I’m a member of quite a few on-line TEFL groups for ‘non-native speaker’ teachers (you can join TEFL Equity Advocates & Academy group right here), and I often see people asking questions about teaching English on-line as a ‘non-native’:
- How much should I charge?
- Will company X want to hire me if I’m ‘non-native’?
- How do I persuade company X to hire me?
- How can I get clients on-line?
- How do I market myself?
The list goes on.
So I thought I would share with you my experience and some tips how you can get TEFL jobs on-line as a ‘non-native speaker’, how to market yourself and get clients (if you want to learn how to get face-to-face TEFL jobs, follow this step-by-step guide). If you continue reading, you will learn:
- 3 easy-to-follow steps to succeed on-line as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher
- Two secrets to a winner’s mindset that will help you to get hired (even if the school only hires ‘native speakers’)
- How to find your niche and charge higher rates
- How to find clients on-line without being salesy
- How to put your sales process on an autopilot and earn more by doing less
Awesome. So let’s get right into it!
But before we dive right into it, let me just very quickly tell you where I’m coming from. If you can relate to any of the statements below, say ‘yes’ to yourself (or out loud):
Back in 2011, I had no job and little job prospects. And the issue was that most of the jobs were for ‘native speakers’ only…
Those I applied for turned me down (or didn’t reply at all) because I was a ‘non-native speaker’…
Private students I tried to get preferred to be taught by ‘native speakers’…
I thought that there was nothing I could do to change the situation, so I blamed the system for it…
I’d heard so many times that ‘native speakers’ are better teachers that I kind of started believing it a bit and lacked the confidence in my own abilities…
Some of it sounds familiar?
I thought so.
Unfortunately, my personal experience isn’t at all that uncommon.
Since then, however, I’ve managed to completely change my career (and life). I’ve taught English in 7 different countries in language schools and universities. I’ve had a freelance business in the Netherlands and now I run on-line courses for English teachers on TEFL Equity Academy. I’m a frequent conference speaker, and I write materials for National Geographic Learning.
And the coolest thing?
I’m free to go, live and work practically anywhere I like, because I know how to get TEFL jobs on-line and offline as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because I know that you can and will have the same results.
By the end of this blog post you will learn the exact system you need to follow to succeed as an on-line ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.
So let’s get right to it.
Step No. 1: How to develop a winner’s mindset
While running TEFL Equity Advocates & Academy over the last several years (find out more about it here), I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to interact with literally thousands of ‘non-native speaker’ teachers.
One thing that has struck me the most is that all these incredibly highly qualified and proficient ‘non-native speakers’ who have millions of years of teaching experience lack confidence. Many still feel unsure about their own abilities and place in ELT. Many have sadly also bought into the ‘native speaker’ myth, i.e. that all ‘native speakers’ are by definition better suited to teach the language.
You’d be surprised how often I’ve heard from ‘non-native speaker’ teachers that a ‘native speaker’ would be a better pronunciation teacher, for example.
But if you’re going into a job interview or trying to get clients with this mindset, you’ve already lost. Why would anyone want to hire someone who doesn’t quite believe they are good enough?
That’s why it’s vital we first deal with the issue of self-confidence. This will help you:
a) feel more confident about your teaching abilities as a ‘non-native speaker’
b) market yourself better to schools and clients.
The first step is to understand why ‘native speakers’ are NOT better teachers just by the virtue of being ‘native speakers’ (a little disclaimer here: I’m not arguing they are worse teachers, but simply that your L1 does not make you a better teacher).
That’s right, there is NO evidence anywhere whatsoever that your mother tongue correlates with your ability to teach. But of course, the idea that ‘native speakers’ are better teachers persists and is based mainly on these four beliefs:
- Students prefer ‘native speakers’ (see my blog post on it here)
- ‘Native speakers’ know the target culture (there are all sorts of problems with this assumption, and I dive deeper into it here)
- ‘Native speakers’ are more proficient and have an intuitive feel for the language no ‘non-native speaker can ever have (see this post about vocabulary)
- ‘Native speakers’ are better models and teachers of pronunciation.
I’d live to discuss each in detail, but this post would basically become a little book, so I’ll just focus on number 4 here (I left you useful links next to each myth, so you can explore them in your free time).
First of all, something such as better pronunciation or accent doesn’t exist. Everyone has an accent. Of course, some accents are perceived to be more prestigious than others, but linguistically speaking, there is nothing better or worse about a given accent.
Now, accents can be more or less intelligible. However, the interesting thing is that there is no evidence to suggest that speaking with a standard ‘native speaker’ accent will make you more intelligible in international contexts.
Finally, there is also no evidence that students will magically pick up their teacher’s accent by spending few hours a week with them. If this was true, we could just play a Netflix series for them, and all of our learners would start speaking like the characters there.
Off to substep no. 2 of getting your winner’s mindset: understanding your own strengths as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.
We hear so often why supposedly ‘native speakers’ are better teachers that you might forget as a ‘non-native’ that you’ve got some amazing superpowers! For example you’re likely to:
- have very high language awareness
- understand your learners and their problems
- be a successful foreign language learner
- understand your students’ L1, culture and educational context.
Again, a little disclaimer: I’m not saying that no ‘native speakers’ cannot gain any of the above or that all ‘non-natives’ always have these.
Let me talk about being a successful language learner, because I think it’s an amazing skill you should use not only to market yourself, but also in class. Think about it…
You are the perfect model of where all your potential clients want to be. You’ve succeeded at what they are struggling with: learning English.
Along the way, you’ve overcome challenges they’re likely to be facing, so you can offer useful advice and tips based on your own successful language learning experience.
This makes you a perfect role model, which can be incredibly motivating for students.
So please STOP talking about yourself as a ‘NON-native’. Talk about yourself as a multilingual English user. A successful language learner. A proficient English user.
And use all of what you learned in step 1 to market yourself and convince clients and institutions to hire you.
Download this email template I have used again and again to convince schools to hire me even though initially they only wanted to hire ‘native speakers’:
This brings me to the second step….
Step No. 2: How to market yourself and find clients
If you remember just one thing from this step, it should be this: find your niche.
Think about it, where you live how many English teachers are there who are general English teachers?
What about business English teachers?
In essence, these people are trying to be everything to everyone. But this unfortunately means they might end up being nothing to no one.
Finding your niche is vital because it will allow you to:
- charge higher rates
- get clients more easily.
If you were to go to a general practitioner for a check up, you wouldn’t expect to pay anywhere near as much as if you were going to see, say, an immunologist, or a cardiologist, right?
It’s the same in English language teaching.
By finding your niche you’re becoming the go-to person whenever your target audience has a problem, which also means you can charge more money for your services.
How do you find your niche?
You need to think about three things: your expertise, your passion and market demand and list as many ELT items as you can think of. Where all three intersect, you will find the niche you might want to focus on.
This brings me to another important point. Remember that you’re NOT selling a product, but a solution to a problem.
In other words, you’re selling your clients the results they will get. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one to bear in mind.
But in order to be able to do this, you need to understand what problems your target audience has. Otherwise, you might end up selling them something they don’t actually need or want
How do you go about understanding your clients better?
One easy way is to join FB groups (or on-line fora such as Quora) where your target audience hangs out. Listen carefully to what people are talking about there:
- What questions do they most often have?
- What problems are they encountering?
- What are their main goals?
- What stops them from achieving these goals?
This will allow you to pinpoint the exact problems your audience has and start offering targeted solutions to these.
Now, how do you get your target audience to part with some money to pay for your services? How do you reach out to them on-line without coming across as salesy?
Here come sales funnels.
A sales funnel is basically a way of developing a relationship with your potential audience, positioning yourself as an expert and solving the challenges they’re facing while of course also in the end selling your product or service.
Notice that I mentioned relationships first and sales last. And this is precisely how a good sales funnel should work.
You don’t want to go up to random people on-line and ask them to buy your $100 on-line course, just as you wouldn’t go up to a random person on the street and ask them to marry you.
You first need to build trust. Talk to each other. Interact.
And the bigger the ask, the more trustworthy the relationship needs to be.
So how do you build a sales funnel?
You need to start with some content marketing. Simply put, content marketing is a blog post, or a video, or a social media post that solves a specific problem your audience might be having.
If you haven’t realised, you’re reading one such post right now, so in essence you’re in the first step of the funnel.
Step number two is a free offer. This is called a lead magnet in on-line marketing. It’s got to be something that’s related to the content of the blog post, easy and quick to download, doesn’t require much commitment from the potential client, but crucially solves an important challenge they have.
For example, if you’re struggling to get positive responses from recruiters, if you get turned down often because you’re a ‘non-native speaker’, download this free email template. I’ve used it countless times and perfected it to persuade recruiters to hire me (even if they initially only want to hire ‘native speakers’):
And as an added bonus, you’ll see how a sales funnel works behind the scenes, so you can imitate it.
This is your way of collecting subscribers, so you can follow up with them.
Once someone downloads the lead magnet, you obviously need to send it to them. For this I use MailerLite (see below).
You can then start further developing the relationship with your new subscriber. Send them follow up emails that will show who you are and how you can solve the problems they’re struggling with (see step 1 for how to identify these problems).
Finally, you can offer the product or service you’re selling. In my case it’s my on-line course “Highly Employable and Successful Non-Native Speaker Teacher”.
Here comes the cool part:
Step No. 3: How to put this sales process on an autopilot
Imagine if you could get more clients without doing more work. It would be pretty awesome, right?
For example, you’re sitting on your couch reading a book, and you get an email like this:
Putting the whole process on an autopilot offers you incredible advantages. For example, you are no longer bound by the number of hours in a day. This sales funnel works 24/7, 365 days a year. It never sleeps.
Just imagine what it would allow you to do if you could basically acquire potential clients every day.
Let me be clear here, though. It’s not a magic bullet. It takes time and effort to set up. You need to understand your clients and their problems and be offering a stellar product. But once it’s done, it’s done.
There are a couple of essential ingredients. First of all, get Promo Republic. It’s a social media scheduler that allows you to plan all your social media posts (content marketing) in advance:
Being active on social media is essential to reach out to your audience, but can be incredibly time-consuming. Also, there are situations when you just cannot be connected. Or don’t want to. Like now, when I’m on holidays in Russia. So I just scheduled all my posts in advance.
Essential tool number two: Elementor page builder.
I’ve used it to completely redesign this website from scratch. And let me be clear: I have zero knowledge or skills of html or website building. In order to install Elementor plug in, you’ll need a self-hosted WordPress blog. If I’m to be honest with you, I regret not getting it right away when I started out. But then I had no clue. You now do, so please don’t make the same mistake.
Essential tool number three: Mailerlite
I use it for all my email automation and marketing. So the emails you get when you subscribe, the follow up emails, newsletters, etc.
It’s super easy to use, free for up to 1000 subscribers and allows you to send incredibly beautifully-designed emails.
You can also set up completely automated sequences where your subscribers get emails depending on the actions they take. For example, if they click on a link, or buy a product, or attend a webinar, they can get a personalised email sequence.
All of course on autopilot.
So if you want to start with email marketing, you definintely need Mailerlite. And this link gives you a $20 off to get you started.
Essential tool number four: Demio
I honestly still don’t understand why in the 21st century anyone would want to use stuff like Adobe Connect. It’s old. It’s clunky. It forces you to download their app to be able to attend or give the webinar. You can’t watch it on a mobile phone.
Yet, practically every single ELT webinar still uses it.
Please don’t. You know better.
I’ve tried almost every single webinar software out there, and Demio beats all of them. It allows you to give live, pre-recorded, pay-per-view and automated webinars. Your attendees don’t need to download any additional software or plug ins. They can watch it on any browser. They can enjoy the experience on their mobile phone too.
It’s also super intuitive and easy to use.
If you want to give webinars or on-line classes, Demio is unbeatable. This link gives you a $25 discount.
Essential tool number five: Teachable
You could use Elementor to build your on-line course, but who has time for that?
Teachable is a fantastic platform that allows you to build your on-line course within minutes. If you already have the videos you want to use on your course, you can actually bulk upload them all, and Teachable will divide them into individual lessons, one video per lesson, and give each lesson the title of the video (you can edit that later). And voilá: your course is practically ready.
Again, I absolutely cannot understand how in the 21st century anyone would offer a course that is not mobile friendly. People do, though.
Teachable automatically makes your content mobile responsive, so your clients can do the whole course on their mobile phones.
So to sum up…
In this blog post we looked at the three steps you need to take to succeed as an on-line ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.
You learned how to gain a winner’s mindset, so that you can boost your confidence and improve your marketing.
You then learned how to market yourself without being salesy.
And finally, you learned how to put it all on autopilot.
So, if you want to learn more and see how all this works in practice, you know what to do…
This guide will also show you exactly how to boost your professional profile and get hired as a ‘non-native speaker’.