CPD, ELT, Freelancing, Online Teaching

Sharing and growing

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It’s been a while since my last post. I left you with my advice and encouragement to take risks, expose yourselves and dare. Write, submit proposals, and let it shine.

That’s what I did. I came back from BRAZ-TESOL International Conference, which took place in Caxias do Sul, RS, Brazil, from July 19th-22nd.

We had presenters from many parts of the country, as well as from other nations, and I was one of them.

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Being there meant a lot to me because it is the culmination of a series of steps I’ve carefully taken in my career and education to develop and grow.

5 years ago I was not even teaching English. I was living in the US doing something completely different; I had been away from a classroom for years and teaching seemed like a distant memory . Now fast-forward to 2018 and here I am: presenting at an international conference, sharing what I’ve learned and learning from some of the most prestigious names in ELT in Brazil and abroad.

My talk was about how to bridge a gap between teacher and learners in an online setting. My focus was on how to build rapport and make sure your lesson is successful. By successful I meant connecting with your students as if you were face-to-face. I also talked about how we teachers have our own prior beliefs and biases regarding online teaching and how we can overcome that.

Now, let me take you to the last day of the conference when I gave my presentation. I arrived early and I’d made sure I had saved the presentation to the cloud (Google Drive & Dropbox for good measure), plus I had it in my email, and in a memory stick. Everything was perfect until I found out that I lacked one thing: a cable to connect my Mac to the school’s projector! *Gasp*

You’d think I would be panicking, but I wasn’t. I guess I knew that someone in this great community of teachers would help me. Do I advise coming unprepared? No! Not at all! But at BRAZ-TESOL I knew I was among friends. In the end a teacher I had just met the day before offered to lend me a cable _and_ clicker! He not only lent me his equipment, but installed everything and I was ready and set 15 minutes before my talk! Thanks Hulgo Freitas!

My final thoughts and advice

  • Come Prepared!

Don’t count on someone like Hulgo, because you may not be as lucky as I was. (I already bought cables and a clicker!)

  • Ask More Experienced Speakers for Advice or Feedback.

After my talk I was a bit upset because I had to rush a bit towards the end. The reason that happened was that I had 40 minutes total and I didn’t account for that. I thought I’d have extra time for Q&A. Another reason is that people started asking questions towards the end and that was was because of the way I presented the information. I started with the theory and moved to practical and real examples last. So I talked to an experienced speaker, Luiz Otávio Barros. He told me to trim the talk to about 30′ so I’d have an extra 10’ to account for questions, rehearse it until I nail it and to start with what the audience wants to hear: the practical and real examples. Once I have their attention and interest, the rest of my talk should go smoothly. The theory can come last to support my examples, and by the end of the talk everyone will have asked their questions and gotten their answers. Great advice, isn’t it?

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes or To Look Silly.

Your proposal was accepted because you have something worthy to say. Don’t worry if something goes wrong during your presentation like a glitch with your slides, the Internet or if you stutter. Be authentic. You know your stuff. That’s why you’re there! So long as you prepare for your talk and possible questions, no one will care about those things. Your posture, your confidence and how you handle yourself will matter most.

What’s next?

For me, I’ll get a second chance! I’ll be presenting the same talk in São Paulo on September 7th, at BrELT on The Road 2018. How great is that? I’ll listen to Luiz’s advice. He said he’ll try to watch my next talk! No pressure there, huh?

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How about you? What advice do you have for presenters?

Thanks for reading & ’til next time!

 

PS. Here’s more about my talk and if you’re interested, there’s still time to register!  It’ll be a great event. Hope to see you there!

Online Teaching: Overcoming The Distance and Delivering a Successful Lesson

In this talk, I will share tips to overcome the most common problems in synchronous learning: adaptability, struggle (teacher and students alike), computer literacy, discipline and motivation, and credibility.

Teachers will be presented with solutions to choose and adapt the right material to their learners; the most common platforms used for online teaching; tips on how to build rapport, engage students and bridge the distance gap between them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1:1, CPD, ELT, Entrepreneurialship, Freelancing, Learning, Online Teaching

Let it shine!

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One of the things that kept me from blogging for years was fear of exposure. Once your words are out anyone can hear them. Some ears will be kind but others won’t, and that’s OK.

I also used to ask myself these questions: What am I going to write about? There are so many blogs about teaching, ELT and freelancing, already.

There is another version of that. When there was an ELT event approaching, and colleagues asked me if I would submit a proposal, that same inner voice would strike again: What am I going to talk about? Who will want to listen to me? Or, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before? Etc.

Have you had these thoughts? Have you heard other teachers say that?

This way of thinking can be more harmful than it might seem. When we ask these questions, we are usually comparing ourselves with other people. What we fail to realize is that we each have a voice and our own experience to share. When we teach a lesson, it’s never the same no matter how many times we do it over. So, why would that be different than when we write from our perspective or give a talk?

When someone writes about a topic, or gives a lecture, they’ll bring into light not only the theoretical aspects about it but also their unique view on that subject. We each experience teaching differently. Some made that a career choice before College, while others embraced it later in life after graduating in a different field, such as myself. For this and many other intrinsic reasons, we will have different stories to tell.

Your story, impressions and views on a subject will be yours only.


Don’t wait any longer. Get ready!

Here’s a list of pros to give you that push so you can start writing and submitting proposals to that conference, or event you may be shying away from:

  • The world can benefit from your knowledge. You may say: Oh, but that has been said many times! Maybe, but has it been said by you? Your way, from your perspective? What if you see it through an angle that no one has seen before? How can you know it if you don’t try? It’s like the saying goes, you’re failing before even trying!
  • Promote your business or services to a broader audience. If you hide, who will know about you besides those close to you, your friends and family? You can potentially reach anyone on the planet who sees your website, blog or hear you at a conference, webinar, etc.
  • PLN (Professional Learning Network). It is a good idea to spend some of your online time with other professionals who share your goals. For English teachers, I recommend the following Facebook groups: BrELT – Brazil’s English Language Teachers, Private English Teachers Reloaded, Women in ELT and Global Innovative Language Teachers. Twitter is still going strong for you to make new ELT connections, exchange ideas and chat with professionals and learn about scholarship opportunities, courses, webinars, and so on.
  • Advance in your career. By writing or participating in events as a speaker, you will be taking your teaching career to another level.  The good news is that you can find support from experienced teachers to assist you with all the steps from writing your proposal to preparing your first presentation. Check with the event’s organizers.

Find more help here: From Tesol.org: Tips on Writing Proposals
Alex Tamuli’s excellent webinar on:  Presentation Skills For Teachers


 

Let me share something with you. I gave my first talk in 2017. Yes, last year! Here’s the opening slide that started it all.

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I had total support from experienced colleagues from BrELT who organized this wonderful event called BrELT on the Road  bringing together teachers who only met online on Facebook to a live event held in Rio de Janeiro.

I was a first time speaker, so I was helped during the entire process. From writing the proposal, to rehearsing my presentation and getting a personal call from Bruno Andrade, the Group’s founder himself who watched my talk and offered me his feedback! How wonderful was that!? In the end I felt energized, happy and accomplished. Some of the teachers who attended my session were beginners, but some were experienced as well. They came to me after the presentation and asked me questions. It felt great! And to think that I almost didn’t do it because, oh well, what could I possibly say that someone hadn’t said before?

My advice? Choose a topic with which you’re familiar. Something you know very well, and have tested again and again. It’ll give you the confidence you need.

By sharing what we know, we can help other people avoid making the same mistakes we made. We can also shed new light onto an old issue.


 

OK, we all know that sunny days won’t last forever. Some clouds will move in eventually. There will be rainy days. It’s just part of life. In order to succeed as a writer and speaker, you will need to hone your skills like any other professional, but you’ll also need to work on your emotional intelligence. With exposure, comes constructive as well as destructive criticism.  There are all kinds of people out there reading what we write and watching us. That shouldn’t stop us. If you receive destructive criticism, it should serve as fuel to make you write even more! If that happens to you, don’t get bothered with that. Carry on!

Constructive feedback on the other hand is great and should be welcome! It’ll make you a better teacher, writer, lecturer and so on.

We should think the same way when we get to a position when we can offer feedback. First of all, we must ask ourselves, was it solicited? We shouldn’t assume the other person wants our feedback! Instead, we can reach them via inbox if we really mean to help. Remember the feedback I received after my first talk? My colleague contacted me in private and asked me if I wanted his feedback. That’s the way to do it.

I’ll leave you with a picture from my first talk, and it would make me really happy to hear that you have taken the first step to write, or to submit a proposal. I will be giving my 2nd talk this July at BRAZ-TESOL International Conference in Caxias do Sul, Brazil. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had the support of friends and colleagues to have my proposal accepted yet again. I took the first step, but I also asked for help. Don’t be shy. This is my advice. Teachers are generous. Ask and you shall receive!

Thanks for reading. Till next time!

 

You can find the slides for my presentation here.

“Transitioning to Freelance Teaching: Do’s and Don’ts” (BrELT on The Road, Rio, 2017)

 

 

 

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

Burnout

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Have you become cynical or critical at work?
Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers or students*?

These are some of the questions you should ask yourself according to the article “Job burnout: How to spot it and take action” (Sept. 17, 2015), by the Staff at the highly-regarded Mayo Clinic, to discover if you’re at risk of burning out or not. (*I purposefully changed the words ‘customers or clients’ to ‘students.’) If you said yes to any of those questions, then this post should help you.

(For the complete article and more information on the subject, check the links at the end of the post.)

Accumulating responsibilities is easy. For freelance teachers, it gets more complicated because we also handle all the administrative and pedagogical aspects of our business. Besides, there’s our professional development, our families and so on. How do we find time for everything? We want to believe we can do it all, but we can’t. So we start neglecting something here, something there. Instead of slowing down, we keep pushing to the breaking point. The good news is that you can prevent it from happening with a few changes in your routine. 

This past week, a freelance teacher asked in a FB group how many hours we worked in a week. The answers varied. Some worked between 5-6 hours a day. Most teachers said that this number was ideal, but since they also worked part-time at schools, they pulled between 8-10h total. There were those who worked 10-12 hours a day, including the person who asked the question. All of those who worked 8+ hours complained about exhaustion. The chance these individuals burn out is real unless they rethink their busy schedule.

Work overload is one of the causes of burnout syndrome. In our profession, much like in healthcare, it’s important to remember that we must help ourselves before we can help other people. We, educators, tend to say yes and help everyone, worry about our learners as we should, but to what extent? There is a balance that we must keep. We can’t go so far as to make ourselves sick! How can we help anyone or make a difference in anyone’s life if we’re bedridden?

What can you do not to fall into this trap? 

1. Set Achievable Goals

Watch the number of hours you commit to work per week. Don’t push yourself too hard! Maybe you can do it for a few months to save some money for a trip, to buy something, but don’t do it for a long time. You’ll regret it, and you’ll get sick!

 

2. Learn to Say No

Sometimes you think you know it all, but when you least expect it, you’ll be reminded about the core values in your life. Turning down that job offer that will cost you two hours of sleep, or saying no to another private student so that you can have time to exercise, may be good ideas for your mental and physical health in the long run. 

 

3. Take Care of Yourself

We neglect ourselves when we are stressed. We’re the last ones on our to-do list. So, make sure you add a “Me time” to your schedule every week. Go out, do something you like. If you work from home, go out! Take a walk and see people, get a massage, go to the movies, get a drink with a friend or a loved one, do something nice for yourself! If you go to your students and prefer to stay in and rest, take a nap, order some food, watch TV, just don’t check emails or deal with work-related issues!

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4. Reduce the Stressors in Your Life

Here are some examples:

  • Giving yourself unrealistic deadlines will only cause stress. 

Telling yourself that you’ll have time to prepare lesson plans, write articles, and teach full-time before taking a trip.

You should have an idea how long it takes you to prepare a lesson, or to write an article. Give yourself enough time to do what needs to be done. Plan accordingly. If you don’t know how long it’ll take you, double or triple the time to be safe.

  • Not setting boundaries with your students (not having a contract of any kind)

Example: Allowing a student who didn’t pay in advance to attend a class, and then not getting paid immediately after, and then having to ask for payment again.

Charge in advance! No payment = no class = no stress.

Be firm. Have a contract, have rules, enforce them. Students will respect you. You will look professional. Isn’t that your goal? Being firm doesn’t mean being rude. It says I value my work; I value my time and these rules will make sure I can offer you the best service to you. 

  • Accepting a job that you’re not prepared or qualified for

If you’re not sure if you can deliver what is expected of you, it will not only be bad for your nerves but also your reputation.

You should politely decline the offer and if that is the case, recommend a colleague who’s qualified for the job.

  • Accepting a student who doesn’t fit your profile.

Teaching 1:1 requires establishing rapport and trust. If you can’t build rapport from the beginning, it won’t work. Not every student will be a match. If there’s no mutual respect and trust from the start, forget it. Come up with an excuse and move on.

 

5. Body & Mind

Go to the gym, lift weights, do yoga, martial arts, bike, run, just get moving! It’s important to do some kind of physical activity. Any doctor will tell you that. You need to find something you like. I see it now as a necessity, much like wearing sunscreen when I go out, or a hat. It’s about staying healthy and the relaxation that comes with the release of endorphins – our body’s natural pain and stress fighters. So if you’re stressed because of work, go for a run, ride a bicycle, do some exercise, and you should feel better.

Meditation is another way to relieve stress and to improve your concentration. I haven’t tried it myself though, but I know teachers who practice it and love it. They say it helps them focus and relax. Why not give it a try? Here’s a link to free apps that you can try. I have used Calm to relax and fall sleep.

My final piece of advice is to listen to yourself, to your body, and if you’re not feeling well, physically or emotionally, don’t wait! Seek medical help.

For more information on the Burnout Syndrome, and the link to the article I cited:

How to spot it and take action, from the Mayo Clinic.

The tell tale signs you have burnout syndrome, from Psychology Today.

A thoughtful article I recommend from a teacher’s perspective, entitled ‘Learning to Say No’ by Isabela Villas Boas.

Till next time! Thanks for reading!

 

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

How do I find new students?

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If you follow me on FB, you know that I moderate Cecilia Nobre’s Facebook group Private English Teacher’s Reloaded. Last month we created a pool and asked: “What’s your biggest challenge as a 1:1 teacher?” Finding new students was voted number 1. It was no surprise to me, actually, since this is a recurring theme among freelance teachers.

I did a talk last September at the ELT event BrELT on the Road-Rio edition, entitled “Transitioning to Freelance Teaching: the Do’s and Don’ts.” In this talk, one of the topics I addressed was how to find new students. To illustrate it, I decided to check exactly how I’d done it.

This was my background at the time: I had been away from Brazil for 12 years, and I was starting over from zero. I had few connections left in my hometown, and I had to try something. I had placed online ads in the US, and it worked well for me there, so I thought, why not try it here? What do I have to lose? This chart was shown in my presentation.

It takes time to build rapport and credibility, but it happens!

Advertising

Placing ads is pretty much like fishing. You need to find a good spot, the right gear, the proper bait, then you throw your line and wait. How long you’ll wait will depend on a few factors: the most important how well you write your copy; followed by where you place it and third when. (Near the holidays it may take longer to get a reply, or during summer break, but don’t get discouraged! In my experience, there’s always someone willing to study in all 12 months of the year.)

Continuing with the fishing analogy, if you use the wrong bait, (wrong words), you will not catch the fish you want. If you choose the wrong spot (wrong platform, site or medium), you may go home empty-handed. If you don’t wait long enough, the same may happen.

Finding students through ads requires patience, choosing where to advertise, how to reach your target audience, and writing to them, not from your perspective! Now, whether you’ll find a student who can pay your asking price is another issue, but it’s got nothing to do with your writing abilities. The problem is that the student you’re looking for may not be there. (More on finding the right student later.)

Let’s go back to the chart for a minute. I want to focus on the referrals. When I did my research, even the teachers who do not freelance full-time said that most of their students came from referrals. What does that tell you?

What I’ve learned in my many years working on and off as a freelancer (since the 90s!) is that we have our ups and downs when it comes to finding new students. What we can’t do is to stop advertising! People must know that we “still teach.” I remember when I was living in Chicago and my Mom would tell me someone asked her if I still offered English lessons! I was surprised that after so many years away, some people still remembered me as an English teacher.

Online Presence

I’ve talked to colleagues who are successful freelancers, and we share the same opinion. It’s essential for you to have a professional website or a blog. You’ve got to have an online presence of a sort. Note I said professional, not personal. You have to separate your brand from your personal life. These days you can’t hide anymore. People must know who you are, what you do in order to find you. A good online presence will give you credibility, and you’ll attract new students that are not from your close circle of friends, family, and neighbors.

I clearly see a shift in the way things are happening now. On the one hand, if we do a good job, invest in our development, we’ll have happy students who will give us new referrals. On the other, we live in a connected world which we can’t ignore. I know many teachers do not want to have a website or be on social media, but I’m afraid that if you’re a freelancer, you will have a hard time finding students if you stay hidden. I used to be on of those teachers.

Some teachers love it, though: they are on Instagram, they make videos on Youtube, they love the exposure. I don’t advertise my services on FB, but others do. I think FB works best for courses than for 1:1 lessons. The reason is simple in my view. There are so many teachers on FB looking for students, that the moment someone asks for a teacher dozens reply… in seconds! Remember that when you’re online so are millions of other people! Do you really want to be competing with just about anyone like that?

If you choose to place an advertisement, think about how you’re going to write it. I have a background in Communication, so I’ll give you some pointers.

• Think about you and your qualifications. Then think about who your target audience is. Focus on them.
• The writing has to be clear and informative. Give specifics.
• Talk about you, who you are, and what you can do for the students. Talk about what you offer, how you work but don’t write too much text either. Make it easy to find the significant information.
• I recommend not to say how much you charge in the ad on purpose. (I don’t) Ask the prospect to contact you for further information. This strategy will give you the chance to explain in detail how you work and your value, not just your price. See: How much should I charge?
• Use a good photo of you. You want to look professional and friendly. A smile always helps. Make sure you choose a nice (neat) background. Preferably of where you teach, otherwise a white wall works just fine.

Give it some time. If you don’t get replies in 5-7 days, delete it and rewrite it. Something is off. Change the text, your photo, or where you placed your advertisement.

Do a Google search in your country for private teachers in the language you teach. See what comes up. Then, check where these ads were placed. Now go and place yours there! That’s what I did, and it’s always worked for me.

Final Recommendations

1. It starts in the classroom. Keep doing a good job. Keep learning, keep getting better at what you do. Your students will notice. They will learn, and in return, they will bring in new students.

2. Show yourself to the world, but do it your way! You should always be comfortable. Just don’t stay hidden.

3. Keep it up. If you have placed ads, don’t stop running them once you reach a desired number of students.. (I made that mistake once!) Things happen. People may change their plans, their priorities, or lose their jobs. If one or two suddenly stop taking lessons from you, then what? How long will it take you to get two new replacement students? 2, 3 Months?

Don’t wait any longer. Go find your students!

Till next time! Thanks for reading!

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.

pexels-photo-374918.jpegBad Ideas

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!

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!