Over the last year (while running the Off2Class beta) I’ve had the pleasure of working with a large pool of independent online ESL teachers. I often come into contact with ESL teachers that are pondering the idea (or are at the beginning stages) of starting their own online ESL businesses. When I meet these teachers, there is one question that has arisen time and time again: where do I find my first online ESL students?
We’ve written about finding online ESL students before…
In a previous post, my co-founder (who runs his own online-ESL school: TurksLearnEnglish) outlined some strategies for finding ESL students for your online tutoring business. He mentioned the challenges of the online world and that the key to building an online ESL business was leveraging your “offline” relationships into the online world. This can be a great strategy if you’re teaching in a high-demand ESL market (as James was) and want to return to your home country one day and teach online.
Jack Askew, who runs a great blog called Teaching ESL Online, has written extensively about finding a niche, and establishing a web presence (as a long term strategy).
Yes, but what about your first online ESL students…
What I’ve realized since James’ article, is that we missed the first step. What about teachers that aren’t in a high-demand ESL market, or don’t have any relationships (from in-classroom teaching)? What about teachers with no established online presence to work with? Where would you find your first online ESL students?
If you’re asking this question, don’t worry. I get this question from ESL teachers I come into contact with on a weekly basis.
If you’re wondering where to find your first online ESL students, you are likely an ESL teacher that doesn’t already have a pool of contacts (from in-classroom teaching) to draw upon.
To find your first online ESL students, you’re going to need some in-classroom experience…
Although the above statement may seem counterintuitive, it is the best piece of advice I can offer an ESL teacher pondering where to find their first ESL students. It’s not that you require the in-classroom experience in order to teach in the online ESL environment (although it is helpful), but that you require the relationships. Even a casual, part-time job in a local language institute will immediately immerse you in a world of potential future clients. Of course, you need to be smart about developing and retaining relationships (we discuss a lot of those strategies, here).
Think of your time at a language institute as an investment in your future life as an independent online, ESL teacher. Besides developing your relationships, you’ll also get some insight into your own personal teaching style, and student niche you want to pursue.