Are you aspiring to become your own boss as an English teacher but unsure if running an online ESL business is your forte? Don’t fret! Chances are, you are ready for it – you just have to take stock of the teaching, operational, and tech skills you have to add to your passion for teaching. Let’s get you started with the essential skills that you need to have as a teacherpreneur so you can launch your venture in no time.
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1. Lesson planning know-how
Standing on your own two feet when teaching English online means that you’re in complete control of mapping out your courses. So, you’ll have to be able to not only keep the big picture in mind but also to look at specific details. This usually entails:
- Organizing the content of your lessons (topics, objectives, target skills)
- Choosing or creating the materials and activities (books, worksheets, games, etc.)
- Creating assessment tools (quizzes, tests)
The good news is that you can incorporate your own teaching style into your lessons, and if you’d like to customize your courses, you have the freedom to do so!
Pro Tip: Not confident about your lesson planning skills? The best way to learn about designing lessons, even if you’re on your own, is by taking a TEFL course. You’ll learn lesson planning techniques as well as various methodologies for teaching grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and other aspects of the English language.
If you’re looking to grab prospective students’ attention and keep current students engaged in your lessons, putting your creative skills to work is key.
When it comes to marketing, you can promote yourself and your English classes in plenty of ways. From creating colorful flyers to sharing fun English tips on social media to posting videos, you’ll need to get your creative juices flowing to attract as many learners as possible. For this, being skilled in graphic design or video creation and editing, for instance, will come in handy.
You’ll also have to be creative when crafting and delivering your classes. You’ll definitely want to keep your students enthusiastic – even during the most challenging grammar exercise. A secret to this is creating dynamic lessons and coming up with ways to help your students learn better.
Pro Tip: First time advertising yourself? You can initially get inspiration from online English teachers (or even other kinds of professionals) who have successfully marketed themselves online.
3. Tech skills
Whether you’d like to present your class materials more easily or interact with your online learners more effectively, having some basic tech skills will also be necessary. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be extremely tech-savvy to be able to handle digital tools in the virtual classroom. Nowadays, most apps are user-friendly enough (or you can find tutorials online to help you, just in case), so you won’t need a lot of time to study how to use them.
So, what are the basic tech skills you should master for teaching English online? Here are some of them:
- Video conferencing. It’s important to be comfortable with the different functions of the video conference or virtual classroom platform you’re using. Also, you should be able to help students who are new to using it.
- Electronic presentation. Knowing the different tools you can use to show your PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, and audio-visual materials will make your classes more interactive.
- File management and sharing. Nine times out of ten, you will have a plethora of documents and resources to share with your students, so it helps if you have a system for organizing, uploading, and sending files electronically.
Pro Tip: A professional virtual classroom can bring all of these components together. LearnCube, for instance, comes with a built-in video-conferencing, a multi-tab whiteboard for collaborating with students, an integrated lesson library to save materials in various formats, on top of screen-share, text chat, and other teaching tools.
4. Financial management skills
Being able to set and raise your own teaching rates is one of the biggest perks of going freelance. Sometimes, it can be tricky to decide how much you’ll charge your students, as you’ll have to consider a couple of factors, like your TEFL certification or other qualifications, the types of classes you’ll offer, and even the cost of living in your country.
Essentially, you’ll want to establish hourly rates that are affordable enough for your students but that are worth your time, abilities, and hard work. You can also opt to vary your prices for:
- One-on-one classes
- Group classes
- Special promos or course packages
Aside from determining your hourly rates, you should also be able to manage your cash flow well – you wouldn’t want to be stressed out over missed payments!
Here are some tips for organizing your class payment system:
- Have a fixed schedule for receiving payments and issuing invoices.
- Set up or choose a bank account
- Set up a way students can pay online such as Stripe or Paypal.
- Make sure to keep track of your students’ payments.
Want help learning the business skills that will help you succeed? Learn how to find your niche, promote your brand, handle accounting, scale your business, and more in the Bridge Specialized Certification course in Teaching Online as a Freelancer.
Bridge’s goal is to empower a global community of English teachers and support excellence in English language teaching. In addition to our accredited portfolio of online TEFL courses, BridgeUniverse offers articles, teaching resources, webinars, and more!
5. An understanding of how to set class policies
Having solid payment and cancellation policies helps you avoid losing income due to no-shows or classes that are canceled at the last minute. Keep in mind that you’re charging your students not only for your expertise but also for the time you’ve spent preparing and delivering your lessons.
These are some of the crucial questions you have to answer when establishing your class policies:
- Do you prefer your students to pay before or after your classes?
- How many hours ahead should they advise you when canceling a class?
- How many minutes should you wait for a student to show up?
Pro Tip: Even before the course starts, make sure that your students are aware of your class policies. You can explain the rules to them beforehand or send a written version of your policies via email.
6. Time management skills
Being organized with your schedule is crucial, mainly for two reasons. Firstly, you’ll have many activities to juggle as a freelancer. Secondly, you don’t want to be overwhelmed by cramming too many classes onto your calendar.
In general, these are the two most important factors to consider in order to make your freelancing life more efficient:
- Creating class schedules – Be clear about the working hours you’d like to have. Do you prefer to keep a block schedule for your classes (e.g., three classes in the morning and two in the afternoon)? Do you want to have short breaks in between lessons? While you can have a structure for your class times, you can be flexible too, as long as you don’t sacrifice other important activities in your personal life.
- Task management – While a huge chunk of your working hours will be dedicated to teaching, you’ll also have to consider the other tasks involved in running a business. You’ll need time to plan your lessons, check and grade tests, send homework, and create assessment tools.
Pro Tip: Remember to prioritize self-care too! Don’t take your hobbies and well-being for granted. By allowing yourself to relax or do what you love, you can avoid burnout. Believe it or not, it will help to not only keep yourself grounded as a person but also to be more effective as an English teacher.
Before becoming a teacherpreneur, you should look into which of your strengths and abilities you can leverage for launching your freelance English teaching business. You may also need to develop some new skills too. But in the end, all your efforts will be worth it once you see your online ESL venture take off and begin enjoying the perks of your newfound independence. Good luck!