How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 2. Gain Recognition

VivianaStarting your own teaching business is a highly rewarding experience. At the same time, it requires a great amount of hard work, patience, focus and responsibility. Last week we talked about how to get the right skills to become tutor or a private teacher. Today, we will cover how you can get recognition for those skills and how to best manage your online reputation.

Get Visible

If you cannot be found, you don’t exist. You need to get visible so that your potential students can find your business. To start with, you have to think about your brand. Are you going to use your own name or are you planning to use a business name? It all goes back to what image you want to project and what your personal and business goals are.

Visible Light

Image by sweethaa via Flickr

Personal Name vs. Business Name

Using your personal name is obviously the easiest option. In Australia, you won’t need to register a business name if you use your individual name. Don’t forget you will still need ABN (Australian Business Number) for tax purposes!

From a branding perspective, your personal name suggest you are a freelancer running your business by yourself. This can be an advantage as some people might prefer individual tutors with a personal touch over more anonymous private schools. On the other hand, this may become a problem when you decide to scale your business and hire other teachers and can become a real hurdle if you decide to sell your business one day. In some cases, using your personal name can be seen as less professional and less credible.

Using a business name for your brand can allow you to communicate your Unique Selling Proposition in the name and combine it with a logo that represents your values as a business. Choosing the right company name is extremely important for your business and can have a critical impact on your future success.

Read more: 8 Mistakes To Avoid When Naming Your Business

When you decide on your name, you need to register it with ASIC, or a respective organisation in your country. Your name has to be unique in your state or country and cannot be already registered by someone else.

Now that you decided on your name, it might be a good idea to buy a domain name to represent your company online. Even if you do not plan to go online straight away, you don’t want to risk someone else buying your desired domain name. It’s a negligible cost that can save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Read more: 12 Rules for Choosing the Right Domain Name

Build Trust

Trust

Image by mikebaird via Flickr

So now you have a business name and you’re officially in the business. That’s a good start, but to be honest, it really is just a start. You will need to work hard on convincing your first customers that you are the professional, knowledgeable and reliable tutor or trainer you claim to be.

How do you do that? Try to get testimonials from your past and existing students. If you are completely new to teaching or tutoring and are starting from scratch, it might help yo ask your trainer, teacher or employer for a reference to highlight your qualities as an educator. These referrals not only build trust for your business, but also establish respect among your peers.

People Google literally everything nowadays. Even if you do not have the resources to build a website or do not want to make such a big commitment yet, you can set up a free WordPress site where you present your bio, showcase student testimonials and list any qualifications or awards you might have gained.

If you are from Australia or New Zealand, you can set up your teacher profile on Knowinger, our new education marketplace, and start offering your classes and building your reputation via our platform. It is completely free to create a course and acquire new students!

If the online world is not your thing, you can build your reputation through publishing articles in the local press or speaking (or at least participating) at conferences and events attended by your target market. Performing is another great way of acquiring new students and building your brand, if you happen to be a musician or a dancer. If you make art, you can use your products to showcase your skills and start building your reputation through your existing customers.

There are many different ways you can build trust for your teaching business, depending on your discipline. In general, one of the most powerful drivers of growth for small businesses is word-of-mouth. It can take some time to build your client base, but if you provide them with an excellent customer service and great product, they will not only come back but will tell their friends about you.

We will be covering some smart and affordable marketing tactics in one of our future parts of the series, so stay tuned 🙂

Become a Thought Leader

Another step in gaining recognition is to become a thought leader or an authority in your field. As you can imagine, this is not a quick win. It is a rather lengthy process you need to invest a lot of time and effort into. If you do it well though, it can lead to a great revenue growth.

Thought Leader

Image by kalidoskopika via Flickr

Probably the best way to begin your journey is to start a blog. Your blog should be closely related to your teaching business, but the tone of voice and overall appearance will highly depend on your target audience. You would  probably choose a different voice targeting moms whose little girls attend your dancing classes, or writing for young professional who might be interested in your copy-writing course.

Read more: 30 Quick Content Marketing Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know

Leadership is a Journey

Image by Hamed Saber via Flickr

The next step on your way to become a respected expert in your field would be to publish a book. As difficult and expensive it might seem, there are many online tools you can use to self-publish an ebook.

Guest posting is another great way to gain reputation. Try and pitch your article to a well-known online publisher covering your discipline. You never know, you might get lucky!

Speaking at conferences, hosting podcasts, or creating online videos are another widely used tools that will help you make the cut. Participate in online discussions and forums and offer your expertise to others. Be creative, consistent and provide your audience with a quality content! 

It goes without saying that to be a true expert in anything, you need to immerse yourself in professional development. Reading, networking with your colleagues and attending webinars and conferences will help you keep up to date with new developments in your area of expertise.

Manage Your Reputation

Your reputation is everything! As a small business or an entrepreneur, you want to make sure that people talk about you in a positive way. You cannot afford unhappy customers and negative reviews. That can be detrimental to your business, especially at the beginning.

Where do you hide a dead body? On the third page of Google results.

You can’t really control what people say about you, but your can to some extend manage your reputation online. Start with searching your name on Google and include search in Google Images. Have you found anything that can potentially damage your professional image? You can either remove the content by yourself, if it was created by you, or hire an online reputation management agency who can help you bury the unwanted information. You should set up Google Alerts to monitor any mentions of your brand name on the internet.

As more and more students use reviews to make their decision, your online reputation is extremely important for your business. If you happen to get a bad review for your classes, respond to it and offer your side of the story. Do not take criticism personally and try to avoid responding emotionally.

Pay close attention to what people say about your competitors. You can use the information to fill in the gaps people are looking for and to gain a competitive advantage.

Make sure you use your existing social media channels wisely. Keep private things private. It might be a good idea to set up a separate Facebook and Twitter profiles for your teaching business, even if you are just a freelancer using your own name. The rule of thumb is: Do not share anything you don’t want your students to see or read. You never know when or where it can appear. Fine tune your Facebook’s privacy settings to reflect how you want to use your Facebook profile from a professional perspective. Maybe you want to use it as a channel to get your name out there and establish yourself as a trusted authority. In that case, you want all the information you share to be public. Or perhaps you want to keep your Facebook profile for private conversations only and would prefer to hide your posts from anyone but your friends. Either way, make sure to personalize your privacy settings.

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Now you know what skills you need to start teaching and how to gain recognition for your knowledge and qualifications. Next week, we will talk about how to create a business plan for your new entrepreneurial endeavor.

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How We Launched Our Startup For Just Over $1000

We’ve always talked and dreamt about starting our own business. Today is the day when our dreams are coming true, as we are officially launching the Alpha version of Knowinger in Australia and New Zealand!

The Origin of the Idea

Get an Idea

Image by Bookelï via Flickr

It all started about a year ago, when I decided to buy my partner Michal a piano for his birthday. I got him an electronic keyboard when he was away on a business trip – it’s a pretty big thing so it’s hard to smuggle it to the house unnoticed. And I also wanted to get him some private lessons, so he could get back to playing soon.

And that’s how the idea of an education marketplace started! As I was Googling around I found various options for him. The difficult part was to choose the right one. I knew I wanted something in the Inner West of Sydney, so he didn’t have to travel far. With the rest, I had no idea. I was flicking through tutor directories and private school pages and was getting a bit lost. I called a few teachers and asked them about their courses and methods but honestly, I didn’t have a clue how to distinguish a good teacher from a not-so-good one.

Although I successfully managed to get him a great teacher after about a week of research, it left me with a thought of a gap on the Australian market. “If I had to go through this lengthy selection process myself, there must be a lot of other people that face the same problem”, I thought. So I started asking my friends and colleagues and talked about my idea of the education marketplace with various people. I didn’t have any expectations as I was just at an idea stage at that moment. Most people said they’d welcome a platform where they could compare different courses in the town, see teachers’ reviews and book classes online. And that gave me the impulse to pursue my idea further.

From Idea To Execution

I was changing jobs at around this time last year and didn’t have a lot of time to further develop the initial concept. After work, I would be spending hours researching competitors, gathering information and reading about entrepreneurship and business. I slowly worked on putting a business plan together and the original idea started having more shape and structure.

I even gave it a name; Knowinger and bought a domain on GoDaddy. ($44)  In case you wonder, it means:

  • Evidencing the possession of inside information
  • Characterized by conscious design or purpose
  • Alert and fully informed
  • Highly educated; having extensive information or understanding

I am a digital marketer, which has given me a huge advantage in starting this purely online business. I could use my previous experience managing high-traffic websites and highly competitive campaigns for large corporations. Michal, on the other hand, is a versatile solution architect and developer with experience from various enterprise projects around the world. We are just a perfect team for this project, right 🙂

Viviana & Michal

After having a clearer idea on what exactly we want to do and how, we defined what features are crucial to to launch our MVP (Minimum Viable Product).Looking back now, I am convinced we could have made it even simpler, but I have to admit it is a hard battle for me being a perfectionist.

In among all the preparation and initial development happening, we were actually moving to Buenos Aires, where we currently reside. As you can imagine, the progress with Knowinger was quite slow and we could not concentrate on it as much as we wanted. In the meanwhile, I decided to leave my well-paid job in Australia, not to search for any job in Argentina, and fully dedicate myself to Knowinger.

After arriving to Argentina, we finally had more time to work on Knowinger. While Michal has still had his full-time job and can only work on the product development at nights and on the weekends, I can focus all my energy on our startup.

Getting It Out of the Door

We started by drawing use cases, business processes and categorizing features into priority quadrants.

Viviana sticking post-ads

By the end of this process, we had a pretty good idea of what we need to do in order to create a functional MVP with the crucial features.  I took a great free course on Coursera which helped me with user experience design for our web application. To design wireframes (a skeletal framework of a website) I used Balsamiq Mockups ($79), a great tool to sketch your design and quickly iterate without loosing time and money.

The next stage, and for me the most dreaded one, was the design. We knew we don’t have the skills, but were a bit nervous about having someone we don’t know design Knowinger for us. We started with the logo and posted a contest on Design Crowd. To be honest, the quality of the submission was very low, so I did not choose any of the proposed design. (Lost approx $70 on fees) You can post “non-guaranteed” project where you don’t have to select any design.
Knowinger LogoOn the other hand, you probably get a lower quality submissions than if you guarantee you will select and pay one. I asked my friend Zuza, a graphic designer, to help me with some logo ideas. She came up with a concept of the current logo. We then worked together on further developing it to the current look and feel. ($0)

After getting several quotes from different designers, we decided to take an alternative route and use Flat UI Pro Web User Interface Kit ($69) to keep the budget low. Luckily, we already had Adobe Photoshop License so I am not counting that into our expenses. I bought the header illustration on Veer and got some bonus credits as a new customer so it turned out to be free.

The Flat UI design framework is based on responsive layout and contains a huge number of components. It is an amazingly easy tool to use and I have to say I am quite happy with the result 🙂 Let’s see what you think! I was actually thinking it was a good exercise for me as I discovered a few holes in my wire-frame designs that would have otherwise been missed. Oops!

By this time, I would have set up Knowinger social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Google +. I started interacting with our potential customers and engaging with a community of people interested in learning and personal development. I also started this blog on WordPress which didn’t cost me anything, as I already had my domain.

I created a video explainer using GoAnimate Business account ($79):

It’s a pretty simple animated video that shows the overall idea of Knowinger. I created the voice-over myself as I have some radio presenting background, which made the job little easier 🙂

I also created a pre-launch page on Launchrock ($0) where I collected email addresses of anyone interested in Knowinger. I later imported those emails into MailChimp ($0), an awesome free tool for your Customer Relationship Management.

Launch or Die

After I finished the Flat UI designs in Pohotoshop, Michal posted a project on Freelancer to find a front-end developer who would translate my designs into HTML ($780). I have to say we were lucky to work with Anton who is a patient and knowledgeable developer. Michal developed the back end of the entire web application by himself, so kudos for that!

In the meanwhile, I registered the trademark with IP Australia ($120). I already had an Australian Business Number, which made things slightly easier and cheaper.

All together, the total cost of Knowinger launch was $1257. I consider that a decent bootstrapping effort from our side!

Knowinger Cost Analysis

We spent the last few weeks frenetically putting everything together, testing the site and fixing bugs. It has been quite an intense time of not-enough sleep, movement or quality food. But it’s part of it, I guess. It never goes as you predicted and things just take longer than you expected. What matters is that from today onward, anyone can create a course on Knowinger and acquire new students completely free!

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I wish you all good luck with your ventures and hope you found some of the tools and information useful for your own startup projects!

Free Australia: Defining Our Strategy

Last week was full of tough decisions and changes for us here at Knowinger.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Light (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)

I guess one has to get used to this turmoil working in a startup environment, where the rules are not yet written. In one way, I look at chaos as an initial and somehow unavoidable part of growth. It is a stage when you question your decisions on a daily basis, look for new ways of doing things and re-think what you already considered being solved. It can be depressing and tiring, but exciting at the same time. There is a light at the end of every tunnel and the longer the tunnel, the brighter the light when you finally get out.

Yes, I would call myself an optimist 🙂

Back to the two points I wanted to share with you, because they are extremely important for us and the way we will be developing our product further.

Free

We decided to offer our product completely free. Obviously, we have plans how to monetize Knowinger, but the basic product will be free for everyone. We are therefore moving to a freeminum category of products where most of the users enjoy the advantages of the platform without paying any fees. We have been discussing this option for some time but were inclined more towards a pay-per-student model we originally planned to launch with. What led us to change this decision? Well, few things actually.

  1. We are honestly committed to broaden access to education for everyone.
  2. We need to attract as many people as possible to get the right traction.
  3. Our long term plans are to head towards SaaS model with additional features for both students and teachers – the basic marketplace product thus needs to be free to remove any potential barriers for people to use it.
  4. Andreas, our dear friend and advisor, who has been suggesting this for some time.

Free

Australia

Again, a tough decision to be made, but one that has been on the table since we started working on Knowinger. “Do we launch globally, do we only hand-pick few cities or do we focus ourselves on one country?” These were the questions we were discussing and all of them have their pros and cons. We finally made our decision and will only be launching our Beta education marketplace in Australia (and New Zealand). We are definitely committed to expand as soon as we will have the resources to do so, but at this point of time, this seems to be the most feasible option.

We are making progress every day and although everything takes a bit longer than we expected (yes, I know, it’s normal), we are getting closer to our goal. So wish us luck!