As an independent teacher, you need to set your own learning product and its price. How much should I charge my students? Should I raise the price every year? Have I set the right price for my teaching? Answers to these questions can impact your teaching business directly. In this blog, we will look at
Three ways of thinking to set your teaching price.
Two models to structure your online lessons.
How much do platforms like VIPKid charge?
Price package and trends.
How to figure out an optimal price.
At the end of this blog, I offer independent teachers a few steps to consider in order to reach an optimal price over long term.
Three ways of thinking to set your teaching price
As an independent teacher, you have the complete flexibility to structure your class duration, teaching format, package etc. You don’t necessarily need to follow what platforms did. Instead, you can work out what suits you and your client.
There are a lot of factors to consider when you price your lesson, for example: what is the cost of living where you live, what is the economic situation of your client, how long you expect the student to stay with you, how you package your lesson, etc.
In general, there are three ways to price a product or a service:
Cost-based – you set the price of the product based on how much it costs to provide it;
Market-based – you set the price of the product based on similar products on the market;
Value-based – you set the price of the product based on perceived value from the client’s perspective.
It may be best to use a value-based approach, which our digital course ‘Build a Successful Independent Teaching Path’ addresses.
This blog uses the second approach – market-based pricing. We will look at what some well-known online ESL platforms charge their students. The eight companies we have collected pricing information from are VIPKid, GogoKid, DaDaABC, Whales English, PalFish, SayABC, Magic Ear and Qkids.
By looking at their price ranges, you can understand how clients have set their budgets for a similar learning experience. Information like this can help you set a reasonable (if not optimal) price for your lessons.
Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/120786715/Bold-line-style
Two models to structure your online lessons
Before we look at prices, let’s look at two ways to organise your online classes: a 1-1 format or a group format. You can choose a model where you and your students feel more comfortable, balancing quality and affordability.
Platforms such as VIPKid, GogoKid, DadaABC and PalFish follow a 1-1 class format.
For group lesson format, we have Whales English which has 1-2 (1 teacher, 2 students) classes and a few others that run a 1-4 (1 teacher, 4 students) class format such as SayABC, Magic Ear and Qkids.
Their students are between kindergarten age and secondary school age. DaDaABC covers a wide age range (from 4-year-old to 16-year-old) while Magic Ears serves the narrowest age range (from 5-12 years old).
The general impression is that education can be most personalised through a 1-1 teaching/learning approach, but the group format offers a more affordable price for students and their families.
How much do platforms like VIPKid charge?
Here I have collected pricing information from eight Chinese online ESL platforms which you can use as a reference point. This is what you can do as a generalist. However, if you have become a specialist, delivering unique value to your clients, you can have much more room to set your own price. (This will be addressed in our digital course ‘Build a Successful Independent Teaching Path’.)
As each platform structures its learning package and lesson differently, I have used the formula of ‘Price per minute’ and ‘Price per year’ to keep things consistent and comparable.
The price per minute helps you as an independent teacher to estimate how much you can charge for each class you deliver. (See infographic ‘Price range of ESL online classes by platforms’).
1-1 Class format
VIPKid: RMB5.6/minute (US$0.9/minute)
GogoKid: RMB5.4/minute (US$0.83/minute)
DaDaABC: RMB4.0/minute (US$0.64/minute)
PalFish: RMB3.2/minute (US$0.51/minute)
1-2 Class format
Whales English: RMB4.0/minute (US$0.64/minute)
1-4 Class format
QKids: RMB1.2/minute (US$0.19/minute)
Magic Ear: RMB2.4/minute (US$0.38/minute)
SayABC: RMB3.2/minute (US$0.48/minute)
The price per year helps you understand the perspective of your client – how much they must take from their annual budget to get an educational experience from the platform. (See infographic ‘ESL annual package cost by platforms’.)
The Whales English platform charges a low price per minute. But as their classes are 50 minutes instead of 25 minutes, their annual package cost is almost on a par with what VIPKid charges.
1-1 Class format
VIPKid: RMB24,000/year (US$3,840/year)
GogoKid: RMB20,480/year (US$3,277/year)
DaDaABC: RMB20,680/year (US$3,309/year)
PalFish: RMB8,320/year (US$1,331/year)
1-2 Class format
Whales English: RMB20,800/year (US$3,328/year)
1-4 Class format
QKids: RMB3,744/year (US$599/year)
Magic Ear: RMB6,240/year (US$998/year)
SayABC: RMB12,480/year (US$1,997/year)
However, I would like to point out that this annual figure does not fall into an independent teacher’s pocket automatically. There is a shift of consumer spending behaviour changed which I will address in the ‘2021/2022 Chinese K-12 Education Trends’ report. This gives a base for you to set a reasonable price now.
Figure out an optimal price
Here I would like to emphasise that what this blog does is to give an independent teacher a reference price point. But this is different from getting an optimal price. Pricing discovery is a dynamic process: the more you understand your clients, the better you can shape your lesson (learning product) and the better your pricing structure.
Lessons form a learning unit. Units complete a learning level. Levels accomplish a learning path. The infographic below – ‘learning progress & curriculum choice by platforms’ – can inform you how platforms structure their students’ learning journeys and sell their learning packages.
Can you increase your lesson price every year? Yes, some platforms do, some don’t. So again, this will be an interesting decision to make.
VIPKid and Whales English had an almost 20% increase if you compare their 2020 price to the 2019 price. That was partly to cover their loss from massive sales and marketing costs. So when you make your annual price adjustment decision, it is probably a good idea to check your financial record for your business and forecast your future financial numbers.
Setting your optimal price as an independent teacher is a process. To conclude I suggest a few questions independent teachers consider:
1. What kind of teaching you will be doing: 1-1, or group?
2. How your teaching compares to a similar platform product in terms of price per minute and price per year?
3. How you may change your pricing over time?
4. What is your reference price in short term?
5. How to determine an optimal price, by looking also from the client’s perspective, in long term?
We often hear the statement “choose your teaching niche”. But to build a successful teaching business, we need to go beyond that. We need to make sure we are the best person to address a particular and essential problem for our clients at the right time. It also must be profitable so that it is a sustainable career.
To do that, we need to (1) Have a thorough understanding of our unique strength (2) Have a thorough understanding of our client’s essential needs. (3) Match our strength with clients’ needs to figure out our best niche.
In this article, I will start by addressing why ‘choose your niche isn’t enough. Afterward, I will explain how locating your best niche helps your long-term success and elaborate on the three-step process to facilitate you to figure out your best-suited teaching niche.
Source of image: https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-white-puzzle-piece-yellow-background-three-pieces-image39279102
Why ‘Your niche’ doesn’t work?
“Choosing your niche” should be a great idea for an online educator but why often than not, it does not work for your teaching business? These are some examples I heard
Example 1: “I help my student to improve their accents, but I can’t find students.”
Issue: this is still quite broad and not specific enough. There is still a lack of client understanding – which kind of students in which condition will seek to improve their accents and what is their motivation.
Example 2: “I help actors to have an English accent, but I am not paid.”
Issue: if your students don’t have the means or budget to pay for your teaching, you are teaching but not running a business. This does not create a sustainable business.
Example 3: “I have been a university lecturer in history for 20 years, but I got into teaching toddler English with online platforms due to the 2020 global pandemic. Now I want to go independent. “
Issue: there is a potential mismatch between your strength and your clients’ needs. It is a niche but not the right match.
In summary, to build your success, you need to find a niche that suits your professional life strategically and a career opportunity that suits your lifestyle sustainably.
How to make ‘’Your niche’ work for you?
While making the choice, you need to position yourself to be suitable (to solve your student’s needs), irreplaceable (you are the best one to help with their problem), and make this path sustainable.
When you make the right choice, you are suitable to help your clients/students to solve a problem and to meet their learning goals. Due to your experience and passion, you will already have the right subject knowledge, curriculum, personal skills to serve the need.
This compatibility makes your transition from working with platforms to working independently much easier. We will make all sorts of mistakes when we launch our own business. But your clients are much more likely to stay with you and tolerate glitches if they find your skills compatible with their needs. That will make your independent teaching journey so much smoother and enjoyable.
The further you develop the right skill and network in the area, the better reputation you will enjoy. So instead of committing a huge amount of time and money in sales and marketing, you will attract the right clients much more effectively.
Let us take this example.
A Brazilian businessman is trying to relocate this family to live in the US for a year. He is in the export-import trading business, and he has a daughter who is 10 years old. The purpose of moving to the US is really to give his daughter language and culture exposure.
You are an ESL tutor based in the US who speaks English and Portuguese. You have taught English in Brazil and therefore have a decent understanding of their culture. Your family runs a trading business, so you understand the basic language of business. You have a good understanding of the US education system as you have worked with public schools.
Another ESL tutor is a generalist with the right qualification. But between you and the generalist, who do you trust this Brazilian businessman would choose to work with? To serve that Portuguese-speaking business owner who is considering giving his child a language and cultural experience in the US, you are irreplaceable. Due to your previous background, you become indispensable.
For everything to be sustainable, you need to make sure your niche represents a profitable business opportunity, an opportunity that fits your own lifestyle.
If your students love your lessons but they don’t have the means to pay for it, it is a hobby, a social mission rather than a business proposition. Therefore, it is useful to reach your clients when they have budgeted their time and financial resources to learn.
If it takes so much of your time that you get burned out or you don’t have time to spend with your own family and friends, that won’t work long term. Therefore, it is very reasonable to ring fence the time and resources you can commit to building this business, this career path.
Focusing on the right niche helps you to build your teaching business effectively. Because instead of throwing your time and resources everywhere, you have a goal to aim at.
How to figure out the best niche for your online teaching path?
The key to figuring out the best niche is to find where your unique strength and client’s essential needs match. There are three steps: (1) understand your strength (2) understand your client’s essential need (3) match your strength with your client’s need
Step 3 – Match your strength with your client’s needs
This is the step to put your treasure bag and your client’s user profiles alongside each other, to make a judgment, a choice of who do you serve, and what problems you choose to solve for your clients. Our digital course ‘ Build a Successful Online Teaching Path’ will go through the process with you, by listing three criteria to make that decision.
You have been teaching students online via platforms. Now you are ready to teach independently. One of the key success factors to be an independent teacher is your thorough understanding of your own strength and assets. In this blog, I will share how to pack your teaching treasure bag – a systematic way for you to do an inventory check, to celebrate your assets and achievements. This will be a solid foundation to build your success in independent teaching. I will also give some concrete examples so that you can create your own.
What is a teaching treasure bag?
Your teaching treasure bag collects the qualification, skills and networks accumulated from your personal background and professional experience. Each element in the bag might look disconnected at times. But the real magic comes when you connect and combine these elements and come up with suitable solutions to serve your target clients.
Your teaching treasure bag shows your expertise and passion. It is one important way to guide your future direction, to build your independent teaching path. Please look at the treasure bag template. We will get to details of the template in the ‘How to pack your teaching treasure bag’ part.
Treasure Bag Template
Why it is important to pack your teaching treasure bag?
It takes time to reflect on our achievements and review our strengths. So why do we do that instead of just jumping into the independent teaching trajectory? The reason is doing so helps us understand our value, our passion and helps us discover our best-suited niche.
Understand your value
When we are working with platforms or companies, we move from class to class, job to job without having the necessary time and space to step back and look at the unique path we have taken. Not having a holistic view of the knowledge, expertise, and network we have built in the past makes us undervalue ourselves and miss the right opportunity in the future.
Understand your passion
Packing our treasure bag also helps us to uncover our passion and motivation. Why did I choose to work with company A instead of company B, what was really driving my decisions? It is money or my desire to help others communicate, or my love for interacting with children, or my preference not to deal with administrative tasks? Understanding our decision-making mechanism in the past will be valuable in predicting what will motivate us in the future. When we know where our heart is, we will know how to use our heads.
Discover your best-suited niche
The key to figuring out the best niche is to find where your unique strength and client’s essential needs match. There are three steps: (1) understand your strength (2) understand your client’s essential need (3) match your strength with your client’s need. (Click to read the blog- Build a Successful Online Teaching Career/Business/Path – Figure Out Your Best Niche). So this is the first step to discovering your best-suited niche.
Now it is time for us to go through the teaching treasure bag template so you can create your own soon.
The row in the template captures your past experiences:
Personal background: Where did you grow up? Where have you lived? What is your first language? Where do you live now? Do you have parenting skills that are relevant in an educational environment?
Education: do you have qualifications in education or the subject area you are teaching? Do you have other educations that will help you in your teaching career, such as psychology, communication, etc?
Job: Have you worked with brick-and-mortar schools? What other online platforms you have worked with? What is your non-education-related work background? Don’t discount these as they can be very powerful if combined with your teaching experience.
Business: Have you had experience running your own business? This can be potentially very relevant in your teaching niche. For example, if you have set up your own business while teaching independently, this can be very valuable to entrepreneurs who want to improve their English for business.
The column in the template captures the assets and strengths you accumulated from your personal and professional background:
Qualification: Your certification or qualification to prove your training and credentials.
Skills: Skills are broken down into Language and Cultural skills (language one speaks and culture one is familiar with), education skills (content, teaching, parenting), business skills, and others.
Network: Networks are broken down into Clients, Colleagues (peers), and Collaborators (curriculum supplier, training institutes, influencer, mentor, mentee, etc.) These networks can be sources of your client, curriculum supplier, knowledge, and further development. A good quality network empowers you to grow continuously.
Is there any example of a teaching’s treasure bag?
Please find the teaching treasure bag by teacher Paige. That was her first go with the template and I hope that gives you some good foundation to create a teaching treasure bag of your own.
Our digital course ‘Build a Successful Independent Teaching Path’ empowers you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Please register your interest.
Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.
You have been teaching students online via platforms. Now you are ready to teach independently. One of the key success factors to be an independent teacher is your thorough understanding of clients. In this blog, I will share an effective way to understand your clients – creating user profiles. After explaining what a user profile is, why it matters, how to create user profiles, I will give some concrete examples so that you can create your own.
Source of original image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/62820317/Vernel-Fabric-Softner
What determines the success of an independent teacher?
Working with platforms, a teacher only needs to teach.
Now as an independent teacher, you face the task to manage everything – getting new students, building a website, managing payment, managing customer service, doing accounting and budgeting. To be successful, you need to manage every aspect of the business adequately.
But all of these depends on one crucial foundation – your thorough understanding of target clients and your ability to attract more of them.
If you know who your target clients are, what they are looking for, you will be able to create the right marketing content, build an appealing website, and design a productive learning experience for them. Without this foundation, it is hard to channel your energy and resources for the most effective use.
This is where the exercise of creating a user profile comes in. It is a key process to help you further understand your target client and their essential needs.
Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/122408979/Teacher-stickers-pack-for-Telegrams-and-Instagram
What is a user profile? Who are the users?
A user profile is a collection of settings and information associated with a user.
If you are teaching adults, then the user is the student.
If you are teaching children, then you have two types of users: (1) your teaching client: the student (2) your paying client: the career of the student, and most likely, the parent of your student.
This is an example of Mom H’s user profile. This is based on a real interview done with a real VIPKid English user.
Why do we create user profiles?
Having a clear picture of your user can help you understand
What are some common characteristics they share:
For example, mom H is in her early forties living in Beijing. She had spent 10 years studying and living in the US. Now she is working full time as a college lecturer and is very involved in her boy G’s education.
What problem they would like you to help solve:
For example, mom H would like her son to learn English and she is particularly keen on his pronunciation at this stage. Also, she said her son is not very interested in in-person English classes as he feels these classes are too long and too boring.
As an educator herself, she sees how important it is to develop an effective habit of learning and understanding, rather than just repeating.
How you can identify, discover, and connect with more of them
For example, three times a week, mom H listens to an English podcast when walks to her office. When she is cooking, she listens to some stand-up comedy show radio program (with English tutoring service advertisement). She is in a few moms’ social media groups that organise sports activities for families in Beijing during weekends. Every Saturday she takes her son to a swimming club nearby.
What solutions best suit them in terms of a learning plan, lesson package, and price
For example, mom H and her son live in the campus area, so they are home from 5 pm in the afternoon. During the summer, winter holidays, she is traveling to visit her own family in other cities. She is very keen for her son to take online classes, so she does not need to drive in Beijing. As she speaks English well, she like the idea of recorded materials outside teaching hours very much. She values education for her son and plans 20% of her monthly income on his education.
How to create user profiles?
The process of creating a user profile is covered in our digital course – Become a successful independent teacher.
Let’s take teacher Lucy as an example. Lucy is an American woman who lives in Paris, France with her French husband and two children. She worked with the publishing industry for children’s books and has been teaching Chinese children English online via some platforms. Now she is launching her independent teaching journey.
She formed a few hypotheses about who might be her potential target clients and went to talk to them, in order to draw user profiles for each group.
After numerous talks and conversations, in-person and online, Lucy discovered the following.
American moms living in the USA: there are some American moms (mom A) whose children are learning French for fun. It is more as a hobby rather than a serious investment. They mentioned also that they have many options to choose from. The free options are apps such as Duolingo, French/English exchange apps There are also French language schools nearby to which they are considering enrolling the children.
With these insights, Lucy developed the first user profile for mom A:
User Profile – Mom A
French moms who speak English and want their children to speak English: again, mom B shows interest. Actually, these families usually have relatives or friends in the UK so it would be nice if these children can have some conversational English when they go there to visit. Some French moms would prefer their children to spend a summer in the UK for a more immersive experience if they are serious about English language learning. Lucy developed the second user profile for mom B:
French moms of Chinese cultural heritage who want their children to enhance English literacy: Lucy had some highly engaging conversations with these moms. Their children lost interest in learning any foreign language as they were put to learn the Chinese language during weekends. They saw language as boring and lost interest in their own English classes at school. Some children are of a similar age to Lucy’s own children. These moms (for example, mom C) are very worried and texted Lucy quite often.
Chinese moms in China who want their children to speak English. It turns out that some moms didn’t get any refund when some platforms stopped live tutoring classes. As a safer option, they will purchase textbooks or recorded lessons as a replacement. But some moms (for example, mom D) are keen to have Lucy to be their private tutor teaching conversational English as they like her American accent.
This is the initial user profiles Lucy created for her potential clients. But she know it is a work in progress. As her understanding of her users improves, so will her user profiles.
Next, Lucy needs to choose her target user, how does she make the choice?