and expand just like Diane has done.

Please comment below to let me know your thoughts on this interview. I’m really interested to read what you have to say about this.

About Diane:

Diane is an English teacher from New York with over five years of experience teaching English to students from all over the world.  She is the Founder of, a website that provides personalized English lessons on Skype.  You can watch her English grammar tutorials or follow her Facebook group, Learn English on Skype.


Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!


Yearly Review TESLO

A Yearly Review and a Plan for 2015

Yearly Review TESLO

Back in January, I wrote a review of 2013 and set some goals for 2014. Here are the goals I had:

– Start a podcast
– Create more videos for Youtube
– Focus on my email list
– Get more specific with my niche
– Do group lessons
– Create courses for English learners
– Create a guide for teachers wanting to move online

Quite the list, right?

I wrote a 2014 goal update back in May, and in this post, I am going to do a review for the year – talking about what I’ve done and learned – and then look forward to 2015.

Before we get into this, I just want to say that this kind of stuff gets me all fired up. Going through my year and analyzing it, and then planning for the next year, is so much fun for me.

Maybe more importantly, it shows me what I have achieved and gives me the information I need to build my plan for 2015.

2014 in Review (What I’ve Done)

The first couple of months of 2013 were all about building and planning, building and planning. I created a free guide for English learners that blew up on social media – well, at least in English learners groups – and this added a couple of thousand new subscribers to my email list.

And then one day in March…

A Course for English Learners on WizIQ

Wiz IQ Course Artwork

In March, I put together a course for English learners on WizIQ.

It consisted of five live lessons, guides, videos, and other resources. The course was focused on helping English learners move from an intermediate level to an advanced level through goal setting, using the right learning methods, and making English an every day thing.

Other courses would have been safer (grammar courses, vocab courses, business English courses etc.), but this area of English learning/teaching is what I’m most passionate about. And putting it on a platform like WizIQ, where the set up process is pretty minimal, meant that I could validate this course without too much risk.

Both the sign up rate and the feedback I received were very encouraging. I decided to repeat it in June on the same platform, and had similar success. I would later take this course and put it on my own platform (more on this later).

Videos on Youtube

Youtube Example English Teacher

Although I haven’t created videos on a consistent basis, I have put out around 15-20 videos for both English learners and teachers. This was one of my goals for 2014.

What I found most difficult was starting the video workflow; the way I had things set up, there was a lot to do. I was also spending too much time in post-production and it started to become a bit of a chore. This is something I’m going to change in 2015, which should allow me to get more videos out there and have more fun making them.

Considering the lack of momentum, the number of views and clicks to my site have been quite promising.

Group Lessons

I have experimented with group lessons this year too. After a successful first round of group lessons (conversational lessons with 3-4 learners in each group), I decided to focus my time elsewhere, mainly creating two new courses (see below).

Email Marketing

I have added thousands of English learners and teachers to my email newsletter this year, and focusing on this area was the right decision to make.

I have managed to achieve this through creating free resources for learners and teachers to download. Downloading the resource also signs you up to the email list, and I made this more prominent on my various websites and social media channels.

Email is the best way to keep in contact, interact, and send offers to your audience. In my opinion, no other method comes close.

A Course for English Teachers



I finally set a deadline for this course, and on the 12th August (one day late!) I opened up The Teach English Online Course (TEOC). It has been a huge success – the feedback and the results of those taking the course have blown me away.

Receiving emails from teachers telling me how my course has helped them change their life means so much to me, and this has given me confidence to promote it as I know the value in this course.

It was a hell of a ride putting this course together (more on that later).

To Fluency

To Fluency Main Image


I started a new site for English learners in November, and also introduced a new course. The To Fluency Program (TFP).

To Fluency is the product of me nailing down my teaching niche (another goal) and focusing solely on one area. I took the course that I wrote on WizIQ, adapted it to my own platform, expanded on it, and then put it out to the world.

The results and feedback have been great again. There was a lot of worked involved, but having the experience of creating and launching a course on my own platform (TEOC) meant that it was much easier the second time around.

Podcasting Goal

I know that I will start a podcast one day, but 2014 wasn’t the year for it. I don’t feel too down about it, as podcasting is just one way to reach a large audience. I have a few ideas about my podcast written down in Asana, and will look at doing this again in 2015.

This was the only goal that I had set at the beginning of 2104 that I didn’t end up doing.

What Worked Well and What I Learned

For me, 2014 has been the year of new courses, the webinar, and email marketing.

Creating two courses on my own platforms has been a LOT of work. It involved:

– Writing and recording the courses
– Designing two new websites
– Integrating a membership plugin
– Dealing with 1001 small problems to get everything set up
– Dealing with mental barriers holding me back
– Producing the sales materials for the launch

What I can say is that it has been completely worth it.

The reason I decided to create these courses on my own platforms and not elsewhere was because of the control it gave me. Using other platforms restricts the flow of your course, what you can include on the sale page, the checkout experience, and just so much more.

Courses rock. But what else have I learned?

Live Webinars Are Amazing

Live Webinar JDA English

One of my webinars for English learners

I have held various live webinars for both English learners and teachers this year, and LOVE the buzz of presenting live to a big group of people.

I’ve probably done around 20 live events in total, and I still get that nervous/excited energy in the minutes leading up it. I have used webinars to give away free advice and also to get people to sign up to my courses. I realized how powerful they can be after my first one; around 75% of course sign ups for the WizIQ course came from the webinar I did.

I see many more live webinars in 2015!

(To find out when my next one is for English teachers, click here)

Setting Goals With Deadlines Makes a Big Difference

I hit the deadline for TEOC because of one reason: after my deadline I was taking three weeks off to have a rest and also to look after my son.

I knew that I couldn’t really get anything done during my time off, and the thought of not completing this goal on time, and knowing that the course would have to be put back weeks, really kicked me into gear.

As with most goals (per Parkinson’s Law), I left a lot to the last minute. In fact, I recorded my course, designed the whole site, and integrated everything in just 14 days. It was hectic, but I was completely focused and nothing was going to stop me from completing it.

From this experience I learned the power of setting goals with real deadlines. When it was time to plan for my English learning course, I set a deadline and told my mastermind groups about it. A couple of weeks before the set date, I had thoughts about putting it back. But the deadline kept coming back to me, and I realized that if I was serious about my teaching business, and to prove to myself that I can meet deadlines, I had to get it completed on time. And I did.

Two books that I read earlier in the year helped me realize the importance of setting goals: How to Completely Change Your Life in 60 Seconds and The Success Principles.

You Can’t Do Everything Yourself

Control is probably my word of 2014. As you probably already know, teaching online and doing your own thing gives you control over many areas, including: where you teach, how you teach, and what you teach.

Personally, I also like control over every aspect of my business, which meant that as my business expanded, so did my working hours. But I relinquished some of this and hired others to help me on my projects. One of the tasks that I hired someone else to do was to create transcripts for TFP. It was worth every penny.

In addition to hiring others, I also spent a lot of time in September and October automating as much as I could and setting up systems. I started using tools such as Asana and Evernote much more, and also invested in other applications too.

Relationships Are Everything

I started two separate mastermind groups this year, and both of these have helped me greatly. Meeting on a regular basis with like-minded people has given me so much inspiration, knowledge, recourses, and accountability. Starting in 2015, I’m going to bring members of TEOC together and facilitate mastermind groups for teachers inside the course.

I have continued to build relationships in 2014, and have made the conscious effort to put customer service right at the top of my priorities. I answer every email I receive (usually within 12 hours), and actually love this part of what I do.

This year I met my first reader of this blog in person, and I would LOVE to meet more of you in 2015 too. So, if you’re around the Asheville, NC area, hit me up.

Invest in Yourself at the Right Time

Imac 21.5

I have made some pretty substantial investments this year. In addition to courses that I have taken, the books I’ve read, and software I have started using, I have also invested in a very powerful iMac and a stand up desk.

The books and courses have been focused on automation, outsourcing, productivity, and goal setting. The iMac has helped greatly with productivity – video creating in particular is much quicker and easier to do now (before I could only have one application open at once). And the stand up desk was bought because sitting down all day wasn’t doing me any favors.

It has taken a change of mentality to make big investments, but I am starting to see that when they give you back more than what you paid for them, it’s completely worth it.

There Are No Limits to Your Earning Potential As an Online Teacher

One-to-one lessons, group courses, video courses, affiliate marketing, high end consulting… the list goes on and on.

When I first started out, I had no idea where everything was going to lead. And for a long time I had no ambition of expanding. But now, I have very limited one-to-one lessons due to the success of my courses and other products. One-to-one is the best way to start your online journey; it brings in money right away and you can learn from your audience.

But once you are in the position to do so, expanding into other areas gives you even more control over your teaching business.

My Most Popular Blogs Posts in 2014

Tips and Resources for Planning Online

Bringing things back to this site, the three most popular posts (in terms of visits) were:

1. 19 Successful Online English Teachers Share Their Tips and Resources for Planning Online Lessons

2. Four Platforms You Can Use for Teaching English Online

3. My Interview with Rich Kiker

The first one was a big collaborative post, so no surprises that it was the most read. The other two were interviews (in fact, posts 4 and 5 were video posts too).

Which was your favorite post?

Goals for 2015 and How I’m Going to Achieve Them

Let’s talk about goals now.

I have set five big goals that I want to achieve in 2015, some of them work related and some of them personal. The business goals focus on my income and my reach, and I have broken these bigger goals into the following steps and strategies:

Building a Bigger (And Better) Audience

This is a continuation of my 2014 goal. I want to keep this going with the same kind of momentum, and build an audience of English learners (and teachers for this site) that is 10 times what it is now. This is a huge goal, but one that I think is attainable.

I want this to be reflected mainly by the number of email subscribers, but I am also looking to expand on social media too.

But I don’t just want to build an audience. I want to build a community. I want English learners who join my site to feel part of something bigger. And that was a big reason for rebranding; going from JDA English to To Fluency helps me with the message that I want to get across.

Content Schedule

In 2015, I am going to introduce a posting schedule, with posts, videos etc., going out on a specific day of the week and on a consistent basis. This all goes back to having deadlines and getting things out there on time.

I’ve never been convinced about whether there is such a things as writer’s block – I see this more as resistance, as Stephen Pressfield writes about in The War of Art. Having a content schedule will help me push through any resistance to creating content.

Additionally, I am going to make content creation easier to start. Writing down post ideas (and having them accessible within Asana), as well as simplifying my video recording setup will help me with this.

In terms of the content I’m going to create, I have looked at my popular posts and have found some common features of those posts, and will create content based on this analysis.

(What do you want me to write about on this blog? Leave your feedback here)

Keep Building and Growing My Courses

After creating and selling a course there is the temptation to go straight to the next one. But my strategy for the first three-six months is to solely focus on improving the courses I have now and bringing more people into them. My new course can wait until later in the year (can you guess what it’s going to be? Hint: it might not be ELT/ESL related).

As I mentioned before, the positive feedback I have received has made me truly believe in the products I have. But I don’t want it to stop there: I want to constantly improve the courses and add more things based on what people inside the course want.

And in terms of sales, I am going to use the 80/20 principle (something I wrote about here) to ensure my time and energy is being spent wisely.

Automation, Outsourcing, and Analytics

With two websites, two courses, and another website on the way, things can get a little crazy. That is why in 2015, I’m going to bring in more people to help me, especially in the areas that I struggle with.

Additionally, I am going to look at more ways to automate a lot of my tasks and run more in-depth analytics. I’ve been guilty of trying to do too much of this manually, and this just takes too much time. I’ve already set up some automatic reports to be sent to my email address on a weekly basis, which should hopefully stop me from checking stats at various times during the day (and avoid the black whole of checking in on your analytics).

Routines and Time blocking

Time Blocking

I’ve noticed that I’m most productive when I block out my time. When working for yourself, it’s too easy to get caught up in the big picture stuff when you should really be focusing on getting things done. And at times, you stand there in front of your computer without knowing what you should be working on. Therefore, I have set up a work schedule that I intend to stick to, obviously allowing for it to evolve naturally.

(note: time blocking is where you know exactly what you’re going to do throughout your day helping you focus on the one task that needs to get done. It was introduced to me by one of my mastermind group members.)

I have come up with a schedule that allows me to keep up, and hopefully get ahead with, my posting schedule, while giving me time to teach, do webinars, strategize, work on projects, do email, and a whole host of other tasks.

A Final Note for You

My blog here has gone from strength to strength in 2014, and nothing makes me happier than when I receive a success story or an email thanking me for my posts.

Thank you so much for being part of Teaching ESL Online (if you are new here, click here to join the community). It’s been such an amazing ride so far, and here’s to it continuing!

Wishing you all a successful 2015.


Please leave comments, questions, or anything you want to post in the comment section below.


Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!


Specific Countries

The Smart Way to Target a Specific Country With Your Online Lessons

No matter the reason a learner has, I always experience that sinking feeling when I get told that they don’t want to continue with lessons. But, I soon move on and either find a new student to take that time slot (the power of having an email list), or as I have done recently, reduce my teaching hours to work on other projects.

It happened to me this week: one of my students from Russia told me that he couldn’t continue. He thanked me for the lessons that I have given him (he has taken conversational English lessons for the last two years), but said that he just couldn’t continue.

His reason?

The following graph explains why:

Exchange Rate Ruble

Russian Rubles per $1 USD (

The price of his English lessons have gone up by two thirds since July due to the exchange rate between the dollar and the ruble (Russian currency). He was hopeful that the ruble was going to bounce back after an initial decrease in value (he’s a financial analyst), but you can see that recently it has depreciated quite rapidly over the past few weeks.

A couple of other Russian students have also dropped lessons over the past few months for the same reason, saying that they would like to take lessons again after a potential correction.

What can we conclude from this?

It is risky when you only target English learners from a specific country

Luckily, I hadn’t set everything up just to target Russian students. I get learners for my lessons and courses from many different countries. But if I had set everything up for learners from Russia, then I would be having some problems right now.

When thinking about your teaching niche, know that there are risks involved if you only target learners from a specific country. If you live in the country you target, then these problems are minimized and maybe non-existent as you’re paid in the same currency. But otherwise, relying on the exchange rates and political situations to remain stable is risky.

The Smart Way to Target Specific Countries

There are certain ways that you can target a specific country (or countries) without building your whole teaching business around this country.

Here are some examples:

Create Landing Pages

Instead of building your whole website around one country, you can create landing pages (specific pages that learners land on) for specific countries. You can send learners from, let’s say Brazil, to this specific page through your marketing efforts, and on this page, you can have information that resonates with with these learners.

Your website can be more general and resonate with learners in other ways (teaching style, common problems etc.).

Youtube Playlists

Instead of creating a Youtube channel dedicated to learners of a specific country, you can create playlists instead. Videos for this playlist can go into depth about the problems these learners have, with videos that solve these problems.

Posting and Advertising

The quickest way to bring students to your site (or to your specific landing page) – and then into your lessons – is through posting, networking, and advertising. And all of these methods can be used for targeting specific countries. For example, using Facebook ads, you can specify in which countries you want your ads to be shown.

(Note: Inside The Teach English Online Course, you will find videos and resources based on finding your teaching niche, creating a landing page, using Youtube, and also posting and advertising to bring learners into your lessons.)

These methods mean that you can target learners from one country (or more) without putting your teaching business at risk when political situations and exchange rates change.


Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!


Drew Badger from English Anyone

Get Sold (Guest Post by Drew Badger from

Drew Badger from English Anyone

When talking with Drew Badger, it is soon obvious just how knowledgeable he is about marketing.

He has built a successful online course that solves a big problem for English learners: becoming conversationally fluent. He also has a very successful Youtube channel with over 200 videos.

In this post he shares what he believes to be the most important skill in business. This is great stuff for anyone looking to get into the world of online teaching and product creation.

Take it away Drew!

Why Most Businesses Fail

Aspiring entrepreneurs usually fail because they build businesses backwards. They spend time coding websites, printing business cards, thinking up killer company names, designing products and a thousand other things that, while potentially helpful in the long term, just aren’t necessary when starting and proving a business.

Not all businesses need websites. Not all businesses need physical stores. What all of them do need, however, is paying customers. So why not focus all of your attention on getting those first?

Starting Backwards

I know the story of business failure intimately because I lived it when I first ventured online. I had this great idea for a book that could help Japanese children learn the alphabet in a few hours. I was convinced it was genius and spent the next year and a half designing the book, creating its illustrations, and even founding a company to get the book into online stores. In the end, I had a beautiful book available on, but very few sales.

The odd thing is that I thought this failure meant I was doing everything right. I was incredibly frustrated, but undeterred because I assumed I was supposed to fail many times before I found success. If I could just work harder and come up with a better idea, I believed, I’d eventually reach the Promised Land.

Follow (Only) the Leaders

It took another two years – and many more failures – before I finally questioned the assumptions of the path I was on and decided to do something different: follow only the advice of those who’d actually built successful businesses.

Money is a funny thing. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it, so it’s easy to be lead astray by well-meaning individuals who’ve never built successful businesses. I know I certainly had been. It made perfect sense to visit a baker if I had questions about bread, or consult a doctor if I had concerns about health, but, until only recently, that same logic never transferred to the realm of things financial.

What I had begun to learn while studying great entrepreneurs was that the source of this disconnect in my brain was the mythology of business in popular culture. I take full responsibility for my failures, of course, but I was finally uncovering the foundation of the paradigm that stacked the odds of success heavily against me.

The Dangerous Myth of Success

The story of the dreamer who created something in a garage/basement/dorm room and turned it into a wildly successful business, though inspirational, carries with it two hidden, and extremely dangerous, messages. The first is that a clever individual created something independent of a problem requiring a solution people were willing to pay for. The second is that people should sell a product or service after creating it. (Yes, you read that right.) Together, these messages mutate the idea of business in the mind of the entrepreneur from the simple act of profitable service into a complicated trial by fire promising years of pain and struggle in return for little hope of success.

With the help of those who’d gone before me, I’d finally broken the spell the myth of entrepreneurship had cast on me. Entrepreneurs should be serving a market by addressing a need – like solving a painful problem – and selling their solution before creating their product or service.

If this sounds at all alien to you, or even downright impossible, that’s understandable. It certainly threw me for a loop when I discovered it. But when I considered the alternative, I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Get Paid First

To make things a bit more concrete, here’s how my book example would have looked had I known then what I know now. First, I would have gone to teachers and parents and asked what problems their students/children were experiencing. I would have dug deep until I found something that was really holding them back. Whatever that would have been, I would have worked with them to design the ideal solution while cultivating a customer base primed to purchase what I’d create.

Next, I’d make an offer to those most eager for the solution to receive it faster – and/or with more favorable terms – in exchange for the money to fund the creation of the product or service (which is entirely possible if you’ve built up enough trust, and have a desirable enough solution).

Contrast this with the path I took only a few years earlier. That one brought frustration, confusion and uncertainty while this one virtually guarantees success. Much, much faster.

The True Nature of Selling

The way of the successful entrepreneur also makes selling so much easier because you’ve solved a problem you know people are willing to pay for. With your market! That means there’s nothing to push onto customers. In fact, they’ll be begging you to sell your solution to them! Honestly, great salespeople only want to sell things to people eager to buy them. Wouldn’t you rather shoot fish in a barrel, too?

If you’re still with me, your homework is to master the formula of solution to painful problem → sales → product/service from the best. I want you to join the mailing list of Perry Marshall, one of the greatest information marketers in the business right now, AS WELL AS the mailing lists of three other leaders in completely unrelated industries. Search Google until you find pages with email opt- in boxes (those little forms where you put in your name and email address to instantly get access to some beneficial gift). Open all of the mails you receive, study their systems, notice how they write, read between the lines and get sold!

[divider scroll_text=”Info About”]

Disappointed by the failure of my book, I turned, as most beginning entrepreneurs do, to the next “can’t miss” idea. began as a way to leverage the lessons I’d created for the classroom. It’s since become my English lesson laboratory and personal business school. helps students speak fluent English clearly, confidently and automatically. We have over 200 video lessons available on YouTube, and produce a premium, monthly video course called Master English Conversation that uses our innovative Fluency Bridge method to help learners who struggle to speak finally become fluent.

By Drew Badger.


Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!


Time for Email

Using Email to Bridge the Gap Between Offline and Online and to Grow a Following

I’ve mentioned many times how important it is to have an email list if you teach online or have a website. But, what if you don’t teach online?

Well, if you currently teach in a traditional setting, you should seriously consider getting in on the online action and start an email list. Not only does this set you up for the long term professionally (and personally), but it also opens up a whole world of opportunities to make your lessons creative, more engaging and relevant, and more effective.

Email remains the most powerful (and safest) way to connect with your students, past and present. Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, if used correctly, are great communities that teachers should be using to engage with past, current, and potential students, along with other teachers. But, using a platform that you don’t own to build your most important contact list is risky. Additionally, these platforms can’t compare with email when it comes to engagement.

When discussing what it is like to teach online, Mau Buchler, in his recent guest post, talked about why it’s important to work your connections (ex-students) when trying to find clients for your online lessons. I’ve been able to do this to a certain extent, and it has proven to be a very effective way of finding students to teach. In fact, along with referrals, contacting ex-students has proved to be the best way to fill in the gaps in my schedule.

However, I have missed out on countless opportunities because:

  • I didn’t kept a record of the students that I connected with during my time in Spain.
  • I should have started an email list for my website as soon as it went live.
  • I didn’t keep a special list for all those who got in touch to take lessons.

Everyone who starts to collect subscribers for their blog always seem to say, “I wish I had started doing this earlier.” I feel exactly the same way. I’m not one to dwell on the past, but thinking about all those students who I have lost contact with makes me feel like I wasted a big opportunity.

Mau’s post got me thinking about how we can all keep a better record of all those English learners that we come into contact with and make the most out of this list. Let’s start with those of you who don’t teach online, focusing on why you should be doing this to make your classes more effective and to build up a following for your future.

I’m really excited about sharing these ideas with those of you who work in traditional classroom settings.

Teaching in a Traditional Setting

(Note: I recommend that you speak with your language school/employer first before implementing these strategies.)

There is nothing quite like creating special teacher-student relationships. When there is an understanding, chemistry, and progress, the connection can last a life-time. But, in most cases, students come and go and we lose touch.

Maintaining these connections, for both personal and professional reasons, is best done through email. There are two main ways to collect email addresses when teaching in a traditional setting:

  • In your personal email address book.
  • In a specialized email delivery service.

The first option is free and easy to do, but has many limitations. The second option is a little bit more complicated (and usually costs a little money), but has the features you need to make use of the methods listed below.

There are different ways to get current students onto your list. Signing up your one-to-one students should be straightforward, while your group lessons offer more of a challenge. But, with this challenge comes the opportunity to make your lessons different, exciting, and more effective.

Bring Online Activities and Communication to Offline Lessons

Imagine a class of 10 adult learners that meets with you twice per week in a language school. It’s a traditional setting in the sense that you work through a textbook, set homework, and meet in a classroom. However, your classes are different because you find a way to engage with your students online by using an email delivery service.

This opens up so many possibilities to make your classes extraordinary, opening up a new world of online resources and activities. Because I teach one-to-one online it’s easy for me to send the best resources to my students and set online tasks. Using email within this traditional classroom setting makes bridging the gap between the offline and online world much easier, and helps you easily communicate with your students outside of the lesson.

Homework could include pronunciation exercises, videos, online exercises, listening practice, writing practice (sent directly to your email and corrected online), and you could use countless other online resources.

With email you could send reminders about homework (or even automated reminders about lessons), get in contact with your students who have missed a lesson, send out pre-lesson tasks, and much more. With an email delivery service you can send out materials and homework at a specific time.

Imagine that you are in a class and you say, “Okay check your phones. You should have just received your homework.” And there it is, a minute old in their inbox.

In my upcoming webinar at Wiz IQ I’m going to be talking about how you can use email and other online resources to help your students work on their pronunciation outside of class; this will include how you can use the best online resources, send audio files specific to your students, and have the ability to evaluate and leave feedback of your students pronunciation, all done online and in your own time. Being able to communicate through email is vital to be able to do this.

Teachers don’t have to be restricted by just using the resources that can be brought into class. Email can help you introduce a new world and engage with your students on a different level.

Keep in Contact With Your Ex-Students

It’s summer and your class of students are now moving on. You don’t know if you’ll get to teach them next year. But, because you have their email addresses, you can keep in contact and share information with this group.

Let’s say that you now have 120 emails from your time teaching that year. Here is what you can do with this list:

  • Keep everyone updated about where you are in the world and what you’re doing professionally.
  • Let them know about the new blog you started and ask them to share it with their friends.
  • Invite them to join your new Facebook group.
  • Let them know that you are offering one-to-one lessons over the summer.
  • Inform them that you are now teaching online and that you are looking for new students.

The online world is full of opportunities for language teachers, and if you are considering entering this world, your ex-students are the first place to start. They are your initial followers, the ones who you have already inspired. Having them in an easily accessible email list makes your ability to capitalize on this much easier and much more effective.

For Those Who Teach Online or Have a Website

From November 2011 to April 2012 the amount of visitors to my site increased dramatically. I was getting 13,000 unique visitors per month, the vast majority from Google. I had a stream of enquiries about my English lessons, but I didn’t receive as many as I should with all those numbers.

My visitor numbers dropped severely in April. It was the month when Google made a big change to the way it ranked websites in their search results. To say that my site didn’t fare too well is an understatement: my visitor numbers dropped from 13,000 per month to just 1,500. Looking back, it was one of the best things that happened to me as it changed the way I approached getting new students and how I spent my time.

During the big traffic months the vast majority of visitors came to my site, got the information they wanted, and then left. I didn’t do enough to engage them – I didn’t feel that I had to due to the number of visitors I was receiving. There was no real reason for them to come back to my site (unless they bookmarked it!).


Imagine if I had offered them something for free in exchange for their email? Instead of just coming for information, I could have engaged them by giving something valuable away, and then followed this up with informational mails on a weekly or monthly basis.

When you give away something for free by email, and this thing is incredibly valuable, the whole relationship between you and your visitor changes. I wanted to test this by giving away something quite remarkable, so I recently started a new 30 day email English course that tries to turn average English learners (of the someday/too tired today mentality) into motivated, pumped up, learning machines. They receive an email each day (sent out automatically) from me with advice and challenges. I respond to every email I receive and offer them the opportunity to practice speaking and have it evaluated with having to be present in real time.

The response that I’ve received from this has been incredible and it has already made a big difference to those who have taken the course. They are a little surprised that they are getting this for free. It takes me 5-10 minutes each morning to evaluate the submissions I receive, although it took me some time to initially create the course.

The best thing about it is that these people all came from a guest post on another website. Instead of reading that post, coming to my website, taking a look around and then leaving, 150 people signed up to take the course. In return, I built (and am building) a following that trusts me and wants to know more about what I do.

First Dates and Email

A good analogy is dating: in most cases you can’t ask someone to enter a relationship with you on the first date. You have to build things slowly so that they get to know you and trust you. My goal is to get students to sign up for online lessons and future courses that I offer. They are much more likely to do this once we have been on a few engaging dates.

Once the learners have gone through the initial 30-day course, I then have the ability to send emails to them. If I choose to, I can send them information about my lessons, information about different products I recommend, and news about any future courses that I may offer. Any information I send them will be full of free valuable information. Trying to hard sell your course early on in your new relationship will, like dating, get you nowhere.

An email list also allows me to divide the list by country, by how much they engage with the content, or by other criteria. Personally, I’m going to separate this growing list into different countries and adapt the messages accordingly. I’m also working on doing a similar course specifically for those in my niche.

Think about how you could start building your list. How could you get people to sign up? How could you engage with your audience by email? How could you benefit from having such a list? How could you use it with your current students both in traditional and online settings?

(Note: To see a good example of a website that has built up a good email following, check out Real Life English.)

Recommended Email Providers and Resources

The only one that I can truly recommend is Aweber (affiliate link) as it’s the only one I’ve had experience with. It’s pretty straightforward to use but will need a little time to set things up and understand the ins and outs of it. It’s $19 a month (for the first 500 subscribers) with the first month being $1.

Mailchimp is another popular choice because it’s free to begin with. But, that obviously limits what you can do. And, you could always use your regular email account, especially if your goal is to just to keep a record of your contacts. Just bear in mind the limitations.

I also recommend pushing people to sign up for your Facebook groups and other online groups as this is where the sharing happens. As I want to focus on building my list I’ve been pushing more and more people to email first, and then once they have signed up, I ask them to join my other online groups. I also ask them to share the course with others once it is completed.

For those who want to look into email further, here is an informative podcast that gives an overview of using email: Pat Flynn on how to win using email (part one of two) | part two

Over to You

I would LOVE to hear from you regarding your experiences with email, your general thoughts on this post, and what ideas you have for using email in both traditional and online lessons.

As always, please share this post if you enjoyed it. Speaking of email, sign up below if you aren’t already a subscriber!


Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!



The Ultimate Guide to Getting Students For Your Online Private Lessons

Hands down, the number one question that I get asked from fellow online teachers is, “How do I find more students?”

I have a big interest in all things marketing, so thinking about the different strategies that can be implemented to get students is one of the things that I most enjoy about having an online teaching business. I’m a stats guy and love analyzing and testing different methods to see what is effective.

I’ve tried many different strategies, and have talked extensively with other teachers about what methods are successful for them.

This post is my longest and most in-depth post to date, giving you all the information you need to fill your schedule with dedicated and paying students.

But, that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything listed here or over-complicate things.

Your marketing plan will be based on your niche and your short and long-term goals.

What works for one person may not work for another. Your target market is unique in that you are offering something that no one else can: your English teaching skills.

You are also offering lessons to a specific group of people. And, these different groups, or target markets in marketing speak, resonate with and respond to different messages.

As an online teacher, you will have to define your market, know where to find these English learners, bring them to your website, and convert them into paying students.

I’ve talked about how you can define your audience in a previous post; now it’s time to look at the rest of this process. Each step is equally as important, but our focus here will be mainly on how to bring more visitors (English learners in your niche) to your website.

But before we do, let’s divide our marketing strategies into two categories: short-term and long-term. I’ll also give you some general marketing advice and tie everything together.

Short vs Long-Term Methods

Sometimes we need to find a student right now. This is usually the case when first starting out as our schedule is empty and we want to start filling it up, get teaching, and bringing in income.

There is a lot of things that we can do that brings in students straight away.

An example of this is advertising. Most platforms will approve your advert within a few minutes, and it’s quite common to receive a lesson request soon after your advert goes live.

On the other hand, there are long-term strategies that we can implement. These methods take longer to produce results (paying students), but in most cases, are much more powerful than advertising, for example.

Creating videos is the perfect illustration of this. It takes some time to produce and market a series of videos with the end goal of bringing in new students. But, if done properly, then the potential to attract English learners to what you offer over the long-term is huge.

I split the methods listed here into these two categories, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t advertise once you have a good schedule. There are many short-term strategies that I implement every now and then, and I know teachers who do nothing but advertise to attract paying students.

Your Goals Will Define Your Strategies

My first website was primarily concerned with getting students to sign up to take lessons with me. At the same time, I was also really interested in learning about search engine optimization (SEO). So, I put my energy into ranking highly to attract English learners to what I was offering.

I wasn’t necessarily focused on creating the best content out there for learners; I just wanted to bring in students. In that regard, what I did was a great success.

My goals have changed and this is reflected in how I now market different websites.

The best way to approach the different marketing strategies listed later in this post is to think about your long-term plan.

Do you want to just bring in students (like I did)? Or, do you want to create something else? Is creating a website that attracts thousands of learners each week part of your plans? Does making videos with thousands (if not millions) of views excite you?

If you want to create something bigger than just offering private lessons, or at least leave this open, then there are certain things that you have to consider before you jump in. These things can be introduced later, but it is smart to at least have something outlined from the beginning.

The most important thing is your website, and we’ll sink our teeth into this very soon.

As I see more teachers create their own resources these days, mainly down to the tools that are now available, it excites me to think where things are now, and where they potentially will be in the future.

If you are a teacher who wants go that extra mile and create something that makes a difference, then stick around as this is something I want to explore through this blog in the months and potentially years ahead.

A Teacher Should Always Look His/Her Best

First impressions are important, and if you want to attract paying students, then everything that you do has to be of the highest quality.

This includes your website, your adverts, your videos, anything that you put out there. You need to make the best first impression no matter what you do.

On classified websites, I’ve seen too many teachers just post a line or two and say the same thing as everyone else. But, to make your campaigns more effective, you have to do something different and stand out from the crowd, wowing your potential students.

Both the look of your advertisements and your copy are important. But, approach the design as a way to support your message.

Knowing what will resonate will depend on your target market. But, always leave a good first impression.

Website Website Website

Your website is going to play a vital part in filling your schedule, so investing a little time and money upfront (you can get things started for around $60-80) is going to make things much easier for you.

If you don’t have a website, WordPress will soon become your new best friend. Anyone can build a teaching website with just a few hours work (check out my free tutorial on how to get started with WordPress if you haven’t already).

There are no limitations with WordPress; it can be used to build something simple and small, but is also powerful enough to easily implement forums, paid membership sites, and lots of other great features.

The reason your website is such an important part of this process is because it is the platform that we use to firstly attract English learners, and then to convince them that they will benefit from taking lessons with us.

Finding Where Are English Learners Are Hanging Out

Fortunately for us, English learners are everywhere.

I prepare students, predominantly from Russia, for the IELTS exam. Some of my students were purposefully looking for an online teacher such as myself, and therefore found my website through search, a referral, or by other means.

Other learners were hanging out in different corners of the internet, and while not actively seeking a teacher, once they learned about what I offer, they got excited about preparing with me over Skype.

There are many ways that we can bring students to our website, ultimately turning them into paying students.

And so, we have now reached the nitty gritty of this post: my list of marketing strategies that will bring English learners to your website and ultimately to take lessons with you

Let’s dive straight into it.

Start With These

We’ll start with three strategies that you will bring in students right from the off. These can also be used when you quickly need to bring in more students.


Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn are three of the most common platforms on which to advertise.

My favorite is Google Adwords as it has always brought in the best return on investment (ROI).

LinkedIn is more expensive, but if your niche suits that type of platform, then it could be lucrative. You can target people by location on all three above; this is really important if your lessons are specific to a certain area.

Another way to advertise is to target websites that attract the type of visitors who are in your niche.

My advice is to create a relationships with website owners before requesting advertising space. Start with researching which sites are related to what you do, and make a list of potential partnerships.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started. And, at the moment, my recommended hosting plan is offering a $100 voucher to spend on Google Adwords – Click here for more details.


One of the best free ways to bring in students is to find online classified listings that are specific to your niche. Unless you are looking for students based in the country where you are now, you will have to research a little and find the classified website where your target market use.

Include lots of great information on your classified posting, and make sure that you have a professional picture too. Make your listing stand out, and create something that will make your potential students excited about taking lessons with you.

Use Your Network

Sometimes, you just gotta hustle. Take a look at your contacts on different social media platforms, and think about the best way to approach those who are currently learning English and could possibly be interested in taking lessons with you.

I feel the best way to do this is to send a personal message stating that you are now teaching one-to-one English lessons, offering a free 15 minute chat over Skype.

You shouldn’t hard sell anything. In fact, ask your friend/ex-student if they know of anyone who could benefit from your lessons, and ask kindly if they wouldn’t mind sharing your website with others. They most likely will do this, and might start taking lessons with you themselves.

Long-Term Strategies

As mentioned earlier, many teachers get by on just using the three initial methods above. But, if you want to create something bigger, something more exciting and engaging, and potential something that could evolve into something more than just private lessons, then creating content and being active on social media is what you should be doing.

Although not a direct way of bringing in students, a lot of these methods are much more powerful.

Your website becomes more important as you start to implement these strategies. Let’s start with the type of content you can implement before talking about social media.

Content on Your Website

Having great content on your website will attract learners, while also showcasing your skills as a teacher.

The type of content you create will very much depend on the lessons you are offering. Most teachers focus on creating lessons, explanations, or exercises.

You can do this by introducing different media, such as video, pictures, audio, and some interactive elements. Many teachers love to do this, and take great pride in creating useful content for their students.

Creating content is the best way to organically attract learners in your niche without spending money. If your content offers great value, people will share it on social media, and it will rank highly in the search engines (more on SEO later).

Content Elsewhere

As well as posting on your own site, you can create content on other platforms to attract learners to a landing page.

Two of my favorite methods are: creating videos on Youtube and writing guest posts or articles on learning blogs.

To give you an example, let’s imagine that you give preparation lessons for the speaking part of the TOEFL exam. You can create a video where you give tips for the speaking section, and then include a link back to a page that gives more information.

On this landing page, mention that you give one-to-one preparation lessons in a way that excites your visitor. If you do all of this correctly and take the time to promote your video, you will attract large numbers of students to your site that convert at a high rate.

Social Media and Forums

Being active on social networking sites is another great way to bring in students over the long-term. There are two important features of social media that make it such a powerful tactic.

The first one is using it as a way to connect with your students and learners in your niche. Setting up a Facebook group or page is really easy to do, but you have to work at it to make it worthwhile; to make social media work for you, you have to be social.

You also want others to share your content, whether on your site or elsewhere, with others. Make this as easy as possible do, and don’t be afraid of asking others to do this.

If you have a large following on one of your platforms, then you should you use this as social proof. What I mean by this is that when a potential student comes onto your website and sees that you have a large following on a specific platform, they will feel much more confident that you are going to offer them great value. On the other hand, if you only have three “likes” for your page, you should hold off putting this on your site.

The thought of being active on platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, and online forums can be a little daunting.

A lot of teachers choose one or two platforms, the ones that are suitable to what they are doing, and put their time and energy into creating something worthy. Researching which sites your target students use, as it may be best for you to target one outside of the big four.

A lot of traffic can be gained from social media if you engage your audience, offer value, and interact with others.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is linked to the three previous strategies. Getting targeted traffic from the search engines takes time to come to fruition, but there are things that you can do right now to optimize your site.

There are two types categories of SEO: onsite and offsite. Onsite SEO means doing everything possible to make your website search engine friendly, targeting the search terms that are related to what you do. Using the example from before, having a landing page that targets the search term, “TOEFL exam tutor” will bring in learners who are searching for exactly what you offer.

Offsite SEO is mainly concerned with getting as many inbound links as possible. In addition, social media “likes” are becoming more important too.

There are ways to “game the system” by posting links to your site using software or by buying links. But, as Google is trying their best to punish those who engage in such practices, I don’t recommend doing this. In addition, it’s not the best thing to focus your energy on.

Concentrating on creating the best content you possibly can, getting links and “likes” naturally using the methods explained above, and optimizing your site for the search terms for your niche, will put you in a great long-term position to rank highly in the search engines and potentially bring in thousands of visitors every month.

The Referral

I love referrals.

There is no better feeling when a student contacts me after being recommended by one of my students.

Firstly, it gives me satisfaction to know that my students are happy with what I am doing and want to tell their friends and family about my teaching.

In addition, a referral comes to you already sold on what you offer. Your students can sell your lessons and your methods to others far better than you ever will. When I receive a request for a trial lesson from somebody who has been referred, I know it’s just a matter of ironing out the details and ensuring that our schedules line up.

Do everything you can to get more referrals. This all starts with offering lessons that truly benefit your current students, and looking after them in such a way that they want to share you with others.

And don’t be afraid to ask for your current students to recommend you.

Connect With Others

I suggest that you do this anyway as teaching online can be quite isolated if you don’t have a support network. But, creating relationships with teachers who do something similar to you can lead to a situation where you can pass on and receive students from each other.

At the moment there is no real platform to be able to do this. I’ve just created a group on LinkedIn for online teachers to connect, and I hope this grows into something useful for everyone who joins.

If you are have a LinkedIn account, you can find out more about the group here – ELT Online LinkedIn Group.

Do What Works For You and Your Long-Term Goals

Using the well-known Pareto principle that states 80% of the effects will come from 20% of the causes, I recommend looking at what works for you and focusing your efforts on that.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what you will end up doing to bring in students will depend on many factors.

Having a long-term vision of what you want to achieve will help you decide whether you want to implement some or all of the strategies listed above.

You will also have to think about your niche and how this will affect your strategy.

Interested in Teaching Online?

If teaching online and being in charge of your teaching and income is something that interests you, or if you are already an online teacher, then sign up to receive updates, resources, and to connect with me.

I have a lot of exciting posts and projects in the works, and would love for you to be part of that.

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Please Share

Thank you to everyone who shared my recent post (How to Teach English Online).

If you have found this post useful, please share it with your network. I really appreciate you doing this, it means a lot.

Want to Earn More Money Teaching English? Online is the Answer

Let’s face it, most of us didn’t get into the ELT industry for the money. In my case, going to Spain meant that I could live in a great country, learn some Spanish, do what I love, and be with my girlfriend (now wife, Kate).

At that time, Spain was the only country where we could both work legally. I am a European citizen so it was easy for me to move there, while my wife was accepted on a program called, “Auxilliares de Conversacíon. I had long dreamed of living and working in Spain, so I felt incredibly fortunate that Kate got into this program.

We had a great experience, first in Bilbao and then in Valencia. But, the pay was terrible. Kate’s stipend was around $1000 a month, and I brought in just a bit more to begin with. I taught a few private lessons which earned me some extra income, but having to go from place to place limited my ability to teach many lessons in one evening.

The money wasn’t the reason we were there; we were looking to have a good time and experience what it was like living in a foreign country. But we soon wanted to settle down and find something that brought in more money.

I had no intention of continuing down a path of little pay. So, I started my own online language school with the initial goal of earning double what I was earning in Spain while working similar hours.

But, before we get into that, let’s look at the places abroad where you get paid the most to put things into context.

Where the pay is good abroad

I came across an article the other day listing the top nine best-paid countries for English teachers. You can see that from the salaries listed (and the comments) that you can earn a good income when teaching in these countries (your definition of “a good income” may be different to mine).

I do know, however, that in a lot of these places you are expected to work very long hours, and some of those countries aren’t on my list of potential places to live.

Many of you reading this, and I include myself in this, see teaching abroad as a temporary thing. I would love to travel more and work in other countries again someday, but with a family and a house, my current situation doesn’t align with a globe-setting lifestyle at this present time.

So, going back to my story, after working in Spain for a couple of years, we decided to settle down in the US. More precisely, in a small city called Asheville in North Carolina. It’s a fantastic place to live, but it is difficult to find work here.

Since we moved here back in January 2011, I have been teaching full-time online. At first, I was a little hesitant to charge what was necessary to have a “good wage.”

But, one of the biggest things that I have learned about online teaching is that you can charge much more for online lessons than most people expect. 

It’s all about finding students who are willing to pay what you want to charge.

Earn more online

It seems like the conventional wisdom is that you can’t earn as much online as you can face-to-face. I imagine this is because online lessons aren’t seen to be as valuable as the more traditional lessons by teachers.

I saw a discussion a couple of weeks ago where someone was arguing that you won’t be able to get close to $30 an hour for online lessons. His reasoning was based on the fact that some teachers offer lessons at $5 an hour.

This is the wrong way to approach pricing and, in fact, the opposite is true; teaching online and freelancing gives you the ability to charge much higher prices.

To illustrate this, let’s take the second best-paid country for English teachers from the list above: Saudi Arabia. Personally, I wouldn’t like to go and teach in Saudi Arabia (for reasons that I won’t go into). But that doesn’t mean that I can’t teach Saudi Arabians.

I have done this in the past and have made some special relations with my students from this country. This new line of thinking, being able to reach students from anywhere in the world, is key to earning more money as an ESL/EFL teacher:

As an independent online teacher, you can reach any English learning market in the world while living wherever you want.

Those of us who teach English online aren’t in competition with teachers who charge $5 per class. We are in competition with language schools and teachers who teach the students we want to target. And, if making money is your goal, then we want to target students who are willing to pay higher prices.

To earn more money, it all comes down to choosing the right niche, offering value to your students, and marketing your lessons.

The potential to earn what you believe is a “good wage” is huge. There are students out there are who desperate for a teacher like you to solve their problems and help them make the improvements that they desire. The best thing is that you don’t have to leave your house, let alone your country to do this.

We don’t have to settle for a low wage or have to move somewhere else to earn the money that we want to earn.

This in turn, means something really special to most teachers: we can continue doing what we love.

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

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

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

The most important questions to ask before starting

1. Can and Will They Pay?

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

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

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

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

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

2. Am I going to enjoy teaching this group?

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

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

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

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

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

What turns my niche on?

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

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

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

Who is my niche?

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

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

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

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

(Re)Choosing Your Niche

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

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

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

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

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What you should include in your cancellation policy and how to avoid time wasters


Nobody Likes Cancellations

This post is going to look at the tricky area of creating a cancellation policy and ensuring that you are paid for the lessons that you arrange.

At the moment, I have a great set of students who always turn up on time, hardly ever cancel, and when they do, give me lots of advanced notice. In the past, however, I have had students who sounded incredibly enthusiastic about booking lessons, but when it came time to take the lesson, just went missing.

It is incredibly frustrating when you are ready for a lesson and your student doesn’t show. It is even worse when you haven’t been paid beforehand and need to chase them for payment.

Minimizing cancellations and making sure that you are paid for every hour that you arrange makes a big difference to your bottom line at the end of the year. As teachers, we want to fill our schedules, teach those hours, and get paid for them.

This post will go into some of the things that you can do to limit cancellations and time wasters.

Geting the right students

It all starts with getting the right students. This is usually determined by a few key factors, and one of the most important ones is marketing to students that can afford your lessons. It is no use getting a trial lesson and then scaring away the student with your prices. Additionally, it isn’t a good long-term strategy to convert someone if in the long-run, they won’t be able to pay for them. So, always market to students that fit into your pricing structure.

Also, different students have different attitudes to English lessons. Some feel that it is normal to just not turn up without notification and payment. Others will apologize profusely if they turn up to the lesson even just a few minutes late.

The latter category of student type is what we want. It is sometimes difficult to judge which category the student is going to fall into.  Differences between cultures can make a big difference, along with the motivation of the student, and their personality.

The reason why your student wants to learn English can make a difference: having an exam for visa purposes gives the learner much more focus and reason to take lessons. I have definitely noticed that when teaching exam preparation lessons that my students hardly ever cancel and are always on time.

When thinking your niche, you should think about which students are likely to cause you least amount of problems with cancellations.

Setting out and enforcing your cancellation policy

Having a strong and clear cancellation policy is vital. You should go through this policy with your students before you start and make sure they completely understand the different scenarios at play.

So, what is the best policy to have? I have seen some teachers being very lax about no shows, while others will cancel the lesson (no refund) if their student is ten minutes late.

The following is what I have found to be fair for both parties:

  • If the lesson is cancelled with 24 hours (or more) notice, then a full refund is given.
  • If the lesson is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice, no refund is given.
  • If the student doesn’t show for whatever reason, no refund is given.

Having the student understand this policy and that you are strict about it will negate most potential problems. It is much more difficult to try and get strict with students if you have been lax about them canceling in the past.

Rearranging lessons with advanced notice is a tricky area. It is usually fine if your schedule is flexible, but if you are fully booked and don’t have any open slots, you will be less flexible to change lesson times.

You also don’t want your students to get in the habit of rearranging lessons all the time, as when they do, this is usually at a time that you haven’t planned for.

In this case, it is best to take it on a case by case and student by student basis.

Lesson Packages

Getting your student to sign up for five, ten, or twenty lesson packages at a discounted rate greatly reduces the number of cancellations and also does away with those who don’t show and don’t pay.

Having to invest in a number of lessons changes the attitude of the learner as it commits them to you for a period of time. And, if they miss a lesson, they usually don’t complain about it being counted as one of the lessons out of their package.

A package can also be used for problem students. If you are having problems with a particular student (for example, arranging lessons and then canceling often), then let them know that you can only go ahead teaching them if they commit to a time and a package. Otherwise, it is not worth all the problems and wasted energy.

Student-Teacher relationship

One of the most important factors when it comes to your students canceling is the relationship that you have. Having a mutual understanding will definitely make your student think twice about canceling.

Communicating and sticking to your policy clearly, having a strong relationship with the right students, and offering lesson packages, will ensure that your time isn’t wasted and that you get paid for the lessons that you and your students have arranged.

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Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!