Ola Kowalska

How to Choose the Best Language Teaching Business Model for You

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Starting a language teaching business is simultaneously the most exciting and scary decision you can make. 

Exciting because finally!! You get to enjoy the freedom of teaching on your own terms. Scary because your teacher training course didn’t teach you the marketing and sales skills needed for being an independent teacher. 

And while you know that your skills can make money, you need to actually learn how to package, market and sell them. 

BUT! Before you can do that, you must decide what type of business you want to build. Because there are at least four different language teaching business models to choose from. And these can completely influence how you operate and make money.

Ready to find out which one is for you? Let’s dive in!

The Freelance Teacher Model

The freelance model is where many language teachers start when they leave their full-time teaching jobs. It’s basically where you work for yourself as an independent contractor and find your own students. 

You may be wondering how you find students as a freelancer? There are many ways: 

  • Professional or personal connections 
  • Word-of-mouth referrals 
  • Teaching platforms (like iTalki or Preply) 
  • Freelance contracts with language schools

Freelancers usually teach a mix of students at different levels, of different ages and with different goals. Mostly on a 1:1 basis. 

Some teachers really love the variety of this approach. Others feel limited by the lack of flexibility (yep, it’s true – even freelancers are bound by a schedule!) and the income cap. Not to mention its stop-start nature!

Being a freelance language teacher doesn’t have to be stressful, though! You can run a sustainable business when you learn the foundations of marketing. Let me teach you how!

The Service Provider Model

This is the business model many of my clients and I have. 

It’s people who offer a service in exchange for money. In my case, that’s business coaching programs for language teachers and coaches. In your case, that could be language classes or courses for a specific group of students.

This model gives you TONS more freedom than the freelance model, because it allows you to offer more than traditional language lessons. 

What do I mean by that? Well, many teachers create their own signature online language courses that they run several times per year, which means they can help more students in less time. Many service providers also launch digital products to meet other learning needs AND create more income streams. 

Freelance teachers can obviously do all of this too. The biggest difference between freelancers and service providers is that whereas freelance teachers generally use platforms to find students, service providers do much more hands-on marketing work to attract students to THEM.

Scary? I know. It’s true that there is a lot to learn to do this effectively. But I can tell you that it is possible to learn it all. And that’s exactly what I teach you in my programs the Rocket Fuel and the Rocket Accelerator!

The Teacher Influencer Model

Influencer teachers are teachers who have built huge audiences on social media. Think something like over 50,000 followers. They usually post language content with useful words, phrases and grammar explanations, which gets tons of engagement from learners from all over the world. 

Because of this, many teachers will look at influencers and think they have figured everything out and must be making loads of money. But followers don’t equal success.

BUT here’s the thing: the influencer teacher model is completely different to the freelance/service provider models. And it has its own challenges. 

First, a large audience generally means a diverse audience, which means it’s harder to create and sell a program with a tangible goal because everyone’s goal is different!

Second, free language content like this usually attracts a certain type of student, who is interested in the language but not paying for it. So they may have a big audience, but it may also be hard to monetise. 

So how can influencer teachers make money?

One way is to create more general, lower-priced offers that serve a bigger audience. This could be courses, memberships or digital products. But it’s usually not live lessons because the main bulk of their work is creating content. 

Another option is to sell advertising space on their social media platforms to big language learning companies who want to get their products in front of a large audience. 
Got a big audience that you want to monetise? My 1:1 coaching program, Fly, will show you exactly how to do that in a way that works for you.

The Language School Model

Finally, if you have grown a thriving business and you want to scale, you may want to set up a language school. 

This is usually a progression from the freelance or service provider model. It comes once you have a strong online presence, more demand than you can handle and established methods and processes you can easily share with other teachers. AKA it’s a long-term goal!!

If and when you decide to start a language school, you will need to choose which specific model you want, because there are many. For example:

  • Traditional brick-and-mortar schools
  • Online language schools 
  • Exam preparation schools 
  • Corporate language training providers 
  • Language travel schools 

Each of these has different requirements and challenges that take a special kind of person to navigate. If you’re interested, you can read more about that here

Want support with setting up a language school? Read about Fly, my 1:1 coaching program where I help you turn your ideas into action.

How do you choose the right language teaching business model?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question because everyone is different. But consider your situation and your goals.

Signs that you’re best suited to the freelance teacher model:

  • You enjoy the stability of teaching platforms and don’t mind the pay if it means you get students without having to do much marketing
  • You like working with a lot of different students and don’t want to explore the idea of running group courses
  • You don’t want to run or scale a full-blown business (even if it’s just you)

Signs that you’re best suited to the service provider model:

  • You would love to create and sell your own courses 
  • You are excited (even if a bit scared) about learning marketing and sales skills
  • You want to eliminate the earning cap and see how far you can go 

Signs that you’re best suited to the influencer teacher model:

  • You have a big (or rapidly growing) audience 
  • You love creating content and want to dedicate lots of time to that 
  • You would rather sell low-priced digital products and courses than higher-ticket offers

Don’t forget that your business model can evolve over time as your business grows and changes.

Which language teaching business model are you using?

I would love for you to tell me by sending me a message on Instagram

And if you want my support in taking the next steps in your business, here’s how we can work together:

Freelance language teachers: Check out my 6-week marketing bootcamp to secure students asking about your lessons daily, the Rocket Fuel

Service providers: Scale beyond 1:1s, and build a sustainable business with a fabulous group course with my 6-month coaching program, the Rocket Accelerator.

Influencer teachers/schools: Enquire about my 1:1 coaching program and let’s build your business with a plan that works for you.