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So far Minji Xu has created 27 blog entries.

How to Get Students as an Independent Teacher


There are many benefits to being an independent teacher. You gain more flexibility by setting your own rate and teaching style. You have a more stable income as you grow a long-term relationship with your students and their parents. However, the process of recruiting your own students isn’t usually easy and quick. This blog shares some vital strategies to attract students as an independent teacher. I will also share some tips based on my own independent teaching experience.

How to get students – word of mouth

This is still the most effective way to get new students. If parents and students like your teaching, they will spread the word for you, for free. People usually believe recommendations from people they trust. So instead of saying how great you are, you can let your existing parents and students sing praises for you.

How would you like your existing clients to describe and introduce you? That is a key question. When there are many equally wonderful teachers around, it is no longer enough just to say, “This teacher is wonderful”. You need to develop a very clear personal brand to stand out in the crowd.

How to get your own students - word of mouth

How to get students – build your brand

The biggest advantage of going independent is that you can build your own teaching mission, style, and brand. And that’s very powerful. My language teaching mission is “to grow global citizens using foreign languages.” When I asked my parents why they chose me, their answer is usually something like, “your mission really speaks to me.”

Parents are busy people, so try to articulate your brand in just a few words, e.g. “Prepare your child for an Ivy League college” or “cultivate a well-rounded citizen for the future”). Coming up with the right words to differentiate yourself is a positioning issue. This is the hardest and the most crucial task. You can check out our Udemy course for this important topic.

How to get your own students - build your brand

How to get students – support your target clients

There are communities and groups (online or in-person) where your target clients gather. Maybe it is a Facebook group or WeChat group that you can tap into and recruit potential students. However, I suggest you always post content with the primary focus to support these groups rather than selling your class bluntly. This is a much more effective way to win the trust and gain clients, in my experience.

Before I set up my independent language teaching business, I spent a few months just browsing Facebook groups where my target families discuss and connect. I wrote down their challenges and struggles and tried to develop classes to help solve their problems.

How to get your own students - support not sell

How to get students – build partnerships

You are independent but you are not alone. Collaborating with the right people and organizations can be a cost-effective (very often free) way to get students if you don’t have a marketing and sales budget.

It is also essential when you are recruiting students for your online teaching. Your online students are probably from another cultural background and speak a language you’re not familiar with. So, the right partner who can help you interpret your student’s language, culture, and context will be tremendously valuable.

I am based in the UK and most of my students live in the US or Europe. Therefore I rely heavily on parents in continental Europe and North America to be my partners. They help me test payment solutions, recruit new learners, and recommend marketing channels. I can’t say thank you enough to these wonderful cross-cultural parents and partners.

Partners can be parents who share your vision and mission or can be NGOs, charity organizations, schools, or other business entities (without conflicts of interest). The more support you can offer to these partners, the more help they give, hence the more students you can get.

How to get your own students - build parnterships

How to get students – learn from the marketplace

I taught classes on platforms such as Outschool before I went independent. Even though I couldn’t (and didn’t) take students away from the platforms, I still found the process of teaching at and learning from these marketplaces hugely valuable. (Outschool and most others do not allow teachers to communicate with learners outside the platform). It was this experience that helped me improve my teaching skills and know more about my students and their families’ needs, so I could design a great learning experience for my own students.

How to get students – use social media

I rank social media last as a student recruitment channel, as this requires a lot of resources, is time-consuming and takes a long time to reap the benefits. If you do have extra time and energy for the foreseeable few years, you can consider growing your own social media channel as a way to recruit students. Or you can just see it as your digital presence.


Here are some tips on what to do based on my personal experience of being an independent language teacher online.

Be persistent

Every week I dedicate specific hours and space to student recruitment. That gives me a structure to take action.

Be patient

It takes time to come up with positioning, build a personal brand, and form partnerships. So do give yourself at least six months of lead time.

Be reflective

If a particular way doesn’t work, then take a break instead of doing the same thing again and again. Stop and reflect, am I doing this right? Are there better ways to achieve the same objective? Think out of the box sometimes.

Next step

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

By |2022-10-16T11:29:57+01:00October 16th, 2022|0 Comments

Ten Digital Tools for Online Language Teachers to Engage Students


These are free digital tools I recommend for online ESL/EFL teachers in their language classes.

Why use digital tools in online language teaching?

You can use digital tools to create engaging and interactive content. You can also use them to provide feedback to students and track progress. Most important, you can help students to connect with other language learners and to enjoy learning. I was struck by this comment from a student: “I continued to learn Spanish because I made some Spanish friends and found them quite fun.” The two words “friends” and “fun” stayed with me and become part of my foundation pedagogy.

What is a teacher’s role in language teaching?

Yes, a teacher must teach vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing skills. But when every online language teacher does that, how do I differentiate myself? That was the key question I asked myself when I set up my language teaching business. I needed to tell a parent why my approach was different in a few words. That positioning question took me four months to answer. Eventually, I landed on the brand “Creative Chinese Club”. Creative to make learning language fun, Club to connect students to be friends. The use of digital/tech tools is to support this teaching mission and pedagogy.

Although the club teaches Chinese, the method and tool recommendations can be applied just as well to online teaching of English and other languages.

What (free) digital tools to use in online language teaching?

Here are some (free) digital tools I use to make learning a foreign language fun and collaborative.

Visual Collaboration Platform

Miro: online collaborative whiteboard platform for distributed learners

Before my class, each student is set a challenge to create a drawing on a topic to be discussed in class. To inspire them, I use Whiteboard Miro to display examples done by previous students. See the example below, with drawings for covers of ‘My Story’ books.

With the free version of Miro, you can create 3 boards. If you want to continue creating new boards, you can still stay at the free level, but your previous boards become view-only.

The paid version of Miro costs US$30 per month, to edit more boards and invite members.

Alternatives to Miro for visual collaboration

Alternatives to Miro include ClickUp and Conceptboard. Each has different features and pricing. Most have free versions, so you can try out with your students. You can read more details and choose one suitable to your teaching purpose and budget via this link – https://clickup.com/blog/miro-alternatives/

Video Collaboration Platform

Flip: video discussion platform for distributed learners

Listening and speaking skills are essential to gaining fluency in a foreign language. It is important for students to practice these skills outside of online class time. A great way is to connect the students with their native peers. This not only gives students an immersive language environment but also helps build cultural connections and friendships. Video is the ideal medium to engage students and provide ‘ear training’.

Flip is a video-centered social platform I’ve explored.  It is a completely free Microsoft product. Users need to sign up for the platform to upload videos and engage with each other using video as a medium.

My students watch videos made by native peers so that they can hear the authentic pronunciation and sentence formation. They can respond by making their own videos talking about the same topic.

Use video discussion platform Flip in language teaching

Videos made by native peers are subtitled with highlighted areas.

Video with subtitles for language teaching

Alternatives to Flip for video collaboration

Flip requires users to sign up in order to view videos and this can create friction. An alternative is Trello.

Trello does not require signup to view. However, in order to respond or upload your own message (picture, video, text), you need to create your account. The comment and reply buttons of Trello really make social interaction easy and engaging.

Use Trello in language teaching

The free Trello plan provides you with unlimited personal boards (viewable only by a single individual) and 10 boards (projects) per workspace.

Artificial intelligence (AI) for language teaching

One tech area that will have a huge impact on teaching and learning or education, in general, is Artificial Intelligence. Some amazing resources (many currently made free to the public) could transform education.

Dream Studio: AI-generated art

Dear Studio is a magic tool to help teachers design our lesson plans or websites. If you are worried about copyright issues using images from others, now you can create your own images, defining the topic, style, size of image you want.

This is an image I use for my website homepage. I simply typed the phrase ‘concept art of a teacher with students of the world with bright color’ to Dream Studio to generate this image. The intellectual ownership of this image belongs to me.

AI generated art for education

You can use Dream Studio to generate 200 images for free.

Alternatives to Dream Studio for AI-generated art

This link provides 13 AI art generators (free and paid)


Story Machine: AI-generated essay

Many of us use stories to teach a language. Automated story writing presents both a huge opportunity and a challenge in education, including online language teaching.

Story-Machines.net is a website empowered by AI technology to generate stories (best in English, but it will generate stories in other languages). The following story is generated by the website when I typed in the title ‘tech tools to engage online ESL learners’

AI generated essay use tech tools to engage ESL learners online

You could use this tool in class to compare the writing by AI and the writing by your ESL/EFL students. Or ask your students to critique and improve a story written by AI.  Or students and AI can co-write a story, taking turns to write. Try adding some words to the end of a story created by story-machines.net, then click CREATE again.

How to use digital tools in online language teaching?

Tech tools, in some ways, are like the genie in the lamp. Once released, it shows great power. But we need to use this power with caution. These are the Dos and Don’ts in using digital tools in teaching and learning.

Do: let tech serve pedagogy

Very often, we might get bogged down by the tool itself and overlook the goal – pedagogy. Every tool, tech, prop, and flashcard we use should serve only two goals – good learner experience and teaching effectiveness. If there are other non-digital tools that do this better, let’s use those. Even if they might not come with hype or a fancy name. Stay true – enhance learning.

Do: remember the ethics

There are many ethics to consider in the digital space, for example, data privacy and social media protocols. As online language teachers, we also bear the responsibility to provide a safe environment for our students.

Next Step

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

By |2022-10-06T07:32:31+01:00October 5th, 2022|0 Comments

How to Market Myself as an Online English Teacher?


Whether you are an independent tutor or teaching for a company or teaching on a marketplace, marketing is an essential way to make you stand out, attract, and recruit the right students. However, some teachers find marketing unfamiliar or even dreadful.  This blog answers a few questions: what’s good marketing, how does marketing work, how to effectively market myself as an online English teacher, what to put out there and how to choose the right marketing channel. By the end of the blog, I hope you will enjoy marketing. The key concept behind marketing is so like teaching – take your audience (students) on a learning journey.

What’s good marketing?

Good marketing isn’t about being aggressive or pushy. Good marketing is about a generous act to support and help your audience (who can be your potential student or client). That act to help your audience can come in two ways:

  • Help them solve a problem: for example, a student who does not know what a good essay is.
  • Help them achieve an aspiration: for example, a student who wants to prepare for a pathway to study abroad.

In summary, marketing is helping, supporting, caring, and empowering. It is not just selling.

What do marketing and teaching have in common?


When we are teaching, we help our students to attain a learning goal. To do that, we need to assess a student’s current level, and his or her goals so that we can design lesson plans to guide the student.

(Good) marketing has the same approach. We start by understanding our audience’s goals, current circumstances, and challenges. Afterward, we design a user journey that helps them to arrive at their desired destination. We guide our audience with our empathy, knowledge, and expertise.

When we are teaching, we help our students to attain a learning goal. To do that, we need to assess a student’s current level, his or her goals so that we can design lesson plans to guide the student.

(Good) marketing has the same approach. We start by understanding our audience’s goals, current circumstances, and challenges. Afterwards, we design a user journey that help them to arrive at their desired destination. We guide our audience to arrive at where they want to arrive.

How does marketing work?


Marketing takes time and there are four stages of marketing typically. These are (1) awareness stage (2) consideration stage (3) purchase stage and (4) retention stage.

Four stages of Marketing

Let’s take an example. If you specialise in teaching teenagers English essay writing skills, this is a customer journey you can design for your marketing messages:

  1. Awareness: you have a way to make your audience aware of your tutoring service. This can be a web page or a social media account or a leaflet. This makes your audience start noticing you.
  2. Consideration: this step gives your audience a chance to compare your service to alternatives before choosing your service (or others). This process can go on for a while as it takes time to build trust and credibility.
  • What does it take for a parent to trust you? Let us reverse the situation and ask: the last time when you meet a strange, what and how long did it take you to trust that stranger and purchase from him/her? Does the stranger have a nice shop or website? Is he/she working for a well-established and trustworthy brand? Does the stranger lend you help several times generously? Is his/her personality very approachable and open? Is he/she recommended by a friend or family member you trust?
  • Ask these questions and write down what has worked for you. Try to see if you can apply these in your own marketing.

Understand trust building

  1. Purchase: Congratulations, you have worked patiently and persistently on marketing. Now some of your audience made a purchase decision. You really deserve a celebration.
  2. Retention: Getting new students takes hard work and keeping them requires smart design.
  • Build rapport: think about ways to support your audience inside and outside teaching hours. For example, some YouTube videos for language games so that students can keep practicing a foreign language at home with their families.
  • Build feedback: design ways to constantly get feedback from students and/or their parents.
  • Track progress: regularly communicate progress students have made
  • Help learners form a healthy learning habit: you can read a separate blog on this topic.
  • Do you have other ideas, feel free to share them in the comment box.

How to effectively market myself as an online English teacher?

The most important thing in effective marketing is audience understanding. Try your best to acquire their mindset and see things through their eyes. It is usually more effective if you can use the vocabulary they understand and can relate to. While doing marketing, try to solve a problem they deeply care about.

A user profile helps you to describe your audience. While creating marketing messages, you can look at these profiles to keep focused. Please read a separate blog on how to create a user profile.

But it is not always easy. If you are teaching English online, most likely your students live in another country, speak another language, and are surrounded by a very different culture. I will write a separate blog on how to understand intercultural clients/audiences/students.

What kind of content should I put out there? 

The easiest and most practical way is to start with what helps your audience or follower. Write down questions your students or their parents ask you or the challenges they are facing. Keep a notebook and research how to best answer these questions or overcome these challenges. This is a good way to begin generating content.

Which social media channel should I choose?

There are digital channels and non-digital channels. Even under digital channels, you still face so many different platforms. Do I use Pinterest or Instagram, do I use YouTube or Tiktok? Shall I install WeChat? Shall I still use email marketing?

There isn’t a simple answer, and my suggestion is ‘It depends!’ And I will write a separate blog just on that topic.

Team up to stand out – rethink competition

Last but not the least, change competition to collaboration. Teachers have busy schedules. Independent teachers have insane schedules and limited resources in marketing. If you know teachers you trust and share the same teaching philosophy or approach, team up so you can share resources and energy. You may be teaching independently but you are not alone.

Next Step

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

By |2022-10-05T11:01:35+01:00August 4th, 2022|0 Comments

Helping Students Form Healthy Learning Habits – a Most Rewarding Way to Keep Students

Introduction: why you should read this

There are two ways for you to enhance your earnings as a private teacher:  increase your hourly rate and/or extend your teaching hours. If you already have your own students, the most effective way is to develop a long-term relationship with the students, so they keep coming back to your classes.

This article suggests a Trigger, Action, Reward, Track framework to help you continuously engage with your students. It starts with parents and when you get students involved, the model starts to work. While your students learn to form a healthy learning habit, you continue to engage them with learning. Win-win! This framework is based on the Hook model developed by Nir Eyal.

The HOOK Model

The Hook Model was developed by Nir Eyal who worked in the video gaming and advertising industries . Based on his experience with these industries, he wrote ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products ‘. The Hook Model describes a user’s interactions with a product during four phases:

• Trigger: a trigger to begin using the product

• Action: an action to satisfy the trigger

• Reward: a variable reward for the action,

• Investment: and some type of investment that, ultimately, makes the product more valuable to the user.

As the users go through these phases, they build habits in the process.

I have modified the model to suit the learning and teaching context while minimising the potential addictive downside of this model.

Modified Hook Model for Educators

1. Trigger


Let’s start by understanding what triggers your student to take your lessons.

It’s most likely induced by an external trigger. Maybe the child’s language exam result isn’t ideal, or the parents want the child to speak a language as well as a neighbouring child, or a friend recommended your teaching to his/her parent, or the parents saw an advertisement about learning a new language.

It’s important to notice that at this stage, the trigger is external, which works as a stimulus leading to step 2 – action

Hook model for educators - trigger


Some teachers share their examples below (these examples are provided by members of an ESL teacher Facebook community); do you find these familiar?

• ‘My student came to my class because she wants to attend a foreign university. (external trigger: educational goal)’

• ‘My student came to my class because his mother was unhappy with his English assessment results. (external triggers: bad grade, maternal consequence.)’

• ‘My student came to class because he wants to improve his understanding of the material in his IB world school. Internal trigger: learning makes him feel excited and happy external: improves overall scores in school’


This is a simple exercise you can do: write down answers to this question and share them in the comment box if you’d like:

My student _______ came to my class because ______________

2. Action


If parents feel enough motivation, they will take the next action. If you are teaching independently, there is a lot you can design to make their actions easy and valuable.

Hook model for educators - action

Here are three aspects to make things easy for the parents:

  • Time effort: can you make the action straightforward?
  • Money effort: perhaps you can offer free add-ons?
  • Technology effort: choose a technology the parent is familiar with (email, WeChat, Facebook, WhatsApp)

To make the action valuable, you could offer

  1. A 10-minute free language assessment session
  2. An invitation for an open class to ‘taste’ your teaching and interact with other children and parents
  3.  A free group Q&A session to answer some common questions on language learning
  4. You can show detailed examples of how your teaching brought results.

These interactive sessions will help you understand your future students and achieve step 3 – reward


This is a simple exercise you can do: Write down some ideas about what actions you can offer parents when their motivation is ready.

3. Reward


Now you have an opportunity to make learning rewarding for your students.

Reward means different things for children: some of them like animals such as dinosaurs; some like songs or quizzes. You can make some props and show these props every time you see a desirable behaviour.

By finding out what interests your students, you can design the right rewards for a ‘right’ behaviour. These behaviours can be being willing to make mistakes or being willing to talk or listen.

Hook model for educator - reward

Giving rewards is a great way to engage students. To educate students, we need to help them track progress which I will address in step 4.


This is a simple exercise you can do: write down answers to this question and share in the comment box if you’d like:

My student ______ likes ______________ so I can make a reward such as ______________

4. Track


Are you familiar with the reward cards from Starbucks/McCafe? Or the loyalty cards from airlines? These are ways designed to encourage and reward repeated behaviours.

We can put on our teaching hats and reward students for repeated learning.

Design a learning journey for your students and help them to set personal goals and track progress. The more they invest in their own learning, the more rewarding the while process becomes for them.

You can make learning trackable by encouraging students to have a learning journal. You can make learning visible by giving out progress stickers for their learning journals. You can make learning fun by giving students personalised stickers (their favourite food, favourite animal)

Hook model for educator - track


This is a simple exercise you can do: write down answers to this question and share in the comment box if you’d like:

The learning goal for student ______ is ______________ , ______________ and ______________


Gamification is a popular approach for K-12 education. One example is Duolingo which did a superb design job in making language learning fun. As someone who also works in the cultural tourism industry, I often feel we educators can benefit from interacting with people in the gaming, entertainment, and tourism industry and apply user engagement methods in an educational setting.

The beauty of this HOOK model is that through step-by-step design, we can (hopefully) manage to convert a student’s external motivation into internal motivation so the incentive becomes intrinsic, and learning becomes a habit.

Hook model for educator - cycle


  • To make some exercises and help YOUR students form healthy learning habits, you can submit a request for the Hook model for educator exercise book below.
  • To read the book in full details, you can purchase the book via the link.
  • To invest in your independent teaching career, you can join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career.
By |2022-05-04T08:47:20+01:00May 4th, 2022|0 Comments

How to Win Students and Influence Parents – Power of Storytelling

Introduction: why you should read this

If you are teaching students from another culture and would like to get more students for your independent teaching business, this series ‘How to win students and influence parents’ is for you.

Many independent tutors try to recruit new students by selling a website and a teaching package. This often doesn’t work, especially interacting with someone for the first time. The process of selling starts from understanding and influencing, particularly with students and clients from a different culture.

This blog shares a powerful way to win and influence clients – authentic storytelling. The example quoted here is based on my collaboration with a parent influencer in China. Through that particular storytelling event, I grew my network, doubled my event enrolment, and gained feedback such as ‘I am so touched’, ‘thanks for connecting us’, ‘now I see the real family stories which I thought only existed in western movies’.

Understand Audience

A Chinese mom influencer invited me to interact with her community via WeChat text chat for one hour (similar to Twitter chat). The topic was on the cultural differences of parenting styles. I knew that to make a real impact, it is important not to say what I wanted to say but to tell what mattered to the audience. Therefore, I needed to do audience research.

The community is a group of 40 mothers who aspire to raise their pre-school children as global citizens. They are based mostly in 3rd or 4th tier cities in China which enjoy lower quality educational resources and have limited exposure to other cultures. Through internet and social media, they had heard about the concept of ‘global citizen’ but didn’t know what it means to them and their children. They had watched Hollywood movies but probably didn’t have experience of living in another country.

Think About User Journey

With that audience profile in mind, my next task is to design a pleasant user journey for them. I wanted the whole journey to be an experience for them instead of being a lecture. An experience that is joyful, fun and engaging. Meanwhile, by delivering value to them I hoped to achieve my objective to grow my network and client base.

They were curious about the education and parenting styles of other cultures. At the same time, they had heard slogans such as ‘global citizen’, ‘well-rounded child’, ‘grow empathy’.

Why should they listen to me? What makes my story deserve their time, attention, and action afterward? What positive impact can this bring? I decided to tell five real stories, using the power of storytelling, to bring a rather broad concept home.

Think about user journey

Make it Real

I chose four parenting and education stories from friends and colleagues I work with. These are daily life stories from Australian, French, British and American families. These are stories about how parents interact with children, spend time with them, support them to be loving, caring, and responsible individuals.

For example, instead of pushing her daughter to study hard, a mom took the girl for university campus visits so that she could see what college life would be like and what she was working for.

Behind these real-life moments are some major cultural differences. But first, I needed to make it fun and interactive so that audience could warm to these stories.

Make it Fun, Make it Interactive

Before I told each story, I made an interactive quiz for the audience. It was fun and at times quite silly. For example, before I told the Australian family story, I asked the quiz question “Is Australia famous for having kangaroos or having pandas?”

Of course, everyone laughed and chose kangaroos. With their laughter, I could start telling the story.

There are many reasons to start storytelling with an interactive (sometimes silly ice-breaker) question.

It makes the atmosphere light and helps me to assess the audience’s knowledge and interest in a fun way. Usually, the parents get it right. This makes them happy and gives them the confidence to continue to explore and engage. In the area of cross-cultural communication, confidence is such an important foundation. When you make people smile, that builds a stronger basis for everyone to learn and share.

Also, it allows them to respond without losing face by getting a wrong answer. A simple true or false or multiple choice question creates a low requirement for participation, as students or parents will not be embarrassed if they don’t have confidence in their English language level.

Make an Impact

I chose these stories as I knew they would make an impact.

Due to cultural and structural reasons, Chinese parents are highly involved in their children’s school performance. But these stories will make them ponder, reflect, and think.

I didn’t choose stories of revolutionary ideas, about how one changed an education system or an education culture overnight. Rather I chose stories to encourage small incremental changes.

A good story influences people by allowing them to change their ways of thinking, seeing, and acting. The power of storytelling comes from its immediate effect, does it make an impact, what can you do after hearing this story?

Show not Tell

I was invited for a one-hour interactive text chat with the mom’s group via social media. However, I didn’t want to limit the communication just to text. Pictures and videos are powerful ways to communicate ideas and messages. This is especially true if you are using English, a language non-native to many parents and clients.

So, for each story, I prepared pictures and videos to support the storytelling.

This is one video example I shared even before my sharing started. The video has Chinese and English subtitles to set the tone and help the audience to hear authentic voices with language help.

I also highly recommend you find a language and cultural partner to help everyone navigate and overcome the language barrier. This person can be your existing client or a volunteer or a paid help. This is essential.


The process of influencing takes time, patience, and empathy.

Imagine that you just moved into a new neighbourhood. It’s probably a good idea to listen, observe and give before you try to sell anything to your new neighbours. Do give people time and opportunity to know who you are and what you represent. Telling authentic stories is a great way to build your connection, influence potential clients, grow your network and eventually recruit more students.

win students and influence parents


Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

By |2022-10-05T11:02:36+01:00January 27th, 2022|0 Comments

Independent Tutoring Online – 2022 Trend Analysis

Understand ESL Trends, Make Better Decisions

2020 global pandemic increases the demand for online coaching/tutoring; 2021 Chinese education policy accelerates the supply of independent teachers; 2022 offers rising opportunities to go independent to address a growing demand.

Read this trend analysis to gain an overview of trends in online ESL tutoring to help you become a successful independent tutor.

Online ESL Tutoring Market

The global private tutoring industry has a revenue of US$93 billion, close to the GDP of Kenya. 85% of this is spent on children. 20% of the tutoring is done online. Online tutoring is growing twice as fast as in-person tutoring.

Global private tutoring market almost equals to Kenya’s national income
Before the Chinese Double Reduction Policy, the size of the Chinese online ESL tutoring market for children was similar to the rest of the world combined.

Pandemic and Policy Impacts

The global pandemic and the 2021 Chinese education policy have created a rising opportunity for independent teaching.

The pandemic has impacted education for 1.6 billion families. Parents and students have struggled. But the pandemic’s negative impacts have been offset, to some extent, by online coaching and tutoring.

Pandemic’s negative impact was offset by online coaching opportunities

In 2021, the Chinese Double Reduction policy shook up the entire Chinese children’s tutoring industry including online ESL. Both demand and supply went through re-adjustment. This has accelerated the process for teachers to move into independent tutoring.

The policy shook up the entire Chinese children’s online ESL industry

Challenges for Independent Teachers

Teachers need to address broader issues beyond their teaching roles. One of the biggest challenges is to find one’s own students.

It is estimated that for every independent ESL tutor (native speaker), there are 52 students for tutoring. Why is it so hard to find them?

Chinese education policy has caused an unmet demand for ESL tutors

Some common barriers to recruiting students are

  • Lack of networks: not enough potential clients to start with
  • Lack of understanding: try to sell before listening
  • Lack of focus: say yes to every student/client
  • Lack of client perspective: put one’s own needs before client’s needs
  • Fail to communicate: unable to articulate value clearly to target clients

Level Up Independent Teaching Business

In order to run a successful teaching business, you need to make long term decisions on

  • How do I build my business in the long term?
  • What should I teach and how do I teach?
  • How do I get new students consistently?
  • How much do I charge my students?

Our digital course ‘From Good to Great – Level Up Your Teaching Business‘ combines strategy with pedagogy and shares the methods to help you build your business success for independent teaching.


Read full report ‘2022 Online Independent Tutoring Trends

Register for our digital course ‘From Good to Great – Level Up Your Teaching Business

By |2022-01-28T07:52:53+00:00January 2nd, 2022|0 Comments

WeChat Etiquette – How to Best Use Chinese Social Media?


This blog is for people who use WeChat to engage with their clients and students. I will start by discussing the differences between WeChat and Western social media and the benefits of using WeChat. Then I’ll share my ‘4R’ WeChat etiquette – Respect, Relevance, Readability, and Reachability – with some good examples.

Source of picture: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43283690

What is your social media relationship with online students/clients?

I launched a LinkedIn survey asking this question and the result is shown below. Although the sample size is small, it suggests how teachers connect, communicate and engage with their students via social media platforms.

Social media relatiionship with students - linkedIn survey result

What are some differences between WeChat and Western social media?

WeChat’s e-commerce ecosystem: WeChat integrates its convenient payment function into e-commerce. A WeChat user can buy or sell with a WeChat shop, in just a few clicks. This is unfortunately not available for those without a WeChat Pay (i.e. most people outside China).

WeChat’s personal Moments: any user can write a short post using photos, videos or texts. This can be seen by their WeChat contacts, an equivalent to a Facebook post.

WeChat’s content publishing system: A WeChat article or video can be published and be seen beyond family and friends. WeChat is also promoting its live-streaming service. Any WeCat user can view articles and videos, but publishing is restricted to people who have Chinese phone numbers.

WeChat as a content search engine: WeChat has a search button to allow text or video content search. This is a very useful research tool – but only if you can write and read Chinese.

WeChat has many apps, for shopping, booking tickets, hailing a taxi, playing games and much more.But these need either a Chinese phone number or bank account, or both. You get the picture: WeChat is a powerful and ubiquitous system within China, but to people in the West, it’s seems more like a Chinese version of WhatsApp and Facebook.

For more details about WeChat’s ecosystem, you can read my previous blog – How online English teachers use WeChat.

What are some benefits of using WeChat?

It’s an extra communication channel to communicate with your clients or students outside the live teaching sessions.

It helps you and your clients/students gain a better understanding of each other, by sharing and engaging with each other’s personal Moments.

It can be a way to deliver your value and therefore promote your service and brand, for example by posting about Western customs and culture.

The 4R WeChat Etiquette


I am asked by a few teachers about WeChat social media etiquette. I reflected on these and came up with the 4R WeChat etiquette – Respect, Relevance, Readability, and Reachability. Here, I’ll explain each one and give some examples.

WeChat What works and what doesn't Etiquette


Do I respond to my student’s WeChat Moments?

Sometimes students share their personal stories and emotions as Moments on WeChat which are visible to teachers. This can give you contextual understanding of your students. If you feel you have built enough trust and a safe relationship with your students, you can choose to respond or engage with these posts. But if you are still at an early stage of building trust and relationships with your students or your clients, maybe you can wait a bit before taking the plunge.

Can I promote myself on WeChat?

There is nothing wrong with sharing who you are and what do you do on social media. If people value your services, it is then up to them to take the steps to contact you for details. However, an effective way is always to listen first and discover your target audience. What do they want and need? What does your message mean to them? How would they feel about non-stop self-promotion? What will really benefit them?


What should I put on my WeChat Moments?

My suggestion is that this is a perfect platform for you to demonstrate your unique value. What is expertise? What are some advice and opinions you can share? What are some problem-solving tips that will be practical and helpful to your target clients? What are some common questions your students or clients ask you again and again and again? If you deliver and demonstrate your value here, you will be surprised how this will shape your personal brand over time.

Should I share my daily life on WeChat Moments?

WeChat Moments offer us a way to share our cultures and daily lives with people living in other continents and areas. This is fantastic. Be authentic. It’s a cool way to show how much we have in common, despite our differences.

Below is an example from teacher Cheri who shares her daughter’s volleyball team. This will definitely speak to the moms who are proud of their children.


Should I share text or photos or videos on WeChat Moments?

This is a great question that is probably relevant to all social media channels. From my own experience, people’s attention span is increasingly short, so I find pictures or videos achieve better engagement results. Remember, a (relevant) picture is worth a thousand words.

Do I write in English or Chinese on WeChat Moments?

Again, this is an important but tricky one. How to overcome language and cultural barriers and communicate effectively with your clients or students is a constant challenge. If your clients have a basic understanding of English, then they will understand your WeChat message in English using the App’s translation function. A brief message will work better. If it is an important message, you might want it to be translated into Chinese by someone you trust.


How can people find me?

Sometimes, I see awesome infographics, great videos, and helpful tips but there is no contact information, no brand. That’s a pity, as maybe a potential client really likes what you says and agrees with your approach but there is no way to follow up.

While working with her online students, teacher Cavy realised the importance of showing parents on how to create a safe, fun, and healthy learning environment. In November 2021, Cavy and Lenka De Villiers-van Zyl spoke at our parent-teacher networking event about co-regulating emotions with children.

During the event Q&A session, parents asked dozens of questions. As they didn’t have enough time to address each of them, they created several infographics as post-event support.

This is a classic example to demonstrate the 4 Rs of using social media with your students and clients:

Respect – They really listened to the parents(clients)

Relevance – They created content that is valuable to the audience

Readability – Its graphic format makes it fun and easy to read

Reachability – There is an email address and logo at the end of each one.

Next Step

Join our digital course ‘Build a Successful Independent Teaching Path’ empowers you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Please register your interest.

Are you having difficulties launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via this link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

By |2021-12-09T09:25:28+00:00December 7th, 2021|0 Comments

How Much Should I Charge For My Online Classes?


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).

ESL students age range by platforms

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.

To discover an optimal price, it is very valuable to see things from a client’s perspective. This is an interesting example of how teacher Paige learns from her parenting experience and uses that perspective to decide her own online teaching pricing.

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. 

Learning progress & curriculum choice by platforms

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.

ESL package price growth rate by platforms

Next Step

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?

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

By |2022-06-14T11:04:48+01:00November 27th, 2021|0 Comments

Build a Successful Independent Teaching Path: Figure Out Your Best-Suited Niche


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 1 – Understand your strength

This is the step to do your own inventory check, to review and reflect on your experience and celebrate your achievements. We will go through a process to pack your teaching treasure bag so you can step back and realise your unique strengths and assets. Please read a separate blog ‘A step-by-step guide: how to create a treasure bag for your independent teaching’.

Step 2 – Understand your client’s needs

This is the step to understand your client’s needs and make a judgment on what are some essential needs and what are some nice-to-have wants. We will go through a process to create user profiles for your clients. Please read a separate blog ‘A step-by-step guide: how to create user profiles for your independent teaching

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.

Next Step

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

By |2022-06-14T11:05:59+01:00November 10th, 2021|0 Comments

A Step-by-Step Guide: How to Create a Treasure Bag for Your Independent Teaching


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.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/129154179/Hints-From-GradesFixer

How to pack your teaching treasure bag?

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.

Teacher P

Next Step

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.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

By |2021-11-11T16:56:21+00:00November 10th, 2021|0 Comments