Katy Simpson has developed online resources that focus on a specific niche. Find out how Katy used feedback to improve her resources and why she asked for advice from people outside the ELT field.
Can you start off by telling us where you teach?
I'm based in Thailand but since taking the plunge to go freelance I'm often travelling. In 2016, I set up an online school for speakers of International English, called My English Voice http://myenglishvoice.com/ I publish self-study listening lessons featuring speakers from around the world, aimed at developing learners’ ability to understand a wider range of accents than you find in most coursebooks. I also offer lessons in communication skills using Skype, with groups of learners from different first language backgrounds.
How long have you been teaching?
I've been teaching for seven years, in the UK, Dubai, and Thailand. Before that, I worked as a journalist in the UK, so I have always been passionate about language. My undergraduate degree was in French and my M.A. is in English Language.
Can you describe a typical teaching day?
As a freelancer, my days are varied. For example, earlier this year I worked as a teacher trainer for a month on a project with the Ministry of Education in Thailand, training Thai secondary school teachers of English. I also worked in the UK for two months as an EAP instructor on Durham University's pre-sessional course. In between those contracts, I was busy writing materials for various publishers, and setting up My English Voice. One big difference in my typical day as a freelancer is the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, like invoices and email correspondence. I also spend more time now on social media.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
I love to write as a hobby, and founded a weekly creative writing group where I live in Chiang Mai. I also do yoga and try to get outdoors away from the computer as much as possible if I'm not writing.
You took on the tremendous task of starting a company, My English Voice. Can you talk a bit about the process of setting this up?
The idea...I've been writing and presenting about English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) for three years, in collaboration with co-blogger Laura Patsko at https://elfpron.wordpress.com/ We still work together, but our resources are mainly aimed at teachers, and I wanted to start a new ELF-related project aimed directly at learners.
Designing the content...My first challenge was to make the theory and research accessible, e.g. instead of using the word ELF, I use the term International English. After I’d designed sample content, I spent a lot of time getting feedback and adjusting materials accordingly.
Getting feedback...I ran a free pilot course with former students in exchange for detailed feedback. I enrolled on the iTDi Pro course about materials design, and that was a useful way to get feedback on my content from other teachers. While I was working at Durham University, I asked professors there for feedback. I emailed my work to contacts in the field of ELF and pronunciation to ask for specific feedback. I also spent time speaking to other entrepreneurs, outside the ELT industry. When I’m in Chiang Mai, I work at a co-working space where you can meet people from around the world in various fields. It was helpful to get start-up tips from people who do not work in education.
The website...I set up a YouTube channel and bought images from Shutterstock to create my branding. I looked at the design of other websites for ideas, and noticed that two I like (Film English and Lessonstream) are built by the same designer - Mark Bain. So I contacted him and asked him to design my site. I felt it was money well-spent so I could focus on the content.
I like the use of infographics to promote your courses. This is very creative and unique!
How long did it take you to set up?
Six months, between starting to design content and seeing my website go live, while also working on other contracts.
Where can teachers and students purchase your resources?
I publish two free lessons per week at http://myenglishvoice.com where you will also find details of the YouTube Live Brodcast speaking lessons, and the one-month Skype course.
Do you have any plans for more resources?
I am currently writing a book called The ELF-Aware ELT Professional, aimed at teachers. I am also working on re-writing my own personal blog, to grade the content and make it suitable for speakers of English at around B1 level (intermediate). Working with the Ministry of Education in Thailand opened my eyes to how many teachers of English are not confident in their own language level - and feel excluded from much of the valuable CPD that is available for free on the Internet. I am working on re-designing my personal blog to make it suitable for those teachers of English, in the hope of making content accessible to a wider audience.
How do you promote or market My English Voice?
Using social media (Facebook and Twitter). I also publish a weekly newsletter, using Mailchimp, with updates of the lessons I publish.
Where can people find you on social media?
What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
The most important skill has been diagnosing needs and designing materials with those needs in mind. I think the reflective skills that we develop in the classroom mean that I am constantly adapting and improving my materials. Teaching on short-term contracts often means building meaningful relationships in the classroom with complete strangers in a short space of time; I think this skill is even more important online.
What have you had to do outside your comfort zone as a teacherpreneur?
Becoming comfortable videoing myself. This was a painful experience at first! Editing video and uploading to YouTube was also a new skill for me.
What advice would you give to teachers who are considering having a company?
I talk to many teachers about their fear or doubt in trying something new or "putting themselves out there". What advice would you give to these teachers?
The more feedback you get, the more you realise that you can’t please everyone all of the time - some people don’t like the parts that other people specifically say they love! Find a supportive group where you can get thoughtful feedback, which might be critical, but is shared with the best of intentions. Learn to take feedback, especially the parts that are hard to swallow, but learn to trust your intuition too. If you’re passionate about something, this will shine through above all else.
Katy - thank you so much for sharing your experiences and advice. I would love to interview you again after you have finished writing your book.
Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started? Here are some ways:
1. Read more teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog
2. Check out my Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca
3. Sign up for my 4 week online course with iTDi.pro - Teacher to Teacherpreneur http://itdi.pro/itdihome/teacherpreneur.php
4. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
5. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
6. Set up a private coaching call with me https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pages/book-a-coaching-session-with-me
Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media.
My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., TESL and I reside in Canada. I have 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada. I'm now a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses, blogging, sharing teaching materials, instructional coaching for new teachers and coaching teacherpreneurs. Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year.
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