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How I started my own online English teaching business

How I started my own online English teaching business

Former tour manager and Global English TESOL graduate Sharon Kivity explains how she re-invented herself during lockdown and now teaches English online.

We asked Sharon how she got started, her strategy for attracting new students and for any tips for those thinking of doing the same thing…

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What first led you to get interested in teaching English? How did this combine with your work in tourism?

Inspired by an early passion for languages, I did French and Italian at University and funded my studies by escorting group tours round Europe as a tour manager, and by teaching English, both!

To shine as a tour manager, you need to be good with people. You need to enthuse and inspire them, about history, culture, food etc. It’s an educational experience but you want it to be memorable and create meaning and structure - as you do with students.  You also need empathy and patience. So, when I did my Global English TESOL course in 2016, I realised I had transferable skills.

What happened post COVID?

2020 was going to be one of my busiest years, with tours worldwide but with everything cancelled, I decided to turn this around.  I started offering free online lessons to Italians (most of my tours are in Italy). It was very intense, but it was also hugely enjoyable at a difficult time for everybody. And I was delighted that most of my students decided to stay with me after the free period had elapsed.

Tell me about your exciting new venture.

Marketing myself online was a challenge, especially as I don’t use Instagram and Twitter etc. But the experience of teaching during lockdown led to paying students and I am now going ‘official’, launching my own website to get more students.

Lessons will still be customised - that’s very important to me and my students - but during and since my course with Global English TESOL, I have built up a wealth of materials and I have also learned how to adapt a generic lesson plan to different proficiency levels and different established needs.

What's been the most challenging aspect of starting out on your own?

To leave tourism behind was hard and it’s challenging to reinvent yourself in your older years, especially when you have to get to grips with technology. But everyone has been really encouraging and I am very excited! A lot of older people might find themselves in a similar position, so online TESOL could be a really good option. Younger people, too could benefit if their careers have been jeopardised by the pandemic.

How do you intend to get new students, promote yourself as a teacher?

Through my new website I am offering a free trial lesson to encourage students to transition into paid lessons. I’ve also offered a free booklet on a confusing aspect of grammar. To download it, you need to join my email list to get a short series of brief communications from me (but not bombardment!). This should gradually build up my student base. But the main thing is word of mouth through former and current students and some international links through both family and tourism. I have asked everyone to help promote me through their own contacts, Facebook etc. These are simple first steps. I will re-assess and develop new strategies as needed.

What would you advise others considering this for themselves?

Be yourself! If you are comfortable with generating blogs, videos etc, great! If not, just take small, manageable steps, as I am.

Really listen to student needs and address their challenges. One of my students works in steel gadget procurement; I wasn’t even sure what this was and felt quite daunted! But, we clarified that she wanted to improve her work-related English with a view to getting a new job. It was surprisingly easy for me to find relevant vocabulary and even videos about the subject, as well as doing interviews, role plays and so on. All it needed was to listen to her, not to try to become an expert in her field.

In conclusion, if you feel comfortable with yourself, and you respond to your students’ needs, they will feel comfortable with you.

Thank you, Sharon. We wish you every success.

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  • Author: William Bradridge
  • Date: Friday 23rd October 2020

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How I started my own online English teaching business