I was doing a consult this morning for a teacher who was finding it hard to make ends meet.
Between shuttling up and down the city to lessons, gasoline bills and students who cancel, even though she was working really hard and is an awesome teacher she was finding it so hard to make the teaching work on a financial level. It was stressing her out, she had no time and everything was suffering.
So the first thing we look at is her income. And, as all teachers are, she was far too cheap. In this case far, far, far too cheap and it was costing her.
There are only three solutions to this problem
- Increase your price per student.
- Increase the number of students in each class.
- Work every hour God gives you until you fall over from exhaustion.
She had been choosing option 3.
Don’t do that.
That’s not being genki. It’s not being smart and it is the road to an unhappy life and unhappy students.
Let’s choose the smarter way.
The first step is the easiest from a business point of view.
If it costs you more to live than what you are getting from your lessons you have to put your prices up.
But of course deep down inside each of us there is that little thought that keeps saying “but I’m not good enough.”
“Maybe next year. Richard can charge more but I can’t. I’m not a native speaker. I’m not a real teacher.”
Now you know that’s rubbish. You’re reading this so you’re not only in the top 1% of English teachers who actually speak English, you’re in the top 1% of the top 1% to care enough about your teaching to be reading blogs about it!
And I also know it’s hard to get rid of this fear.
So that’s why I always recommend you to start with option 2.
Increase the number of students in class.
Instead of teaching one student at xxxx per hour. Start teaching groups of 4 students for 3 times xxxx per hour. ( You’re giving them a small discount 🙂 )
“Oh no, the parents won’t pay for that, they’ll only pay for one on one lessons.”
Of course! You’re offering them one on one lessons so they’re going to take them!
The only way to get more than one-on-one is by saying “No” to one-on-one lessons.
You tell them straight “Look, I have so many students contacting me that it’s just not possible for me to do one on one lessons anymore. So get a group of four of your son/daughter’s friends together and I can do a group lesson for all four of them for ( 3 times your previous rate) per hour.”
The research shows kids learn better in groups, so you’re giving them better lessons.
And you are finally getting nearer to your true worth.
The parents will say “Oh no, I want one on one lessons”
You say “I’d really love to, but I just can’t do it anymore. But do get back to me when you get a group of four together.”
Be strong. Be firm. Be happy to walk away.
I think you can guess what the parents do now. 🙂
And the best part? You’re now having a much, much bigger impact on the world.
Instead of teaching one student per hour you’re now teaching four of them in one hour.
So you’re now doing the same work in that one hour that it used to take you four to do.
And those other 3 hours you just saved each day?
That’s for your kids. For your family.
Eventually you’re going to get up to 8 students in one class. That’s for later though.
For today you’re getting 4.
In one class.
Be strong. Stick to it. Unless you like the feeling of desperation of not having enough money each month.
But in my town ……
Of course the next question your brain comes up with is “But not in my town. Maybe in Paris or Tokyo or Milan or Rio or …… But not here.”
Last week we had Armin Van Burren play.
Did you see the price of those tickets?
So of course, you just told me that no one in your town has any money, so no one came to the Armin concert did they?
No, it was totally empty.
These 1000s of people.
They don’t exist because in your town no one has money.
But I bet they all got one-on-one lessons with Armin.
They wouldn’t possibly pay to be in a group. No, no, no.
And they certainly wouldn’t pay all that money just for entertainment, when they’re not even learning anything…….
I’m doing this to help the poor …..
Now in this city there is a huge issue with kids of immigrant families who’ve come in from the war torn areas of the country.
Now if you want to help these kids, then definitely, 100% help them out.
But don’t think that you’re doing that by charging basement bargain fees for your lessons and only doing one-on-one because you’re scared.
That’s not how you help people.
You help them by being secure in yourself.
By charging what you need to charge.
By teaching in groups where you can help 4 or 8 or 20 times as many people in one hour as you used to do in 20 hours.
By giving your family the gift of time with you. The gift of financial security and having you mentally with them when you are at home.
And then you can also offer special lessons for any special groups you like. You can give like crazy.
That’s separate. It’s not your regular lessons.
If you like, pretend you’re Robin Hood. You get paid (not stealing!) in the richer areas of town. And then you can give back to the poorest.
You can’t give from an empty pot.
So be strong.
Tell your next prospective parents that you have so many requests that you can only do group lessons from now on.
In any city in the world there are the Armin fans. The ones who will pay you what you are worth.
Keep saying “no” till you find the ones that are right for you.
I want you to change the world.
We do that with awesome teaching.
And I need you fully awake, fully aware, and fully committed to this mission you have in life.
You deserve it.
Your students deserve it.
And your own children deserve it.
Let’s make it happen.
From now on you’re going to kick this into gear.
No more amateur hour.
Now you’re a professional doing a professional job.
Not next year. Not next month. But now. Today, from the very next call. I’ve got your back. You know you can do this!
P.S. For teachers who have moved to group lessons, please put up a comment on the blog to show all the other teachers that it can be done. I know no-one listens to what I say, but they might listen to what you have to say 😉
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The above example of a teacher going around town teaching at the locations convenient to the parents, is 100% how I was teaching in the beginning – and now 🙂
However, I quickly learned that group were much better money, AND more importantly more fun for the kids and me.
Now I have a set price for 1~8 kids in a class, and then a little extra for each kids beyond the 8.
Parents still ask about the one-on-one classes, and I tell them it’s okay, but at the price of 8… Which none has chosen so far 🙂
I also tell them that I would rather have a group of 6~8 kids at same price, because classes are much more fun for the kids.
All my classes are now 5~9 kids, and I love my job now more than ever 😀
Hope this helps
Malcolm Gladwell writes about this. Based on a lot of research, if you graph the optimal class size it is an upside down U. Very small classes lack things such as energy, diversity and range of experiences. Small classes can easily be dominated by one student. Very large classes become difficult to manage. Teachers can’t cater to individual needs and students get lost in the crowd. I teach 35 kids in a class every day, it’s too many. At home, because of the size of my office I teach 4 kids, it’s OK, but I’d rather teacher 8, 10, or 12. I think 8-12 kids would generate enough energy for a Genki lesson, but it would still be a manageable class size where I would know each kids ability and be able to help each individual.
I don’t usually comment on posts but this one rang so true to my ears that it’s impossible not to.
I was that teacher, two years ago, running around left, right and centre, happy in my work but very unhappy in my time management and income.
After seeing Richard on internet I took a Genki weekend course in Italy. The course and the VIP pack really did open up a new world of teaching to me which I love and use daily. I then took the school owners course and after doing a few sums I was totally shocked to realise my earning potential as well as a lot of other valuable information. To cut a long story short… by putting into practise just a fraction of the things I learned on the course I have almost tripled my income and next year is going to be even better because my goal is to earn the same amount of money and work less hours. Sometimes it isn’t easy but you just have to believe in yourself, give excellent value for money, love your job, stick to your guns and enjoy the journey. Best wishes to all 🙂
Once again you’re right, the point is to make the decision and to start. Very good alternatives.
Such great comments from everybody!
I was not so much in the position of running around teaching classes, but I was basically opening group classes for 1 student when I first started, with the idea that other people would join. Guess what happened? Nobody joined but I was still afraid to stop the class.
Now it’s a different story. I’ve set my minimum limit to 4. Some parents have really helped me out and others have sit at the sidelines with their fingers crossed – hoping that other students will join and help “save” the class.
I understand the fear, but it’s just that – fear. You ‘d be surprised at how empowering it is to say “no” to people. And another thing that has surprised me – that the more you say it, the easier it is to say. 🙂
Hang in there – keep believing in yourself! YOU WILL GET THERE!!
Spot on Richard!!! I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and I was definitely a SLAVE to the fears in my own head. I still have them sometimes, but I have learned that it is just not true. I grow and learn every year and I will continue to!
Yes, those old fearful thoughts do still come back sometimes (even fought with them last night after a really hard day at work!) but I KICK THEM IN THE FACE AND SAY OUT OF MY WAY!
We are great teachers because we learn from our mistakes and we care about our students. We care enough to take care of ourselves and set a good example for them by being firm about our prices and conditions.
THANKS FOR THE GREAT POST!
I just want to say Thank you Sir Richard‼️
My teacher’s pack really made my class GENKI😊
You write a lot of interesting and useful posts. But THIS post changed my outlook and working life completely.
I needed to read it and thank God I did. I live in a tiny mountain village with only one junior high in 40 miles. I started by scrabbling around for a few 1:1 students. Then I found some confidence through your posts and said to one of the parents of my 1:1 students who had stopped coming, ‘hey look, I’m starting a conversation group with min/max 6/7 students for second year junior high students. If Terry would be interested, pass the message on and we can arrange something’. That message got out on a parents WhatsApp school group and I was INUNDATED. I now run a couple of evening classes with six per class. They are super happy, I am loads more creative and structured, and earn a regular decent wage (also work daytime in a college). I repeat the same material twice as they are all the same level. And in the spare time I have gained I volunteer to teach English at the local nursery which my daughter attends.