Teaching online, just like many other digital careers, comes down to your network. Who do you know, and what opportunities are you pursuing? Many teachers struggle to build a consistent student base and grow their business. What is the best way to move past this issue? One word: networking.
The best thing a teacher can do to grow their business is to identify opportunities to meet people that will help them along the way. Additionally, they must put themselves in situations that may lead to opportunities down the line.
Networking is an incredibly powerful business tool. Even when not directly helping in the moment, getting out and meeting people, attending events, and putting yourself in front of people that may provide conversation practice or other opportunities down the line can prove instrumental in your language learning journey. Let’s look at networking best practices.
Get out and meet people!
What I’ve found beneficial, in both personal and professional situations, is to identify and pursue local opportunities to get out and network. Increasing your Rolodex of contacts will provide long-term benefits. A quick way to do this is to find local and online meetups, forums, and events that will put you in contact with or available to influencers in your field.
Don’t ever be afraid to introduce yourself to people and shake their hand. I’m a big fan of doing cold outreach emails – in fact, many people I currently work with or have in the past resulted from me introducing myself via an email and asking a question or offering to be of service. Whether in person or online, it’s important to be confident and convey what you want – even if that is just to say hello. Maybe you’re introducing yourself to the head of an online language school that you’d like to work for, or a member of the press looking for something to write about. Show people that you are on the right track, and they will respond and often give you what you want.
Maintain your contacts
Follow-ups are as big a part of networking as meeting the contact in the first place. Stay in touch! Email people that you meet after a few days and ask to grab a coffee. Sometimes, what it takes it a willingness to put yourself out there. If you have the opportunity to meet an influencer that you hope to turn into a mentor or employer, go to their speaking gigs or functions. Always remember to keep in mind the impression you’re leaving on people.
Stay in touch. Connect with people you meet on social media. Comment on their posts! Be active and interested, and you’ll be surprised how well people respond.
A big bonus of consistent networking efforts is that the opportunities that arise often benefit in more ways than one. With time and consistent effort, you’ll start to see opportunities arise that otherwise wouldn’t have – all because of networking.
- Friend/follow people you meet on social media. Facebook is the most interactive for this task, as it’s person-to-person messaging service is incredibly simple and personable, unlike Twitter or Instagram. Interact regularly with the person. Facebook Messenger, in addition to email, is a great tool for arranging an in-person meeting.
- Follow up via email with contacts a week or so after meeting (unless other arrangements are made).
- Attend events where people you want to meet will be! Even if you don’t meet them on that occasion, you’ll have something to talk about when you cold email them.
Take one opportunity into the next one
Teaching online is a lot of work, especially up front. Building a roster of students, getting the word out, creating lesson plans, and everything else that goes into the process. Relationship building is the key to making this process happen smoothly. Pursuing any chance to meet someone who may eventually benefit your online teaching career is a critical part of business growth. Part of taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way is just to say yes! Accept invites. Get out of the house and do things.
Putting a plan into action
Where should you get started with your networking efforts? How do you know whether or not an opportunity is promising?
- The important part is to identify how someone may be able to help you, how you may be able to help them and figure out the best way to proceed.
- Be willing to listen. People love to talk about themselves, especially at meetups, conferences, and networking events. All you need to do is listen, and get a person to expand on his or her knowledge. You may pick up on tips that will help your career just be listening to how they do things. Maybe you feel comfortable dropping the classic ‘Let’s grab a coffee and talk’ line. We work online, but sometimes it’s necessary to get out there and attend events and conferences in person.
- Consider joining an online membership site for digital workers, such as Location Indie, or for teachers, such as Twiducate. That way, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who likely have connections in areas that you don’t and vice versa.
The bottom line is this: put yourself in front of as many people that may benefit your career as possible. Sometimes something will come of it, other times nothing will happen. But there is always value in being ‘part of the scene’ and an active member of the online teaching and online business communities. That is truly the start to networking best practices.