How to Become an Online Teacher (And a Successful One)

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Online teachers are smiling at the bank, especially in the season.

And they’re doing it while pursuing what they love: teaching.

The numbers (of enrollments and profits) look interesting — to say the least:

For example, Resit Gulec and his team at Master of Project Academy have enrolled 500,000 students from 180 countries around the world, teaching project management.

Online teaching case study - Master of Project Academy.

How much are 500,000 enrollments worth? 

They have different pricing plans for different project management courses, but generally — they charge around $600 for a year’s access and ~$900 for lifetime access. Do the math.

And Resit is only one example. When you look around, you’ll spot more success stories from solopreneur online instructors & educational instutions.

Take these two GetResponse customers:

  1. Alex Terrier, a jazz musician and music teacher offering online music courses to help musicians play with confidence and creative freedom.
  2. InfoShare Academy, a company offering intensive programming courses for beginners who want to start working in IT.
Alex Terrier - online teaching success story.
Alex Terrier – lead generation results in 30 days.

Even though they teach completely different topics, they successfully attract new prospects, convert them into paying customers, and as a result grow their businesses.

Best of all? You too can become a successful online teacher – and this article will help get a head start.

Let’s go over the key steps on how to become an online teacher.

Table Of Contents

1. Plan to teach what you know best 

You don’t know everything the same way.

For example, you may know how to cook, code, write, design, and manage projects. 

Sometimes it could be something you don’t consider a big deal. 

For instance, your language may seem very basic to you, but it can be a goldmine. If you’re great at English, for instance, you can teach English online to Chinese students or even startup founders that are looking to raise capital outside of their home country.

But you probably won’t know each of these at the same level.

What you need to do is to select the subject you’re most confident with and teach it. Why? Well, you need to teach what you know best because:

  • you’re going to get questions from students, and you may end up not being able to answer tough questions.
  • you’ll need to convince potential students you’re an expert in a topic they’re looking to spend money to learn. And convincing them will be hard if you’re not specializing in that topic.

    For example, if you’re looking to learn project management, whose course would you rather sign up for?

    A. John McCammon — a project management specialist
    B. Richard Caldwell — project management, web development, and marketing specialist.

(Note: these aren’t real people)

Chances are high you’ll be signing up for John McCammon because he specializes in the topic you want to learn. 

And we all know what they say about the jack of all trades who is a master of none. You get the idea: Being an expert and teaching a specific topic will help you be focused enough to grow your online teaching business faster.

2. Build an engaged audience of potential students

You may be asking, “Why do I need to build an audience to sell an online teaching class?”

Well, because it’s easier to sell to your audience because they know and trust you.

But building an audience of potential students is not a walk in the park.

You’ll need to: 

  • convince people to join your community
  • convince them you know your subject matter well, and ultimately
  • convince them your course is worth their money and time

Each of these tasks requires a certain level of work, so building an audience is one of the major hurdles of starting an online teaching business. 

But it’s also not an impossible feat to accomplish. 

Your potential students are everywhere. You just need to locate specific platforms they go on every day and invite them to become a part of your audience from there.

And there are free and paid strategies you can use to build your audience. The difference between the two options is simple:

  • Paid strategies: Run ads or pay an influencer to build your audience.
  • Free strategies: Join communities (online or offline) and build from there.

But we’ll be focusing on the free/affordable strategies in this post.

So let’s dive into it. You can build your audience in three simple steps:

Step I: Know where to find potential students

You can find your potential students on Facebook groups or other communities and convince them to become a part of your audience. 

And these communities can be offline or online. 

For example, if you’re looking to teach ‘real estate marketing,’ you can find real estate associations in your area and start engaging real estate experts in your local community, gain their trust, and offer to teach them something you know that they don’t. 

And tell them you’ll offer a course on it online. (We’ll explain more about this shortly)

Or you can go online; go to a platform like Facebook, type “real estate” in the search bar, and select “Groups” on the left sidebar.

You’ll get a result that looks something like this:

Finding audience for your online teaching program.

In each group, there are thousands of members and they’re your potential students. You can start engaging with them and invite them to become a part of your audience.

Also, please note that while we’re using Facebook groups here for example purposes, there are several other online communities (like Reddit, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Slack channels) you can join to build your audience.

But tread carefully here, these communities have rules. If you go there trying to sell your course, they’ll most likely kick you out before you say “Jack Robinson.”

You need to engage potential students in online communities, and this leads us to step II below.

Step II: Know how to engage potential students in communities

Every community is set up for conversations, not for sales.

In online communities (e.g. Facebook groups), there are admins and moderators who set their group up to have people come in to discuss issues surrounding a subject matter. 

If they see you’re all about selling something to their members and not trying to have conversations, they remove your posts. Even worse, they can ban you.

And the same goes for offline communities; they might not necessarily ban you, but members of the community won’t be willing to buy a course from you if they don’t know you.

So you need to align with the objective of those communities; join them with the mindset of starting a conversation.

How? It’s simple: participate in group discussions. And start discussions too.

For online communities, you can participate by leaving thoughtful comments on posts by other group members, and you can start discussions by posting helpful content or asking questions.

When you leave thoughtful comments, what happens is members who you leave comments on their posts will start noticing you. And when you post a question, chances are your post will get their attention and they might respond.

So it’s important you’re leaving thoughtful comments on other group member’s posts. Here’s what these look like — alongside the response from the post’s author:

Leaving thoughtful comments and engaging in online communities.

To start discussions, you can post questions. Here’s a good example of a “question post”: 

Asking questions to engage online communities where your potential students are.

Note: When selecting groups to participate in, select groups that get lots of replies and engagements. Group size isn’t always all that important.

For instance, a group where each post gets at least 20 comments is a good community to invest your time and effort. 

But when you join a group and you see a group with 0 to 5 comments per post, that may not be a group you want to invest your energy into.

To sum it up: leaving thoughtful comments helps you get familiar with members of the group and starting discussions gets you even more popular in the group.

So this begs an important question: how do these posts and comments translate into audience building? Read step III below.

Step III: Convert engagement into an email list

Step I and II above are all you need to start building relationships and getting the attention of your potential students in most communities.

So here in step III, we’ll show you how to convert all that engagement into an email list. If you’re not familiar with what an email list is, it’s a list of your potential students’ emails.

Put another way, an email list is your audience on email — and on our blog, we have a full guide on how you can build an email list from scratch. So here’s how to convert all the engagement you get in groups into an email audience:

First, come up with some free, helpful resources you can give group members. This resource could be a webinar, video tutorial, an ebook… it can be anything, as long as it’s useful for them. In the digital marketing world, we call these opt-in incentives, content upgrades, and lead magnets.

To help you better understand how these work and what formats you can use, check out this helpful list of best lead magnets and our 2020 lead magnets study report.

Editor’s note

Wondering if webinars are the right solution for you? Check out how this automotive B2B company, Ravenol, managed to attract over 1200 new contacts in just three weeks by promoting their highly technical webinars.

Second, set up your email list. You can use GetResponse to set up a so-called squeeze page where prospective students can sign up, get your free resource, and join your email list.

Here’s an example of a template you’ll find inside GetResponse that you could use right away:

On top of that, if you already have a website, you could add pop-up forms onto your pages. Using GetResponse Form Builder, you’ll be able to set up forms like this one:

Even better, beyond the signup forms, you create in GetResponse, you can also set up automated emails your subscribers will get once they sign up.

If you do this well, it will help solidify your engagement with them — so that when you finally launch your course or online class, they’ll be more likely to buy it since they now know you to an extent.

Third, write some decent copy to promise members they’ll get your helpful resource if they sign up for your newsletter. 

Fourth, get permission from the community admin or moderator to post an “audience-building” material — this is basically something you’ll post in the community to invite members to join your email list. 

Fifth, once you have community admin’s permission, post your copy.

Sixth, when you start collecting emails, send your new prospective students automated emails to bond with them; read more about automated emails here.

Here’s an example of the type of communication you should be looking at.

Welcome email from Airtable.
Welcome email example from Airtable.

Lastly, aim to build an engaged email list by sending your email subscribers helpful content regularly. This is where you solidify your trust with them — so when you finally launch, they won’t ignore you.

When you build an engaged email list, even the best paying online teaching jobs will have a hard time paying you as much as your own audience.

3. Pick the right elearning platform

At this point…

You have your audience built and engaged, the next step is to launch your online class and start selling your course.

But one thing that can make life hard for any online teacher is a crappy eLearning platform. If you’re not sure what it is, an eLearning platform is a tool where you can manage all the learning processes of your students.

They help you:

  • structure your course into modules.
  • keep students on track as they leave your course and come back to it during their study period.
  • set up exercises/exams that students can take on the platform.

Which online course platforms should you use?

It depends a lot on your budget and what features you’re looking for.

These four platforms have good reviews from users:

  1. Teachable
  2. LearnWorlds
  3. Kajabi
  4. Thinkific
  5. Podia

Naturally, before you invest in a platform, you’ll want to research them first. This article from Jordie Van Rijn explores the key features, pricing, and use-cases for all the most popular online course platforms currently available on the market.

Now, let’s address some frequently asked questions about the business of teaching online:

Can you teach online without a degree?

Definitely. 

Teaching online is more about what you know than what degree you have. 

As we’ve mentioned earlier, if there’s a topic you know a lot about and there are people who want to learn it, you can set up an online course on that topic.

And at the end of the day, degrees are only a symbol of what you know. It’s what you know that matters.

How much do online teachers make?

When you set up an online course, there’s no limit to the amount of money you can make.

It all depends on:

  • how big your audience gets and
  • how many students you get from your audience

For the most part, the larger your audience gets, the bigger your course enrollments get. And more enrollments mean more money.

And as your business grows, you may even need to hire a few people to work with you. So make sure you’re not starting your course thinking, “I want to teach online and earn money.” Think, “I want to build an online school.”

To give you a better feel for what the averages are, here’s data from Glassdoor:

Online teacher salaries - average pay across all industries, company sizes, and years of experience.

In conclusion

So we’ve covered pretty much everything you need to know to teach online classes from home and be successful at it.

And you can teach anything you want. No matter how basic it is to you, if there are people who need the knowledge you have, teach it. 

Use the strategies we’ve shared here to build an engaged audience and convert your audience into students.

And if you’re ready to start building and engaging your future online students, consider using GetResponse – it comes with all the right tools that an online may need. Paid ads, signup pages, email sequences, webinars, live chat, and more! Oh, and it’s completely free for 30 days, too!


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