How to Grow Your ESL Business With Your Course Materials

You don’t always need to be networking or speaking face to face with someone to be selling your services as a self-employed ESL teacher. The quality and style of the course material you use can help you sell even when you’re not there. Here are 3 course material strategies that will help you grow your business.

Strategy One: Never Use Photocopies.  When you are first starting out, money is a huge issue. Maybe you are struggling to get food on your family’s table, or keep the rent paid, or…fill in the blank here with whatever financial pressure you are under at the moment that makes the thought of buying a course book seem like a foolish thing to do. I know all about it!  Dishing out $60 to $100 for a course book to use in your business feels like a huge waste of cash, and I bet your thinking goes something like: why pay that much money when I can borrow a friend’s course book and photocopy it for a fraction of the cost?

Photocopying course material is something done everywhere you find people studying English, but that does not make it right or smart. I know you know the copyright problems you are setting yourself up for. Photocopying, unless you have written permission from the publisher, is illegal. Don’t do it.

Photocopying is also terrible for your business image. What do you think you are saying about yourself and your business as you walk into your class and plop a photocopy of your course book on the table for all eyes to see?

“The teacher’s broke.”

“The teacher isn’t professional.”

What do you think a photocopied course book says about you? The opposite is also true: consider what high quality, original material says about you: This teacher is professional, serious, well-organized, and I they look like they can be trusted.

What do you want your prospects and current students thinking about you, and how does your material influence that?

Strategy Two: Use color or high quality prints If you print material from the internet for your class, like a blog post or a news story, or even if you create your own worksheets print them in the best quality possible. Full color. Strong black and whites. Never let your material look like a photocopy or poor quality product.

Remember: your students may not be the only ones who will see the material you use! 

I have had people approach me for classes because they saw the cool course book my student had, or noticed a high quality article we were using in class. I once even had a CEO student of mine share the business article we were using with his entire leadership team – that was an extra 8 people who saw my material.

Truth: you never know who will see what you use in class. Make sure you are sending the right message with the quality of materials you use.

Strategy Three: Brand your Binders. I love using handouts. Consider buying your students a 3 ring binder so that they have somewhere to store all your print outs and worksheets. The bonus: customize that binder before you give it to them! Print off a full color logo and business title of your ESL business, and insert it on the binder’s cover and  spine. Again, quality prints only!

Be sure to always have your phone number/cell phone, WhatsApp, website, and social media links on your materials – even if it is something as simple as a binder.

Why? I’ve walked through one of my largest client’s office spaces – that’s an office space for more than 250 people. Guess what I saw? The ones who took English classes always stored their materials on their desk for the whole world to see.

When you use real course books, and branded binders, your material stands out! Think about it: Your class finishes, and your students start to make their way to their work or wherever they need to go to next. Chances are they will carry your material in their hands. Coworkers or friends who may not be taking classes will see those materials. Conversations could be started about things like:

“What’s that you’ve got there?”

“What were you doing just now?”

Or, how about this: I’ve actually gotten new students from having a coworker walk by my student’s desk. They saw the English course material and asked: “Where are you taking English classes? Who is your teacher? Can you introduce him to me?”

Those conversations won’t happen as often if you use poor quality materials. So be brave! Tighten your belt, and invest in your business by only using great material. It IS expensive, but I have found it pays for itself over time.


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