Building a niche and choosing the best platforms are just some of the strategies that have helped Bridge grad Jeannine Brandt, from Canada, scale her online English teaching venture. As she prepares to shift to a fully independent ESL teaching career, she also joined Bridge’s Teacherpreneur Academy to gain more skills and refine the game plan for her business. Read on to find out how she decided to become her own boss, the apps she uses to make class processes more efficient, and her tips for getting started as a teacherpeneur!
Hi, Jeannine! Can you share a bit about yourself?
I’m from Manitoba, Canada. I grew up in a really rural area but moved to Winnipeg for my career. I’ve been teaching English since the spring of 2021. I completed my teaching certificate and English teaching practicum online because of the pandemic. After that, I taught as a private tutor on Preply for about six months. I feel lucky that I got a head start in the online teaching field because, by the time I moved to in-person teaching, I felt very comfortable with hybrid learning and asynchronous learning.
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Tell us about your current English teaching jobs.
I still have a full-time job at Robertson College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where I teach academic English to newcomers who need to get their student visas.
I also work with private students. I teach academic English concurrently with conversational and everyday English, and the majority of my students want to learn English to improve their communication skills at work. They have everyday jobs at salons, construction sites, etc.
I’ve also decided to specialize in English for work and school. I’m targeting adults, especially middle-aged people who already have a career in their own country but need the language skills to transition to Canada.
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What motivated you to become an independent teacher and start your own teaching business, English With Jeannine?
I´m very passionate about creating learning tools and resources that will benefit my students in life, not just in their studies. I’m a creative person, so ideas for learning materials just come pouring out of me. I can’t help it. That’s why I know eventually I’ll be my own boss and develop my own courses.
What do you find most rewarding about being an independent teacher?
I love getting to know my students on an individual basis! When you care for your students, they care for you. It’s a very emotionally rewarding experience.
What platforms or methods do you use to connect with students?
When I started, I used Preply, which was a great way to get new students. Sometimes the students stayed for many months or longer, and sometimes they took a trial lesson and then moved on. It was difficult to determine whether the student was serious or just messing around. So, when some of my regulars requested to move off the platform, I happily agreed. Whenever I really connected with a student, I explained that I could also do lessons privately through my own platform. I also made sure I had competitive pricing. Students were more than happy to move off the platform once they realized I could accept the payment in Canadian dollars and that the funds would go directly to me, rather than through Preply.
Looking for more information on learning platform options for online English teachers? Read Choosing an LMS or Learning Platform for Your Online English Teaching Business.
Apps for scheduling classes
Currently, I use Calendly for booking classes. It’s the best $19/month I could ever spend, as it works with different time zones and collects payment for me. Rescheduling and cancelations are so easy with Calendly. There’s no complicated back-and-forth with the students – it’s simple.
Website creation platforms
I’m also in the process of learning Payhip, a website-building and online store platform that offers a really simple website design experience; plus it gives access to all features on the free plan. You can host online courses, create client portals, and sell digital products. So far, it’s been very easy to work with. My goal is to migrate all my student materials there.
What qualities or skills are essential for someone considering a career as an independent teacher?
Becoming savvy with web design, social media, and online booking tools is essential! I’ve actually gained students because of my easy booking system; they gave up trying to schedule time with another tutor who didn’t have a proper online booking system. It’s so stressful for students and teachers to email back and forth to schedule lessons and to make sure double bookings don’t occur. So, getting good at syncing and embedding calendars is important!
What challenges have you encountered in your independent teaching journey?
Marketing is a big challenge that I still have to figure out. I tend to get fixated on designs and messaging and forget to actually just test ideas. So, I’d like to get outside help in the future.
What strategies do you use to market yourself and attract new students as an independent teacher?
I received several new students through mutual friend recommendations on Facebook. I think this is the best way to attract students because people usually trust their friends to recommend options. Aside from that, word of mouth is powerful when you live in a small city like Winnipeg. From there, just making it easy to book lessons can attract and keep students.
You joined Teacherpreneur Academy and completed the Specialized Certificate Succeeding as an English Teacherpreneur. How did the program help you?
The coursework for the Specialized Certificate was very helpful when it came to analyzing and narrowing down my niche. I particularly enjoyed the module about Personal Branding and coming up with my Unique Selling Proposition (USP). I also had a lot of really inspiring moments following the steps in the course.
What do you hope to achieve as an independent English teacher?
- I hope to develop my own courses in the future and, obviously, help as many people as I can.
- I also would like to start helping teachers get more creative in the classroom. So many instructors who teach in multicultural environments could benefit from better classroom management skills and cross-cultural communication.
- Additionally, I’m hoping to get my master’s degree in the future so I can help other instructors.
What is your advice for other educators who are considering becoming independent teachers or tutors?
- Don’t overthink your marketing materials at first. Just start creating content, and focus on being a good teacher.
- Be genuine and intuitive. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t teach that” or “That’s not my specialization.” That’s where the Unique Selling Proposition really helped me.