teaching online 2017

Teaching Online in 2017: What’s Changed, What’s the Same, and What You Need to Focus On

In 2013, I wrote various posts on how we can market ourselves as online teachers and sell our lessons and courses.

Nearly four years later, some things have changed.

That’s why I have made this video and written the article below going through what you need to know about online teaching in 2017.

Watch the video / read on to stay ahead of the game.

Email Marketing

I’m still big on email marketing.


Because it’s the number one way that we can communicate with our audience. And like I said in this post, this is something we own.

Social media platforms come and go. Email stays with us.

And later on, you’ll learn how to combine the two.

Lesson Plans

When I first started, it was tough to find materials for my online lessons.

A lot has changed since then. The biggest indicator of this Off2Class.

This platform has ready-made lessons that are tailor made for the online world.

With a few simple searches, you will find a whole range of materials and lessons plans that you can use.

Teaching Niche

This focuses more on my outlook of a teaching niche.

I used to limit this to what area of English we can focus on. However, I now see a niche as:

  • what you teach
  • who you teach
  • and how you teach

For example, you can offer general conversation lessons. But you can deliver this in your own unique way. Or you can offer these to specific learners.

What’s more, I highly recommend being open to the evolution of your niche. Things change as you start teaching. You realize what works, what you enjoy, and which type of learners you prefer working with.

If you’re stuck at the niche stage, don’t let it stop you from teaching.

Get started and work it out as you go.

Online Courses

A few years back, it was difficult and, potentially expensive, to create and sell an online course.

These days, there are all-in-one solutions that makes it much easier to do.

That is why you see more teachers creating on-demand video courses and programs.

This has allowed teachers, including myself, to scale and reach more learners.

Learn more about how to do this here.

Live Video

2016 was the year of live video.

This was when Facebook opened this feature to everyone.

YouTube have been doing live video for a while, but they really started to push this in 2016 too.

Learners love live lessons. Teachers, on the whole, love them too.

They are raw, can be done a phone, and the interaction brings more to the lessons.

I predict that live video will consolidate in 2017 and that YouTube will push live mobile video.

Social Media

Back in 2011 – the year I started teaching online – business still saw social media as a fad.

They weren’t ready to use their marketing budget on platforms such as Facebook.

In 2017, it’s fairly clear that social media is here to stay. Platforms will come and go, but the idea of connecting with our audience on these sites will play a large role in our marketing efforts.

Like I said in the video, it’s wise to use each platform natively.

In the past, everyone just pasted links that pointed back to their website. That doesn’t work like it used to.

Now, we have to create specific content for each platform. Some people will feel overwhelmed by this, however, go all in on one or two platforms at the beginning. You don’t have to be everywhere.

Create useful mini-lessons with a call-to-action, preferably, sending people to join your email list.


Advertising in 2011 meant Google Adwords.

In 2017, Facebook advertising is the most cost-effective way of growing your audience.

However, you need to:

  • Send the right message to the right person
  • Get people’s attention
  • Get people to take action

This means that you’ll need to have an offer that people want, get their attention through your ad (image and text), convince them to click your link, convince them to take action on your landing page, and create a follow-up process that converts learners into paying students.

Don’t just throw something up and then, if it doesn’t work, give up.

Start with a small budget and keep making changes to increase your conversions.

Google Ads still work. Again, you need to get this right to make it cost effective.


Things are so much easier now.

We can record a video on our phone.

We can create a website using templates

We can connect with learners through social media (for free!).

We can easily create online courses.

We can set up an email list without getting confused (the software I use).

And we have much better software that we can use to teach our lessons.

If you’re someone who tells yourself that you’re not good with technology, know that it is much easier to use these days AND you will get used to it.

How to Get Learners

The strategy remains the same:

  1. Get clear on how we can help and what we want to achieve
  2. Create an automated system that convinces learners to pay for our lessons
  3. Build awareness (send learners into this system)

We may do certain things differently now, for example, using Instagram to build awareness; or using LeadPages to build high-converting landing pages; or making courses instead of teaching one-to-one…

… but the principles behind the process of bringing learners into our lessons hasn’t changed.

Set up a system, build awareness, and keep improving as a marketer and a teacher.

Want to Teach Online?

A good place to start is by getting my guide: click here to do that.

If you want to jump right in, join our course and community.


Building an Audience and Making Sales Passively (Boulders)

Over the past week, my audience has grown and people have been joining my courses.

This has happened with very little input from myself.

In this video, I talk about how I managed to do this and I have a special tip that will help you reach this stage too.

When I started my new YouTube channel, I had a long-term vision.

I knew that it would take time to build. 20 months later, it’s getting 3,000+ view per day. A percentage of those who watch my videos will download my book. A percentage of those will buy something from me.

This all works in the background.

But it took some time to get here. Selling things passively doesn’t just happen overnight. At first, it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill.

If you stick at it, you’ll gain momentum.

While being patient, you also need to evaluate what’s working and make any necessary changes.

Let me know if you are building something over the long-term and your progress with this.


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

Teach English Online Tips

Thanks for stopping by!

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

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

Sounds great, right?

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

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

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

Let’s dig in…

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

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

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

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

Your teaching niche includes the following:

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

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

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

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

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

2: Create a website that is set up for conversions


My website is at the center of everything I do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s a funnel?

Let’s look at an example:

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

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

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

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

Why is this important?

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

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

This means you will need to…

4: Get an email list from day one

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

I use email in two main ways:

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

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

Here is how to get started with email.

5: Use social media in the right way

Social media has changed everything. You already know that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You don’t.

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

7: Connect with your learners


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

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

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

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

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

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

8: Get teaching as soon as possible

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

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

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

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

9: Always be improving

This goes for teaching and marketing.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Set goals with deadlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

This all happens on autopilot.

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

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

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

Get that email list set up and then:

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

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

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


Don’t get stuck when pricing your lessons

“How much should I charge for my lessons?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

13: Don’t worry about bad apples

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

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

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

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

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

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

The key is to not let it affect you.

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

14: Make connections

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

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

Connecting with other teachers helps you in several ways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. Know that there are many ways to earn

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

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

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

BONUS: Take action and get started as early as possible

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

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

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

Put stuff out there, learn, and make changes.

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

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


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Teaching Online

Tips and Resources to Help You Bring Learners into Your Lessons and Courses

Recently, I’ve been going live on Facebook 2-3 times per week to share information on how to better market your lessons and courses.

As a side note, if you’re struggling to make videos, consider going live.

There’s something different about pressing “go live now” instead of recording a video and then uploading it. For me, it brings out a different style of presenting. It also helps me get something out there. I highly recommend you try it.

Anyway, back to the video….

… in this lesson, I go through various tips and strategies that will help you better promote yourself as an online teacher. I talk about affiliate programs, checkout software, focusing in on your niche, creating micro-content, and other useful tidbits.

Useful notes below.

Producing Micro-Content

A TEOC member asked if it’s necessary to create new blog posts frequently in order to attract learners.

My answer?

No, it’s not necessary. What you can do instead is this:

  • Create micro-content on social media sites
  • Add a call-to-action (CTA) at the beginning and end.

The old way of writing an article and posting links on social media isn’t exactly dead, but it’s not as effective as it used to be.

Facebook and other social sites want you to create native content. They want you to upload videos to their platform.

Users want this too. Think about how much more likely you are to watch a video on Facebook rather than click a YouTube link.

Use this to your advantage by creating micro-content on these platforms. And remember to include a relevant CTA.

(Learn how to use email with any CTA you have)

Over the long-term, you’ll most likely want to include blog posts too. This way, you will be found by Google. But as I say here, this takes time.

New Checkout Software, Getting Help From My Wife, and My New Affiliate Program

I’ve had a couple of problems recently with people trying to register for my course.

This was an old problem that I thought had gone away.

Certain people were getting a timeout message when they submitted their order. They couldn’t register and I was missing out on new members. I tried to talk with my hosting account, software people, and hosting service, but they couldn’t pinpoint the problem.

On a related note, I also wanted to add an affiliate program for my courses.

I tried one piece of software, but it was a nightmare to set up. The support was decent, but it was overly complex and confusing.

My wife knew I was struggling with these problems (I was sighing a lot, apparently) and asked what was wrong.

I told her about it and said that there is this software that, although expensive, looks like it could solve everything.

She told me to go for it.

So, I did.

It took a couple of hours to set everything up. I’m very pleased with the initial experience and now I have an affiliate program.

There are two main takeaways here:

  • If you are currently stuck with something, talk it through with someone. Although my wife told me what to do, just talking it over with her made me realize what I needed to do
  • Investing in the right products, services, and people helps you grow faster and makes life easier. Don’t put this off.

As for my affiliate program, get in contact if you would like to join.

A New Success Story and Lessons About Niches

A couple of days ago, I got an email that made my day.

It was from a teacher who had gone through my course and had something exciting to share. Here is part of what she said:

“The course has focussed me on finding a niche, and as a result I have hit some important financial and personal milestones.

I come from an RAF family – my father was one of the first six link instructors in the UK – and as a journalist I specialised in writing about flight simulation. Also, I am an Accelerated Learning trainer, a Master NLP Coach, an Advanced Reading Instructor and CELTA qualified. When I started putting all these skills together to teach a senior airline pilot, we struck gold.

He was the only one of 100 pilots tested last month to be given level 6 in his aviation English exam (EALTS). I also helped him secure his dream job for a Saudi Airline on an amazing package. He is championing me to colleagues with similar aspirations, and so now I am teaching a handful of pilots, all by referral. I couldn’t be happier about this.”

Ingrid focused on what she was specialized in and brought all this together. This focus on what she does best resulted in one of her clients fulfilling his dream. When this happens, you’re going to get referrals.

If you’re struggling to resonate with learners, think about what your strengths are and what interests you, and then find ways to create lessons and teach those who you are going to best connect with.

New Video Training

Last week, I put together a new video training series.

I highly recommend you go through it. It might be exactly what you need to get your teaching business off the ground.

Click here to get instant access to the videos.

Over to You

Please share any thoughts you have in the comment section below.

Oh, and if you have a lesson plan that you want to share with the world, get in touch here.


If so, join the 5-Day Email Marketing Challenge for FREE! Sign up to get the first lesson instantly delivered to your inbox!

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Create and sell online courses

3 Tips to Help You Launch and Sell Your Online Course

Over the past two years, the majority of my income has come from online courses.

I have gone from idea to established course twice now. I have helped others too. And now, I am ready to share my knowledge and experience with you.

In this video, I give you three tips on creating and selling your online course(s). Enjoy!

Build that List

As I mentioned in this video, 99% of my sales come from my email list.

To sell a course, you need an audience. And once you launch your course, you can use email to send people through a sales funnel.

What’s more, you can get feedback from your audience on your course from those on your list.

Click here to get your free email marketing download. Learn how to get started, how to build your list, and the types of emails to send.

Validating Your Idea

What happens if you spend time and money on a course that doesn’t sell?

While you might have full confidence your course idea (and your application of creating and selling it), it’s wise to think about how you can validate this idea first.

Two ways to do this is by either starting small and expanding on what you have or by pre-selling your course.

Long-Term Sales

Over the long-term, you can either:

  1. Close the course and open it up again later
  2. Keep it open for people to sign up

If you decide to go with the second option, look to add urgency to your sales process.

Inside TEOC, you will find a mini-course on how to create and sell your own online course. It will blow you away. Check it out here.


If so, join the 5-Day Email Marketing Challenge for FREE! Sign up to get the first lesson instantly delivered to your inbox!

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Shanthi Guest Post

How To Get New Students through Blogging

Note: the following is a guest post by Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat…

As online teachers, you are already used to the online world and all that it entails. So, the world of blogging is not going to necessarily be alien to you. Some of you may already be edubloggers, while some of you may be contemplating starting.

In this post, I want to show you why I think blogging is an excellent way of reaching out to learners and acquiring new clients by sharing my blogging experience with you. I also want to show you how to go about starting your blog and engaging your readers.

There are many reasons why teachers blog. So, the first thing you need to do is to:

Ask yourself three questions

Why do I want to blog?

  • Do you want to use your blog as a marketing tool?
  • Do you want to use your blog as a way to develop professionally?
  • Are you looking to create a Personal Learning Network (PLN)?
  • Do you want to share teaching ideas through your blog?
  • Do you want to acquire more clients through it?
  • Do you want to help learners improve their English?

My experience: I started my blog in 2013 with the primary goal of creating and developing my digital footprint as an independent teacher. I needed to acquire new clients, but how was I going to get new clients if they didn’t know anything about me? The only way I could build a reputation of trust and professionalism online was by creating good-quality content for learners. Blogging was the easiest and cheapest way for me to do that.

What do I want to blog about?

  • Do you want to blog about teaching ideas, share lesson plans?
  • Do you want to share learning tips with learners?
  • Do you want to set yourself up as an expert in one skill set like grammar, writing or as a generalist?

In my case: I wanted to write about anything and everything to do with the English Language and English Literature. That could be random musings, my teaching experiences, topical issues and so on.

Who is my audience going to be?

  • Teachers or learners?
  • If learners, adults or teenagers? What levels – all or targeted? Business people?

Me: I decided to focus solely on adult learners both for Business and General English but not exam preparation.

Creating the template

You’ve got the above three questions answered and now it’s time to create the template. Let’s assume you’ve decided your audience is going to be learners. You need to engage your readers whose L1 is not English.

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes: Just as we tell our learners to think of their audience when presenting we need to keep our readers at the forefront of our minds when we write. So,

  • keep your posts brief – long posts are off-putting especially for learners
  • think visually – use pictures, good spacing, colour-code vocabulary and explain what the colours refer to (blue – collocation chunks; red – phrasal verbs)
  • keep your explanations short and simple- if you don’t understand them, no one else will!
  • use plenty of examples that are easy to understand and visually clear especially grammar posts

Variety is the spice of life

Write about a variety of topics such as grammar, literature, listening skills, idioms, learning tips, current events, topical issues – basically anything and everything, well almost everything! You might want to steer away from PARSNIPS.

Variety makes your posts and, therefore, your blog more engaging and interesting.

Language is everywhere

So make sure you show your learners where to find it. It could be in jokes, films, videos, a caption, while out shopping, jogging, at the gym.

Think of a topic and explore the language that emanates from it. It could be while you’re doing your tax return and think of sharing vocabulary related to taxes or you’re at the hairdressers’ and decide to share that experience and vocabulary with your readers.

Use a conversational style with your readers so they can experience how the language flows seamlessly.

Make it real; make it resonate.

Share your personal experiences; by doing so you allow your readers to see the real you. I often share my experiences, sometimes painful, with my readers. I use those experiences to highlight language relevant to the topic. For example, I wrote about my father-in-law’s funeral and with that post I shared the vocabulary related to funerals and bereavement. I received comments of condolences from my readers and also thanks for sharing language that is not normally taught in ELT.

Write about real issues. This follows on from the previous point. Learners need this language whether it’s about gardening, tax returns, ethical shopping, books. I tend to avoid politics, religion and sex but I am more than happy to talk about gender equality and human rights. These issues are not found in coursebooks so it’s your chance to be different.

Share your students with your readers

Teaching experiences or a recent lesson make great post subjects. Blog post ideas often get formed while I am teaching a student. For example, I was working on interview skills recently with a client and that prompted me to share our lesson with my readers. It was a huge success (it was even shortlisted for the Teaching English British Council Blog Post Award for October 2015).

Teaching anecdotes, in other words, stories that come out of a lesson can be a great source of inspiration.

Your students’ ideas could be another excellent source. I had one student who told me that she learned a lot from watching Jamie Oliver’s videos and shared what it is she liked about the chef. This triggered a series of three posts on cooking, food preparation and dining.

And finally…..

  • Be yourself – let your personality shine through. Your readers want to find the real person behind your words
  • Engage your readers with humour through words and pictures
  • Let your blog help you discover your creativity, make you a better teacher and reach out to learners everywhere.

I hope these tips are helpful. Thank you for reading and happy blogging!

About Shanthi

Shanthi Cumaraswamy StreatA freelance teacher and blogger, I teach Business and General English to adults online and offline through full immersion courses in the UK and Business English workshops abroad. I use my blog, English with a Twist, to reach out to learners and teachers.


Over to You

What blogging tips can you share?

Leave your comments below!


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Chris Rush Guest Post

Five Ways to Use LinkedIn to Get New Students for Your Tutoring Business

The following is a guest post by Chris Rush. He is a fellow online teacher and TEOC member. Take it away, Chris…

When I first started teaching online, I was bursting with excitement.  I was ready to build a website, create a business, and make a huge difference in the world, all by working from home.  It seemed too good to be true!  There was just one teeny tiny obstacle in the way:

I didn’t have any students.

At first I started freelancing, which allowed me to build some online experience (and which I still recommend for those just starting out), but I wasn’t teaching my own students.  I was a contracted teacher, and as such, I was teaching at strange hours and earning only a fraction of what learners were paying for their lessons.  I tried posting my profile on a few of the ‘find an English teacher’ websites, both the free and the paid ones, but it just seemed like a crowd of teachers offering lower and lower prices in an attempt to compete for students.  

After a lot of time and frustration, it got me a grand total of zero lessons. My luck wasn’t any better on social media either.  Sure, buying some Facebook ads to get people to download my free ebook was growing my email list, but it wasn’t actually leading to clients.  My excitement was long gone.  I had a dream of making an impact in the world, but I was making hardly any difference at all.

Then I launched a LinkedIn strategy.  And everything changed.

LinkedIn, it seems to me, is amazingly undervalued in social media strategy.  It has 100 million members all over the world, and people who use LinkedIn are professionals who are often in a position to, primarily, need English and, secondly, have the ability to pay for quality lessons.  I’ve had much lower instances of people asking for free help (and in turn getting negative with me if I refuse) since switching my primary marketing efforts to LinkedIn.  I’m going to share with you the five best ways to get students using LinkedIn. Using these strategies has generated for me thousands of times the return on my time investment more than any other social media platform.

Before we get into the strategies, I offer you a disclaimer and a prerequisite.  First the disclaimer:  Nobody likes a spammer.  I’m going to talk about how to grow your LinkedIn network (and, therefore, your base of possible students), and your first point of contact with a connection should never be a sales pitch.  Not only is it sleazy, it’s against LinkedIn policy.  People buy from those whom they know, like, and trust, and it takes time to build a relationship.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  Secondly, the prerequisite:  to use these strategies properly, you must know your niche — the type of learner you’re targeting, and the key is to be as specific as possible.  I’ve seen English teachers resist this because they feel like it somehow limits their base of potential students, but marketing messages that are highly targeted are always more successful than ones that are broad.  So let’s get started!

1. Cater your Profile to Potential Students

Many people use their LinkedIn profiles as online resumes, and that’s great — if you’re looking for a job!  However, a profile optimized to show your work history is definitely not the same as one that’s designed to attract English learners, and you need to create your profile with that in mind.  Your personal headline is a great place to start.  For most people, it just has their job title, but this is usually the first thing that a potential client sees after your name and photo.  It should be simple and results oriented.  Mine is “Coaching Business English Online to Give you more Opportunities in Business and Life.”  It says what I do, and it promises a result for you if you hire me.

A profile hack that very few people take advantage of is creating call to action links right on your profile using the “Projects” section.  For me, one of my projects is my free sample session (and by the way, never refer to it as a “free sample session,”  because that doesn’t appeal to anyone).  Instead, make it into an irresistible offer.  My ‘free sample session’ is actually a link to “Schedule a Free Personalized English Action Plan, a one-on-one session where we make a step-by-step plan to improve your English in the next six months!”  When someone clicks on it, it takes them right to my free (and highly recommended) booking system, Calendly.  It takes an interested prospect about 15 seconds to book a session with me, and it integrates with Google Calendar so I’m guaranteed to be available.  And because you can drag sections of your LinkedIn profile around, this link is right at the top.  

2. Grow your Network

Having an optimized profile, unfortunately, won’t do much good if nobody sees it.  In order to get people to see your profile, you need a large network, and that means joining groups (strategy 4), and sending connection requests.  This is where having a well-defined niche comes in.  Have an idea of the type of people you want to target, and then search for them.  See what works (who signs up for your sample lesson) and adjust accordingly.  I search for people with one specific job title in one specific country (remember when I said to be as specific as possible)?  

Sending the connection request is another place where people make mistakes.  When sending connection requests, almost everyone uses the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”  How impersonal!  This is your first point of contact with a possible student, and a little effort goes a long way.  It only takes a minute to write a sentence, use their name, and mention that you’d like to connect to them (do not try to sell them anything).  Sometimes, though, you can get lucky and the person will want to buy from you immediately.  I’ve gone to bed after sending out a big batch of connection requests and gotten up the next morning to see sample sessions on my calendar — it’s like Christmas!

3. Publish!

‘Internet Marketing 101’ has long advised that you use social media to drive traffic to your website.  Well, LinkedIn’s publishing platform is turning that on its head, and giving new writers immediate access to an audience of millions.  If you’ve got an optimized profile and grown your network to (at least) several hundred prospects, it’s time to start publishing. Every time you write a post, it notifies everyone in your network, and your posts stay at the top of your profile where they’re immediately accessible to your connections.

 It’s an amazing way (perhaps the best way) for you to distinguish yourself as a leader in your field.  Being recognized as a thought leader is when the real revolution happens because that’s when 1: You don’t have to chase clients anymore — they come to YOU, and 2: they will happily pay you a premium price.  My initial break happened because a CEO (that doesn’t read business English blogs) saw my third ever post and contacted me the next day asking for 500 English lessons for his employees, and paid the price I asked!

4. Join Groups

You should join as many  groups as you can.  The limit used to be 50, but now it’s even higher since LinkedIn recently changed how subgroups work.  Joining groups helps grow your network (since every member of the group is added to your network) and it allows you to build trust.  Instead of joining groups full of other English teachers, you should join groups full of your prospects.  This is where both the disclaimer and the prerequisite come into play.  You need to know your niche to find the right groups, and then once you join them, you should never post about English lessons.  

People will see very clearly that you’re an English teacher — there’s no need to remind them. Instead, focus your efforts on offering helpful and relevant content specific to their field or industry.  Set up a google alert and RSS aggregator for keywords related to the industry of the group, and every day you’ll have a list of potentially helpful articles from across the internet to share.  Offering value in this way can build an incredible amount of trust and goodwill, and you can be sure that when someone in the group needs English lessons, they’ll come to you.

5. Share ‘top of mind’ Content

In addition to the publishing platform, LinkedIn also has a Facebook-like ‘news feed’ where you can post status updates, photos, videos, articles, and links.  You should take advantage of this strategy to share relevant information that’s perhaps not important enough to become a published post.  This is where you can express some of your personality, as long as you make sure your updates are professional and not overly promotional.  Very few people buy on the first contact.  It usually takes many repeated points of contact, and you want to make sure that when they think of English lessons they immediately think of you. 

Chris RushLinkedIn helped me go from a struggling freelancer to a successful Business English Coach, and it’s already helping me take the next step in my success. 

Chris Rush is an Online Business English Coach.  Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Chris goes into this strategy in-depth in our exclusive 25-minute interview inside TEOC. In addition to getting this method in full, you will also get access to the 101 video lessons, resources, worksheets, bonus tutorials, and community. Sound good?

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Rob Howard Guest Post

How to Deal with Learners who Want Everything for Free

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

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

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

The Questions

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

“How is my English?”

“Can you tell me what my level is?”

“Is this right?”

“What does this word mean?”

“How do you translate this word to English?”

“Can you translate this paragraph for me?”

“Will you write my CV for me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It will only take you a minute.”

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

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

“Can you give me materials to get better?”

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

“But you’re a teacher!”

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

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

The Response

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

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

The Solution

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

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

Social Responsibility

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

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

It makes saying “No” that much sweeter too.


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

You can reach Rob at rob@onlinelanguagecenter.com

Please join us on Facebook at ENGLISH STUDENTS

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


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Three Mistakes I Made When I Started Teaching Online

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

Luckily, I have learned from them.

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

Watch in HD!

Not Connecting with other Teachers

I was a lone-wolf in the beginning.

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

However, we are all unique.

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

Different learners connect with different teachers.

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

Not Putting Yourself Out There

Moving online can be scary.

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

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

I have talked about this before here.

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

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

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

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

Not Starting an Email List Sooner

Email is powerful.

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

Just promise me that you will make this a priority.

Here is how to set one up.

Over to You

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

Let me know if the comment section below.


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Earn Income English Teacher

Six Ways to Earn an Income as an Online Teacher

When I started my teaching business, I had one goal in mind:

I wanted to earn more than I was earning in Spain by teaching one-to-one lessons online.

I soon reached this goal and, for a while, I was comfortable with my situation. I didn’t have any aspirations to expand on what I was doing.

But then I started to experiment and, now, all my income – for To Fluency – comes from The To Fluency Program (an online course).

In this video, I lay out the different ways you can earn as an online teacher and give advice for each one.

Watch in HD!

Six Different Ways to Earn by Teaching English Online


This is where I recommend starting.

It’s easier to get learners to sign up to one-to-one lessons, and the lifetime value of each student is higher than other areas.

Compared to products and online courses, there isn’t anything you need to create beforehand – you can go from lesson to lesson, planning when necessary.

Additionally, you’ll learn so much from working with individual students, and after some time, you’ll be able to solve common problems through a product or a course (see below).

Group Lessons

This is where you have two or more learners in a live class.

I had a couple of group courses going in early 2014. I really enjoyed these lessons and I’m thinking about doing this again in the future. I used the Zoom platform to teach these courses.

The biggest upside is that you can earn more per hour doing group lessons (4 students paying $15 vs one student paying $30, for example).

But they are harder to get going as you need to find two or more learners who want to take lessons at the same time for a number of weeks.

Offering Services Asynchronously

You can offer writing and/or speaking feedback asynchronously using tools such as Google Drive and SoundCloud.

This can be a stand-alone service or you could offer this in addition to your one-to-one lessons.

I have offered feedback in this way for both exams and presentations, and I currently offer a speaking evaluation as part of my online course.


This is when things start to become more passive.

You’ll need to have a relatively large audience (having an email list is a must) in order to sell products like ebooks.

I recommend starting small and building from there.

Getting this set up is much easier to do these days. You can use something like Selz or Gumroad to take care of payments and the delivery of your products.

Online Courses

This is my main focus right now.

I have an online course for English learners and one for teachers.

My first course was delivered on a third-party platform, but now I host them on my own websites.

Again, there are plugins and other tools to make this relatively easy to do (I say relative because there is a process involved to get this set up).

There is huge potential here if you get things right.

Affiliate Links

Instead of creating your own products, you can sell things that other people have made. Doing this will typically earn you a commission of 10-75% of the sale.

I don’t do this for To Fluency, but I do have affiliate links on this blog.

Bonus: Advertising

You can also advertise on YouTube or on your own site.

It takes big numbers to make a decent income – for example, you’ll make $0.50-5 for every 1,000 views on YouTube – but most teachers advertise to add to their bottom line.

Over to You

Share your experience with these any of the above and let me know what your long-terms goals are.

Leave comments below. Thanks for reading.

Inside The Teach English Online Course, I go through the different ways to earn in more depth. You’ll also learn how to build an audience and how to sell to this audience.


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