Break In case of emergency

Keeping Your Lights On: A Simple Growth System

Break in case of emergency.

No matter how hard you work, and no matter how good of a job you do, you will one day wake up and find yourself with fewer students and a smaller income. That is just a part of being a freelance ESL teacher, right?

This moment can be very unsettling though, especially if you have gone for a long period of time without having to hunt for new students. Worry and fear quickly set in. When it has happened to me, I’ve even found myself starting to doubt my ability as a teacher, even though the reason my students had left were for personal ones that had nothing to do with me.

What if I suck?  What if I can’t find new students? How will I pay for the mortgage this month?

Frozen. Fear does that, doesn’t it?

Having to replace clients is a normal part of being a freelancer, no matter how good you are. It’s really important to realize this. But instead of freezing and falling into a mind numbing cycle of self-doubt and fear, what if you took a few minutes today – while things are good – and prepare a system that will help you quickly get moving again after a client leaves?

A system is a set of steps for you to follow to create a desired result. You use them, likely unconsciously, all the time to help you produce required results. Why not use the power of a system to help you recover your income?

How to Make Your System for Getting New Clients

1. Get a pen and paper, or open a new Word document on your computer.

2. Give your system a snappy title: Find New Client System (That wasn’t very snappy, but you get the picture.)

3. Step by step, write down exactly what you did to find and bring on your last star student. Don’t write a book here – just note down in point form, what you specifically did or what you have done that worked to bring in new students.  Here are a few examples that I have written for me:

  1. Goto Craig’s List.
  2. Click on my country and city.
  3. Click on Services, then Classes
  4. Post about my services.

Bonus tip: Copy the text from your last posting and save it in a special text file. When you need to post another ad for your services, simply copy and paste from your last posting. (Great time saver!)

After you have created your system, you need to put it somewhere safe. I have a file on Dropbox where I keep all the digital copies of my systems. I also print them off and keep them in labelled binders.

So the next time you have to hunt for a new student to work with, don’t panic! Just reach up to your bookshelf, calmly pull out your system for Getting New Students, and follow.

You’ll be rolling again in no time!

Over to you – how have you used systems to help you get new students?


Keeping Your Lights On

The challenge of freelance success is that you tend to focus on serving your hard won clients, and stop hunting for more.

At the beginning this ‘current client fixation’ is beneficial. You work hard to get your students, and if you neglect them in any way, or provide less than excellent service you could lose them.

That’s the conversation that ran through my mind as I settled into my own ‘current client fixation’ nearly 15 years ago as I started my freelance career as an ESL teacher.  I had a handful of students that I had gotten from a few referrals, and a pair of free classified ads in one of our local newspapers.  All my morning and afternoon time slots were full, and I was happy with the income I was getting. I wasn’t getting rich, but I did have exactly what I was looking for: enough income to help me supplement my wife’s paycheck to meet our family’s needs. The best thing of all: I had freedom! I worked the hours I wanted AND got to be with my family.

I stopped renewing my classified ads and asking friends if they knew anyone who needed English classes because all my available time was being used, and for a few months everything went perfectly.

Regular classes, few cancellations – perfect!

And then, almost overnight, a client left due to a change in their work schedule. Then another had the nerve to change jobs, and ended up moving away. Imagine! Didn’t these people know that they were my power bill? My breakfast bowl of Cheerios? My kid’s next pair of socks? I was depending on ALL of my student’s payments in order to help make ends meet. If just one stopped, my little family felt it.

My first lesson learned the hard way: your clients aren’t in it for you. They are in it for them. In other words, YOUR STUDENTS WILL MOVE ON, and it will be at THEIR convenience, not yours. Be ready for it! The next few posts will help you with HOW…

Over to you… hit me with a comment! Have you ever found yourself ‘fixating?’ What did you do about it?