Welcome to StudyCELTA’s new blog series. Here you’ll learn how to open your own English language school: from the qualifications you’ll need, to choosing a location; hiring the right staff and attracting students.
For most teachers who’ve spent a few years in the TEFL industry, the progression from the regular classroom to the director of studies’ office is only natural. But, for some teachers (namely those blessed and/or cursed by an entrepreneurial inclination), moving up the ranks in someone else’s language school is not enough. They want to do it their way. They want to open their own language school.
If you’re reading this right now, nodding your head, then congratulations! You’re exactly that type of teacher. You probably already know the ins and outs of your current school; how to teach; how to use the photocopier; how to consult the parents of unruly children.
But actually starting up your own academy? Still a little in the dark.
It takes a lot of guts, a lot of patience, and a whole lot of time to get a new academy up and running.
Over the next few months, we’ll be running a series on the StudyCELTA blog on starting up your own language school; from the qualifications you’ll need to the marketing; hiring the right teachers and getting over bureaucratic hurdles. We’ll even bring you interviews with teachers who’ve done it themselves.
But first: the basics. In this post, we’ll roughly go over the main steps you’ll need to take to start a language school, and give you an idea of what’s to come.
Step One: Qualifications
First off the bat, it’s important to know whether or not you’re qualified enough to run your own language school. You’ll need some business know-how – so start studying! There are a number of distance short courses that can teach you the basics of running your own business. Holding a Diploma in TEFL, such as the Delta or Trinity DipTESOL, or a relevant university Masters, also adds reputability to your school.
If you want more of a say in what your students are learning, the Delta course, for example, includes a module completely based around syllabus construction.
Step Two: Pick your school type
Schools are no longer defined by four walls and a desk. With major technological advances over the past decade, learning is now fluid and can take place in any corner of the world.
When most teachers think of a language school, they see the traditional model. The shop front, the classrooms, the teachers’ lounge. But there are so many other ways to run a successful English teaching business.
Online teaching, for example, allows hundreds of location independent teachers to travel the world, interacting with their students completely via Skype.
Then there is private tutoring: once a way for TEFL teachers to supplement their income, now, with the right online skills and marketing tools, the café, library, or lounge room can become a lucrative space.
In the next series of posts, we’ll look at the different forms of teaching, and how to choose the right one for you.
Step Three: Choose a location
For some, this is the easy part. You’re well set up in a country (maybe it’s your home country), and know enough of the language and financial workings to find your feet. But for others, the world is one big, tantalising oyster.
The first thing you need to ask yourself when choosing a location is: can I legally set up a business there? If you’re not a resident, there are often a lot of legal hurdles you’ll have to jump to be able to become self-employed. In another post, we’ll look at the most foreigner-friendly countries for potential language school owners.
Then, there’s the market. Is your future base already saturated by language schools? Or is there a huge demand? Don’t jump in head first; test the water. Create case studies of existing schools, their students, and the general level of English in said country.
Step Four: Hiring Staff
You’ve picked your school type and location, now it’s time to get some fellow teachers on board. When hiring staff, qualifications are key: make sure they’ve got a 120-hour TEFL certificate with teaching practice included, such as the CELTA or Trinity, the right amount of experience, and the legal working documents. Don’t forget, you’ll also need administration staff to keep the school running smoothly.
Hiring well-qualified staff is a win-win situation: your students get the highest quality education, and the reputation of your school improves. But, with so many teachers out there and so many second-rate TEFL courses on the market, it’s often hard to cut through the noise and sort the diamonds from the coal. By using jobs portals for qualified teachers, such as TEFLwork, you can find the right teachers for your new school.
Step Five: Marketing
It’s one thing to make your school known in the local area – but it’s another to make yourself known in the TEFL teaching industry.
Apart from traditional flyers, posters and newspaper adverts, you’ll need to set up a website and social media pages for your new school. Special promotions, such as an introductory offer, are a great way to attract new students. But be careful – you don’t want to undercut the competition! In this series, we will be looking at some inventive marketing strategies for new school owners.
On a more personal level, it’s no longer good enough to just have a LinkedIn page and a C.V online. Countless TEFL industry professionals are now making names for themselves on Twitter and via blogs. A great way to get started marketing yourself online is by joining a Twitter hashtag chat, such as #ELTchat, to meet other teachers and school owners and get your name out there. You can read all TEFLwork’s tips on personal online marketing here.
So you’ve read through the steps, and you still think you’ve got what it takes to run your own language school. Keep your eye on the StudyCELTA blog for all the newest posts in the series, or sign up to our monthly newsletter to get posts straight to your inbox.