Marketing For Teachers: The TEFL Teachers Guide

It’s safe to say that marketing yourself online as a TEFL teacher is easier than it has ever been. Students, recruiters, schools, other teachers, and anyone else you could wish to connect with is online. You can use this to your advantage to easily find work and share ideas for bettering your classroom.

Why is the online space so important for TEFL teachers?

The online presence of companies and individuals has increased dramatically over the past twenty years. A trend that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

In the case of the ESL industry, there has been a significant uptick in the number of schools and companies offering classes online as well as using social media to connect with parents and potential students. There have also been a significant number of individual teachers who have gone into private enterprise and created their own courses which they offer to students at a significantly less price than would be paid to a language school over the course of a few years. A great example of this is A.J. Hoge who created the Effortless English Club.

The short answer to the question of why you need to be online as a TEFL teacher is that this is where the industry is moving to. If you want to find a job as a TEFL teacher, find lesson plans and tips for improving your classroom, or even set up your own operation and connect to students this is all being done now in the online space. You may be able to get by without having any online presence or at the very least without understanding the presence of the ESL industry online. However, you are leaving out a very significant opportunity for both finding a better job as well as obtaining information that you can utilize in improving your teaching and classroom management skills in order to make yourself more marketable and appealing as a teacher. The simple fact is that everything is moving online and if you want to keep up with the industry then you will have to make some attempt to move with it.

What can I do to better utilize the online space as a TEFL teacher?

The first thing that you need to do is to take stock of what your current online presence is. Many people don’t even realize that there exists tons of data out there that they have never seen. Everything from old social media accounts to addresses and any other personally identifiable information is easily available to those who know where to look. You have to find as much of that information as possible and make sure that all of it is reflective of what you want schools and students to know about you. All of the steps we will take going forward will be useless if some photo of you drunkenly passed out in the street on spring break is the first thing that someone looking for you finds when they search your name in Google.

After you have made an assessment of what information is out there about you then you will need to begin populating the web with the information that you do want people to see. This will differ some depending on what your end goal will be whether you are strictly looking for work or you are trying to go into private tutoring and wish to market yourself for those purposes. However, much of this will be similar. You will want to go through the various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram and create profiles that you will set to public. These profiles will only be used for posting information about you as a teacher and adding other information that would be helpful and relevant to the ESL industry. Remember, this is what you want recruiters and schools and students to see when they search for you so it is important that they see only the professional side of you. Avoid posting anything from your personal life in this area and make sure to set your personal accounts to private or, even better, get rid of them entirely so they won’t bite you later on. If you will be trying to recruit students for online teaching you will also want to create a website that showcases your skills and what you have to offer as a teacher. This is where you display your A-game so you need to make sure that everything here is professional and even consider hiring someone to design a basic hosted and managed website for you that converts well.

After you have done the above steps you will begin to use the two in conjunction with each other to achieve your purposes. This is where you will be going to job sites and looking for work or going to the areas where people search for teachers such as community boards and advertising your services as a private teacher. I will go into more detail below about how to do all of this so that you can create the exact online data trail that will make you look like the perfect TEFL teacher.

How can I best market myself online as a TEFL teacher?

Take stock of your current online data

This is going to be a bit of a tedious process, however, it will be extremely vital as all of your efforts to market yourself online as a TEFL teacher could be foiled if the wrong information exists about you. First, though, you need to understand what kind of information could potentially exist about you online.

Any information that is public record could and probably has been collected by data collection agencies and added to a profile about you. This includes your past addresses, any criminal records, records of schools you have attended, information about any online profiles you keep on sites such as Facebook, information that is published and accessible through Google, etc. There are two different types of data collection sites that you can use to find this information which is primary and secondary. The primary sites use only primary sources for collection such as government records, utility companies, etc. Secondary sites use both the primary sources as well as secondary sources such as web crawlers to find information about you from certain websites and social networks. For the purposes of finding the information you need I will be recommending Spokeo, a secondary site. You can easily search your name on Spokeo and find almost all of the information available about you.

After you have done this you need to manage anything that is unflattering about you. Remember, just because you are applying for a job in Japan where you have never been, does not mean the school can’t run a background check on you or search Google and find all of this information for themselves. So, if you noticed unflattering photos or rambling diatribes about how you hate your previous boss then this is the chance to clean all of this up. Find where each piece of unflattering information is located and see what you can do to get this removed from the source directly. It is best to remove it completely from the site, but, if you are bent on keeping some pictures on your Facebook page then you need to lock down your personal page on each social network site and then further set the pictures and posts that are unflattering and potentially harmful to your reputation so that only you can see them and no friends or family or anyone else.

Once you have removed or hidden this unflattering information then you need to get it removed from the aggregation sites such as Spokeo, People Finder, LexisNexis, Pipl, etc. Each of these sites will most likely have some kind of way to petition to remove false, inaccurate, or unflattering information about you so you will need to read through what the process is and follow it step by step to get this information about you removed.

You will also need to go through the various search engines to find what information is out there about you. Don’t just use Google but go through Bing and Yahoo and any other search engines as well, as the information that may be available about you could be different on each engine. Find what you don’t want on there and do the same to try to get rid of it. Make sure to go a few pages in. Most employers aren’t going to go ten pages in to find out information about you but some may go to page four or five so it’s good to go at least that far.

Once you have removed all or most of the least flattering information about yourself it is time to start the marketing process so that potential employers or students can easily find you and will see exactly what you want them to see.

Create the data you want to be seen

Social media

This is the opportunity for you to create a perfect pre-first impression. I call it that because what many people see about you online and on social media they will use to form an opinion about you before they have even met you. Employers and students looking for the perfect private tutor are no different. This may not be fair but it certainly can be used to your advantage as you are in control of what people see. Now that you have gone through and gotten rid of as much of the unflattering information as you could, it’s time to start establishing yourself as a solid source of information in your field. For this, I recommend Facebook and Twitter as well as having your own website. Remember that students and schools in China are not technically allowed or able to see anything on Facebook or Twitter so you will need some kind of way to connect with them outside of these platforms and this is where your website will come in.

First, you need to go through and create the social media profiles you will use professionally. This should never ever be used for anything other than ESL related matters. You want people to be left with the impression that you are both a professional and reliable teacher after seeing these profiles.

If it is a job you are looking for then you want potential employers to see your professionalism and dedication to teaching. Try and have pictures from past classes if you can showing that you have experience and make sure to periodically update this with what you have done recently. You don’t have to constantly post things related to the ESL industry you simply want a place for potential employers to get a better impression of you.

However, if you are trying to go into private tutoring you want to use this to connect with students and to show that you are a good option for them to hire as a teacher. To do this you can more frequently post resources that would be helpful to students and that learners of the English language would be looking for. This is especially good for Twitter as people can easily search for relevant hashtags and they would find your postings.

I would say that Facebook is great for schools to find information about you before hiring you and Twitter is the better option for finding and recruiting students. But, you can also use both platforms to easily reach other teachers for trading information about classes and lesson plans as well as ideas for games and other activities. There are numerous groups on Facebook dedicated to ESL teachers including Resources for English Teachers, which has over 23,000 members. On Twitter as well there are many hashtags that would be useful for ESL teachers including #ELTchat which is a great resource for teachers who share information with each other.

Personal website

This is going to be different for different people. If you desire to attract students for private tutoring obviously you are going to want a website that is more in-depth than if you are just looking to have a resource for potential employers to see. So you have to first ask what you want from your website before you set about designing it. If you are looking for a portfolio to put up so that employers can easily find information about you that will leave a good impression, I recommend that you use a simple drag and drop platform such as Wix and keep it to a single page. You want to think of this as an online resume with some pictures of you in action and maybe a video as the icing on the cake. But don’t overdo it. This is just for potential employers to see some positive information about you to help them in their decision to schedule you for an interview or hire you.

If you are looking to get into private tutoring and would like to design a website that will convert visitors into students paying you for lessons this is going to be a bit more complicated. I will go into more about this later in part 2 of the teaching English online series, however, now it suffices to say that you want to think about what your specialty is and what age level students you want to reach so that you can more easily create a website that is going to appeal to that demographic. Creating a website that converts isn’t an overnight process so make sure to have some patience and be ready to fine-tune your expectations over time. You can get as big or as small as you want in this capacity depending on how much money you want to spend on a website. If you are already a teacher and are looking to pick up extra students where you are teaching then I would recommend that you create a simple website that allows students to see what you have to offer and easily contact you. Remember to think about your demographic. If you are going after corporate business learners you want something professional that speaks to your potential students’ needs. However, if you are looking to pick up younger students you have to remember that you are trying to appeal to the parents and you want to craft your site around them so that you offer what the parents are looking for in a private tutor for their child. It’s best before you get started to sit down and really think about this and take a look at your current students and figure out what they like about you in your current class so you can highlight these strengths on your website.

What not to do when trying to market yourself online as a TEFL teacher

Just as there are things that can help you to market yourself there are things you can do that will significantly hinder and even seriously damage your reputation. You want to make sure that anything you do on social media is professional and cannot be construed in a negative context. A good rule of thumb here is to entirely avoid allowing your students to connect with you on social media. If you do let them then absolutely do not give them personal account information and only allow them to connect with your professional profile. It is also a good policy to avoid responding to messages that are not directly related to ESL. Doing so could get you in trouble down the road and even get you fired. Keep all communication with students on file so that you have a record of what was said should anything ever arise.

Also, make sure as you market yourself that you avoid spamming groups and pages in an attempt to promote your new private tutoring business or anything else. There are few things more annoying than finding your favorite ESL group page has been hijacked by spam posts from people promoting themselves. Anyone familiar with the affiliate programs of various online ESL companies will know this as it is hardly possible to go to an online ESL Facebook page and see anything but people trying to recruit for their companies. Not only does this approach not work but it can also have the opposite effect of turning people away from what you are trying to promote. Don’t do it.

Lastly, you want to make sure that you are being completely honest with everything you are putting online. Remember, people can find out the information they want about you with relative ease and you surely aren’t going to be hired if an employer sees that you have lied on your résumé and they see some contradictory information somewhere else online. Keep everything truthful and you will have no problems down the road like these teachers who used fake information or counterfeit documents and paid the price in China.

Now you’re ready to market yourself!

Marketing yourself online as a TEFL teacher doesn’t have to be a complicated process and can even be interesting and rewarding if you approach it with the correct mindset. Just remember to think about exactly what you want out of your marketing efforts whether that is to get into private tutoring or to make yourself more appealing to schools and recruiters you are looking to work with. Doing so will make your efforts much more precise and likely to see results. By sticking to the simple two-step process that I have outlined above you will easily be able to eliminate any negative or misleading information that is already online and then replace that with information that is going to put you in the best light in the eyes of employers and students. Just remember to always be honest with what you are putting online and to be patient with your marketing efforts and you will surely see returns for the hard work you put in.