How should you market yourself to get students on your own?
Written by James Liu on March 18th 2019
Photo by Unsplash

“What is preventing you from achieving your goals for your business by yourself?”

This is a question I ask teachers during my free strategy session, and 90% of the over 60 teachers I’ve talked to in the last three months gave me similar answers. They consider marketing to be the barrier to getting students by themselves, improving their monthly income, and growing their online teaching business, because either they don’t know how to do marketing—a lack of knowledge or skills—or they’ve tried and failed, wasting time and money.

It feels like there is a giant mountain sitting between teachers and students. Teachers don’t know how to get around the mountain to put themselves in front of students who could learn from them.

Taking advantage of this market opportunity, online companies came in and dug a tunnel that connects teachers and students. In return, they dominate about 80% of the value chain, take a significant cut from your pay, and push your rate low, so they can be competitive in the marketplace.

You, as an online teacher, feel it isn’t fair since you are the one driving this business, delivering results to students, and keeping the company up and running. You want to cut out the middle man, because you believe there are students who would love taking classes with you independent of the companies and their platforms. If you could dig a tunnel connecting you with students, even one just wide enough for you to crawl to the other side of the mountain, you would survive on your own (and make some real money).

This strategy can be DANGEROUS when it comes to growing your teaching business, if you don’t know the correct approach to marketing.

So, let’s talk about the two marketing models available for online teachers.

1. Fishing in the ocean with a wide net

This is the model online companies use to get you students.

They spend millions of dollars every year on marketing, building big ships to cruise the deep ocean, throwing out massive nets to catch fish for you. Because they don’t mind catching all different kinds of fish, and prefer to land really big fish, their net is huge with wide holes—their marketing messages are broad. They can get students using this model because they have the resources and can afford to let small fish go.

However, if you use this marketing model for your own business, you won’t be able to get any students. Why?

Because you don’t have sufficient resources for building the big ships necessary to navigate the deep ocean, or for making the net large enough to cover an adequate area.

Therefore, you end up going nowhere, staying close to shore, and fishing with a net with big holes that the fish simply swim through.

2. Fishing in a pond with a narrow net

With limited resources, even very little to no resources, can you still go fishing?

Of course! You just need to take a different approach.

Instead of the ocean, you need to first find your ideal pond, one that is accessible to you. Then, you narrowly tailor your fishing net to catch the best fish in that pond. In other words, you need to know who you want to target and how to target them with specific marketing messages that actually resonate!

This is exactly how I was able to get over 10 clients on LinkedIn in just two months without spending a penny. It’s also exactly how most of my clients get more than three new students every single month through LinkedIn and Facebook—also without spending a penny. We all have our own ponds and narrow fishing nets to get our fish by ourselves.

Marketing can be scary, risky, and expensive, if you use the first marketing model and lack sufficient resources, trying to cruise the deep sea and fish with an inadequate net.

Marketing can be pleasant, effective, and free, if you can find the pond ideally suited to you and tailor the narrow fishing net you need to be successful. This is the marketing model all teachers should take advantage of to get students on their own and have their business and life under control.

Teachers that are struggling with marketing tend to hope for a sort of magic bullet to bring in students. Some teachers I spoke with in my free strategy sessions assumed that I had connections in China to get them students, because I grew up there, or some kind of software with an awesome algorithm to get them connected with students around the world, since I seem to be smart about getting students.

Unfortunately, I offer neither of those things!

What I can offer is to help online teachers find their ideal ponds and tailor the narrow fishing net they need. 

-Please read this article to know how to find your ideal pond.

-Please watch this video to learn how to tailor your fishing net.

James Liu


James Liu helps online teachers start and grow profitable and scalable online businesses. He is an expert at helping online teachers develop business skills and premium services that allow them to get students on demand and at a higher rate. 
If you're interested in growing your online teaching business, then definitely reach out and request a free strategy session today.
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