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Growing your student base is a challenge. Teaching online is one of those unique fields where the “ramp-up, ramp-down” technique can be almost universally applied.

By this I mean the concept of ramping up your freelance online teaching work while ramping down other work – such as a 9-5 job.

In the long run, this path is far safer than outright quitting your day job and diving headfirst into entrepreneurship. It also allows for more comfort along the way.

As you add a growing student base (and income!) to your online teaching business, you have the freedom to slowly ramp down or off-load work of the traditional sense, potentially switching to part-time if possible and eventually pulling the plug altogether. What are the best ways to make it happen?

Let’s dive in.

Launch and promote your website

The WordPress vs Wix and Squarespace debate is real – and we’re firmly on the WordPress side.

No matter which way you go, launching a website is step one in getting your online teaching career off the ground while still working a day job. Refer to our guide to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Make it easy for students to find you, optimize your SEO, and stay on top of emails, comments, and social media.

Figure out how much income you need to make for each step of the way

Let’s say you need at least USD $3,000 to stay ahead of bills, travel, and live comfortably in your situation. You’re making more than that now in your day job and are saving a bit of extra cash each month.

This is good – you’ll want to have a bit of a cushion. But equally important is breaking your financial situation and goals down into concrete steps. If one student equals $100 per month, you need 30 students to quit your day job.

If you have the option of going down to part-time, or for many service industry workers, the ability to shave shifts off your schedule, break landmarks like this down into numbers.

Once you have five students totaling $500 per month, shave one shift off your schedule, or hit 10 students and go down to part-time. Having concrete, tangible numbers to work towards makes your goals more realistic and helps you find and appreciate small successes along the way.

Start a newsletter and run social media ads

Email marketing is a great way to build your student base. Once you’ve shaved a day off your work schedule or cut back at the office, spend that open time teaching and working on marketing your business.

Run social media advertising campaigns to gather email addresses and promote your courses.

This stuff takes time, but will pay off big in the long run if done correctly. Marketing is an absolutely essential part of building a business and should not be taken lightly.

Attend happy hours and social events in your field

Networking is a big part of growing your business. Do some web research and locate any events where potential students, other teachers, and general digital nomad types will be, and get out to them!

Bring business cards, talk to people, and listen to their stories. Digital nomads, in particular, are keen to hire and refer people to others in the nomad tribe – it’s incredible what you can accomplish simply by knowing people.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – network, network, network! You’ll see the results in a growing student base.

Content marketing

Simply put, content marketing is the practice of creating web content to draw attention to your business. Many do this via a blog.

Running a weekly or bi-weekly blog post is a great way to target keywords that relate to what you teach and draw more eyes to your website. The more posts your blog has, the higher the odds are that your site will draw traffic when potential students search for keywords related to your niche.

This takes a basic knowledge of SEO – start by following and using Moz.

Additionally, writing guest posts on other blogs or appearing on podcasts in your niche is a great way to draw attention to your services.

Those who read or listen will likely view you as an expert in your field and be more likely to trust you than if they were to just stumble across your website randomly.

Last step before quitting your job: pay off debt

It is impossible to get ahead financially when staring at a big mound of debt. Be it credit cards, student loans, lines of credit . . .  it doesn’t matter. It’s all got to go, or you’re never going to make it as a free-wheeling online teacher.

In order to be financially comfortable quitting your job, you must be able to keep your overhead low.

As you work through the ramp-up, ramp-down process, identify any unnecessary spends in your monthly routine. Buying lunch at work? Start packing it in. Paying for cable? Cut the chord.

Letting go of unneeded conveniences and instead putting that money directly towards paying off debt will make the entire process that much easier.

If you need some help and motivation, check out Mr. Money Mustache. His blatant hatred and avoidance of debt at all costs will teach you to rethink your spending habits and figure out how to save money.

Another solid resource is Josh Becker’s blog Becoming Minimalist. He talks in detail about removing excess from your life and finding happiness by focusing solely on what you need.

When to make the big move

Going completely location independent and leaving your job is a big deal and a tough call to make. Everyone’s situation is different, but there are a few bullet points to check off before sending in that notice:

  • Are you comfortable with your current student base and recent growth?
  • Is your marketing in place?
  • Do you have a work routine down, or a general idea of what your day-to-day schedule will look like?
  • Are you comfortable with the rates your charging, and do you feel good about your financial odds in the next six months?

If you answered a confident “YES” to each of those, you’re all set! If not, no worries – the process takes time and it’s better to hold off a bit longer than to jump off only to find yourself back at the job you hated out of desperation.

The joys of a location independent lifestyle of teaching online await – make it happen!

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