Is your planning routine broken?

How to Plan So You Can Grow Your Freelance ESL Business

Your planning routine could be a reason why you’re not seeing the growth in your freelance ESL business that you’re looking for.

Pinable: How to fix bad planning

What broken planning looks like:

  1. I make a daily to-do list and work to complete each task. Hello, my name is Aaron, and I’m a recovering ‘to-do listaholic.’  To-do lists are wonderful to help you get things done. They are rewarding too, because it feels great to see your pending tasks get crossed off as you complete them.  The problems with to-do lists are that you don’t have a time limit to accomplish each task on your list – just sometime today, right? And you tend to only focus on the NOW. The urgent. The top-of-mind activities. To-do lists tend to be TACTICAL or day-to-day grind oriented. What happens to big picture or future planning, like say: how will I grow my teaching business? The answer: nothing. That’s broken.
  2. I only plan my lessons. You need to plan your lessons, that’s obvious. But when that is the only planning you do, you’re setting yourself up to fail because your only focus is on the clients you already have, not on bringing in new ones. I have done this too. While planning and developing great classes is vital, and may lead to more business through happy students referring you, you must make time to actively reach out beyond what you have now to bring in more clients.  Planning that only serves your existing clients is broken.
  3. I have no big picture. If you are struggling to just get by, chances are your sense of a positive future is wounded – maybe even dead. I have found that intense struggle tends to trick me into looking inward and downward instead of outward and forward. Have you ever felt like that? But no matter how hard things are for you right now, you have to tell yourself that this will not last. If you keep walking, you will see your situation change. But where are you heading? King Solomon once wrote to ‘give careful thought to the path of our feet so that we can be established.’ (Proverbs 4:26)  The thing is, the path our feet walk on everyday will eventually lead us to our destiny. Have you noticed where your walking today? If you’re only looking down, and not to WHERE your path is taking you, chances are you are going to end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Not looking outward and forward is broken.

Start fixing your planning strategy.

Power up your Planning – To-do lists are great if they have specific time limits and balanced focus to them. Consider adding:

Themes: You are not just a teacher. You are also business manager, and an entrepreneur. You MUST create time in your planning each day so that you spend time in each of these categories:

Entrepreneur: try blocking off an hour or two each day to think big picture thoughts about your business. Where do you want to be in a month? 3 Months? 6 Months? A year? Start developing growth goals, and imagine how your life will be as you accomplish each one. Write these things down, and start working towards your goals each day by asking: what do I need to do today to move me closer to my 1 month, 3 month or year goals?

Included in the entrepreneur theme is the role of salesperson. If you want your business to grow, you need to not only focus on serving your current clients, but you must also promote your services, and spend plenty of time networking. The trick: if you’re not making time in your schedule to do these things on a regular basis (like daily) you won’t see your business grow.

Business manager: What systems do you need in place to help you control and manage your business as it grows? Do you have an effective, written process  to accomplish things like: attendance keeping, billing and collections, creating and issuing user agreements for new clients, curriculum development, tracking where your students are in your course, and when they will finish? What systems will you use to help you provide regular evaluations and reporting? And what about customer service?

You have to create time each day to manage your business, and create processes to follow so that when your business grows, it will not run away from you and fall into confusion or disorganization.  Again: you have to make regular time for this, it won’t just happen.

Set time limits. This is the power move to planning. Instead of just writing out your to-do list, which now includes themes, you should consider adding a time limit for each task. You can do this a couple of ways:

On your computer/mobile device – open your calendar app and move your to-do list there. Set a time block for each item. Example: if you are setting time to prospect for new clients each day, and you should be, set a time limit to the task.  Maybe block off your prospecting time from 8:30a.m. to 9:15a.m. When you set up your next to-do list item after your prospecting time block, add an alarm to the calendar event so that you get a message or a sound to tell you it’s time to move to the next item on your list.

At first, you will feel like this is boxing you in, and for good reason: it is! You will find that giving yourself a time limit to accomplish your tasks, will help you sharpen your focus as well as help you to work faster. That’s what I’ve been discovering as I’ve been implementing this planning system in my own business. So make sure you add time limits and alerts to each of your tasks.

If you prefer pen and paper planning, that works too. To add the time limit feature to paper planning, get yourself a cooking timer, or some other method that keeps time and has an easy to set alarm, and set your time limits that way. I’ve done this too, and it works wonderfully.

Over to you: How are you planning to grow your freelance ESL business today? Is your current planning strategy broken?

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freelance ESL Planning

Planning for Freelance ESL Teachers

It’s scary how fast a day can burn by, isn’t it? Have you ever wondered to yourself what  you had done and achieved, but were unable to give yourself a solid answer? I sure have, and it’s frustrating.

I know you know about planning. You are likely used to planning out your lessons, and setting out your schedule for the week. I’m also sure you’re awesome at making sure your students finish their courses by the time you had promised. Old hat, right?

Your freelance teaching business is more than preparing a class, and ending your course on time, though those are mighty important things to be doing. But if you’re not intentional about it, you will find yourself ONLY doing that kind of ‘ground level planning.’  You know what I mean? The day to day stuff.

I have had this happen to me many times. It leaves you vulnerable to things like students moving on,  or what happens if your course suddenly gets cancelled due to budget cuts, or a natural ending like you actually finish the course with your student and they no longer need to work with you. What happens then?  A big shock, that’s what!

Your students will come and go, I bet you’ve noticed that by now, but you don’t have to react to it! Instead, why don’t you try this idea to help you become a proactive ESL freelance teacher and business owner:

Theme your week: I am still learning how to apply this to my business, but I love what Michael Hyatt has to say about it in this podcast/videocast. It’s well worth your time listening or watching, promise.

The idea is to give themes to each day, or group of days each week. To help prepare for and solve the problem of a ‘surprise ending’ to one of your classes, you could try something like giving every Monday the theme of ‘Prospecting.’ While you may have other things to do during the day, you should focus your work around hunting for new students and clients to work with.

That could include hunting for and reaching out to new contacts on LinkedIn. It could be meeting old students for coffee, and checking to see if they had any referrals they could pass along to you. Or maybe it could be picking up the phone and trying to set up a meeting with that potential client you’ve noticed. Whatever you decide to do that day, the overall focus should be about prospecting, or whatever theme you placed on the day. Make sense?

Strategic importance of giving each day a theme: As you adopt this idea and make it your own, it will help you avoid the gravitational pull or tunnel vision of your day to day activities. Just to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with the normal collection of activites we all need to do, but danger lurks when those activities are ALL you do. So try giving each day it’s own special theme, and make sure you have an even balance between short term and long term.

Themes? What themes? Still not sure what themes would work for you? Here are a few I am considering for my planning:

Prospecting: hunting for, researching, and reaching out to new clients. Why? I don’t want my work to run out!  Focus: Mid to long- term planning.

Course Planning: Looking ahead in my course material, thinking about my student’s needs, thinking about how I will deliver course work, writing down lesson ideas in my notebook, researching points I am not sure about etc. Focus: short and mid-term planning.

Social Media/Blogging: I’m still working out this one, but this would be when I think about what I want to write about here in this blog. Reading. Research. Sending updates to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.  Focus: Short and mid-term planning. (I tend to post to social media every day at some point, so that could be a mini theme for each day I suppose.)

What about you? What themes would you assign to your week? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.