As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I work as an independent teacher, meaning I don’t work in any schools or institutes. Working independently gives me the freedom to develop my teaching skills the way I want to, allows me to personalize my approach, and earns me more money.
It’s also more challenging, because it’s on me to find (and keep) my students. Here’s what I have done, and continue to do, to recruit students.
First of all, I created a page on Facebook for my “academy”. I don’t think I got so many students solely from the Facebook page, but it helped to show that I was serious and not just some random person teaching classes.
2. Local advertising
One of the first things I did was to put out an ad in the biggest newspaper in Costa Rica, the Nacion. It wasn’t fancy, and wasn’t too expensive either, and ran for about a week. I think I said I was a native English speaker, teaching English in San Jose, and my number.
Thankfully I didn’t get any spam calls since I put my number in the paper, which I had been worried about. I did get about half a dozen students out of it, and several other people who were interested.
3. Free classes
I was part of a small church when I started to make the move from academy to independence, so I offered members of the church free access to some group classes I’d set up. Since I was just starting out, the pastor let me teach in the church, since they had space and equipment for it. It worked extremely well for me because those people went on to tell their friends and family, who did pay me. I also had three different group classes for people to join as they contacted me, since starting group classes can be really difficult.
At this moment, I am only teaching one of those original students, but I feel confident that I wouldn’t have the number of students I have now if it weren’t for those free classes. I even have a business or two to thank them for!
Now, if you aren’t part of a church, look at other institutions you can join. Maybe a gym or partner with another small business that would be willing to let you teach there for free or a discounted price, anything to get the word out and get people talking.
4. The most important method: word of mouth
Anything you do to get students experiencing your classes and talking about it is good for you (as long as you are a good teacher of course!). The vast majority of my students aren’t from any direct advertising I did, but rather from referrals by my current students. That is why I don’t regret all those nights and Saturdays of teaching for free initially because it gave me a client base, which then expanded my client base.
You can offer incentives to your students for referring, like discounts or free private classes, anything to encourage them to tell their friends about you.
This one isn’t the best method, but it did get me one or two students. I advertised under services. Just don’t give your personal data because I have heard of other teachers getting creepy offers.
6. Door to door
I have mixed feelings on how effective this has been. I think it depends on the area you do this in. I’m talking about printing out fliers and going door to door offering the fliers to people. I’ve never tried in residential areas, but I have in small businesses. I didn’t put as much time into it as I could have, so I didn’t see as many results, but with effort and time, I think this could be a good way to get some businesses, which are always higher paying and more stable than individual students.
7. Last but not least, the (slightly) dishonest option: Stealing
No, I’m not suggesting you steal things or people. That’s called kidnapping. What I’m talking about is approaching people you may have taught at an academy and offering to teach them outside the academy. Be careful of any contracts you may have signed about poaching students. In my case, I never signed a contract, and if I had, I wouldn’t have cared because no one sues in Costa Rica. So be careful of your situation. But I still advocate this, because I was able to steal a business who liked my style of teaching enough to follow me when I left the academy. They have served as my number one income earner and have helped me find two other businesses who have also contracted me.
In the end, you have to employ several of these methods and you need to know the culture you’re teaching in to know how to reach people best. It’s really important you speak at least some of the native language, or have a friend on hand who can help you out. Also, for the best of these methods, you have to be a great teacher. No one will refer you if you aren’t a great teacher. You may not have a boss lurking over you and nagging you to be better, so you have to do it for yourself. But how to be your own boss if material for another post.
As always, feel free to comment if you have any other ideas on how to recruit students. Hope this was helpful!