• ELT Action

How to Sell Your ESL Services

In the first two articles of this series, I explained how to choose your ESL niche and how to attract your ideal client.

If you follow those steps, you should have a steady stream of prospective students who are joining your email marketing list. Your email newsletter is your direct pipeline to your target audience. You should be offering valuable resources, tips, and insights to them on a regular basis.

But there comes a point in the marketing sequence where you will need to invite your audience to take the next step to become your students i.e., book a strategy session and/or trial lesson with you.

Let's look at how we can handle this critical next stage of the sales funnel process.

Screening Your Prospects

Not everybody who wants to book a session with you will be a "good fit" for your business. Some will have needs that you can't meet or don't want to meet.

Some simply won't have the budget to take advantage of the service which you offer.

Others will be just looking for a "freebie" opportunity to practice English with you.

How can we avoid wasting time by screening out unsuitable trial session applicants a.k.a. "Qualifying" our clients?

One effective way of qualifying your appointment bookings is to charge a token fee for a trial lesson. Many other kinds of personal services use introductory pricing to give potential customers a quick, affordable, sample offer. You can do the same.

Asking for a token payment means only applicants with more serious intentions are likely to apply. It also confirms that the student has the necessary capacity to actually pay you e.g., a functional credit card.

However, if you don't charge for your first session with a student, it's a good idea to at least have a qualification questionnaire that they are required to complete, pending approval. This will help ensure that you are only spending your time with clients who match your target niche.

Scheduling Trial Lessons

If you've done everything right, you will have a number of suitably qualified client prospects who want to book an initial appointment with you.

But the logistics of organizing that first meeting can be confusing and time-consuming. You will need a calendar tool, particularly one that considers different time zones, and displays the booking time to the student in their local time.

The best calendar-booking tools will include these features:

  • send an appointment reminder at determined time periods before the booking date/time

  • automatically create Zoom appointment links

  • redirect to a "thank you" confirmation page where you can inform students about what happens next

Handling Objections

Let’s assume you've properly qualified your prospective client and had a great trial lesson or strategy session. But they STILL aren’t ready to commit to taking lessons with you. What then?

Most "buyer objections" can be classified into one of the following three reasons.

They can't see the VALUE of what you offer.

If a student says something like, "that sounds expensive" this is your opportunity to have a conversation about your student's pain points. What is their lack of language ability costing them RIGHT NOW? What is it going to cost them in the future?

Get specific. Put numbers to it. For example, if your student misses out on that promotion at work, how much is the loss of potential income?

If the student tells you that missing out on a promotion will cost them $2000 a year, you've now got the opportunity to reframe your $1000 course as a relatively small investment. The student might just need to be reminded about future value and opportunity rather than your price.

They don't trust YOU.

The media is filled with stories of people who have been burned by scammers and con artists. Hopefully, through your content marketing efforts, your social media outreach, and your email marketing newsletter, you've nurtured your new students to a point where they know, trust and like you.

But let's say that lingering doubts still exist. In this situation, you should have case studies and testimonials ready. Explain how you have successfully helped clients with similar problems in the past.

They don't trust THEMSELVES.

Most of us have experience with failed exercise programs and diet regimes. Those setbacks can lead students to doubt whether they really have the willpower to commit to a language training program.

The best way to address this objection is by highlighting how your offer includes a learner community, accountability coaching and progress checks.

It's always a good idea to put in place some kind of informal forum for your students to communicate with each other, help one another and offer collective moral support.

Also make it clear to students that you will be setting realistic, measurable goals together, and you intend to remind them of the reasons for having those goals to begin with.

Finally, promise students that you will give them customized, relevant, and balanced feedback in some tangible form, like a weekly or monthly PDF report.

Closing the Sale

The reason "sales" has a bad reputation is that the stereotypical image is one of "persuasion". But when was the last time somebody persuaded you to do something you REALLY didn't want to do? I'm going to guess never.

Those old-school arm-twisting sales tactics are transparent, they don't work, and EFFECTIVE modern-day sales professionals understand that.

A far better mind frame is to think of yourself as a "problem solver". Helping other people by removing their pain points or helping them achieve a transformation they desire are all acts of generosity.

And yes, you will ask to be paid well in return. But if the value you offer exceeds the price you ask, you should feel comfortable with that. You deserve it.

Effective salespeople listen more than they speak. And when they speak, they are mostly asking for more information to help frame the discussion. The more you know about your client’s pain points, the better placed you are to offer the solution.

How to Create an Effective Trial Lesson Booking Page

Here are some tips for designing a trial lesson/strategy booking page that converts well.

  • Have an easy-to-use calendar booking form. Students should be able to see your availability at a glance.

  • Explain what will happen in the session. Will it be just a trial lesson, a strategy session or both?

  • Show some social proof. Testimonials from satisfied customers can be persuasive.

  • Have a clear call to action. "Book My Trial Lesson" gives an unambiguous direction about what web visitors need to do.

  • Show your personality. Make sure you have a friendly, professional profile picture. A short introduction video is even better.

  • Talk about your "Why". Tell people what motivated you to help students just like them.


In order to stay in business as an independent online ESL teacher you need clients. Nothing else is as important as that.

All the traffic to your website in the world counts for nothing unless you can convert client interest into client action, which means getting new students to book a trial lesson with you and then become paying customers.

Think about how you can leverage your social media presence and email list. Use those contact points to encourage potential students to book an initial session with you.

Use filters like asking a token price or a pre-trial questionnaire in order to “qualify” potential clients.

Get used to handling objections from clients and reframing the conversation around the value of your service offer. You should always be comfortable about asking for a price that reflects the enormous opportunities you open up for your clients.

Feel proud about selling your ESL services. Feel proud to be a teacher-entrepreneur.

In my next article I will talk about how we can take this initial success with a new client and scale it into a long-term, highly profitable customer relationship. See you then!

Paul Sallaway

ESL Podcaster 🎙️ & Marketing Consultant. Now helping freelance ESL teachers to build profitable and sustainable businesses through high conversion SALES FUNNEL strategies.


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