Starting a business from scratch is never easy. For educators transitioning from traditional teaching avenues towards a career online, it can feel like you’re walking into foreign territory.
In a recent episode of The Anomalous Educator Podcast, Annemarie Fowler, the founder of Speak Confident English, gave some advice on how you can build an online education business from the ground up.
“It was scary. It is hard. We are not taught to run a business as a teacher. That said, I think anybody can learn it.”
Think About Your Work Environment
Having an online business can give you the freedom to work from anywhere. While you can travel and work at the same time, there are a few critical, overlooked aspects to consider.
The usual ‘instagrammable’ image of the nomadic worker sitting in a café, typing at a laptop with a latte in hand, just isn’t the route many online educators should go down.
If you’re conducting one-on-one video lessons or holding a conference call, do your students really want to see an unmade bed behind you, or struggle to hear you over clinking cups in a café?
Your surrounding environment should reflect as much professionalism as possible. If you don’t have a dedicated office space that looks and feels the part, do your utmost to keep things tidy, without too much noise or distraction.
Get a Good WiFi Connection
If you’re working online, you need a good Wi-Fi connection- that’s just a given. But, for those who work while traveling, seeking the perfect internet hotspot should be a priority.
One suggestion Annemarie makes is, don’t always believe what the AirBnB description says in regards to their Wi-Fi service.
“The secret is, whether you’re on Booking.com, AirBnB, wherever you’re at- go through the reviews.” Take the time to go through reviews carefully. “If they’re complaining about it, then it’s probably not the best place for me to be.”
Tap Into Your Creativity
To create a successful online business, you need to get creative. In this digital age, having an online footprint is essential, and that becomes established by the content you create.
“I think teachers are also creative naturally,” suggests Annemarie. “You will need to create that business strategy, and that requires some innovation and creativity as well.”
Online content can come in many forms; it could be an informative blog, educational videos on a YouTube channel, or even a short weekly podcast. These pieces of content create value for your students, solidify your online presence, and significantly contribute to your marketing efforts.
Don’t Fear Failure
Annemarie hasn’t always been the amazing online teacher she is today; she had multiple failures to get there.
Back in the fledgling stages of her business, she created a small eBook, which she offered for $10. In one year, she sold just six.
“That’s not what I was expecting. Nobody plans to just sell six of something,” she explains. “To me, that was an enormous failure.”
Did she give up on the eBook? Absolutely not.
Instead, she persevered and asked why it didn’t work. She re-evaluated how she would offer content in the future, from her paid online courses to free PDFs.
“I completely re-evaluated what it took to reach an audience and to make sure that it was something that met the needs of my clients, and it made sense.”
We all fail from time to time; it’s a natural part of life. Learn from these slip-ups and plan how you can improve and re-evaluate the situation, so you can make better business choices.
Define Your Niche
Annemarie’s online business aims to provide English fluency and confidence coaching to women around the world. Her niche is directed towards shy, introverted women who already know and understand English, but have lost their confidence due to a negative encounter or experience.
Pretty specific niche, right?
How did she get there? Well, it was through reviewing her past students. Annemarie has over 20 years’ experience teaching English, so she had a healthy list that she could meditate over.
“I started to sit down and think about who all my favorite students had been,” she says, “People who stood out to me.”
As she went down her list, she recognized the things that these students had in common, “Why did I enjoy working with them, and what were the outcomes of working with them? Why did I feel fulfilled by that? I just started to notice some really common patterns.”
Finding a niche takes time. The best way to set yourself on the right path is to take from what you know and address a common problem that people face so you can implement your expertise to help those in need.
Be Realistic About Your Business
We’re in an era where getting things done fast is the norm, but when it comes to creating a business, we can’t be in such a hurry to meet our goals.
There’s a lot of work that goes into creating a business. To make it successful, you have to play the long game. When asked how long it took Annemarie to get to a comfortable point, she replied, “somewhere around three to four years.”
“There was a lot of time that I spent creating things that were either free or very low cost,” she explained. “You have to be at a place where you gotta be scrappy. You have to know how to make it with very little income.”
Taking your time to develop relationships, establish trust, and present your value is what will position your brand in high esteem, and give it longevity.