Online teaching -the niche

The niche

I attended a live class by Jack Askew yesterday as part of WizIQs Teachers Teaching Online MOOC (if you want to learn about online teaching, I strongly suggest you enroll NOW. It is excellent!). The title of his presentation was ‘ Being a Successful Online Teacher: Find your Niche, Build your Brand, and Constantly Grow’ (you can watch the recording of his talk if you enrol!). It was a very informative session, he gave a lot of tips and it was an hour well spent. One thing he said, and something many people agree on, is that if you want to be a successful (freelance) online teacher, you need to be known for one thing you are really good at. You need to create a niche. A specialisation may I add. But do you or should you? Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that nowadays, you cannot do everything well, you need to specialise, but as a teacher, why can’t my niche be teaching? Won’t I be a successful online teacher if I do not specialise?And, if I specialise, I may be a successful online teacher, but will I be a happy one? These are just a few thoughts……….

All in favor of the ‘niche’ say, “I”
” I”  but “Why?”

  • Well, practise makes perfect, so the more you specialise in something, the better you will become (well, at least that is what common sense says). You become an expert!
  • You target a market. You find people people who are interested in your ‘brand’, your specialisation. You have loads of experience teaching Business English, you are into EAP, you like teaching with songs. Find your niche, make a brand and promote it.
  • You create good resources, your own material and you do not have to be constantly looking for and creating material. You do not have to teach an Ielts class, make the material for this class, and then prepare new stuff for your Business English class. You create your own , solid bank of material and enrich it.

BUT…… and yes, there is always a BUT

  • If I specialise in one field, won’t I get bored after a while? If I am bored, won’t my learners be bored? I like variety and new challenges.
  • Don’t I close my door to ideas, teaching trends and mixing and matching? Taking a Business English idea on leadership and turning it into a session for my young learners about what makes a good leader, is what I do now. As an online teacher with a specialisation, will I be able to do that?
  • Can I not be good at two or three things?
I don’t know about you guys but I like to stick my fingers in many pies! I enjoy teaching Business English (online, yes , who would have thought?), I like teaching EAP, and I like teaching young learners. I guess for me, finding my niche is gonna be so damn hard… unless I could have a niche for teaching, but then how would I survive the online teaching market? Hmmm then again, if you look at this ramble, two out of three of my likes are ESP so maybe that’s my niche : ) Dunno about you guys, but I am on the fence about this one. I understand why I need a niche to be a successful online teacher, but I am not sure if I wanna have one. I am doomed : P
Final thoughts
Very confused……sitting on a fence. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. I really want to hear from people who DO have a niche.

Till next time……..
                             which will be very soon cause, well I have a lot of free time.

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16 thoughts on “Online teaching -the niche

  1. A multi purpose boat that can cruise down a canal in calm waters, or face rough seas if it has to…it has the build quality to do both and has multiple uses…alternatively there is a slick specialised canal boat – very good for these waters…but can do just that..just wonder down canals only… I know what I'd rather‏….


  2. Thanks for the excellent feedback. I also have different projects and niches (IELTS, language acquisition, and training teachers). But I concentrate on one or two areas more than others. A lot will depend exactly what you want to do: if you're just teaching and you aren't looking to build your own thing, then specializing isn't as important.

    But if you want to write courses, make videos, create learning resources, connect on social media etc., and build momentum, then it is difficult to do this for many different areas.


  3. I would rather have a boat made for canals for canals, and a boat made for rough seas for rough seas. And I would choose the teacher who specializes in accent reduction if I wanted to reduce my accent, not the teacher who says, “Yeah, I can do that, along with 101 other things.”


  4. I'm also a many-pie-person:)

    A mother and teacher, literature,music, comics, storytelling, art, business, exams, creativity, technology, blogging, writing, professional development – I've made my niche into a creativity niche really – it's a kind of mindset, personality thing –

    It's not the easiest way to do things – but I haven't done it all at once – I've been around the block a few times – and have done many things over the years – so I don't like to throw away my interests in the interests of business, so to speak;)

    Yet, for someone starting fresh I think that a niche gives you a razor-like focus :))


  5. Hi Jack! Thanks for reading and the comment 🙂 Excellent session, as you can you, you did get me thinking. You are right though, it is impossible to do that well without specialising somewhere. I also worry that a specialisation will make me one dimensional. Does that make sense? Teaching English is so much fun and choosing one 'baby' is difficult : ) That's all….. but as I said earlier, you are right!


  6. Hey Silvers,
    Thanks for reading! The pies… lovely, ain't they? You learn a lot. You mix, you match. I need to find a niche in my niches : ) though, I guess…., and stick to that. Maybe… who knows? I think I hear ESP calling me : D


  7. I watched the recording just this morning, I found it very informative, esp. for me that I want to “open my wings” to online teaching. I do agree with you that we are all versatile, I mean I teach German and English as a foreign language, starting teaching Greek (my mother tongue) to foreigners and I am also a spinning instructor (acquired recently my diploma on that). But when it comes to online teaching, I agree with Jack. I mean you have to focus on a specific area to get “customers”. For example you teach EAP. In my opinion it is pretty difficult for us who are non native speakers to find students as it is, because people doing courses online, try to find the “expert” in the field they want to study… So if you focus on that, it is easier for you to get started… I am not talking from experience though, so I don't really know it this is is the case…


  8. Nicely put Joanna:)

    I'm Sylvia Guinan by the way – this is an old avator from my first days using blogger – told ya I've been around the block;)

    Nicely put – a niche for your niches – yes, I think that's how mine evolved – but it's actually a long story – and I can identify strongly with both you and Jack.

    If I analyse things strictly, I can see that my paid work is mostly exams and business – so they would be the two areas I've been deeply invested in from day one – exams offline and when I started online, a lot of business English.

    Yet, the freedom of educational technology encouraged me to revisit my many old loves, art, literature, poetry, comics, storytelling etc. – to create and publish anything I wanted – and now all of that goes into my exam and business courses.

    So, to new people, I 'd say start with something practical that there's a market for, then add new dimensions whenever you can, never, ever giving up on professional development or reading and experimenting. always have a bit of yourself in there – your personality and hobbies make the language come alive.

    When you do that you keep inspiration alive and you develop a deeper purpose – your 'Teaching Values' – the real bedrock for whatever niche of niches eventually evolves:))


  9. Hi Jack, Hi Joanna,
    Before watching Jack video I was convinced that my various experiences in Teaching ESL, EFL and ESP were my assets to start thinking of online teaching; However, after listening to Jack I realised that actually being specialised in one particular skill will make me work more on it to develop and strengthen it and make become an expert in that particular skill. Thank you Jack for the very clear and engaging presentation.


  10. Hey Ben,
    That's exactly what happened to me. I thought, ” Hey, I've been teaching 16 yrs and different contexts, so this is what I can promote”. Jack's talk about successful online teaching made me question my rounded teaching experience and made me think, I need to dig deeper and see what I want to focus on if I wanna take my online teaching to the next level.


  11. Hey Theodora,
    Teaching Greek online seems like a good idea : ) and yeah you are right about the EAP niche as well. I am not an expert, but I do teach it well (at least that's what my sts tell me) so I think that could be my starting point. Hey girl, I think you helped me find me niche : P


  12. Interesting discussion, thanks Joanna for starting it off. I have been teaching for 10 years and every time I think I've found my niche a new opportunity appears; whether it's for financial reasons or curiosity, I have usually taken on the new challenge, which has been wonderful experience and I have learned so much. However as Jack so rightly said, it is exhausting preparing lessons and materials for many different kinds of students. Jack's presentation has inspired me to work on this point and to try to focus on two or three related areas of teaching in order to fine tune 'my brand'. I'm looking forward to his next presentation. Have a great week 🙂


  13. Hi Emma!! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Yeap, Jack inspired, was right and very thought provoking. I guess if you do not focus on one thing, a thing you are really good at, you will end up working all day, every day. It would be exhausting but….. there are so many yummy pies to choose from : )


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