6 important lessons for running a profitable language school

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Being a language school owner is one of the hardest yet most rewarding roles. Would you agree?

Managing teachers, doing marketing, taking care of the finances, finding clients, maybe even still doing some of the teaching – it’s hard, it’s competitive, and it’s often lonely.

Especially because there’s so little specific business support for language CEOs who want to make their language schools more profitable and enjoyable!  

I experienced this a few years ago when I started my online English school.

As a teacher at heart, I had a lot to learn about running a business, marketing and selling courses. 

So, I experimented with TONS of strategies and methods, some good, some not so good. Eventually, after a period of 9 months, I:

  • Built a team of 7 people
  • Had 200 students 
  • Had some great onboarding processes in place
  • Had at least 2-5 new enquiries a week
  • Brought ÂŁ24,000 in profit

But in the midst of all that I spent way too much time and money on courses that didn’t bring results or the advice I wanted because the language world is so unique. 

Since then, I have worked with several language school owners facing the same challenges. 

If you’re experiencing them too, then I hope by sharing these lessons I can help you take the next step towards building a profitable language school.

Lesson #1: You can’t teach all the time

It shocks me to hear how many language school owners are still doing so much teaching several months or years after starting their businesses. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know the start of a business journey is always super messy. It simply doesn’t make sense to hire teachers before you have a certain number of students and are bringing in a certain amount of revenue. 

But when you reach those milestones, you have to realise that your time is precious. You’re no longer a teacher. You’re a CEO. So, you need to channel your energy into big-picture projects that move your business forward. 

I taught at my online academy for around 3 months before I realised it was just too draining, and I had to stop. And yes, it felt sad. But we would not have been able to achieve so much with our school if I had continued teaching for longer. 

So, whether you’ve recently started your language school or you’ve been running it for a while, if you’re still teaching lessons, you NEED to plan how you will transition away from this.

Lesson #2: You need great teachers

If you’re not doing the teaching, you obviously need other (amazing) people to do it for you. The problem for most language school owners is that this takes SO MUCH courage and letting go. 

You’ve created your school, it’s your baby, and its reputation depends on the quality of the classes. So, it makes sense that you want it to run smoothly. 

BUT! That shouldn’t stop you from stepping into your CEO identity.

So, the question is: how will you find great teachers who you trust?

And how will you communicate with them and ensure the quality of your teaching without micromanaging?

These decisions are key to making sure that everything runs well. Yes, you will have to make tough decisions. Yes, you will make mistakes. But it’s all necessary in the journey to making your language school more profitable.

Lesson #3: You need incredible offers

This might sound controversial, but I honestly believe the traditional method of studying the CEFR levels with a textbook in a classroom is outdated. 

AI-driven apps, online teaching platforms and teachers are pushing the language learning world in a new, exciting direction. And, to be completely honest, language school owners like you must adapt to the trends. 

The way you can do this is by creating new offers that stand out from your competitors and help your customers achieve specific, measurable goals over a shorter period of time. In other words, not courses that run according to the school terms (if you teach adults). 

This might sound scary and unstable, but it can actually help make your courses more in demand and your school more profitable – even during those scary summer months!

At my language school, we ran 4-month long courses for adults. They had a super low drop-off rate and people kept re-enrolling! 

Creating offers like this starts by fully understanding the people coming to your school. 

That includes:

  • Their demographics 
  • Their goals for using the language (passing an exam isn’t enough) 
  • Their problems with using the language right now

This information will provide clues of the kinds of courses you can create that will make  your school the obvious choice for your ideal students.

Lesson #4: You need to differentiate yourself

Creating shorter, more targeted language courses is a great way to differentiate your school if you’re teaching adults. 

But what if you teach kids?  

It probably makes the most sense to stick to the academic year and run classes that way. 

But think about the extra things you can add. Can you run monthly events? Organise activities? Or can you promote a unique method that no one else uses?

The kids language school market might be competitive, but I promise you that there is something unique about your school. You just have to find it!

Lesson #5: Systems are your best friend

Fact: you cannot scale a profitable language school without tons of tech. 

As a language school owner, your time is precious. You shouldn’t waste it on mundane, easily replaceable tasks like invoicing, client communication, recruitment, class lists, calendars, and so on.

All that needs to work smoothly. And honestly, it WILL work more smoothly if you let tech do it instead of your way-too-busy brain. 

I know you might not think of yourself as a super techy person, but it’s easier to implement than it seems. Trust me – so many of my clients who didn’t know how to schedule emails at first now run full-blown sales funnels. You can do it!

Lesson #6: Your finances are super important

Your finances obviously play a big role in the profitability of your language school. 

But before you can make your language school more profitable, you need to understand exactly how much it’s bringing in already. 

What’s your current cash flow? How do you plan your budget? What are your revenue goals? What are your current prices?

Finances can feel super scary, but really it’s all just one big maths equation. When you know what you’re working towards and where you’re coming from, you can calculate backwards to work out how to price your courses effectively, and how many students you’ll need to enrol or what new offers you might want to create to reach your financial goals. 

Plus, when you plan out your cash flow in advance, you can eliminate the dreaded summer worries!

Making your language school more profitable requires grit, experience, strategy and a very unique person.

But you’ve already come this far, so I have no doubt that by implementing some of these strategies, you can get closer to your financial goals. 

Want to hear more about my experience running a language school? Listen to this podcast episode