Wondering how to make money teaching English online? Or how to earn more and get a teaching job or more students…
Find a niche.
Developing a teaching niche (or a few niches) is one of the best ways to earn more money as an ESL teacher online or in the classroom.
How do you use teaching niches successfully? Find out here, in our guide to using niches to make more money teaching English online. We’ll cover it all – from what teaching niches are and the best TEFL niches to the benefits of niches and how to build your own.
English Teaching Niches – Quick Links
In this guide, we are talking specifically about English teaching specialisations within the field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). Our focus is on specific, well-paid niche markets for TEFL/TESOL online tutoring services.
In the context of business, the Cambridge Dictionary defines the noun ‘niche’ as:
“an opportunity for a business to offer a product or service that is not offered by other businesses”.
More broadly the adjective ‘niche’ refers to that which is “interesting to, aimed at, or affecting only a small number of people”.
In other words, a niche is an area of specialisation that targets a specific group of people (or a segment of the market) and caters to their particular needs and interests. If you think of food, for example, gluten-free, raw vegan snacks are a culinary niche. In sports fly fishing, underwater hockey, or canyoning are niche sports activities.
In the English as a Second Language (ESL) industry, niches are areas of specialisation that cater to specific types of English learners. In other words, an ESL teaching niche is a focussed area of English language learning that you can specialise in as a teacher.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is a massive global industry, not a niche. Whereas Teaching TEFL/TESOL online is a burgeoning trend with more students and teachers connecting online than ever before. Although Teaching English online is a lucrative ESL sub-industry, it is not a niche in itself.
There are many, many niches within the ESL industry with more emerging constantly. English teaching niches include private English tutoring for teenage learners, business English and English examination preparation.
Below are some of the biggest, most popular niches for TEFL/TESOL teachers to make money online.
- English Exam Preparation: IELTS Exam Preparation, TOEFL Examination Preparation and Cambridge Assessment English Exam Preparation (more about this below)
- Business English (a wide niche encompassing sub-specialisations / more about this below)
- English for Special Needs Students
- English Language Specialisations – grammar, spelling, vocabulary, creative writing, etc
- Profession Niches (English for medical professionals, accountants or financial professionals, etc)
- Pronunciation or Accent Reduction Tutoring (ideal for native US or UK English teachers)
- Age Group Niches: kindergarten/pre-school, teenagers or adults (to add-to or hone your other niches)
- Student First Language Niches: specialisation for multi-lingual teachers who are fluent in their students’ first language (e.g. English classes for native Spanish-speaking students)
Exam Preparation is one of the best English teaching niches because the students tend to be more focused, reliable, and dedicated. Most of the students in this niche take English language exams in order to qualify for jobs, study programs or to relocate abroad and are therefore highly driven. Considering how competitive international study programs and employment markets are, these students are often very motivated to improve their scores in English proficiency exams.
Exam preparation students are often willing to pay more for tutors with the specific expertise and experience needed to ensure that they do well in their exams. Students preparing for exams also often require intensive tutoring to prepare for upcoming exams. Thus they usually need many lessons over a set period of time. As your students pass their exams successfully and you become more established as an expert your referral rate improves. Lastly, the curriculum and teaching outcomes are also clearly defined by the exam requirements which makes it easier to prepare your classes.
There are courses for teachers wanting to specialise in preparation for specific English language exams. These can be pricey however so you will need to invest in yourself.
At eTEFL Online we offer support to our teachers wanting to specialise in tutoring for the Cambridge Assessment Exams.
This is a large and popular niche because it is in demand worldwide. As you probably know, English is internationally recognised as the official language of business. Thus, there are millions of people doing business in English across the world! If you have business experience or a degree in business or management then teaching Business English is a natural fit for you. Your qualifications and experience will make it easier for you to market yourself and understand the needs of your students. If you don’t have any experience or relevant qualifications for tutoring Business English there are specialist courses available.
When it comes to tutoring Business English it helps to narrow your specialisation down further, because it is a broad niche with plenty of competition. If you’re looking at teaching Business English online pick focus areas such as English for Business Presentations, Professional English Writing for Business or Accent Reduction for Effective Verbal Business Communication.
Developing teaching niches is not the only way to succeed as a TEFL teacher online but it is one of the best, most rewarding ways. Specialising in niches helps you to build a sustainable career as an English teacher online more quickly and easily.
Once you have your TEFL certification developing a niche as an English teacher online will help you to make more money and enable you to teach what you enjoy most to the students you enjoy teaching most.
English teaching niches are particularly important for (and beneficial to) freelance teachers and entrepreneurial teachers starting their own teaching businesses. That said, many schools and companies specialise in niches themselves so it is also valuable for contract teachers to develop teaching niches.
1. Better Marketing:
Your brand will become cleaner and your message clearer when you hone in on niche teaching services. Specialising will help you to stand out from the crowd and reach your target market on freelance sites and platforms where you promote your own business.
2. Less Competition:
When you focus on niche teaching services you shift from competing in the highly competitive market for general English classes. Niche markets are smaller, less-exploited sub-markets with fewer competitors. In essence, you will be competing with fewer teachers for more targeted students.
It also becomes easier to collaborate with other English teachers when you offer complementary, yet distinct, services. When you target advanced learners you will also avoid competing with companies that target beginner and intermediate markets.
3. Become an Expert:
By specialising in a niche and excelling in that area of English teaching you become an expert within the field. As you gain experience and knowledge within your niche so your status as an expert develops and your value to students increases.
4. Make More Money:
As you become more of an expert in a specific teaching niche your earning potential will increase. Students are willing to pay more for expertise in particular areas of interest.
5. More Efficient Preparation:
Once you have established yourself in an English teaching niche online it becomes easier to plan your lessons. Instead of covering diverse topics with a wide range of students, you can develop a curriculum that focuses on your niche and features lesson plans that can be adapted to most of your students within that niche. If you target students at the same level (intermediate learners) in your niche then you’ll need to spend even less time outside of class on preparation.
6. Better Referral Rate & Higher Pay:
As a TEFL teacher offering specialist skills and knowledge to students it is easier to get more students through word-of-mouth because of the unique value you provide. As your students recommend you for addressing specific problems and needs, demand for your service rises which will enable you to charge more.
Narrowing down the type of English lessons you offer online to two or three areas of specialisation will help you to make more money. This strategy may seem counterintuitive at first but it is easier to market yourself and make your brand stand out. It also makes it easier to work with other teachers and support each other when you have a niche.
Ready to find your niche for teaching English online? Here’s how…
The best place to begin is to assess your experience (work and life) and your interests. What have you done before and what are you passionate about now? Once you have a good idea of your assets it is time to assess which niches are both profitable and rewarding. Sound complicated? Here is a step-by-step guide to finding your niche for teaching English online.
1. Assess Yourself
Identify the subjects and interests you have experience in and knowledge of, professionally and personally. Think in terms of the English language and your life experiences in general. Brainstorm it and include everything from photography and stargazing to accountancy and punctuation.
TIP: Remember to tap into your transferrable skills and knowledge. Seemingly irrelevant or unrelated experiences and interests can turn out to be valuable assets for making money in teaching niches. Get creative and have some fun with the process.
2. Check Out the Competition
Research/stalk the competition in niche areas you are thinking of developing. Do a bit of competitor analysis and see what other teachers are specialising in, before you launch into your first marketing campaign. Are other teachers already teaching English in the niche you want to develop? If so, how do they compare to you in terms of experience, knowledge, and skills? Is the sub-market you are considering saturated already?
If there are few if any other English teachers targeting your niche then you’ll have less competition. However, this is not where your homework ends.
3. Look at the Market
Check if there is a market for your niche. Teaching English for finger-knitters online is super niche, right? And there is nobody else doing it! Wait a minute. There is also zero demand for English teachers specialising in the subject of finger-knitting. Plus, the one person you tracked down would not be willing to pay for a tutor.
You need to find a viable micro-market for your niche. No matter how niche your niche is, it needs to be sufficiently in-demand to be lucrative. If you target a market that is unable or unwilling to spend money on lessons you’ll be fighting a losing battle. Think twice before targeting a corner of the market that is too small and obscure.
TIP: If you are teaching English online you will also need to take technological constraints into account. If your niche targets a segment of the market that is technologically challenged or averse this will create an additional hurdle to success.
4. Get to Know Your Target Market
Does your niche have an enthusiastic following? Are people passionate about this niche? Think about the things people love – food, wine, travel and film, and so on. If there’s a lot of love for your niche on social media then chances are you’ll find students who are passionate about it. If people adore your niche then they’ll be far more likely to want to learn about it in English or have English classes about it.
Swedish teacher, Anneli Haake, outlines 5 questions to ponder when identifying your language teaching niche.
Tips for Finding Profitable Teaching Niches
- You don’t have to limit yourself to one niche. You can pick two or three teaching niches and develop them simultaneously. Choosing related or complementary niches will make it easier to market yourself and even offer your niche classes in combination with each other.
- Develop your own teaching style and make it part of your unique selling proposition. In other words, you can turn your teaching style into part of your niche/s (e.g. an online Business English teacher who focuses on role-playing group scenarios and interactive activities).
- When you assess your own experience and interests evaluate what kind of students and classes you have or would enjoy teaching. Are you good with small kids or do you prefer adult students? Do you like big groups and classes or are you more of a one-on-one person better suited to private tutoring? What feedback have you received from students or past work experience that can guide your choices? Even if you haven’t taught English before, ask yourself these questions about your other work and life experiences.
Are you ready to develop your English teaching niches and seriously make money online?
Get help using niches to build a successful online teaching business from entrepreneur James Liu who specialises in business coaching for ESL teachers. He is a leading guru in the field of independent ESL teaching who has helped hundreds (if not thousands) of teachers build successful careers teaching English online.
Download his e-book: How To Get Your OWN Students Online And Charge What You’re Worth? or follow James Liu on Facebook. Or, jump right in and find out more about his 21-day Teacher Entrepreneur Challenge which is included in all of our Online Teacher Packages.
Last Word on English Teaching Niches
Finding your niche and developing it is a win-win process because it enables you to tap into your unique assets while specialising in what you enjoy most. The idea is to focus on doing what you love and become really good at it. By becoming an expert you will increase your value to students, differentiate yourself, and gain a competitive advantage. As a result, you will make more money teaching English online.
If you’d like to find out more about how to make money online by Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), getting TEFL certified, and building a successful teaching career using niches – get in touch with us at eTEFL online.