What are the upsides to having an ESL teaching niche?
Whether you pick a niche that you already have experience in or one that you’ve always wanted to do, there are major advantages to specializing your services as an online English teacher.
What are some examples of ESL niches?
Why is the idea of niche finding so hard?
The most obvious reason would be we cannot always know exactly what our competition is doing. As an online English teacher, I put myself into a broad category where I’m competing against thousands upon thousands of wonderful English teachers.
As we know students' expectations can be a strong motivation for or against language learning with a particular teacher. Some students like a lot of Grammar exercises and expect endless corrections, others want to just have fun and enjoy the English Journey!
Perhaps then our niche-finding must start with looking at ourselves more so than assessing your competition and trying to compete with them?
Maybe we should ask our students or prospective students first, instead of trying to find out what is it that the rest of planet earth actually wants?
How do I choose my niche?
You can either choose your niche based on your background and experience (such as in business, working with young children or teens, or test preparation) or you can dive into a new area that interests you. Here are some questions to consider:
- What do you love about teaching?
- What do you have a passion for?
- What kind of class/individual have you preferred teaching in the past?
- What age of student do you enjoy working with the most?
Niche finding: A practical checklist
1. Define 3 main language aspects that you love teaching.
Some people enjoy Grammar, others – vocabulary, some enjoy teaching pronunciation, working with children/groups, or accent training.
Unless you’re in the teaching business temporarily, I’m sure you can easily find 3 and more areas that you love teaching. Do that!
Once you define those 3 aspects write down why you love teaching them and how, in your opinion, you bring the teaching of these aspects alive. Perhaps you have a set of wonderful visual aids for teaching vocabulary. You may have never posted them, but they have helped you and your students. Perhaps you can make the boring Grammar rules easy!
2. Define your style.
Even if all ESL teachers are presently focusing on the same subject (e.g. Present Continuous) there are a plethora of ways of presenting this same information. Some can create unique exercises, some might sing this information or create videos/podcasts.
I'm personally a very energetic teacher who wants to have fun during the classes, although I like to think I'm very adaptable to each individual whether they be young/old, where they come from in the world etc… With the definition, there has to be flexibility also. I use books in many lessons and having them is good for structure but you need to be aware if something isn't working and be prepared to change it if needs be.
I have different kinds of students that were attracted to me because I'm energetic, like similar things, easy going with a happy attitude towards teaching and life, but teach them what they need in other ways. So, you don’t have to be somebody else.
Be yourself, but first discover what it is that defines your teaching style!
3. Keep up to date with your student's needs
What I do every year (or maybe 9 months) is to set up a free anonymous survey online and send it to my students to get feedback about lessons, me as a person, what's been good/bad, and what could be done better in lessons...absolutely anything.
I feel this is vital to self-improve and never stop looking for ways to improve yourself not just for yourself, but for your students.
Maybe a niche that you have chosen wasn't the correct one for you, as I have mentioned before this....be flexible and adaptable.
Change isn't a bad thing, be prepared to embrace it.