One of the biggest questions I see online ESL teachers asking is “My parents only want to pay $10/ hour, how do I explain that I can’t go that low?!”. In this lesson, we will discuss how to best communicate your prices to parents, justify the value you are adding, and how to tackle negotiations.
Firstly, it is important to understand where your customers are coming from. They have no doubt done their research online and discovered that most online ESL companies pay teachers around $10 – $20/ hour, AND these companies offer them extra advantages such as professional curricula, access to lesson previews, vocabulary review games, a convenient online platform/ app, access to ebook libraries, extra support from a mentoring group, etc. Companies are also more easily able to communicate with them in their native language, and provide secure online payments. They figure that you are offering them less value than they would get with a company, and if you were to work elsewhere you’d only get maximum $20 hour, so why should you charge them any more? Cutting out the middle man should save them money, plus they feel that they’re getting less value from your classes.
However, having discussed some of the extra time/ costs involved in being an independent online tutor, along with other important factors, in the previous lesson, we know that the majority of us are simply unable to go as low as $10/ hour. Before getting into arguments over pricing with parents though, let’s consider some approaches to better communicate the value you are adding to students.
As much as we may wish to argue back with “I have xyz extra costs…” to help parents understand our perspective, this usually just results in a complex and potentially quite awkward negotiation process. I’ve had parents argue that I “don’t need to lesson plan” as they will just send me a (definitely pirated and not designed for online teaching anyway…) textbook to use instead, or insist that it was my choice to live in a more expensive country so not their fault… It gets awkward very quickly!
Instead, a better approach is to communicate the value you are adding to their student, which they can only get from you. Identify your customers’ pain points and end goals, then explain to them clearly how you will help them achieve these goals and tackle these pain points. No-one learns English just for the fun of it, they are learning it for a reason – this reason is what you need to tap into.
Then, keep your “sales pitch” simple – clearly state:
Start by thinking about why they need English. Let’s pick the example of a high school student who hopes to study abroad in the future. They need to learn English in order to:
Their ultimate end-goals are to get into university, enjoy their time there and get good grades.
However, they are struggling to meet these goals because:
Having understood your customer, you can then adjust your marketing message to them. For example:
In this way, students can see that you are offering them something customised to their needs, which specifically resolves their pain points and helps them achieve their goals. This is so much more powerful than saying “I teach subject-specific English” or “I teach IELTS preparation”.
Ok now let’s look at a second example – kindergarten students. They want to learn English in order to:
However, they may struggle to meet these goals because:
Here are some ways of phrasing your marketing message:
In this way, even though the young learner niche is often seen to be quite oversaturated and less customisable, you can clearly communicate the value you uniquely provide as well as demonstrate your understanding of the challenges they face.
Quite simply, ask them! Before launching into your sales pitch, spend time just chatting to your potential customers to find out more about what they want to learn, why they want to learn it, what they are struggling with, what their longer term goals are, etc.
This process also helps to build rapport with potential customers and starts to warm them up to taking lessons with you. It may take some time, but by the end of it they will be better persuaded that you are the best teacher for them.
No! But also, yes… As a niche teacher, your customers can see that you will help them achieve their individual goals. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean making super customised lesson resources for each lesson.
For example, you could use a standard, well-structured curriculum (explaining to them that this is required to set the foundations in core grammar/ vocabulary) but then add in niche expansion courses more focused on their interests. Alternatively, when using more standardised materials you can adapt your teaching by bringing in examples or discussions more relevant to their goals.
Task: Think about your target market. This could be based on your existing contacts, previous teaching experience, previous professional experience, niche qualifications or interests. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your target customer (or even better, reach out to a suitable contact and ask them directly!) and note down their goals and pain points. Then, phrase a strong value proposition which sells you as their ideal teacher and communicates clearly how you will help them overcome these pain points to achieve their goals. Share your thoughts and value proposition in the comments below.
I want to start by sending a big thank you for putting together this course! I’m a Spanish teacher and it has been very useful to set my XiaoHongShu profile. I set up my profile and after two months I got my first student and at my desired rates! I wanted to ask you about the value proposition. I know I should do my own research, but I recall you mentioned you teach science English for students who want to enroll in abroad universities. Do you happen to know if there could be such market for the Spanish as well? I also have a science background and it would be really interesting to specialize in that field as well. I’m teaching general Spanish to kids and teens right now.
About the task: I know the needs of chinese families regarding to the lack of Spanish content in China, at least comparing it to the amount of English content available. If one looks for English content on Billibilli, lots of videos can be found, and circumstances are not the same for Spanish. I understand how difficult it is for parents to review the materials or homework with their kids since they don’t understand Spanish and feel insecure about the right pronunciation or answers. The amount of Spanish content available is very limited inside China. I offer them direct communication, I send them answers to the homework with explanations in Chinese so the parents also understand them, and I send them extra materials to review and practice. That way they feel more comfortable reviewing a foreign language like Spanish with their children.
Again, thank you for this great course 🙂
Thank you for your wonderful comment – great to hear that you have found the course useful! Congratulations on finding your first student on XiaoHongShu 🙂
Sure, yes there is definitely a market for Spanish classes, although I’m not sure how many are at such an advanced level as usually Spanish is taken as a second foreign language after English. Through Abridge Academy’s own tutoring program we have some teenage students taking Spanish classes, however they are all beginners level. You’d need to research how popular studying abroad in Spanish-speaking countries is for Chinese students and their motivations / goals. However, it does sound like there is a LOT less competition in this market, so it could be a great niche to focus on!