Start your own school tip 7: How to get more students than you’ll ever need

In this post I’m going to show you how to get lots of new students. As many, or maybe even more, than you’ll ever need.

A lot of teachers tend to focus a real lot on lessons, and rightly so. But many teachers also neglect their “marketing” ( i.e. the image they present to the world. ) maybe just thinking about a few fliers or events here and there.

What I’d like you to think about today is this important business phrase:

Marketing is everything.

All the success of your school is down to the marketing, the presentation and sales, you do. Even if you have the most amazing lessons in the world, if nobody knows about them you won’t last long!

But the other way to read it is that every activity you do and every decision you make is actually marketing. So we might as well make the most of it.

Here’s what I mean…

Handouts & Homework

A lot of teachers like to give out handouts and homework to the kids. But also many teachers give them out in black and white on individual sheets of paper. “Colour is too expensive”  you might have told yourself before.

These days, if you buy ink in bulk, the difference between colour and black and white is very small, just a few pennies. But the difference it can make in attracting future students is enormous.

Printing in black and white is what we call being “penny wise but pound poor”

For example, just imagine you are a parent who is looking for a school. As all parents do you chat to your friends. One pulls out a few scrappy black and white worksheets they got given at their childs’ school. The other pulls out a professional ring binder with the schools’ name, inside are full colour gorgeous worksheets, filled in with tick marks and teacher’s comments. The second school is a more expensive, but which do you chose?

Some of you will say “ah, but that makes us look too expensive so parents won’t come”. But whatever parents may *say*, in actuality they don’t care about price at all. Not one bit.  If they did they wouldn’t buy tobacco, lottery tickets or iphones.  All they care about is *value*.

These types of handouts scream value to parents. All the while they cost you very little extra in actual cost. And colour always motivates kids to learn more too!

(Or of course even more impressive is special computer software branded with your school logo, but that’s a different post.)

Where to put the rooms?

When I first went to see our schools in India I was shocked to see they’d put all the computers we’d given them right in the front room nearest the street. With huge windows.

Coming from Yorkshire, my first thought was “Woo, those aren’t going to last long before someone steals them”

The director of the school explained that the thieves will know they have computers wherever they put them. But … by putting them on the street they were sending a powerful message to the parents.

They were saying “Just look at our school, we use the latest hi tech to teach your children. See for yourselves” And that marketing message was worth way, way more than any imaginary risk of theft.

(And as it turns out the slums of Hyderabad are much safer than the streets of Leeds!)

A lot of schools just put their secretary and waiting room at the front. So all anyone ever sees of your school is bored parents waiting to pick up their kids.

So instead put your computers (tell me a profession that doesn’t use computers these days!)  or classroom with your star teacher right on the street front. Let everyone see just how amazing your lessons are, and certainly how much better they are than the competition!

Think about the posters and design of the room, really make it say something about your vision of what a great classroom should be.

Lessons & Curriculum

The biggest things to consider are, of course, your lessons and curriculum.

If you want more students but don’t want to waste time outside “selling”,  you must also view each lesson as not only a learning opportunity for the kids but also a marketing opportunity for your school. The kids walk out of there having learnt something mind blowingly brilliant, but they also have had the most fun hour they’ve had all week.

They leave with a huge smile saying “Mum, look at this!” as they clutch their full colour print out full of stars and ticks!

As they spill out into the street everyone can see the enjoyment on their faces and the pride of their parents.

And the same with your curriculum.

Plan it out so that after a few weeks the kids are coming out with really impressive English. Then after a few months they speak completely naturally without needing time to think. And after a couple of years they’ve achieved all your goals and can graduate.

The school down the street will still be doing numbers and colours and struggling to keep the same kids for the 6th year running. Whilst your kids will have all graduated, which you won’t mind as the word of mouth will bring in more new students than you could ever hope for.

So treat everything as marketing. Let everyone see the work and effort you put into your lessons. Really think about the image you are creating when you do Halloween or Christmas parties.

When people look at your students what impression do they get? Confident, intelligent, polite students who always try? Or something else?

Education needs great educators like you. And the world needs to *see* great educators like yourself.

The way to improve things is to rise above the competition. It only takes a little in terms of pennies or time, but what it does take is attention to detail in everything you do. What does this, this and this say about you.

Once you crack that you’ll have the best school in town, with the best parents and the best kids who will be a dream to teach. You’ll wake up in the morning wanting to try new things and be extremely motivated knowing that you are doing amazingly well from a business & finance point of view, whilst showing the world how good education can really be.

What simple changes can you make right now?

Be genki,

Richard

P.S. If you’ve got questions, ask away in the comments!

P.P.S.  Check this out for help on getting your first student or this post on how to “sell” your lessons to parents.

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

29 Responses to “Start your own school tip 7: How to get more students than you’ll ever need”

  1. Jocely Kikuchi

    Wow, that was a long morning address for me, but worth-reading articles. thank you so much Richard for making my brain working.. sometimes. our heart and mind needs to be reactivated once again. Thank you. I don’t know where to start commenting now.

    There is not even one person who likes studying for the sake of study. They like it because it broaden the scope of the activity. What do you go to school for? Where do you want to use it? What you have learned at school? It must be for your own happiness.
    Do students go to school becuase they want to study? They first go to school because they are made to. In particular elementary school students attend bacause they are afraid of their parents and not beacuse they want to study. Everybody is like this at the beginning. Yet even as they do so reluctantly they get to have a feeling for it and start going in order to learn. As they come to grips with the subject matter they find it stimulating and studying becomes fun. As the result of what they discover throuh their studies, the scope with which they can freely do so broaden.

  2. Astrid Kahn

    Hi,
    What I do is ask the students to have a small notebook when they come and have a lesson. During the lesson we stick the handout (a half A4 paper sheet)on the notebook so by the end of the year they have a real nice lesson book. I must say that I usually give them black and white, so that they can color and decorate at home.Any parents that look at the notebook is impressed by all the vocabulary and structures the kids have studied!

  3. Tere

    Hi Richard,
    I have a prívate group of 4 kids, I teach them in my house.
    In one month the lessons are going to be finished, I need your advice, I’m not sure I want to make an open class, so the mommys can see the advance they have had in this year.
    1.- I don’t know how to do it.
    2.- I’m a little bit afraid they don’t like the way I give out the class, because of GE is not the traditional way to teach.
    3.- I don’t know if I have to put a special effort with the kids to make this class look wow!!
    I would appreciate your guide in this matter
    Thanks Richard
    Pd I’m genki

  4. richard

    Hi Tere,

    The best thing to do is to simply do what you have been doing in classes. Get the kids to do a few songs, or even better get them to teach them to the parents – and then some games, again with the parents playing. If you had more time then plays and things are always good, but they do take a lot of preparation!

    No worries about the GE side of things, as soon as the parents see the kids speaking and singing loudly and confidently they will be very proud and very happy!

    And one other tip for next year, video the kids doing a self introduction when they first come to you.

    Then play these videos to the parents when they are finished, and then get the child to do it again live, this time they will be full of confidence with great posture and body language! It’s amazing to see how much they do come on!

  5. Andrea

    You say parents don’t care about price one bit. But in a lot of cultures (including the Middle East where I work), parents and consumers in general, are actually seeking out the “most expensive.”. It’s a status symbol – just like the iphone 4s, the ipad 3, the Beemer, the Benz and the Prado. For them, nothing else will do. So we have to oblige them!

  6. Alinka

    Wow! This is great stuff – I’m reading all your tips because I am thinking about starting my own school. Thank you!

  7. Albert Wolfe

    what’s really be said here is if you look cheap and your prices are to low so will be your out come in the end. I was all ways told walk tall , have a strong firm handshake and look people in the eye when talking to them. This is just like your school, dull, smelly and dirty kills, where bright and colorful pictures and clean and tidy classrooms sells. No one wants there kids coming into a dull dirty rat trap. Sometimes you have to spend a little to rip the rewards. And a little hard work and sweat never hurt anyone. You have to ask yourself would I eat here or would I let my child. A little soap and water a fresh coat of paint and flowers and very clean bathrooms. It will not matter if your the best teacher but if you and your school looks like the what comes out of the back in of a horse . You have no school!!!!!!!

  8. Ferguson

    Hello Richard,
    I’ve been teaching in South Korea for a few years. I’m returning to my home country soon and I’m considering starting online tutoring to students in Korea. I’ve searched the internet for ideas about starting an online tutoring business but I’m still unsure if the juice is worth the squeeze.
    Do you have any advice about marketing/starting a quality online tutoring business?
    Which age group would you recomend? Many have told me it’s more economical to cater toward children but I can’t see them studying through a computer for 50mins or so. or do you think doing a homestay program would be better? Bringing students to the USA for a month to study English, experience different cultural traditions, and just have fun.

  9. Martin Wenzel

    Since reading this article, I revamped my phonics and spelling worksheets to be in full color with pictures next to the words instead of the black and white all text print outs I had been making. My boss hasn’t mentioned anything about using the color ink. The kids seem more excited to get their hands on the worksheets to look at the color pictures that match the slideshows I do for each unit.

  10. Martin Wenzel

    Of course I went in yesterday excited to print out some of the One Left game cards and some mini-flashcards only to discover the color printer’s calibration is off. Blues print as pinks, pinks print as off-white. Very upsetting. Hopefully the boss can fix it…

  11. Richard

    Thanks for the great comments everyone!

    @Ferguson: Yeah, teaching online is a whole different prospect. I do know teachers who have done it and done it well for a while. From an education point of view Genki English also seems to work well online like this. But … and this is a big but …. the problem seems to be that you have to spend so much time marketing to get students and then as you are limited to a very small “class” size you can very rarely charge enough to recoup the initial, and ongoing, marketing costs. Hence most people I know who have done it, don’t do it any longer! And that was before all the $1 per hour lesson competition from the Phillipines etc.

    Bringing students to the US is also a tough one, again it’s the marketing costs. And you also have to comply with all the legal requirements in both countries. We do this in Japan and we have to be licensed to charge people, so I would imagine (although of course do check!) that you would need something similar for Korea.

    Having said all that…. English teaching is HUGE in the states. We have whole school districts buying and using Genki English because there are so many students who aren’t able to function in English yet.

    Or of course you could also teach Korean in the US, that is a huge opportunity at the moment and http://GenkiKorean.com is actually the biggest of all the langauge sites I’ve got at the moment!

  12. Maneet Giri

    Wow!!! thanks for writing about Indian schools. I am about to start a foreign language institute in Pune (Maharashtra).Though, I have majored in marketing but I usually like to experiment with other’s money. I am not sure if I should invest my savings and delay my marriage for next three years.
    Anyways, your advises are surely considerable.

    Thanks

  13. kenny

    Hi Richard:

    Thank you very much for your valuable sharing. I have some years of experiences in teaching and managing English center and I am totally disappointed in the way they treat my students (low quality). So I want to open a private class. My main concern is the curriculum design, in which how to divide class based on ages (for example, which age belongs to children class, which for teen, then adult …) and textbook for each level ’cause I dont have any experiences in that issue.

    Thank you very much.

    Kenny

  14. Richard

    Hi Kenny,

    Yep, all this tips assume that you have the best lessons and curriculum of anywhere in town.

    And in this day and age that, of course, means Genki English, and definitely not textbooks! 🙂

    Everyone has to start from the beginning with the curriculum ( http://genkienglish.net/curriculum.htm ) , the age only makes a difference to how fast they will learn, not where they start from.

    (Even if they have “studied” elsewhere before, they won’t have had all the confidence training. So start at the beginning, some bits will be easy, but most of it will still be very new for them.)

    Then after a year the new students will start from the beginning as before, and the 2nd year students will then move on through the curriculum, depending on how many lessons you have per week.

    If you’re looking at 2 lessons per week then usually it takes a year and a half to years of Genki English, then Genki Phonics and the students can graduate and go on to tell everyone how your school changed their lives.

    With 1 lesson per week it’s usually around 3 years to get through Genki English.

    The aim is to get everyone graduated as quickly as possible, rather than desperately trying to keep them for many, many years like the old school chains!

  15. jeff

    And if there is only 15 students in the whole school, what must I do to bring it up

  16. Richard

    Hi Jeff,

    You’ve got a good base to start with so just follow through with the ideas in the article. Usually you’d aim for getting 120 new students in the first year. Some people get a little less, around 80 or so, and some people go up to 150 or more, so give it a try and see how you go! Good luck!

  17. Martin (mjwenzel)

    150 students in 1 year! That would be AMAZING. I’m planning on opening a school in my girlfriend’s hometown in 2016. She is confident that we can get enough students to cover costs and replace our current income working for others. We only need to get 20 students to reach that goal. Anything more than that is icing and setting us up for a good life ;).

    We are going to start out in our apartment, but that is my concern. The apartment complex is a little out of the way at this point. On the other hand, it is supposedly in the path of expanding development in the town. I’m just worried we’ll have a hard time getting students to come out so far.

  18. Richard

    Hi Martin,

    We just had two girls in the workshop last week who set up a school together the month before and they got 84 new students in that one month! Don’t worry about the location, if the course is quality enough and you follow all the marketing tips – especially the scarcity ones! – then you’ll be full in no time. 150 in a year is the record I’ve heard of so far, but 100 to 120 is doable for just about everyone – just remember to aim HIGH!!

  19. Martin (mjwenzel)

    Yeah, that is my hope!

  20. Gbemi Olukolade

    Hi am really glad to have stumbled on this site, I am a lawyer by profession but have always had a real inner desire to start a school &give children qualitative education , but am wondering, do I employ staff first,or find students first? & how do I find students? Pls help

  21. Richard Graham

    Hi Gbemi, always go for students first and only employ staff if/when you want to be a manager rather than a teacher. You just need one student to start with, and that is usually a friend of a friend or someone locally who wants to learn. You give awesome lessons and things just build up from there! Good luck!

  22. thomas daniels

    Great stuff man,I’m trying to grow a english tennis school in kansai,my problem is the guy that brought me over has black listed me,do you think I should work outside the tennis community?

    Love your work and need to buy you a beer.

    Thanks.

  23. Richard Graham

    Beers are always welcome Thomas! 🙂 First make sure you have an abundance mind set. You’ll need that to get over the objections you’ve had so far. Once you can clear your mind and see the possibilities clearly, the solution should present itself!

  24. sez

    Hi! I am teaching at a private language school in a small town in Spain. Each year I lose about 20 students. Even so, I always finish the year with more than 150 students. What worries me is those who leave. To be honest, I have know idea why they do. They are mainly children who are between 8-10 years of age. I know this is probable difficult to make an opinion on, but I would be grateful if you could. For me this is the most difficult age. They come once a week and I work hard with them and I feel as if I’m spending my time preparing classes and even so quite a few disappear. Any idea what I am doing wrong?

  25. Richard Graham

    Hi Sez,

    First of all congratulations on getting the 150 students – lots of teachers would love to know how you do that!

    And losing 20 out of 150 isn’t that bad really. But yes, you do need to find out why.

    So definitely asking and/or sending out a quick question to the parents afterwards is good to do.

    Secondly, are your courses maybe too long? How long does it take you to go through the Genki English curriculum and graduate them?

  26. Jahan

    Hi!
    I am from Pakistan and I have just opened a private school starting from March 2017. I have taught for almost 12 years. I want to contribute in the field of Education in my area where education is not considered the basic and most important need of life. I want to make the parents feel their children are learning everyday and there money and time are not wasted.
    This article will really help me, What should I do to attract more parents?
    Regards

  27. Richard Graham

    Hi Jahan,

    Congratulations! You are in a fantastic position. The key in Pakistan is of course awesome classes and then excellent communication with the parents. Unlike in the west, where many parents don’t have a choice of schooling, in Pakistan the parents are very quick to change schools to the best one that everyone is talking about. So go through all the other articles in this section and keep up the great work!

  28. Jocelyne HAMON-BURLOW

    Hi Richard,
    First, thank you for your energy, enthousiasm and great tips!
    I teach English to children one hour a week for 30 weeks spread over the school year; some parents seem disappointed by the fact that their children don’t speak English in a natural manner at the end of the year; they sing songs, learn some small dialogues, I make them write their own little dialogues and make them act out their work but outside the classroom, they seem to be totally unable to utter a word of English. They all enjoy coming to my classes, though. How can I reassure the parents ?
    Jocelyne

  29. Richard Graham

    Hi Jocelyne,

    It’s not a case of reassuring them, it’s a case of exceeding all their expectations 🙂 So after 30 weeks the kids should definitely be speaking impressively well. So we need to find out what is going wrong! Are you using the Genki English lessons in the recommended curriculum order? And how many do you plan to get through in that 30 weeks? Let me know and we’ll impress the socks off all the parents 🙂

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