Upselling Tips & Tricks for recruiting and retaining students

You’ve taken the plunge and decided to go on your solo teaching adventure! You’re equipped with a TEFL certificate, the essential computer equipment, and a trusted curriculum like Crystal Clear’s. Then, you realise you are missing one essential ingredient in your ESL masterplan… students! Or maybe you’re a seasoned teacherpreneur looking for ways to retain existing students or fill those gaps in your teaching schedule. No matter where you are on your freelance ESL journey, we’ve put together a list of tips for upselling your services, retaining existing students, and recruiting new ones!

While finding ESL students can take time and dedication as an independent online teacher, these tips will give you creative ways to stand out among the crowd, build a loyal client base and increase your revenue!

Offer group lessons:

Some teachers shy away from teaching groups, but here’s the tea! Group lessons can increase your revenue without increasing your workload! Not only will offering group classes benefit your pocket (ka-ching!) but learning in groups can benefit your students too!

Group lessons can increase your student’s motivation to learn and provide your students with opportunities to practise English in real-world settings, which can prepare them for real-life interactions in English-speaking environments. Group lessons can be offered at a slightly reduced price, making your services more accessible to different income brackets. Whether you teach one-on-one or in groups of two, three, or four students, you still need to prepare your lessons and resources. If you charge $20 for a 30-minute private lesson, you can charge $15 for a 30-minute group lesson. If you book three students in one class, that’s $45 (more than double the pay) for the same amount of work as you’d do for one student! Try getting one parent to organise a group class for their child and two friends: less admin for you, and no need to rearrange lessons if one student is absent!

Organise real-time social media events & meet-ups:

You can host real-time live events on most social media platforms, like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Xiaohongshu, and streaming platforms, like Zoom. You can offer these real-time events to your students as additional after-class support and encourage potential students to participate in the live stream. Not only will this allow your existing students to practice English amongst their peers, but it will also allow potential new students to see what learning with you will be like! You can host these events now and again or regularly! Try hosting a debate club, pick a monthly topic to discuss, or host a live festive-themed lesson or a fun English quiz! You can also go live on your social media channels with a Q&A.

Real-time social media events are a great way to gain more exposure and build rapport with your dream student community. You can leverage your live events as an incentive to get new students to purchase a bundle, and it’s a great bonus to offer your existing students. You can even extend your offerings to include a Parents’ Social, where parents can practice their English too, meet other parents, and celebrate the achievements of their kids.

Festive lessons and class parties:

The Crystal Clear Free Lessons library is brimming with free downloadable and interactive lessons about celebrations from around the world, like Easter, Chinese New Year, Ramadan, and Halloween (to name a few!) You can include festive lessons in your core package offerings, offer them as an additional up-sell or host free virtual learning parties for potential new students. Celebration lessons help students learn about their own culture and cultural diversity while teaching them to relate to current events in a foreign language. Make sure your festive lessons are fun, memorable and non-secular.

Click the pictures below to view some of our favourite festive lessons!

Host a ‘Bring a friend to class’ day:

If you have a good relationship with your existing clients, organise a ‘bring a friend to class’ day where your student can invite a friend to join their class for the day. This is a double-whammy win for you and your student! It’s a great way to show off your teaching style to a potential new student and parent, and it’s a learning opportunity for your existing student to practise speaking in social situations, and learn from their peers. The 30th of July is International Friendship Day, so this may be the ideal time to host an annual ‘bring a friend’ day!

Create Packages & Bundles:

Create packages that bundle together multiple lessons or services at a discounted rate. Bundles can incentivise students to sign up for more lessons, help increase your revenue, and make it easier for you to arrange your teaching schedule (and manage your budget!). You can also offer additional short intensive courses over the holidays for existing and new students, like a ‘Holiday Reading Club’ or ‘Winter Break Speaking Intensive’. Short intensive courses are a great way for new students to see your teaching skills in practice before committing to more regular classes. Crystal Clear’s China Payments Portal is ideal for processing your lesson bundle payments AND securing access to our pre-planned lesson materials!

Offer a birthday lesson:

Wondering what kind of bonuses you can offer existing students? How about a free birthday lesson? Your student can even bring a friend to their birthday class party! Make sure your birthday lessons are filled with fun activities; you can even decorate your classroom or dress up for the birthday lesson – the effort WON’T go unnoticed! 😉 Level 3 Unit 5 Lesson 1 and Level 3 Unit 11 Lesson 1 in the Crystal Clear curriculum are ideal for a birthday lesson, but you can also create your own birthday lessons where you teach birthday-related vocabulary and grammar for your students to practise on their special day. You can get creative and teach a lesson about decorating a birthday cake or even writing a birthday invitation!

Post testimonials and start a referral program:

In a technology-driven world, viva voce is still one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal – plus, it costs nothing! Building strong relationships with current students beyond the classroom (think clubs, sharing memorable moments in a chat group, or hosting live online events) will help to build community within your ESL business and strengthen your relationship with existing students. Strong relationships with your students will get parents talking and recommending you to their friends and colleagues. You can even incentivise referrals by offering a discount or free class for every successful referral. Don’t be shy to ask for referrals or send a feedback form to students or their parents. While feedback can make you feel vulnerable, it will give you insight into where you can improve your services and refine your offerings to align with the needs of your dream students. You can also use the feedback you receive to create testimonials for your social media accounts or website.

Offer a loyalty discount:

We ALL love freebies and discounts, right? A loyalty program is a great way to encourage existing students to renew when the end of their bundle is approaching. Offering a loyalty discount or even a BONUS loyalty lesson to a returning student will encourage them to keep coming back! You can create a digital loyalty card, like the one I created below on Canva, and ‘stamp’ them each time a student purchases a new package. For example, on their sixth bundle purchase, your student can get a loyalty reward like a bonus lesson, access to one of your bonus courses, or even a discount on their next bundle purchase! Canva has loads of loyalty card templates that you can edit and personalise to suit your needs.

Digital loyalty card example created on Canva

Offer additional courses, bonus material and specialised clubs:

Start building your bonus material and additional courses by first identifying the needs of your existing students. This will help you tailor your lessons to your students’ specific needs and give you insight into what bonus materials your students will benefit from the most. You can offer additional services (like a reading club) or resources (like free printable activity packs) which can help them achieve their goals. Bonus materials, live events, and additional courses are all value-added products, which can encourage new students to sign up. Valued-added products do just what the name says; they add value to your core offerings. Provide additional resources such as study materials, recordings of lessons, or access to online tools that can help your students improve their language skills. Value-added products can encourage existing students to buy a new package when it comes to renewal time and incentivise potential students to join your ESL school. You can offer reading clubs, speaking clubs, debate clubs, or discussion clubs. Up-sell your packages by offering additional themed and festive lessons, specialised material focusing on specific skills, or intensive short courses.

Offer and promote incentives:

Encourage potential students who are on the fence about signing up by offering a first-time discount, free trials, or bonus materials. Make sure you promote these incentives prominently on your marketing platforms and website. Don’t wait for your students to ask; be proactive in suggesting ways that you can help them achieve their language-learning goals and upsell your lesson packages. Incentives can help you build stronger relationships with your students AND increase your revenue.

Collaborate with other teachers:

Joining forces with another teacher can allow you to offer a broader range of services, such as specialised workshops or courses, which can help you attract and retain more students. Collaborating with other freelance teachers can help you expand your network of contacts, leading to new opportunities for teaching and professional growth. If you have a student who doesn’t fit your niche, you can refer them to another freelance teacher who may be better suited to their needs. Collaboration can help you build goodwill with other teachers and generate more referrals for your own business. You can also collaborate with other teachers to host live events, start a private group for both of your students or offer a pen pal program on WeChat or an email club for Business English students. Collaboration will allow you to expand your offerings, increase your revenue and reduce your workload!

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to expanding your ESL empire and filling your teaching schedule! Which of these tips will you be trying for your ESL school? Let us know in the comments below!
Happy teaching!

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