Published 11th April 2021
Being a teacher of English as a Foreign Language can mean a lot of different things. Some teachers teach English for Academic Purposes to university students in Australia, others teach English to kindergarten language learners in Brazil. Still, others decide to go the online route, either because of circumstances or because they appreciate the convenience of teaching online.
When teaching English as a Foreign Language online there are two possible routes for you to take:
- Working for a company
- Being an independent teacher
There are pros and cons to both situations, and which you choose depends on your situation and your preferences.
Working for an online company
Some might argue that working for an online company is the easier option. You can sign up with a company and if your application is accepted you will be given work. You set your schedule and students sign up with the company and the company assigns you to classes. In other words, you don’t need to spend time looking for students. You also don’t need to worry about invoicing and chasing payments, but the company sets your rates. They give you bonuses and incentives, but they can also give you penalties. Another plus is that they usually provide you with lesson materials and lesson plans, which is another massive timesaver.
Working as an independent online teacher
Being a freelance teacher means you don’t have the benefits of working with a company. You need to market yourself and find your own students. You are responsible for setting curricula, planning lessons, and finding, creating, or adapting lesson materials. You can choose your own teaching rate but you will need to be on top of your accounting to make sure all your students pay you and you are tax-compliant. On the other hand, you are 100% in control of your schedule and won’t be penalised if you are sick or need to postpone a lesson.
As you can imagine, being an independent online English teacher requires a certain amount of bravery and definitely a load of self-confidence. It can be daunting to think about how you actually start out when you have zero students. How do they even find you? And when they do, what are you supposed to do with them?
But you can relax now. We have put our heads together and compiled a list of 7 easy steps to being a successful independent online English teacher.
1. Invest in a website
Yes, this might sound a bit overwhelming but it’s totally worth the investment of your time and money. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be a free wordpress site to start if you don’t have any money upfront to put into your business. But it must be clear and simple and showcase your specialities and offerings. A useful part of your website could be a blog.
2. Find your niche
This is true in any business so it’s no surprise it’s the same as being a TEFL teacher. Decide what exactly you are going to teach, how, when, and for how much. Will you be teaching online 1-to-1 or group classes as well? Will you teach through Zoom or Skype? Can you teach exam classes? How much is your hourly rate, and how long are your lessons? Your students need to be able to find all of this information on your website. If they can’t they will email you with questions and replying to those emails will be time wasted.
3. Set up social media profiles
These are not the same as your personal profiles. You need to set up separate accounts on all the popular social media accounts linked to your business. Then you need to post to them! You can use these sites to market yourself, advertise your lessons and recruit students. Don’t get disheartened if it takes a while to gain followers – be consistent and your accounts will grow.
4. Work your contacts
Networking is always key in attracting clients, so start with the network you already have. Chat to your contacts on social media sites – especially LinkedIn – to let them know what you are offering. Even if they don’t need your services they might know someone who does, or they’ll think of you when the need arises.
5. Build an email list
Email lists create customers. If a person signs up for your email list, they are showing an interest in your products and will be primed to accept an offer from you – all you have to do is offer it to them. For example, businesses usually offer a free guide or downloadable pdf of some sort if you sign up for their newsletter. Then, whenever they have special offers you will receive their newsletter. Often, seeing an offer in an email is the push consumers need to buy a product.
6. Gather resources
While you cannot plan for lessons until you have students, you can always start collecting materials in order to be prepared when your students start trickling in. Imagine you post on Instagram and ten students contact you in a week. Then you’ll be scrambling to find materials that will be suitable for these ten students. Rather gather your resources beforehand so you can be sure you’ll be ready for your students when they come knocking.
7. Test your platforms
Whatever platforms or websites you are using, they will take some getting used to. Make sure you play around with whichever one you choose so you are comfortable using it before your lessons. You are the teacher so even if your student is not comfortable with an online platform you should still be able to give a lesson they feel comfortable with and which will be engaging and effective.
And that’s it! The last step is a bonus step but it’s another good one: relax and enjoy it! If you are engaging and your students enjoy your lessons and learn from them, your reputation will spread through word of mouth and you will need nothing else to succeed as a great online English teacher.