Episode 73: Am I doomed if I prefer teaching 1:1 classes ?

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Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Here’s my honest views on 1:1 language classes from a few angles: as a business coach, a teacher and a teacher trainer. Ultimately, the choice is yours but give me a chance to show you my perspective on teaching private lessons. Points/questions I cover:

  • Are you an independent freelance teacher or are you a tutor?
  • How many times have you heard that an adult client comes to a one-to-one teacher and is surprised that they even offer group lessons to adults?
  • Are you happy with the income you’re making?
  • What if a learner would thrive in a group setting?
  • Language is such a social experience that being only exposed to one model of the language may be limiting.
  • Why do we never talk about the benefits of language classes?
  • How do you market your offer?

And if you’re ready to scale up, my upcoming live workshop on the 25/02 will be perfect for you. Check it out here (https://olakowalska.com/groups)!

Thanks for tuning into the Get Richer Teacher Podcast! If you enjoyed today’s episode, head over to Apple Podcasts to subscribe, rate, and leave your honest review. Connect with me on Instagramvisit my website for even more detailed strategies, and be sure to share your favorite episodes on social media. Get your free 10 ways to find students for your language classes here.

Now, it’s time to go get richer, teacher!

Podcast transcription

Hey and welcome to The Get Richer Teacher Podcast. My name is Ola and I’ll be your guide and mentor on your way to realizing your potential as an educator. If the title of the podcast is triggering, that’s even better, because that means that I still have some work to do. My mission is to help teachers work independently and believe that they deserve more freedom and more money. 

As a teacher, you were allowed to work with your perfect students, rather than some random people, challenging how much you charge and asking why so much. If you’re ready to become a richer teacher, build and scale an independent teaching business that can support your dreams and your lifestyle, then you’re in the right place. 

The world knows that teachers are superheroes, let’s get paid what we’re worth, shall we? 

Hello, hello. All righty? So, today’s podcast is like an answer to questions that I’ve been getting recently, especially since I’ve started talking more about the difference between being a freelancer and a business owner, and I thought it’s really important to address. So, there are people who asked me whether I think they’re doomed if they prefer teaching one to one classes, and I wanted to say it: “You’re absolutely not doomed and there is nothing wrong with preferring to teach one to one classes”!, but I wanted to give you a bit of a different perspective here and reassure you as well, that it’s still your choice”. It’s still business, that’s why it’s so wonderful to have your own business, or even to be a freelancer or whatever you want. Because as long as you even or as soon as you realize that you have the choice of what you want to do, you are already free. Imagine this – you are a newly qualified teacher and your first instinct is to go look for a job, right? That’s what happens in most cases – you start working for a language school, but you have literally no control over: whether you teach groups or you teach one to one, or if you teach beginner level or advanced level. Honestly, even if you leave that kind of reality and start deciding that you only want to work one to one and only with a certain age group, there is already so much freedom in that. So, you should acknowledge that and you should be proud of yourself for making that step. So, I would never criticize or in any way bring down people who decide to teach one to one classes. 

But now, I want to go back to – how my perspective on one to one classes has been shaped and how it’s changed over the years. So, my first understanding when I first started seeing how the language world works was that a lot of teachers start their one to one classes as a way of making extra income. So, the way it works in Poland, but I’m sure everywhere else as well, is that teachers work in state education or in language schools and on the side, they also have one to one students. Very often – that was my case as well – they work in language schools, and then there is this one student who says: “Hey, but could I have private classes with you?” They say yes, whether it’s legal or not, whatever. And that’s how it starts. And then they start seeing that maybe they could do it full time. They could just work for themselves full time. And then it just happens, right? Another way is that – there are lots of teachers, not on the language teachers who tutor on the side or maybe not even on the side, they just decide –  okay, there is demand for maths, for English, for German, for whatever. Because children at school need that extra support. They need extra support with their homework, with their school material. So, they tutor, and that’s what I understand by tutoring. Tutoring is helping people or unusually school children with things that they are doing anyway in school. Right? 

So, this is the first question that I would also kind of encourage you to answer: “Are you an independent freelance teacher, or are you a tutor?” Because again, there is no right, wrong here, you just have to realize what you’re doing at the moment and where you would like to go with it. So, that’s how I’ve seen it for years and because of that, and because of how teachers usually start their freelance language teaching sort of businesses, this is the way the market sees it. So, if a teacher teaches on the wrong then it means that there are extra classes, extra curricular classes, that is a student or very often that’s also a digression, but it’s not a digression, but it’s – how many times have I heard that there is an adult client who comes to a one to one teacher, and is surprised that they even offer lessons to adults…, because they assume that if they were a one to one teacher, they teach kids, tutor kids. So, it’s also our job to show people that’s not the case, that we are freelancers and we have different, colorful, beautiful, diverse offers, right? That we don’t only tutor. So, we get to choose who we work with. So, the importance of niching, the importance of making it clear who we actually serve, becomes really, really important here. But again – okay – so let’s say that you’ve started your one to one freelance teaching, and you’re actually enjoying that, you actually don’t think that you ever want to change anything. So, you have students who thrive in one to one settings, maybe they are shy, maybe they have very specific goals – such as a job interview, or something, and they actually are totally fine with having those lessons and paying more. I will always say that one to one classes should be the most expensive of any offering that you have. If it’s the only thing, then it’s probably harder to raise the price of one to ones because you’ve got nothing to compare it to. That’s why I often and especially in The Rocket, I teach that you should have a diverse system of like diverse streams of income, because then it’s easier to diversify your price points as well. Because you can price your one to one classes as a premium service in comparison to your group classes, or to other products or services that you sell. But again – let’s say that you’re happy there, your students are happy and you’re happy. I’m not saying that you should change that. But the things that you should always be checking in with yourself – is this sustainable – Am I working in the hours that the market dictates? So, I had a client, for example, who had or has still three children, and she worked six days a week, and most of the work days that she worked, it was from 2pm to 9pm. So, she literally barely saw her kids. That’s ridiculous. So if you work in that system, ask yourself: “Is that the way I want to live my life?” Because if you teach one to one, and you do things that way, because you think “Yeah, but I like it, and my students like it, and I don’t. And I don’t know” – like, that’s definitely a reason to change things. 

Number two, I would ask yourself, if you’re actually happy with the current level of income that you’ve got, because yes, you can raise your prices and if that’s going to lead to you being more satisfied, then that’s fine. Again, Go for it! But you have to ask yourself: “Is there a limiting belief in you that if you wanted to make more money, you would have to work more?” And what if you already work a lot, you probably can’t work more. So, the only way would be raising your prices or diversifying your income in any way possible, for example: organizing group classes or even pairing your students – That was the case of that client of mine who worked from 2pm till 9pm, it just solved most of her problems. But again – Are you happy? And then the other thing is that a lot of people think …like there is always this argument right? : But my students want one to once – again I’m gonna go back to the way one to one, to the way freelance teaching is seen, I think the market in most cases and especially in non English speaking countries. So, for example, in Poland, the way it’s seen is that teachers who work independently are tutors. So, it’s associated with one to one classes. So again, if we don’t change the perception of a Lang, independent language teacher, then everybody will always think that and everybody will always come and say: “I want one to one classes”. But what if they would actually, that particular client would actually thrive in a group setting? What if? Have you ever asked yourself that, because from my experience as a teacher, and as a teacher-trainer, and as a learner as well, I never, ever thrived in one to one settings. I like groups or pairs, or some more dynamic sort of situations. I also think that people are afraid of teaching in groups, because they see it as a reminder of how things were at school. But let’s be honest, sorry, if you work independently, and you would run a group class that you may not know now how to. And you wouldn’t invite 30 people and sit them at their desks and give a lecture, right? You would do things in your own way. That is your magical sauce that you use anyway, in your one to one classes, and you would make it work. But it takes a lot of effort to show the market or your audience that there is value in that as well. Right? So the argument that students want, one to one classes is like, I feel like in a lot of teachers, they show that huge amount of fixed mindset here. So they think that because the market says that or the clients say that there is nothing they can do about it, there is honestly – I think you can do everything about it. 

Starting from your messaging to the way you present yourself to the way you market, to the way you show the benefits of groups, and even the price points, even marketing aid in the way that the price becomes more attractive. So, that’s what I think here. And then there is another side of that coin. I genuinely think that language is such a social experience, using a language is such a social experience that being only exposed to one model of the language, which is the teacher in a one to one setting may be limiting. And I’m not saying limiting for everybody, but limiting in many more cases than people think. For example, honestly, I don’t think children should be learning in a one to one setting, very subjective, but I don’t think that I think they should be learning in a group or with a peer, because they should be having fun with language. I don’t think there are many situations, there are many cases in which we can provide that fun. And very often and again – it is my opinion, so you feel free to disagree :)…But in many cases, teachers, especially in one to one settings, focus too much on input. So more words, more grammar, more something well, for kids to learn the language effectively, especially when they become adults and when the language becomes an actual necessity in their lives. They need to have confidence as a foundation of the language, not more words, honestly. But if you’re a non-league native speaker and learned language at school or as a child, do you remember words that you learned as you was a kid? No, you remember the feeling that you had when coming to a language class. That’s literally what I remember. So, I don’t think in many cases, there are probably some in which it’s still okay, but in many cases, it’s just not effective. Another thing is that very often we don’t realize how many people have very similar goals. And we could totally justify teaching them together so that they could become a springboard of ideas for each other. They could become accountable to each other. They could actually practice the language with their peers rather than with a teacher who is very often a model that they feel they could never reach. People get intimidated by the teacher very often and they won’t tell you that and they very often would use the argument over: “I would be scared to speak with other people”. In my experience, it’s very often the case that students are actually intimidated by the teacher and how well the teacher sounds. And I think we should be encouraging people much more than we do now, to practice with others who are at a similar level to them. So, “Why do we never ever talk about those benefits of language classes?”, and I know very often it takes for the teacher themselves to start believing in those benefits, and the fact that they would want to teach in that setting, to our audiences, to our potential clients, because I don’t think teachers do it enough, right? We only see it again, as if there were two extremes, one: being only one to one classes, and two: being only selling digital courses where there is no contact with the teacher, absolutely not. There is an in between, there is a way of one, organizing and managing those classes that can be beneficial for people. 

And number two, there is a way of marketing that in a confident way. So, the potential clients see how great it can be for their language progress. And it will include creativity, and it will include standing out in terms of building your offer, because it can’t just be on it. Let’s be honest, You can’t just say: “Hey, now I don’t teach one to one. So if you want to study with me, you just have to join my groups. They are on Tuesdays at 7pm and we meet weekly. And that’s it if you want to join. That’s it”. No! “That’s not how you market things.” There has to be more to it. Absolutely. But I believe that there is a way. And I’ve talked to many people that way and it worked. So, again, going back to the first question: “Are you doomed? If you only want to work one to one?” No, you’re not! You’re absolutely not! But ask yourself: “Why do you choose it? and if you’re happy with those reasons, then Perfect, Perfect, Absolutely Perfect! “Are you happy with your current work life balance or not?” Because if not, then at least cutting down on one to ones could be a way of solving this problem. If you want to make more, you have to start thinking about diversifying your income. And think about whether you actually are considering your own feelings or attitude or approach to teaching, or the things that your clients tell you. Because I’ve heard arguments that: “Oh, I’ve tried group classes, but my students told me they don’t like it” – they probably didn’t like it because you didn’t feel it. So if you don’t feel it, don’t do it! Okay. But again, just check in with yourself. And finally, by the way, if you actually want to dip your toes in group classes, in seeing how you could market group classes, in seeing if that’s something for you, if you’re willing to experiment in your freelance teaching business, if you want to give it another – try, if you want to learn another way of managing classes. 

I’ve got something super special for you. I will be running a very juicy meaty workshop on running and managing group classes. It is going to be something new, I have run in the past something that I called a profitable language course – bootcamp. And it’s going to have elements of that so if you’ve ever taken part in that, don’t worry, it’s not going to be repeated. It’s going to include elements of that, but there will be so much more. Because in this workshop, I will be telling you not only how to build a course that will be profitable, but I will also tell you how to manage so logistically, how to manage especially online a group class, I will tell you, I will give you tips on how to price it and I will show you a strategy for marketing it. So, it will be a full blown training on group lessons online for language teachers. Alright, if that sounds like something that you would want to try or try in a way that might work a little bit more effectively then you are invited. The link to the training is in the The BIO, it’s a paid training, but it is going to be extremely useful. Because I’ve been hearing this too much, and I’ve decided to do something about it. And if you have any questions, I’m obviously super open to them. So, message me on Instagram or via email. And otherwise, I hope to see you there. Again, if you want to stay with one to one, it’s totally fine. You’re not the worst teacher. If you do, you’re not less. Your work is not less valuable, okay? The only thing you have to do is to ask yourself about your goals and check in with yourself about your current situation. Because very often people get stuck on autopilot. If you’re not stuck on autopilot. And you just want to work for yourself in that way, and shape and pattern that you’re working at the moment and it’s working for you. Go for it. Okay, Go for it. 

Thank you so much for today. I hope to see you in training. If you feel called to sign up and see you next week. 

It’s not your fault that you don’t know how to make good money as a teacher or how to market your teaching. Nobody’s ever taught you but I’m on a mission to change that. Teachers make the world a better place and they can be excellent at business. They just need direction. That’s what I’m giving you here and on my YouTube channel under the same name. Make sure that you also follow me on Instagram @ola_coaches_teachers and check out my website www.olakowalska.com to see if any of my paid offers, including my one-to-one coaching, my business foundation course The Rocket or my membership for teachers in business could be the right fit for you. 

I’ll see you soon in the next episode.