Finding Your Niche for Teaching English OnlineBy Maricela Breedlove
May 12, 2020
So, what exactly is a niche, and how in the world do you find yours when freelance teaching English online? First of all, when it comes to business, a niche is a specific corner of the market, targeting particular people with particular interests or needs. We’ll explore whether you need to choose a niche for teaching English online, the benefits of having one as an online ESL teacher, and show you some examples of possible niches you can make your own.
Do I need to choose a niche for teaching English online?
Most online English teachers or tutors work for companies who themselves have a niche. For example, tutoring company VIPKid‘s niche is Chinese children ages 4-12. This niche works well for both VIPKid tutors and the company itself because of the high regional demand, but teachers want to expand their opportunities beyond working for a company.
Many teachers, in fact, are interested in becoming freelancers or “teacherpreneurs.” That’s because as a freelancer, you’re not tied to any company or their target market. You have the freedom to decide who you teach (as well as when and how). But for freelancers who are in charge of marketing their services on teacher platforms and marketplaces like Verbli, italki, and Cambly, it is imperative to stand out from the crowd. So, while you can teach as a freelance online English teacher without a niche, there are definite advantages to having one.
What are the benefits of having an ESL teaching niche?
Whether you pick a niche that you already have experience in or one that you’ve always wanted to explore, there are major benefits to specializing your services as an online English tutor.
You’ll streamline your preparation
One of the most significant advantages of having a niche for teaching English online is that you become an expert in your field. This means simplified lesson planning, as you will not be teaching students in various areas, requiring you to prepare multiple lessons for various types of students. You will come to expect the areas in which your particular niche of students will need the most help and support, allowing you to spend less time working outside of the classroom.
You’ll stand out on freelance sites (called marketplaces)
Offering niche online English teaching services will attract students who need tutoring in specialized areas, making them more likely to choose you over a teacher who only offers general online ESL tutoring. You can even pick multiple niches to broaden your reach and make your booking rate even more successful as an ESL freelancer.
Interested in becoming your own boss as a “teacherpreneur” but don’t know where to start? Read this article next: How to Get Started Freelance English Teaching Online.
You’ll greatly improve your referral rate
As you gain regular students, chances are they’ll speak to their friends about how much they’re learning with you, as you are an expert in your field. They’ll inform them that you are worth what you’re charging per lesson and that it’s far better to be tutored by someone who has specific knowledge in the area they need help in than a general ESL tutor.
What are some examples of ESL niches?
English is globally recognized as the official language of business, making this a very in-demand niche and one that many freelance online English tutors choose. If you have a degree in business or a background in management or a related career, you’ll have no problem marketing yourself as a Business English tutor. You can even earn Specialized Certification in Teaching Business English, and advertise your credentials on your teacher profile, self-introduction-video, or website.
Nastassia is an online teacher from the U.S., living in Portugal. She started her own online tutoring business and focused on several niches, including two related to business: professional writing and accent reduction. Read her story.
IELTS and TOEFL Examination Preparation
As more and more international students require these English proficiency exams for admission into university, studying overseas, and employment, the desire to improve examination scores is increasing the demand for English teachers who specialize in this kind of test prep. Students looking for this specific tutoring usually have a sense of urgency and therefore are reliable students, which leads to a stable income for test prep tutors.
Simply familiarizing yourself with the study guides for proficiency tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International Language Testing System (IELTS) can be a good starting point in making this your niche.
You can also take specialized TEFL/TESOL training in this teaching niche by enrolling in the free Bridge micro-credential course in Teaching IELTS Exam Prep.
Catering to people in specific professions like nursing, accounting, etc. can also be a very lucrative niche, especially if you have a background in the profession yourself. Students looking for online English tutors in their particular fields of work are usually willing to pay top dollar for their services. It’s worth noting that it’s possible to choose a certain professional niche even if you don’t have a background in the profession, but you’ll need to do plenty of research and plan your lessons with careful attention to your students’ needs if this is your goal.
While most of these niches (and general ESL instruction, for that matter), focus on teaching the fundamentals of English grammar and communication, some people require specific guidance with their pronunciation. Pronunciation tutoring involves delving deeply into the topics of intonation, word stress, facial muscle movement, and many other very specific areas. Students who are looking for this kind of tutoring usually already have an excellent command of English, but struggle to be understood or sound fluent. Accent reduction is becoming a prevalent niche in teaching English, online or in person.
Age-specific ESL tutoring can be a great supplement to the specializations above if you want to have more than one teaching niche. Teaching English to pre-school children, for example, continues to be in high demand in Asian countries. Their compulsory English curriculum is introduced to all kindergarten-aged children, increasing bi-lingual kindergarteners. Other age-specific teaching niches are teaching English to teenagers or teaching adults.
Specific First Language
If your first language isn’t English or if you’re a multi-lingual teacher, catering to students who also speak your first language can be the perfect niche. For example, Bridge graduate, Sheyla, a freelance online teacher originally from Brazil, speaks fluent Portuguese (her first language) as well as English. She made Brazilian students her ESL niche and has found it to be a booming business. Because her classes are online, she can target this niche worldwide and has many students not only in Brazil, but in the U.S. (where she lives), and Canada.
“I started off by putting an ad on a Brazilian Facebook page where the community shares information with the immigrants in the USA. The first week that I put the ad up, I filled up a schedule with four classes per day.” Read Sheyla’s story.
How do I choose my niche?
Now that you have more of an idea of what a niche is and why it’s so useful to choose one as an online teacherpreneur, you have the task of actually deciding on your niche for teaching English online! You can either choose your nice based on your background and experience in (such as business, working with young children or teens, or teaching test preparation), or you can dive into a new one that interests you. Here are some questions to consider:
As online learning has evolved, so have students, teachers, and the opportunities within the field. Finding your niche for tutoring ESL allows you to leverage your unique skills and experience and to attract the right students and succeed as a freelance online Engish tutor.