Use Course Material To Grow Your Business

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.

How To Pitch Your Services to a Prospect (image:by appsforeurope)

How to Present Your Service to a Prospect

In our last post we talked about being nervous before you pitch your ESL teaching services to a prospect. We agreed it was good to be nervous as long as you used those horrible feelings to help you focus on your prospect, and not yourself! Remember?

Today, I want to share a blog post that changed the way I think about presentations, and transformed the way I built and gave them. I hope you can take a few minutes to check this article out – it could make a big difference for you:

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint by Guy Kawasaki. (I checked and as of today, September 17, 2015 the link is still good.)

How The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint Applies to You!

  1. Keep your presentation short. 10 slides or 10 pages if you use paper based presentation tools.  Note: You get bonus points if you can explain the value you add, and how your service works with less than 10 pages!

Presentation Ingredients: 1. Your WHY: why are you doing this. What problem do you see in the ESL market that you are fixing? 2. How you solve THEIR problems with learning English? 3. Your Methodology. 4. Your Materials. 5. What you deliver (reports, evaluations, performance results etc.)  6. If you have teachers working with you, what professional requirements do you look for?  7. Prices.

2. Use Pictures to Reinforce Your Words. Don’t fill your page/slide with too many words. Use amazing pictures that help you tell your story. Try: Google Images   or Flickr (Be sure to use the search tools to get images you can reuse!)

Your goal: you should see your prospect look at your presentation, then immediately back at you because your presentation depends on YOU to tell the story, not a text laden slide.

3. Leave space for questions/conversation. Kawasaki’s point was huge for me when I first read it some 10 years ago. Your presentation should be used as an ENGAGEMENT TOOL, not a oneway commercial.

4. Be willing and able to NOT use your presentation. I’ve walked into a meeting and my prospect kindly told me: “I have 5 minutes to talk with you, my boss just called me for a meeting.”  Even 10 slide presentations are meaningless if your prospect doesn’t have time for it.  Are you able to roll without your slides? NEVER force feed your presentation to someone. That’s another reason why it’s important to use your nerves to help you focus on others – are they present? Yes, their body may be in front of you, but are they really there? Are they checking their phone? Distracted?  Shape your presentation to fit THEIR needs. Use your slides/pages if required.

Over to you: what tips would you suggest to make your next pitch rock?

How to overcome Nerves and Pitch your ESL Services Successfully

How Self-employed ESL Teachers can Overcome Nervousness and Pitch Their Services Successfully

Myth: I suck as an entrepreneur because I always feel scared or nervous before I pitch my services to a prospect.

Truth: There are people out there who eat presentations, sales, cold calling etc, for breakfast. They are called extroverts. If you are an introvert, like me,  you can still work and practice yourself into being a great service pitcher – even if you feel nervous before every presentation you make.

How Self-employed ESL teachers can overcome fear and pitch their services successfully

2 Truths about Nerves

  1. It’s Ok to Be Nervous: I’ve heard Michael Hyatt say this multiple times, “Nervousness is my body preparing me for peak performance.” (Michael Hyatt Reframe Your Fear and Let it Work For You. ) Before I pitch, I DO feel nervous and it is ok for you to feel it too.  It means, at least to me, that I’m not overconfident. I’m not going to be pushy, and most importantly: I’m going to prepare like crazy. (Don’t ever let your case of the nerves be because you haven’t prepped your pitch properly!) Your goal, in other words, is not to eliminate nervousness from your life, but to focus it correctly.

2. Your Nerves Must Focus You On Others. Being ‘self-conscious’ is your worst enemy in any pitch. So as you arrive to meet your prospect, start changing your focus away from yourself and how you feel. Focus on others! Specifically, everything possible that relates to your prospect.  Notice things like: office decorations, how the receptionist greets you, how everyone around you is dressed. In your prospect’s office, pay VERY close attention to personal pictures they have, art on the wall, or the decorations on their desk.

Does something you see connect with you in some way? Be brave, and comment on it, or be curious and ask about it. In one meeting I had with a prospect, I saw that his office was filled with cool decorations from Africa, specifically elephants and giraffes. It was a long time ago, but I remember making a simple comment like: ‘Wow, you must really love elephants!” The comment was genuine and full of the surprise I felt at seeing soo many of the large animals around me, and it totally opened our meeting up. He told me all about his recent safari trip, and how exciting it was for him. Rapport was built almost instantly, and the sale came a little later. It was painless.

That experience would not have happened if I had of allowed my fear/nervousness to focus my attention inward on what I had to say, my presentation, my services, etc. I wouldn’t have been able to engage him on the most important topic of the day: HIM!  Remember: your business is not about you, it should be about the people you want to serve.

When you feel self-conscious, which is really what nervousness is all about, you are focussed on the wrong person: you!

Effective pitches obviously start with knowing yourself, your service/business, your benefits, what’s in it for your prospect, your prices, how you compare with your competition, the most frequent objections and how to overcome them, and how you do what you do. But a pitch that has power is focused on others.

How have you used nervousness to help you grow your business?

How to Use Free Demo Classes to Increase Your Income

“Should I offer a free demo class to prospects?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? I bet you have if you have been self-employed any length of time.

How to use Free Demo Classes to Grow Your freelance ESL Business

You should provide free demo classes to prospects, and you can do it in a way that will add money to your bank account. Here’s how! But first, here is why many freelance teachers decide NOT to do it…

The Case Against Free Demos “What if I just waste my time?” “What if you go to all the trouble of setting up a demo, preparing it, and delivering it to a prospect only to have them walk away and take their business somewhere else? What a waste!”

That’s the usual reasoning behind the “No” argument, right?  You risk your time and money if your prospect goes somewhere else. And you are totally right if you don’t have a solid sales process in place.

Demo classes that lead to money and regular clients are a PART of a strong sales process. They are never THE only thing you do to sell. If you only depend on a great demo class to sell your service, expect to see people walking away without engaging with your services.

Ho to make Demos work:

  1. Create and follow your 4 step sales process: Where you qualify your prospects, develop rapport with them, educate them, and finally close them. (Your Demo class is a mix of educating your prospect and closing them.)  You can learn much more about the 4 step sales process from this podcast . (The Entreleadership Podcast – well worth listening to.)  I also blogged about it here: Selling for Freelance ESL Teachers.
  2. Place the demo where it belongs: as part of your education and close strategy. By the time you give your demo class, you should know that your prospect is a great ‘fit’ for you, your prospect should have had time to get to know you – YOU as a person and YOU as a service provider. They should know how you work, what tools you use, what method you follow, etc. They should also know how much you charge, how your payment policies work, and how you handle reschedule requests. In other words, by the time you get to the topic of a free demo class, your prospect knows pretty much everything they need to know to make a final purchase decision. The demo is the rehearsal and dinner before the wedding – if you want to look at it that way.
  3. Close the Sale After the Demo after you deliver an amazing demo class, like I totally know you will, here is what you should do to bring home the sale:  1. Upfront, state that your demo will be 45 minutes long. 2. Deliver an amazing 45 minute demo. 3. When you are finished, ask for feedback. What did you think? How did you feel as we worked together? 4. Shut-up and listen! If your feedback is positive, and you feel it is genuine, NOW is the crucial step: close the sale. You can do this easily and without any pressure by simply and calmly showing them your schedule and saying: I am hearing that you enjoyed our demo class and that you felt comfortable working with me. I am free on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30-9:00a.m. – would you like to schedule your first class for next Tuesday?”
  4. Listen. Let your prospect talk without any interruptions. You really don’t need to speak after you ask them a question: simply let them reply! If they are ready to close the deal, they will do it immediately. If they have more questions they will ask, and you can go back to the education/information step of your process. You aren’t pressuring or pushing here or ever. You are simply being the great teacher that you are! You are helping someone have enough information to choose you.

If the date you offer doesn’t work for your prospect, ask them to suggest one. Write it down, and let them know when you would need their first payment.

I have found that if you follow your 4 step sales process carefully, you will almost always end up with a sale after your demo class. No, these steps are not 100% guaranteed to work, but they sure will increase your chances of success!

How have you used free demo classes to increase your sales? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Compete with value, not price

Stop Competing On Price to Grow Your Freelance ESL Business

It’s a trap to try and grow your business by being the lowest price service provider, but when you can’t explain the value you add to your clients and prospects price will be all  they care about.

How self-employed ESL teachers can stop competing on price

Know your value – what you do that helps others and how this sets you apart from everyone else. Show how your English classes will help your clients meet their needs, or solve their problems. Most of the time, your added value will have very little to do with the act of learning/teaching English!

Define and deliver on this value, and you will be able leave price wars with other language providers behind…most of the time.

How to determine value: a basic and very helpful definition of value is simply how you and your service helps people. The more you and your business helps people, the more it will grow, and the more valuable it will become for your clients.

Action Step: Can you define how you help others? See if you can write a few sentences about it.  Hint: think deeper than “I help people speak English.” The competition does that. What do YOU do that helps others who engage your services?

Define Your Value from your client’s point of view! This is where you really need to pay attention: Can you remember the last 5 to 10 positive comments you have gotten from your clients? What have they told you they appreciate the most about you and how you serve them? (If you don’t have any comments yet, start asking!) Try saying something like: “I know there are many English teachers or companies out there for you to work with – why do you decide to keep working with me?”

Pay close attention to what they say. This is the value you are delivering to your clients. The answers may surprise you! One of my business’ most frequent comments about why our clients continued working with us was that we always provided personal, friendly, flexible customer service. That’s VALUE from your client’s perspective. It’s valuable because your clients – the people who give you money for what you do, are saying they find it valuable.  I think your client’s definition of value is more important than what YOU think your value added service is. What do you think?

Action step: Ask your clients what they value about what you do, and make a list of what they say.

If you are just getting started, and don’t have anyone to ask about what is valuable to them, you can still do some vital homework:

  1. Find people who are taking English classes – ask them why they are taking the class, and what they value most from the service they are currently using.  (Bonus: listen carefully for negative feedback they may give about the service they are currently using. Maybe you can provide a ‘fix’ for this problem in your own service!)
  2. Read online forums or join online communities of students – see if you can find comments about their most common problems or challenges they face in class. If you listen carefully and patiently, I promise you’ll find valuable information that will help you develop your own value proposition.

Action Step: Look for groups or communities on LinkedIn, G+, Facebook etc where ESL students are hanging out. Join these groups, and listen. (Read comments!) Maybe even consider asking the group questions like: what do you love/hate the most about your English classes? Teacher? Service provider?  Take lots of notes!

What Do You Bring? What skills, knowledge, experience do you bring to the table that could be useful to your clients?  One of my skills is business coaching. My target market was adult business professionals, and as I got to know my students and their needs, we were almost always able to combine English classes with professional coaching and leadership training.  What is weird about this, is at the start I didn’t even know I was doing it. My students started telling me that what we did in class was NOT just English class, but it was helping them to solve problems at work, or helping them to grow professionally. What do you do…and how do you do it that comes uniquely to you?

Action step: list your natural talents or experience. Can this be used in some way to help your students? How?

Over to you: can you explain the value you provide to your clients? Leave a comment, I would love to learn how you are making a difference in the world with your awesome work!

How To Protect Your Freelance Income

3 Steps Self-Employed ESL Teachers Can Take To Protect their Income

One of the worst things about being a self-employed ESL teacher is feeling like your income is on a giant yo-yo. One month your up, the next your down and the culprit is often students cancelling.

The problem with cancellations is that a cancelled class = no payment for that class, unless you set your business up differently.  Here is a simple 3 point strategy to help aleviate the problem of cancellations:

3 Steps to Help Frelance ESL Teachers Protect Their Income

3 Steps to Protect Your Income from Cancellations

  1. Create a Cancellation Policy. If you don’t have a policy, you can’t enforce it later. So before you bring on any more students, sit down, open your word processor, and pound one out. Key ingredients: Cancellation terms – how much time you allow for cancellations to be on time (8 hours is my standard. You?) What a late cancellation would be – less than 8 hours notice. Reschedule Conditions – openly explain if/when you will be able to reschedule if students cancel – late cancellations will not be rescheduled, and will be billed for. I will be happy to reschedule with you before the end of the month if you cancel with more than 8 hours notice.
  2. Create a Payment Policy Another required document is a written explanation of your payment expectations. Clearly state that you charge X in advance for X number of hours. Explain how you want your payment to be made: in cash, via transfer to your bank account, via PayPal etc.
  3. Share, Sign, and Keep Your Agreements. Your policies are useless unless you share them with your clients on or before class #1. I send my students a digital version of my cancellation and payment policies before we even begin working together. On class one, before beginning, I bring out a paper version of my policies and read through it with my students. I then have them sign the documents, as well as a copy. One copy goes to me, the other goes to them.  Remember: If your students don’t sign the agreement, it never happened. Once signed, be sure to keep your copy filed away somewhere safe.

The next time your student cancels late and asks you to reschedule, remind them about your cancellation policy. “I’m sorry, but my cancellation policy is to only reschedule classes cancelled with more than 8 hours notice.”  Be kind in how you say it, and let them know that you are happy to reschedule when the proper advance warning is given.  You may need to ‘teach’ your clients to follow your policy a little at the start, but I’ve found that with one instance, most clients learn to cancel on time.

IMPORTANT: This policy will only protect your income under two circumstances: 1. You charge in advance. If you aren’t, you should be. 2. If you enforce it. There will be special circumstances, but in general, you should always stick to your guns. If you don’t respect  your time, nobody else will.

Important #2 – What to do if you’ve already started If you’ve already started working with a client, and you don’t have any policies in place, it’s not too late! At a natural cut point – say the end of your next class, let them know that you are making some administration changes in how you work. Give students your policies and ask them to read them carefully.  Tell them that in two weeks, give them a specific date, you will bring these policy changes in for them to sign if they agree. From that point on, you will manage your classes according to your policy. Done.

Over to you: what have you done to protect your income as a self-employed ESL teacher? Share your strategies in the comments below!

Use LinkedIn To Grow Your Freelance ESL Business

3 Ways to Use LinkedIn To Get Company ESL Clients

When you think of growing your freelance ESL business, what do you think of? If the first thing that comes to mind is ‘company classes’ then I bet you have also discovered that catching corporate clients is far easier to say than do.

3 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Grow your ESL Business

3 Ways to use LinkedIn to Get Corporate Clients.

  1. Define your target. What company do you want to serve?  How many employees does your ideal client have?

Shift Your Thinking: Stop trying to catch a company. Instead, focus on building relationships with people IN your target company. Pull out some paper and start a list. Do you know anyone who works in your target company? This is a repeated point, but it is true: people prefer to do business with people they already know, like and trust.

Nobody? Use LinkedIn to help you begin building your network.

A Word of Caution: Usually the bigger the company, the more difficult they will be for you to work with due to their business systems. I have found that businesses with over 250 employees tend to have intense processes for payment that could force you to wait anywhere from 30 to 90+ days before they pay you. If you can handle that, great. But I bet you need income faster than that, so pay attention to employee counts! Generally, smaller companies are friendlier, and easier to deal with.

When you know the company you want to work with, see if they have a company page on LinkedIn, and follow it. (Is your target a multi-national? Try looking for a local company page. It may or may not have country specific profiles.)

Use the search tool inside LinkedIn, and set it up for company searches. (Click on the button on the left hand side of the search bar and select ‘Companies.’) Then type in the name of the company you are interested in serving and start your search.

2. Focus  Before you do anything else with the results that come up, look to the left of your screen. You should see a few search customization features like: Relationship, Location, and Current Company etc. These are free, so use them!  Focus on first and second level relationships as well as Group Members, by selecting each. Location: pick the place (Country + City) where you live. If it is not listed, don’t fret! Click “ADD” and write in your city or country.  Result: a smaller list of people you can start reaching out to.

3. Join More LinkedIn Groups to be where your prospects are hanging out. Groups are powerful ways to open connection possibilities. When you join a group, you gain access to its members. When you send an invitation to connect to someone not in your first level of relationship, but who belongs to the same group as you, you can list your group in common as a reason to connect. I have found that this usually opens the door for me.  With no group in common, you will need to prove your relationship with this person some other way, like an e-mail address. You likely don’t have that, so use groups as a ‘thing in common’ whenever possible.

Warm up before you connect. Before connecting with someone you don’t know, see if you can follow any conversations they might be involved in if they are in the same group as you. Engage them in conversation if you can – but around group topics. Like their posts. Comment on them with a focus to add value. Let them get to know you a bit before you try reaching out.

Send the Invite: When possible always try to write your own invite request. Make it short, but HUMAN sounding. Try something like: “I’ve enjoyed talking with you about topic X in group X, would you like to connect with me?”

If they accept, well done! But stay calm. Don’t try to sell them anything yet. Focus on building relationship. Keep engaging them in group conversations. Try sending them links to articles they might find useful based on what you learn about them. Then, after you have built up a little rapport, start talking about your business — based on THEM not you. .

There you have it! Use LinkedIn to help you find your target company, narrow your search down, and build your prospect network.