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