Sam Robertson - EFL Teacher, Teacher Trainer and Learneng.eu Co-founder

Sam Robertson has been working hard to get learneng.eu up and running so that teachers and learners can connect online.  Sam believes that teacherpreneurs should partner with someone who has skills that they don’t have. Find out why Sam thinks that teachers should save some of their enormous energy and invest it in themselves.

Hello Sam.  Can you start off by telling us where you teach?

I currently teach freelance in and around Milan, Italy.

How long have you been teaching?

I have been teaching for 7 years, in various countries including Spain and South Korea. I’ve worked as a teacher for schools, a private teacher, and a teacher trainer. 

Can you describe a typical teaching day?

I often work in the mornings and evenings. I teach regular conversational English as well as Business English and exam preparation. I occasionally do some online teaching.  My days are really varied especially since we started https://www.learneng.eu Today, for example, I am teaching from 9 - 11 a.m. and then I will have two classes this evening.  In between classes, I work on learneng.eu answering emails and talking with the others who are involved.

What do you do in your spare time to relax?  

I like cycling and swimming. Cycling is a great way to get outside the city and to revitalize yourself. I like most outdoor activities including hiking and sailing. I’m also an ELT geek so I read a lot of articles and blogs, and occasionally some fiction.

You took on the tremendous task of starting a company. Can you talk a bit about the process?

It was quite a natural progression from having friends who are teachers and who were giving private English lessons. They were serious, professional, hardworking teachers, but they were advertising on Craigslist and other classified websites. They were getting students but they didn’t have an appropriate professional place to advertise what they do. A friend and I thought about this and tried to come up with an online solution.

How long did it take you to get the website online?

From the initial idea to putting it online was a couple of years. We spent a lot of time looking at what else was out there, and we found that there was a gap in the marketplace where teachers could connect with learners for in-person English lessons. We spent more time looking at how we could do it logistically and looked at different software that suited what we wanted. In the end, we went with Sharetribe because they have fantastic customer service and support. It’s open source so we can move our website to a different server as we grow. 

What is learneng.eu and what services does it provide?

learneng.eu is simply an online marketplace for private English teachers and English learners. We do the legwork of getting students for the teachers, and we provide the framework for them to connect, book, and pay for lessons.

Teachers can create a profile and advertise lessons directly to students. Teachers are fully in control of what and how they teach, and they can decide how much to charge per hour. Lesson take place either in-person or online, depending on the teacher’s  preferences. 

On the student’s side, they can search for English teachers that are most appropriate for them by using the filters of location, price, and specific skills. Once students choose the teacher they want, they can contact the teacher, arrange the time and place of the lesson, and pay the teacher directly. Teachers receive the money in their PayPal account. This makes the process more simple and professional for the teacher and student.

Our main overall goal is to make the work lives of private English teachers easier. We are working on creating a more vibrant place for teachers and students so that they can interact in different ways on the website… work in progress!

 

What makes learneng.eu different from the other websites out there?

There are websites out there where teachers can give online lessons, and other sites that help language learners find a teacher. We wanted to cater specifically for English-language private teachers who wanted a professional place to advertise their services.   

We believe we are doing something unique because we:

●     focus exclusively on English-language teachers and learners

●     trust teachers to deliver lessons based on their own judgement (we don’t micromanage)

●     take the time to create meaningful content for our Italian and Spanish users; so the website, blog posts and social media are all in 3 languages.

●     give freedom to teachers to choose how, when, and for how much they teach

●     offer a direct connection between student and teacher

●     put a lot of emphasis on customer satisfaction. We listen to the teachers and students who use learneng.eu

●     charge only a 10% commission on each lesson. (We don’t get paid until teachers do.)

This is reasonable.  I pay a 15% commission on each lesson on my italki.com account.

What have been the main challenges of starting learneng.eu? 

I always find that no matter how much you plan, everything always turns out completely different from how you imagined it would! Although we planned a lot and tried to imagine different eventualities, there is no better way to learn than by doing. And so it was with us.

We discovered that trust is massively important when you starting any venture. We were lucky to have some teachers join us very quickly, which gave us confidence that teachers needed and wanted this service. But, we needed teachers and students to believe in our service. We needed them to believe that it would make their work lives easier and better.

We also found that transmitting who we were and what we were offering was not as easy as we anticipated. It was very clear to us but not to others. We found we had to find different ways to get across what we stood for, and what our service was.

You raise a good point about being clear in one's branding, niche, and building trust.  What are you working on now?

We are working first of all on getting more students to the site, and then we want to start offering more services. We’d like to add more resources to the website so that students and teachers can do more there, specifically more resources connected with teaching and learning but also to facilitate interaction between teachers and students.  

How do you promote or market learneng.eu?

We use standard social media such as Facebook and Twitter but we also rely a lot on creating a good impression with teachers and students, and then them spreading the word. This for us is the most important source of promotion for us.  

Unfortunately, in our field, there has been discrimination against "non-native" speakers of English. What advice would you give to non-native speakers of English who would like to use their skills to become teacherpreneurs?

I believe we should move away from using both of these terms because they are mostly unhelpful. At learneng.eu we don’t acknowledge of use the terms ‘native’ or ‘non-native’ although we allow teachers who use our service the freedom to use them if they want.

Do you do everything yourself or have someone help with the technical aspects, etc.?

I am lucky to have people around me who are talented and generous with their time. We don’t have the income to pay people so we have to rely on the kindness of others to help us move forward.  We rely on people for advice related to marketing and promotion. 

Where can people find you on social media?

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/learneng.eu/ 

Twitter https://twitter.com/learnengeu 

We will be making some YouTube videos soon to help people understand what we are doing.

What have you had to do outside of your comfort zone as a teacherpreneur?

From reading some of your other interviews on your website www.teacherpreneur.ca,  I can sympathize with what other have said! As teachers we are perhaps more interested in helping others than ourselves, so I would definitely say that promoting learneng.eu and getting the word out there has put us out of our comfort zone.

The fields of teaching and business seem quite far apart, and they are! We have had to learn as we go, and getting the right balance of letting people know who we are and what we offer while not bombarding them has been a difficult balance to achieve!

What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?

Definitely working with people. Being patient with people, helping them to achieve their objectives, and creating a good rapport and relationships. In fact, as teachers, we are facilitators and with learneng.eu, that’s all we are doing too!

Also, listening to other people is fundamental for improvement in all parts of life from teaching to business. That’s definitely something I have developed while teaching and have applied to learneng.eu.   

What advice would you give to teachers who are considering becoming a teacherpreneur?

Partner with someone who has skills you don’t have. We have a tendency to associate with people who are similar to ourselves but I think it’s very important to work with people who complement the set of skills you have. Often that means working with people who have strengths where you have weaknesses and vice versa.

I would also recommend not investing much money in projects.  We didn’t invest anything because we didn’t have anything to invest but also we wanted to make it, put it out there, and see if people wanted the service first of all. If it makes money, great; if not, it’s OK too!

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?

I have met so many talented teachers!  They are teachers who are not just great at teaching but people who clearly can do a lot of different things. I think teaching can be limiting because there is not a wide range of roles within the field other than teaching, testing, creating materials, or being a Director of Studies.

I would encourage teachers to save some of that enormous energy they often have for themselves and invest in themselves, whether that is writing blogs, music, short stories, teacher training, making videos for learning, or something completely different!  There are some wonderfully talented people out there who give all their energy to the company they work for when they could be building something of their own. 

Is there anything that you would like to add?

Being a teacherpreneur has been a fantastic experience, and I would recommend it to anyone. But do it because you love what you do and because you make other people’s lives better or more interesting.  I’d like to thank the teachers and students who have helped us get off the ground. I’d like to thank them for their patience, their feedback, and their encouragement. Finally, I’d like to wish all the teacherpreneurs out there the best of luck with their ventures!  

Thanks so much Sam.  All the best!

 

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 inspiring teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog

2. If you are a TESL Ontario member, watch a recording of my webinar Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://tutela.ca/GroupFiles?organicgroup=8594&cat=518

3. Download The Essential Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit - 50 pages packed with information to get you started as a teacherpreneur at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca 

4. Sign up for my 4-week online course with iTDi.pro - Teacher to Teacherpreneur http://itdi.pro/itdihome/teacherpreneur.php 

5. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur

6. Download The Social Media Make-over Checklist for Teacherpreneurs at www.teacherpreneur.ca

7. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group  https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976

8. 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.

Twitter     https://twitter.com/teacherpreneur2

LinkedIn   https://ca.linkedin.com/in/patricepalmer1

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/teacherpreneur2

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/teacherpreneur2/

About Me

My name is Patrice Palmer, OCELT, M.Ed., M.A. I have more than 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer. Seven of those years were spent 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 books, courses and teaching materials; blogging, conducting instructional coaching for new teachers, coaching teacherpreneurs and travelling at any time of the year. Contact me at [email protected]

 

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