Looking to start an online English teaching business?
Then, you’re just at the right place. This is the only guide you’ll ever need to start your journey as an online English teacher.
Starting out as an online teacher can be intimidating. That’s because most teachers aren’t tech geeks & have no idea how to go online. They may be good in their domains but going online is all together a different thing.
Teaching offline is less risky as compared to teaching online. Why?. Because going online & succeeding at it involves many variables. You’ll fall flat on your face if you don’t get everything right.
However, going online breaks the barrier & offers you tremendous opportunities. Imagine teaching to students from across the world. Yes, that very thought is exciting.
So, what’s the solution?. How can you make it big as an online English teacher?.
In this article, I’m going to share 5 steps to launching your first online English course.
Using these simple steps, you’ll be able to not only launch your course & but also make it successful.
Step #1 & #2 requires you to have a piece of paper or notepad ready. Record your answers there.
HOW TO START AN ONLINE ENGLISH TEACHING BUSINESS OR COURSE
Step #1. Define Your Teaching Purpose, Brand, Style & Target Audience
At the outset, you need to define your teaching purpose, identity & audience. Why?. Because teaching, like any other business, is competitive. In fact, as per a statistic, there’re a whopping 3.6 million teachers in the US alone!.
That means you need to cut yourself off from the noise & develop your own unique identity. An identity that will help you differentiate yourself from other teachers.
To define your identity, you need to focus on four core areas:
- Target Audience
Start with defining your teaching purpose. What’s your goal?. Why did you choose teaching as a profession?. What’s the bigger purpose that motivates you?.
Your purpose should be noble in nature. It should excite you & your students. A case in point being the social media giant Facebook whose purpose is to “connect the world”.
Let me help you with a few teaching purpose examples:
Helping people speak & write better English
Making people confident in English
Helping people leverage English language for their professional growth
Removing the English language barrier
Helping make English a more global language
The aforesaid examples are just for your understanding. Ideally, you should be crafting your own purpose.
Follow these steps to craft one:
Step 1. Answer this question: Apart from money, what motivates you to teach English language to your students?
Step 2. Prepare a list of answers to the question
Step 3. Pick up just one most convincing answer & convert the same into a purpose statement or sentence. You can use an online sentence maker like WordHippo.
Next comes your brand. Well, a brand is nothing but an identifying mark of your teaching business.
It could be your name or your teaching institution name. May also include your logo, your colors used in marketing materials, your website name, etc.
Ever visited McDonald’s?. Then you should have noticed that they use the same color combination (yellow + red) across all their customer touchpoints. Be it their tables, signage boards, website, menus, wardrobe, etc. That’s branding.
They also have the same font, logo & mascot across all their stores.
Another brilliant example of branding is Apple, the consumer electronics company. The name itself speaks a lot about the innovative culture that the company possesses.
So, how do you define your brand?. Follow these steps:
Step 1. Name your teaching business, institution or course.
Ideally, the name should be:
- Available (Check trademark & domain name availability)
- Reflecting your teaching purpose or goal
Examples of a few great names:
- English Maestro
- Global English Mission
- English Communication Hub
- Fluent English Coaching
- Win English
Step 2. Add a tag line to your original name. Optional though, a tag line will help your prospective students better understand your teaching purpose.
A few great examples of tag lines:
- Win at English. Win at Job.
- Kickstart your career.
- Be more confident at English.
- Impress your boss.
- Climb the corporate ladder with English.
Next up you should define your own unique style. The way you deliver your lectures, the way you talk to your students, the way you present yourself, etc. are all a part of your style.
It’s all about having your own unique voice. A voice your students can relate to.
Example: As an English teacher, you can lecture your students in a sarcastic tone to make your teaching more engaging. Or you may chose to lecture in a professional tone. The former is a funny style & the latter is a professional style.
Whatever style you chose to go ahead with, make sure that the same suits your personality & comes to you naturally. Remember, if you fake it then your students will come to know.
So, how do you find your unique voice?
Follow these steps:
Step 1: Ask your friends or family members to comment on your style or personality.
Step 2: Note down those comments & shortlist a few common traits
Step 3: Figure out how you can turn those traits into your own teaching style
Target Audience (Student)
Last but not least, you need to paint a picture of your ideal student avatar in your mind.
Who’s your target audience?. Of course it can’t be each & every English learning student in this World.
This is the most crucial part. If you don’t have a right student avatar, you cannot market your course effectively. It would be like speaking to the whole world.
Apart from marketing, a student avatar will also help you to create a great course content or lecture (I’ll talk about this in the next step).
So, how do you craft a custom student avatar that you can talk to?. Follow these steps:
Step 1. Take a piece of paper, write a heading “My Ideal Student” & add the following rows below the heading:
- Favorites (Movies, food, etc.)
- Level of English Fluency
Step 2. Fill in the aforesaid rows taking into account your purpose, branding & style
Step 3. Now, visualize your reader & paint an imaginary picture (with a pen or pencil) of the reader on the same page. Optional though, this is a powerful practice that can help you remember your target student. You know what’s even better?. Adding an imaginary name against the painted picture.
This first step is like the foundation to your English teaching business. With your unique purpose, brand, style & student avatar you’ve built a strong base upon which you can build an awesome course.
It all boils down to clarity. The more clear you’re about your mission, vision, your strengths & your student, the better you’ll be able to teach & connect.
Step #2. Decide on Your Course Format, Topic, Curriculum, Model & Delivery
With Step #1, you’ve built a strong foundation. Now is the time to architect the structure of the building that’s gonna lay over the foundation i.e your course.
In other words, in this section, I’ll talk about how to structure & design your English teaching course.
At the outset, you need to decide on the format of your lectures.
Do you want to lecture in the form of a video, text, audio or a mix of all?. That’s gonna be the format of your course.
Let me discuss the pros & cons of each format.
- Visually appealing
- Easy to record
- Difficult to demonstrate with examples (Require video editing skills)
- Difficult to revise (You need to re-shoot the complete video)
- Difficult for students to scroll around
- Easy to revise
- Easy to demonstrate with examples
- Suited for in-depth courses
- Easy for students to scroll around a text chapter
- Not visually appealing
- Comparatively more time required to create text content
- Easy to record
- Lack of connect
- No visual appeal
- Difficult to demonstrate with examples or explanation
To decide on the right format for your course, follow these steps:
Step 1. Is your course going to be a basic level or an advanced level course?
If it’s a basic level course then the video format is best suited. If it’s an advanced level course then try adding text chapters along with videos.
Step 2. Interview a few of your ideal students & look at what they want. Are they comfortable more with video or text or a mix of both?
Choosing a right format for your course is an important step & therefore requires a considerable thought.
Next up you need to decide on the topic of your course.
Is your course going to a general course or a niche course?. Is it going to address the spoken English or the written English?
Here’re a few topic examples for better understanding:
- English Grammar Basics (General Course)
- English Verbs & Adjectives (Niche Course)
- Spoken English Basics (General Course)
- American English Pronunciation (Niche Course)
I’m a big fan of niching down the topic because niche topics are easier to market.
General topics face a lot of competition as compared to the niche topic. So, I would recommend you to niche down your topic.
Follow these steps to arrive at a niche topic with less competition:
Step 1: Zero in on your main topic
Step 2: Divide the topic into various niche subjects
Step 3: What’s the subject that can be turned into a topic of its own?. That’s the niche topic you should be focusing on.
Next, you need to decide on the curriculum of your English language course.
What will be the duration of your course? How many weeks or months or days?
Can the course be divided into various modules?. If yes, what’re they?
Can the modules be further divided into chapters?. If yes, what’re they?
Will you be offering an upgraded course to the students who complete your present course?. Example: If your students complete “Basic English speaking course”, will they be offered “Advanced English speaking course”?
Will your students have to complete assignments as a part of the course?
Will your students be tested after completion of the course or a chapter?. If yes, what’ll be the format of the test? And, how do you plan to conduct them?
How will you be interacting with your students?. Do you plan to use a forum like Facebook Group?.
Jot down the answer to the aforesaid questions in the piece of paper as suggested earlier.
Now, let’s discuss the finance part of your course.
How do you plan to charge your students? On outright basis or subscription basis?.
Example: You can follow two pricing models. Either offer your course at a fixed price of $ 500 or else charge students $ 100 per month for 6 months (the duration of your course).
For a certain kind of course, you can even charge a small monthly subscription fees (say $ 9 per month) for perpetuity (as long as the student remains enrolled in the course). Example: A course that’s updated every month with new chapters & assignments OR one-to-one/group coaching.
At this stage, you’ll also need to decide on how you’re going to collect payments.
To solve these finance-related dilemmas, follow these steps:
Step 1: Look at the value offered by your competitors & their prices. Quote your price accordingly.
Step 2: If your course is high-ticket one, then offer a flexible monthly subscription plan for the students who can’t pay at one go.
Step 3: Are your students going to be located at different parts of the world?. Then opt for a global payment gateway like PayPal. It’s functional in most countries of the world. And, it also supports local payments.
Remember, you’ll fall flat on your face if you launch your course with an unjustified pricing model. So, take care to get it right.
Lastly, you need to decide on how you’re going to deliver your course.
Is it going to be an on-demand course? Or is it going one-to-one live coaching or group coaching? Or live/recorded webinar?
An on-demand course means a course that’s immediately available as soon as a student signs up or makes payment. An on-demand course can be in any format.
Pros: Passive in nature & easier to manage
Cons: Lower student engagement as compared to a live coaching
An one-to-one/group coaching means teaching a student or a group of students live using a software like Skype.
Pros: Simple & flexible to conduct classes
Cons: Not a scalable business model
Webinar is an online event that can attented by a group of students.
Pros: Scalable business model
Cons: Difficult to set up & may also result in connectivity failure
Now, how do you decide on your course delivery model?. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Do you’ve time constraint? Do you want a more passive way to conduct classes?. Then offer an on-demand course. In that case, all you’ve to do is prepare & upload your course (I’ll discuss more about this in Step #3 & #4) & see students enroll/take classes on auto-pilot. Yes, as discussed earlier, student engagement will be an issue here.
Step 2: Do you want to interact actively with your students? Then, opt for one-to-one or group coaching as a delivery model.
Step 3: If you want to conduct classes like a grand /one-time online event then a webinar will best suit your needs.
Remember, an one-to-one or group coaching is generally priced higher than an on-demand course.
Step #3. Prepare The Course Content
Now is the time to bake your course. Yes, even if you’re planning one-to-one coaching classes (got to plan & script your lectures).
Let me show you how.
To prepare a course content or script, I follow the following process:
Research >> Outline >> Content >> Editing
The research stage of course content preparation involves researching & gathering relevant data. That data may include statistics, key references, reports, guides, case studies, surveys, whitepapers etc.
The research data will give you enough insights of what & what not to cover in your course. Also, the same will add the much need credibility to your course. Isn’t it better to back everything in your course with references?.
Following are some of the research tools you can use:
- Google scholar
- Search engines
- Google Trends
A proper research will also help to understand the pain points of your target audience.
If you’ve done your homework (research) properly, outlining your course becomes easy.
If you don’t know then outlining is structuring your course into sections, sub-sections, modules, chapters & paragraphs.
Example: If your course topic is say “Basic English Communication” then your outline may be like:
Section 1: Tense
Chapter 1: Past Tense
What is past tense?
How to use past tense?
Sentence construction with past tense
Examples of past tense
Common mistakes to avoid
Chapter 2: Present Tense…..
After outlining, you need to start writing or recording your content. If an outline is the bone, then think of the content as the muscle.
Even if you decide to deliver your course in the video format, you’ll need to write (as script) & record the content on camera.
Primarily your knowledge & experience will help you to write or record content. However, there’re a few tools that can help you ease your work:
- DSLR camera
- Audio mic
- Word processor like MS Word or Google docs
- Wiz IQ
Make sure that your content is engaging & hooks your students till the end. Of course, it’s an art & you probably won’t produce an engaging content if you’re a new content creator. So, don’t be demoralized & keep improving.
I would also suggest you to buy a few content creation books on Amazon. Those will help for sure.
Once done with your content, don’t rush to publish it. You need to proof-read & edit your content for maximum appeal.
A few editing tools that you can try:
- Final Cut Pro X (for video editing)
WARNING: Video editing isn’t that easy as it seems. If you aren’t comfortable then try hiring a freelancer to do the same for you.
Step #4. Publish Your Online Course
Since we’re discussing about online teaching, you need an online platform where you can host your course.
Hosting your course means making your course available to the World via a digital medium. Example: A product is hosted on Amazon.
Generally, course creators use the following mediums to host their courses:
- An online course marketplace like Udemy
- An independent website using a course website builder like Teachable (Recommended)
- A freelance website like Upwork where you can create your profile & apply to English language teaching jobs.
With online course marketplaces you get ready-made audiences. All you’ve to do is create your profile & upload your course. Just like how an Amazon seller uploads her product on Amazon marketplace.
These marketplaces have been for years & have gained a market reputation. However, you’ll find huge competition there. Most courses are priced at as low as $10. And, the worst part is that you don’t have any flexibility or identity.
You’ve to abide by the rules, competitive scenarios & payment schedule of the online course marketplaces. Also, I’ve found these marketplaces to be discount-driven. That means the more discount they offer, the more students will sign up. If that’s the quality of students you want then well & fine. You may go for them. Else, I’ve a better option.
Enter course website builders.
A course website builder (like Teachable) helps you to create a website where you can upload/sell your courses & collect payments. All flawlessly with a few clicks of setup & without a single line of code.
An independent website ensures that you retain your own identity. Also, it offers the much-needed flexibility to do things the way you want. Homepage, course bundles, upgrades, pricing, subcriptions, etc. are just a few things you can tweak.
Yes, initially you’ll need to toil hard to promote your own course website. I’ll talk more about this in Step #5.
Another alternative that you may consider is creating your profile on freelance websites. If a client is looking for an English language trainer you can bid/apply to that job.
My recommendation is to go with your own independent website using Teachable. Why? Because it offers you the flexibility to create your own course empire.
Now, let me explain how Teachable works.
With teachable, all you need to do is follow these 4 steps:
Step 1. Go to Teachable.com & click on “Create a course” link available on the top right corner of the page. Then, go through & complete the sign up process.
Step 2. Next up, you need to create a school. That’s nothing but the name of your course or institution. Using this name, teachable will create an exclusive domain name for your course. Example: https://[your-course-name].teachable.com.
If you want a custom domain of your choice (https://[your-course].com) then that can be done easily be done later. (I’ll talk about this later)
Step 3: To help Teachable personalize your website, answer a few questions.
Step 4: Done! You can see your website dashboard now. Was that tough?
First thing first, you need to upload your course by clicking on the “create a course” menu.
Secondly, you can also define the theme of your website by clicking on “customize look and feel” menu.
Thirdly, you can set up your own custom domain name by clicking on “set up your domain name” menu. Here’s a screenshot:
You can buy your own domain name using a registrar like NameCheap & connect the same to Teachable.
Following are the benefits of using Teachable:
- Supports classes in various formats like video, audio, text, image, PDF files, etc.
- Drag-and-drop builder (no coding skills required)
- Beautiful templates
- Custom domain name supported
- Integrated affiliate marketing features
- Payment processor included (international payment)
- Multiple languages supported
- Quizzes & discussions supported
- Option to award course completion certificates to the students
- Integration with email marketing solutions like MailChimp
- Flexible & multiple pricing structure supported
- Coupons & promotions included
- Traffic & engagement analytics
All in all, Teachable already includes everything that’s needed to sell courses online. You don’t need to go anywhere else & hunt for individual solutions. Everything is available under the Teachable roof.
Presently, Teachable is being used by more than 68,000+ teachers around the globe.
In fact, reputed teachers & online influencers like Pat Flynn, Melyssa Griffin & Michelle Gardner have made millions of dollars by selling their courses using Teachable.
Let me share a cool little story with you.
Have you heard of Derek Murphy?
Ten years ago, Derek was struggling as an artist & an English teacher in Taiwan.
He had no idea what he was doing with his life. In his words he says that he was “starving”.
He says that once he had to sell all his personal books to pay his bills.
Things started to change when he went online & started sharing his knowledge there. He spoke about writing, self-publishing, books, online business, etc.
His big moment came when he launched his course using Teachable. Within 48 hours, he was able make $ 18,000!. Yes, you heard it right.
That’s the power of teaching online. There’s no limit to what you can achieve. And, the best part?. There isn’t much to lose.
Now, let’s check a few 3rd party reviews of Teachable:
- Software Advice: 4.5 out of 5
- GetApp: 4.6 out of 5
- Capterra: 4.5 out of 5
- TrustPilot: 3.8 out of 10
- Glassdoor: 4.6 out of 5
All-in-all, Teachable very deservingly is one of the World’s most popular course website builders out there.
Step #5. Market Your Course
Launching a course is only a small part of a big game. The bigger part is marketing the course.
There’s no point in having one of World’s best English teaching course if no one is buying it. Just like having a great product doesn’t guarantee sales. You gotta promote.
I see many course builders investing days & months building a course only to find out that no one’s buying them. And, it’s not their fault. They’re English language teachers & not marketing professionals.
So, let me help you out with a bunch of ninja marketing hacks to promote your courses:
Leaflets & Flyers
You know what’s the most affordable, direct & fastest way to spread a word about your courses?.
That’s by distributing leaflets & flyers in your town. Depending on your target audience, you may decide to focus on particular areas of your town like schools, colleges, offices, cafeterias, etc.
Partnership with Schools & Colleges
If your target students consist of young school or college students, then this hack may work.
All you need to do here to contact a few local schools / colleges & offer partnership. That means you promote the school & colleges to your existing students or in your marketing materials. And, in return the school promotes your English course to its students.
Like any other partnership, this is also about the win-win relationship.
Friends & Family
Go to your messenger or WhatsApp groups & talk about your new course. I’m sure your friends & family members will be able to refer a few students to you.
And as they say “A friend in need is friend indeed”.
In marketing, there’s a golden saying “You gotta be where your target audience hang out”.
So, if your target audience spend their time on forums like Quora or Reddit then go there & help them out by answering their questions.
Note that you shouldn’t spam or reply with low-quality answers. That won’t help.
Instead, add a unique & meaty answer with a link back to your course website.
In fact, I’ve written a few answers on Quora that have garnered thousands & hundreds of views, upvotes & shares.
The moral of the story: Online forums really work. They can help you drive a ton of traffic to your website.
Guest posts are nothing but blog posts that you’ll be writing on authoritative websites.
Such guest posts generally contain links to the author’s website. So, if someone likes your guest post, she may visit your website & check out your courses.
Since authority websites have a strong reader base, you can expect a flood of traffic from them.
If you aren’t comfortable with writing guest posts then you can outsource the same to agencies like Text Broker or iWriter.
Some of the authority websites for English language are: Copybloggers, Copyhackers, Enchanting Marketing, etc.
Want hundreds of students right now?. Try facebook ads.
Facebook ads is perhaps the holy grail of paid marketing. With more than 2.3 billion active users, Facebook is an opportunity not to be missed.
And, the best part?. There’s no minimum budget requirement. You can literally start off with as little as $ 10 a day.
Want other marketers to promote your course for a commission? Then try affiliate marketing.
In affiliate marketing, a marketer promotes an advertiser’s (you) product (course) & gets rewarded everytime a sale is made or an event(like sign up) happens.
To get started, you need to sign up with an affiliate marketing marketplaces like Commission Junction, Rakuten Marketing, ShareASale, etc.
Teachable already has got this affiliate marketing feature integrated with each website created on it’s platform.
Another effective way to market your course is to comment on other bloggers’ blog posts.
It works the same way like answering on online forums. All you need to do is comment with a valuable answer & a link back to your website.
Of course, make sure that you only comment on blog posts related to writing, copywriting, English language, etc.
Do I even need to explain this?
YouTube is great for marketing. All you need to do is add valuable videos or tutorials consistently.
As your channel becomes popular, you may see a ton of visitors coming to your website via YouTube (make sure to add your website link in the description of every video you upload).
The best part? It’s FREE.
Google adwords are ads that you run on the Google search engine. So, if you buy a Google adword for the keyword “english language course” & if someone searches for the same keyword on Google, your website will show up at the top of the result.
If you’ve used Google then perhaps you must have noticed these adwords.
I know it’s tough. However, most of the aforesaid steps are just one-time activity. Once the ball starts rolling, all you’ve to do is market your course & get more students.
So, get started with the Step #1. Grab a piece of paper & start filling it as instructed. You’ll be amazed at how things take off from there.
Using the ideas listed in this article, you’ll have a great start to your online English teaching career.
Hustle Online. Teach Online. Succeed Online.