Business, CPD, ELT, Freelancing

How much should I charge?

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In my post Now What? (part 2), I left you with this FAQ that I’ve seen on several groups I follow. It is a common issue for freelancers in many fields, not only in the ELT industry.

0.43 seconds. This is the time it took to get the staggering number of 11,300,000 results to the question How much should I charge? 

You can tell by that figure that there are thousands of blogs and articles offering advice. So I asked myself, what could I possibly say about that?

I decided to take a different approach. I’ll start talking about 3 pretty common, yet BAD, ideas that may tempt you when you set your price, and why you shouldn’t even try them.

Then, I’ll share my recommendations on the subject, and what I say when someone asks me that question.

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1: Pulling a number out of thin air.

If you charge per hour, I bet you’ve started with a number, either based on how much a colleague is charging, or a number that somehow makes sense to you, and stuck with it.

Here’s the thing, you shouldn’t pick a random number based on a few hunches without analyzing your costs, your niche, and doing some planning, otherwise your price will be off and you risk losing money in the end.

 2: Reducing your rates too much to compete in your market in order to secure more students.

You have a full schedule and feel happy – at first. You’re teaching 10 -12 hours a day to make enough to live comfortably. After many months doing this, you’re exhausted. Now you realize that working so much has a cost, and the pay doesn’t seem to cover it. Guess what? It never will! That’s why you need to get it right from the start.

3: Not being prepared for a meeting with a prospect.

When you meet a prospect student, you have to be prepared. You have to know all you can about that person. Where they’ve come from, where they are now, and where they wish to go. Without this preparation, you may seem hesitant and lacking in professional authority. They will see that you are hesitant, unprepared, they may ask for a discount and you will either say yes or you will lose that student because you didn’t prepare.

How can you find out about the student’s needs and goals? You have to do a needs analysis. I like to do it during my initial interview, preferably in English, unless the student is a beginner. I don’t charge for this interview. It’s a way to introduce myself, offer my services, and to get to know the student. (more on that later)

Remember, you have a business now – closing deals is part of your job.

So, now that you’ve seen some bad ideas, let’s answer the main question. For that we need to see the bigger picture.

Think about the value you offer, your costs to deliver it, then

put a price on it

Try doing it as an exercise. Just like when you’re creating a lesson. It’s like with any other planning. You need the elements and then you put all the parts together. Grab a piece of paper and jot down a few things: Think about your value, how much you’ve invested in yourself to get where you are – the courses, degrees, etc, the costs you have, and then finally decide on your price or rate. Here’s a quick explanation:

Your Value

Your experience, the investments you’ve made on your CPD (courses you’ve taken, books you’ve purchased, professional events you’ve attended, etc.), all fuel the solutions you develop and bring to your students! If you deliver results, testimonials will follow. This is worth a lot!

Your Operational Costs & Unpredictable Expenses

We have fixed costs (utilities, rent, subscriptions, etc.) and variable costs (wages if you have a secretary or assistant, materials you print on occasion, etc.)

Unpredictable expenses: Any business will have those. Replacing or fixing old equipment, purchasing new materials for class, furniture, etc.

Look up the terminology: variable costs and fixed costs. It will help you. Think about creating a business plan if you don’t have one yet. (Check these links on my post. They may help you.)

Your Market

Are you restricted to a city? A country? Are you global? The larger your market, the more people you can reach, and more importantly, you’ll be able to reach the right students who are more willing to  pay according to your value. When you expand, you can choose your students. Not the other way around. You need to know your market in order to realistically determine your price.

Your Niche

Identifying your niche will help you see your place in the teaching market more clearly. It is easier to put a price on something that you can easily describe. For example, if you teach IELTS preparation courses it’ll be easy to say how long it’ll take them to get their target score and all the specifics involved. On the other hand, if you don’t have a niche and you teach just about anyone who contacts you, then it’ll be harder for you to set either a timeframe or price that aligns with your student’s needs and the type of classes they need. It’ll require a lot of experience, trials and errors to get it right.

 Your Savings

Any good plan involves being prepared for the future. Even though freelancers often work harder than 9-5 employees, we’re probably more likely to skip taking the vacation time we all need to recharge. In order for us to enjoy those days at the beach we must set some money aside. There are also unpredictable events such as sickness, accidents, and making payments towards retirement. We can’t forget that! These have to be accounted for in our hourly rate too.

Final Thoughts

Measure twice, cut once. When it comes to pricing your lessons or your services, this axiom fits perfectly. Don’t be hasty. Think about it carefully. Take it all into consideration. It will pay off. (Pun intended.)

Be careful about offering promotions, discounts and lowering your price too much without reflecting on the bigger picture. Remember we have bills to pay and we have to account for sick days too!

Show your prospects what you can do for them before you talk about price. Offer to meet with them for free. Not a free class. A free meeting. Show them you have a plan (a solution) to help them reach their goal (solve their problem). Then they’ll see your value. Now you can tell them your price.

So, next time someone asks you that question, just say, Do you have an email for me to send you some information about my services? How about we schedule a free meeting to discuss your needs?

PS. Food for thought: Here’s a less than 9 min TedTalk on Knowing your Worth by Casey Brown

‘Till next time! Thanks for reading!

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CPD, ELT, Freelancing

Drowning in information? Grab a buoy!

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In order to make smart decisions about your business and your students you need to be well-informed. So you think, well, I’ll just ask for help on Facebook or Google it. And what happens next? You either get tons of mixed answers that don’t usually work, and sometimes they make you even more lost than when you started. Why is that?

I believe seeking knowledge is of the utmost importance to any freelancer or teacher’s development. However, not all information may be beneficial to us as you must’ve realized. We’ll need to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Yet, we have to know what’s going on around us so we understand what the market is looking for. We need to anticipate our clients’ needs and see the gaps in our market so we know what to offer. This knowledge will give us the advantage we need. This is the wheat.

So you need to stop wasting time with distracting information that is not useful to your current growth and development as a person, professional and teacher.

Here’s a quick guide with suggestions to help you through it.buoy

Ask these questions before you say yes to all that comes to you every day.

Videos/ Webinars

Does this video/webinar have a catchy/interesting title but I have no idea what it’s really about?

If you have no idea what it’s about, there’s a chance you’ll be wasting your time (I’ve been there). I suggest you do a quick research on the speaker/host, their background, and subject discussed before you watch it.

Do I know how I can apply the knowledge to make my business or lessons better?

Once I signed up for a series of videos to find out I had no clue what the teacher was talking about. It was way beyond what I was prepared for. It was a humbling experience. I wasted time, but learned a valuable experience. With so much free content available it’s easy to lose track of where you are and where you need to go. It’s not really free if you’re giving away your time and getting nothing in return. After all, time is your most precious commodity!

Make sure you know what you’re choosing. Check the content, the subject, before you click “join”. Remember, it’s about whom and what you’re learning for. 

Articles/Texts

Is it relevant to my learners, or my current career stage?

If the topic is something interesting, but not relevant, say one of your student needs help with his listening skills and you found a great article on writing skills. We teachers love reading, and we just can’t help ourselves, but it’s not what you need at the moment, is it? Easy! Save it and read it later. Time management is a must for freelancers. So, focus and move on!

Books

Start with the books you already own.

This seems obvious, but before you start looking for ebooks or books to purchase or download, you should organize your bookshelves and your computer. I like to separate them by topics and how they’ll help my career, my business and my students.

This will save you a lot of time.

It’s the same idea as when you get ready to go grocery shopping. If you can’t see what’s in your fridge, you might buy or spend time looking for something you already had, but couldn’t see.

For example, let’s say you have your books separate into Business, Linguistics and ELT. You can further divide them into smaller categories,  and then you can see what you need to buy according to your interests, your learners’ needs, and so on.

This way, if you need a book on writing skills for IELTS, you know if what you have is good enough or if you need to purchase something more specific. Like when a student asked me last week for a romance book to read. It’s filed under ‘ELT, ‘readers’, and her level B1. It took me a couple mins to find it.

Download free samples before you decide to buy a book.

One thing I do and recommend, is to download free samples to see if the content matches your expectations.  You can try: Amazon and ibooks. More and more websites are offering free samples of chapters or pages. Check out if the book you want is available.

Last but not least → Create a study plan or CPD plan for yourself the same way you create a business plan.

The same way you invest in your business, you must invest in yourself. You have to study and be prepared for the challenges and changes in the market and in the world.

Start with a simple plan dividing your goals into areas in which you need to improve. Be specific. The more the better.  Examples: Teaching listening skills lessons, Teaching pronunciation (connected speech), Assessing student’s progress in speaking lessons, Prospecting new students, Discussing money with my students, etc. Don’t worry about the language. Phrase it as you wish. Make it as simple as you want it to be.

When you are specific you can face what’s troubling you and tackle those issues, one by one. You’ll have more clarity. Find a system that works for you. You can use numbers, colors, or any rating scale you prefer. (I chose colors.) Now, its time you gave each item a grade.

eg. Teaching Listening skills lessons – RED

RED Needs Attention  

YELLOW Improving

GREEN Going Well

You can then go further, dig deeper, and ask yourself: what exactly is wrong about my teaching? Is it one of the stages of my lessons? Can it be a problem related to pronunciation and connected speech affecting my student’s comprehension? Is the task to difficult? Fire away the questions! Keep them coming!

Next, you’re ready to search for answers online, in books, webinars, or ask for help on how to improve it. You’ll be focused and ready to dive in and find the answer in this ocean of information because you’ll be better informed of what to look for.

Thanks for reading! ‘Till next time!

1:1, Business, CPD, Freelancing

Now what? (part 2)

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In my previous post I proposed a reflection to put you on the right track to become a successful freelance teacher. Once you define the who, where, what, and how to start your teaching business, it’s time you thought about the more practical aspects involved. It’s time we talked about money.

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I don’t know about you, but I was never very interested in numbers, let alone finance. If you’re like me, you’ll know what I mean.

For you to succeed as a freelancer, however, it’ll be really useful to understand where your money is going. Not only will it help you run your business more efficiently, but you’ll also know when/how much to save and invest back into your business.

If you feel overwhelmed, you should hire an accountant straight away. At the very beginning, though, you may not need to do that depending on your income, where you live, and the tax laws in your country.

For those of us in Brazil we have the option of becoming a Micro Entrepreneur (MEI) and we can register online for free. In addition, there’s SEBRAE, a non-profit entity which offers free advice over the phone and in person for small business owners. They are pretty helpful. For Americans, The US government (SBA) offers a similar service. Their 10-step guide is worth checking out.

Regardless of our location, what we all need is to be informed.

See what’s available in your town. If there’s not much where you live, start by checking the online courses posted below. There are many other courses to choose from.

The point is, we have to know more about our business, our clients, our market, and all the legal requirements to operate. We have to pay our taxes, and think about our retirement as well. Without this knowledge we may not last long and we’ll lose money for sure.

To give you a better idea, I made a list of expenses that should help you see where your money goes.

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  1. What are your costs to get to your students? (Include transport & time);
  2. If you work from home, make sure you include: electricity (e.g. A/C adds a lot to our monthly bills in Brazil), internet, monthly subscriptions like ZoomOff2Class, or any other service related to your classes;
  3. Materials you buy: books, tools, paper, ink, anything you purchase and use in class;
  4. Paid courses you take for your advancement, paid events you participate in, CPD (Continuing Professional Development) investments in general;
  5. If you have your own website, add the costs with domain & hosting to the list;

We’ve just scratched the surface here. This list includes your overhead expenses like utilities, others like investing in your CPD, and of course you should account for the unpredictable expenses like fixing or replacing broken equipment, or not being able to work when you get sick. You need to be prepared. You need to have a business plan, a contingency plan in place.

I suggest you try one of the courses below to learn more about business and finance. I recommend these online platforms: Coursera and Future Learn. Coursera offers many paid programs, but you can audit almost any individual course for free. Just search the catalog using the course title, click enroll, and a window will pop up. You’ll see at the bottom of the screen “audit the course”.

Entrepreneurship – Wharton/ Coursera

Entrepreneurship Strategy – HEC Paris/Coursera

Starting a Business – University of Leeds/Future Learn

Next, I’ll talk about a FAQ: How much should I charge?

How would you answer that?

Thanks for reading! ‘Til next time!

 

1:1, Business, ELT, Freelancing, Online Teaching

Now what? (part 1)

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I know the feeling. The excitement when you realize you found something you think is going to work for you. I’ve felt like that many times. The last one was with Pilates. I took a trial lesson, thought it was great, and then signed up for a month. I then did it for a few more months and stopped. Before that were my art lessons, which I truly enjoyed! I took 3 courses in a period of a year and a half and that was it. Fast forward a few years, and now I have tons of paint, brushes, paper, etc, all gathering dust in my drawers and boxes.

What’s that got to do with freelancing, you may ask? Well, it’s about commitment.

These are examples of things I really liked doing and I still quit them! The difference is that these were hobbies, not what I chose to do as my sole source of income.

Things will come at you when you least expect, so you must be prepared for them if you want to thrive (or survive) as a freelance. If you’re serious about making it a career for yourself, you can’t approach it as something you’re doing just to make some extra cash on the side. You need a plan.

So, how do you start?

I will start by asking you some questions and later I’ll answer them myself, based on my own experience. (I invite you to post your answers below in the comments).

1. Being Professional

Do you feel prepared to teach? Have you been formally trained? If not, do you know how to find the help you need? Do you know about any free opportunities to develop as a teacher? How about paid development/training courses for teachers?

2. Defining your niche

Who would you like to teach? Who wouldn’t you like to teach? Have you thought about that? Would you be teaching 1:1, groups, online, face-to-face?

3. Finding your workspace

Where are you teaching: at the student’s place, yours, online? Would you a rent a space?

4. Course Creation  (materials, lesson planning, syllabi, etc.)

Can you produce your own materials? Do you know how to create a syllabus that will address your student’s needs? Can you write your own lesson plans? Would you use a coursebook? If you say yes, do you know how to choose a suitable coursebook? How can you adapt coursebook lessons? If you teach online, can you still use a coursebook? Should you? Would you change your online course format? How about ESP lessons?

5. Assessing your students’ progress

How are you going to assess your learner’s progress? Are quizzes and tests enough? How else can you check if they’re learning? Where would you find tests/quizzes/ rubrics? Do you know how to make/use a rubric? How often are you going to assess your learners? How should you assess pronunciation? How can you assess writing? What if the classes are online? What changes?

In my view this is how a (freelance) teacher must start. By asking questions and being curious, we should look for answers and ask for help. This is the way to grow, learn and become better teachers. We have to keep asking questions. Freelance teachers have to ask more questions and be even more proactive.

There are many puzzles to be solved as there are questions to be considered regarding course creation, methodology, assessment and so on. These are just some that came to mind.

Next, we need to talk about the business, marketing and PR side of freelancing.

Do share what you think. I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

1:1, Freelancing, Online Teaching

Ready to Sail?

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover”. – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

I chose this quote to start blogging because it represents how I feel about my career choices and how I feel in general about life.

There are many things we don’t do in life because we’re afraid to even try. We don’t dare. We think we can’t do it and we believe in that inner voice that gives us bad advice sometimes. And then we think too much. We wait, we wait, and then we realize that chance is gone.

What happens then? We regret it. Many times we do make the right choice, but other times we didn’t even try to see if we were right. But, how can we know if we don’t try?

If those words make sense to you perhaps it’s because you are at a point in life where you are thinking about shaking things up a bit, am I right?

I won’t lie to you. The journey ahead won’t be easy at times. You may want to give up. You’ve been warned. Many have and many will. But if you don’t, and you do succeed, it can be truly freeing and rewarding because it will all be because of YOU. Your choices, your decisions and your hard work.

One important thing I’ve learned is that you are not alone.

You don’t have to go through it alone. There is a huge community of people out there willing to help you grow and learn. Just like me. I’ll talk more about it in my next posts.

But first things first. You have to ask yourself: am I ready to be my own boss? Am I ready to be patient and wait to see results? Can I afford to wait? Do I have the people skills to negotiate with my clients about money, payments, and all of the financial obligations involved and still keep a good teacher-student relationship? How about marketing? Think about all of these questions. Don’t rush to answer them yet.

On this blog I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learned as a freelance teacher, teaching groups, 1:1, face2face and online, and I’ll also give you some tips on how to develop your own skills as a teacher.

Until next time you can watch me chatting with my colleagues Cecilia Nobre & Lachesis Braick about some of those issues here:  https://www.facebook.com/cecilia.nobre/videos/10155373202091447/?t=40