Building Your ESL Teaching Niche: Interview – Lou Page

Meet Lou Page! Lou is an ESL teacher with 40 years of experience in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Lou tells us his fascinating story of building an ESL teaching niche for his latest project – La San English – in Vietnam.

Focusing on a niche (i.e. a specific type of ESL student) allows us to channel our marketing efforts to a specific group of potential students. Rather than compete with every school and teacher that offers ‘General English’, an ESL teaching niche allows us to build expert status teaching a subset of students.
Many freelance ESL teachers and new teaching ventures often struggle with building an ESL teaching niche. When I come into contact with new teachers, there are usually two main push-backs I receive to picking a niche:

  1. If I define a specific niche, won’t I be excluding lots of students as potential future customers?
  2. I don’t have a natural student type! Where should I find my niche?

The answer to push-back number 1 is simple. Your ESL Teaching Niche will help you drive future marketing and student acquisition efforts. If students request your services – outside your niche – I’m not advocating to turn them down. However, I am advocating that you focus your student acquisition efforts on students within your ESL Teaching Niche.
Push-back number 2 is a bit more complicated. Where do you begin if a natural niche doesn’t come to mind? Lou’s story below is fascinating because his project developed a specific ESL teaching niche organically. It’s a great reminder that not everything needs to be set in stone for a ‘launch’ and to let things develop naturally.

Lou’s Background 

Lou had been in and out of Vietnam for 12 years assisting in welfare initiatives. Mid-2015 Lou was invited to Vietnam for an exciting opportunity! He found himself responsible for initiating English classes at a newly developed Technical school for adults in the town of Da Lat.

Take it away Lou!

‘We are using Off2Class on a number of different fronts. We have a slowly-building demand for face-to-face and online IELTS preparation classes. I find Off2Class excellent for both of these. I knew Off2Class from my time in Australia (where I had been doing relief work for IELTS preparation), but had never used it in my teaching practice. In Vietnam, I quickly saw Off2Class as a great resource for our IELTS preparation class. Students in this class regularly have work and travel commitments. Off2Class is ideal for students that take both face-to-face and online lessons. It’s a great blended resource.
We also have former students who have moved to Saigon and Hanoi, who are continuing their studies with us online.
I ask our local teachers to use Off2Class when teaching grammar-specific sessions. This ensures consistency in our curriculum and we find it easily enables the development of conversation skills. These conversation skills are heavily requested by our students.

ESL Teaching Niche

When we initially launched we weren’t too focused on a specific niche. Our initial student target was any and all students looking to improve their conversation skills!
As we progressed, our ESL teaching niche developed organically. It became apparent that there was a niche for young professional women and mothers who wanted to strengthen dormant English skills. Our students include nurses, doctors, senior teachers, university students, government employees and tourist administration professionals. Of our current 70 students, 80% are female and between 20 and 40 years old. Many of these students have husbands who are overseas in South Korea or Taiwan. They have ambitions to travel – thus the interest in improving their English.

What sets Off2Class apart for the Vietnamese market?

Vietnamese ESL education is heavily focused on grammar and writing with a lot of word repetition. Off2Class enables my teachers to experience a style of teaching that is more student-centred. It is great for teacher-to-teacher discussions about methodology and it ensures sound lesson preparation. This structure allows for and encourages commentary and discussion.

Plans for 2017? 

For 2017 we are working to refine our curriculum and to find ways to cater for increasing student enrolments. Off2Class will be part of this!’

Thanks Lou! Many teachers I personally come into contact with through Off2Class are struggling to find their ESL teaching niche. Your story is helpful for all of us!

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