Online school – how to set it up – Part 2

Before you set up an online school you need to consider many things. Without due research and preliminary planning, you can get into many pitfalls. This second part is assisting you figure out what type of school you are going to offer. The article is equipping you with the steps to go through to choose a teaching platform, your brand, the marketing tools, so your business becomes successful.

Researching your online business

Go big or small?

Your research will be decisive. The last part Setting up an online school part 1 was about looking at yourself, now you need to look at your business. What do you wish to achieve? A big business or a small one? If you have big ambitions but small capital it will be hard to realise. If you simply wish to create a life that suits you where you can work the hours that suit you, and sufficient payment to live the life you want, and maybe to travel as you do so, then this can be achieved. However, the chances of a modest business turning out to make you a fortune are slim. You need to have a clear idea of where you wish to get to in order to have a chance to get there.

Opening a small business

I am going to start by talking about a small business, where you do everything yourself, and where you leave open the possibility of taking on staff at a later stage, if enough business is generated. This is the easiest option. If you elect for this option, then you have to teach whatever your specialty is. Let’s say you have proven good at teaching English through the different levels, A1 to C2, but exam prep is your favourite (my personal favourite, I love seeing students do better than they hoped) then you can start out with that in mind.

One crucial thing to keep heed of, is that changing your mind in business can be tricky. If you aim for a particular section of the market, and garner some business and reputation there, then changing to a different aspect means starting again from the beginning. Decide where you are good and go for that. No matter what the subject, say financial English, marketing English, English for kids, there is a big enough market for you to be able to make a good living as a single person. A very niche subject may restrict you from becoming a bigger business though. But the advantage of a niche is that you can garner a reputation and repeat business from referrals. You need to decide from the start what you want to be.

What teaching system to use?

However, then the questions come. The first question you should ask yourself, is which platform should I use to teach? I am going to argue most strongly to link with dedicated teaching software such as Vedamo. Why? Because they allow you to grow. Using an instant messenger(IM) style service has many pitfalls if you are trying to grow a business. Your teachers can steal your students. You have no control over it. They will not keep up to date with the latest teaching requirements and methods. You will end up having to use other software to do all the things you need to do like creating tests.

Vedamo will want you to grow your business, as the more you use their system, the more money you and they generate. If you are serious, link with a dedicated system like Vedamo as you will have far more tools at your disposal than the competition who use IM. A quick online search will reveal that lots of schools use IM. Straightaway you have given yourself an edge. You will have a state of the art system at your disposal. Business is about having an advantage over your competitors.

So, take a look at teaching providers. Talk to them, see what they offer. The best offer is one that lets you pay more as your work grows. Agreeing to pay an expensive fee (and some of the big names in the business charge huge fees) for a year’s access is a big risk if you have no guaranteed business. As there is a learning curve to dedicated systems, it is best if they will teach any future teachers you hire how to use them.

Vedamo scores in this regard as they will do this. They offer a comprehensive system plus ongoing support and training. They offer a free month’s trial to give you a feel for it. As I have been using it from the beta stage I can vouch that it is comprehensive, intuitive, and the support is topnotch. It will not cut into your budget in any big way as you can start from as little as €20 per month without any long-term contract.

A little word about branding

Another crucial aspect is branding. You really need to put thought into branding from the start as it is difficult to change once people get used to it. Vedamo allows you to have personalised branding on the screen. This is not possible with IM and may not be possible with some dedicated systems. Once people learn to trust a brand they are reluctant to switch. I will return to this aspect in the next article as there is plenty more to say about it.

Your competition

A quick online search will show you what your potential competition is doing. Go through as much as possible. You need to see prices, what they offer, times, special offers, how they distinguish themselves, their branding, are there any offering exactly what you plan to offer, are their teachers certified, what is their website like.

Dig as much as possible and be prepared to adapt any ideas you feel are going to be useful to you. Try to look at what they are offering through the eyes of a potential student as well a potential rival. Don’t limit yourself to those schools which are offering similar to what you plan but look at as many offerings as you can. Someone teaching something completely different may give you an idea you can adapt to your needs. Try to see if what you can offer will give you an advantage. Having a dedicated system such as Vedamo in your corner as you start out will be a big plus.

Finally, pricing

Don’t fall into the trap of going for the cheapest price. It may get you instant business but it can be very difficult to adjust prices upwards. You have to be able to make a profit and you need to do your calculations. As I mentioned in the previous article Setting up an online school part 1 a business plan is necessary, and pricing is crucial. You need to cover all expenses, make a profit and have extra for expansion.

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Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
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