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The 2-Second Commute

Based on the highly-successful Virtual Assistant training programs Chris Durst and Michael Haaren developed for the US Armed Forces and the US Department of State, The 2-Second Commute: Join the Exploding Ranks of Freelance Virtual Assistants brings you the knowledge without the classroom!

Training program participants have billed over $30 MILLION since our training programs started in 2002. Now YOU can learn from Chris & Mike, too, and start your own successful VA business!




Chapter 1
Why Become a Virtual Assistant?
  • personal & professional reasons to explore this industry
Chapter 2
Exploring Virtual Assistance
  • virtual assistance defined
  • industry demographics
  • services, fees, and trends
  • why businesses work with VAs
  • international outlook
Chapter 3
Reality Checks & Self-Assessments
  • exploring important considerations - motives, lifestyle, family, children, etc.
  • entrepreneurial self-assessment
  • VA readiness self-assessment
  • Spouse With a Mouse™ - from our Department of State and US Armed Forces training programs, a special section to help your "significant other" understand what it will be like to have a business in the house.
Chapter 4
Developing a "Service Menu" That You Can Live and Grow With
  • inventory your values, interests, and skills to determine your most marketable skills

Chapter 5

Estimating Costs and Setting Fees
  • projecting your costs, picking your "salary", setting your hour, and our special formula for calculating a reasonable baseline fee
  • comprehensive fee survey (see what other VAs are charging)
  • getting paid -contracts, credit cards, invoices, retainers, etc.
Chapter 6
Setting Up Your Business and Your Office
  • naming and registering your business
  • forms of business ownership
  • permits and licenses
  • insurance
  • home office setup
Chapter 7
Building a Healthy Foundation for Your Business
  • defining your ideal client, interviewing clients, partnering with clients
  • the art of virtual communications
  • SWOT analysis - discovering your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
  • the benefits of "niche marketing" - identifying your target market
Chapter 8
Let the Marketing Begin!
  • image is everything
  • talking about what you "do"
  • marketing and email
  • your Web site - your "global billboard"
  • press releases
  • harvesting the local "business crop"
  • leveraging the media
  • guest lecturing
  • our 5 favorite marketing techniques
  • the Strategic Marketing Plan - your blueprint for building a successful business through effective marketing
Chapter 9
Pulling It All Together and Keeping It There
  • a collection of tips, tool, techniques, and pointers for making your business a success
Chapter 10
The VA Toolbox: Resources and Information
  • VA trade groups, email lists, certifications and training programs
  • specialized resources for homeschoolers, "trailing spouses", work at home parents, and people with disabilities
  • resources and other information for the "frugal VA"

Work from home
Teaching English As a Second Language

[Contributing Expert:
Sue Swift]

nutshellsThe niche in a nutshell:
With an estimated 2 billion people now needing to learn and speak English as a second or foreign language, the ESL teacher has no shortage of potential clients. Given the size and immense variation in the market, many teachers specialise. You may choose to work with one particular age group – children, teenagers or adults – or to work in a specific area which requires content knowledge as well as knowledge of ESL methodology and the language itself – English for Business, Medical English,  Legal English and so on.

Top 5 Services Provided in this Niche
  • Face-to-Face teaching
  • On-line tutoring
  • Homestay tutoring
  • Performance coaching
  • Materials writing and consultancy
Top 5 Hiring Markets
  • Individuals
  • Corporations
  • Small and Medium sized businesses
  • On-line tutoring companies and providers of On-line Courses
  • Editorial companies
Pay Range for this Niche

ESL teachers may be based all over the world, and fees obviously have to take local conditions into account. The degree of specialisation required by the course will also play a part, as will the qualifications and experience of the teacher, and whether you are dealing directly with the client or through another organisation.  Some indications:
  • General Purpose ESL teaching, face to face or on-line : $25-50 per hour
  • Specialised Courses or Performance Coaching, face to face or on-line : $40-100 per hour
  • Homestay Courses, with 25 hours tutoring per week : $900-2,000 per week
  • Materials Writing and Consultancy : Royalties paid to authors differ from country to country and even for the type of book written – you may be offered anything from 2-10% of the end price. Alternatively, you may be offered a flat fee.
Recommended Skillsets
  • Excellent people skills and cross-cultural skills
  • An in-depth knowledge of ESL methodology
  • An in-depth understanding of learning styles and the learning process
  • Native speaker or near-native speaker competence in English
  • Knowledge of the grammatical, lexical, phonological and pragmatic functioning of English and how these compare to other languages
  • Marketing and customer care skills
Niche Overview

Most TESL teachers have traditionally worked in and for schools, whether based in their own country or living abroad. But TESL also provides ample opportunity for free-lance and home-based work.
1. Face-to-face teaching 
The main opportunity for home based face-to-face teaching is with private individuals. If you are living abroad, one of your largest markets may be younger learners who need additional tutoring to help them with your schoolwork, while the adult market may range from clients who need English for tourism purposes to someone whose daughter has just married an American and needs English to talk to her grandchildren. Many clients obviously also have professional reasons for wanting to learn English, and you may want to exploit this by offering courses to local companies who have overseas clients and suppliers and need English to operate effectively.
If you are living in an English speaking country such as Britain or the States, there will still be various groups of overseas nationals who may need language training. Some of the possible categories are : recently arrived permanent migrants, ex-patriot managers on a two or three year secondment to their company headquarters, and overseas students. You may also consider offering homestay courses, where an overseas client lives with you as a paying guest for one or more weeks, receiving between 10 and 25 hours of tuition per week.
If you are considering doing this type of course, you will need to decide where you are going to teach. If you are providing homework help for local children, your front room and dining room table may be sufficient. But if you have the space, a dedicated teaching room creates a more professional image – and also means you don’t have to frantically clear up your kids’ toys and last night’s dinner dishes before the client arrives.
Inviting clients into your home has obvious disadvantages from the point of view of safety, however, and for this reason many teachers prefer to hold their classes outside the home – whether in a local café or the client’s office – at least until they get to know the person better. If you want to exploit the company market you will almost certainly be asked to teach on their premises.

2. On-Line Teaching 
The same disadvantage does not, however, occur with on-line teaching. On-line courses have been in existence for several years now, but since VOIP software has started to become commonly used, on-line tutoring has become more and more popular. Some courses, such as those which my company Business Talk runs in conjunction with Netlanguages, involve the student working on a set course of on-line materials which are backed up by Skype tutorials and written assignments sent and corrected by E-mail. Other courses may involve only regular VOIP based lessons, either for individuals or for groups.

3. Performance Coaching
Performance Coaching may be offered face-to-face or on-line. It aims to prepare the client, in a limited number of sessions, for a specific task which s/he has to face – for example an important presentation in English, a job interview in English, and so on. It differs from “straight” ESL in that the trainer needs to be an expert not only in the language and in language teaching, but also in communication skills – you need to know the principles of effective presentation, effective interview performance and so on. However, it therefore also commands higher fees.

4. Materials Writing and Consultancy
If you are a fully qualified and experienced ESL professional (which means having passed to the second level of training – the Cambridge DELTA and/or a Master’s Degree in TESL or Applied Linguistics), opportunities will also open up in the field of materials writing and consultancy. Sadly, we can’t all write an ESL best seller and become millionaires, but there are many other opportunities which may not make you world-famous but do bring in a steady income. And not all the work comes from large international publishing companies. In the past ten years or so, some of the projects I have worked on include : a cassette and booklet based course English for Medical Conferences commissioned by a pharmaceutical company for use as a promotional tool; an intranet based course, English for Call-Centres, for the Italian branch of a multinational telecom corporation; a video and booklet based course for beginners, commissioned by an editorial company and sold via newsagents in weekly instalments, and a course for Italian elementary state school children published by a local educational publisher.
The other option, if you don’t want to write the course yourself, is to become an editorial consultant. Many local educational publishers publish books for the state school market written by local teachers. They frequently need qualified native speakers to advise on the soundness of the methodological approach and/or the accuracy of the language used.
How do I find my clients?
  • If you are looking mainly for local clients, and focusing on the individual market, you may find that many of them arrive because somebody who knows you “knows somebody who knows somebody who wants to learn English”. This is particularly true if you are living abroad. Or if, for example, your target clients are the parents of the neighbourhood children, a simple notice in a shop window may do the trick. There may also be a local newspaper which carries small ads for services like private language training.
  • If you are looking for on-line work, then the obvious place to advertise is on-line. There are various sites which aim to match students with on-line tutors, one of which is listed in the Resources Links. This site will also lead you to others.
  • For both on-line work and homestay courses, you may prefer to work through another organisation which will do all the marketing for you. You’ll find examples of these if you google ESL on-line tutors or ESL homestay tutors.
  • However, if you want to create a more professional image, and particularly if you want to contact corporate and other professional clients, you will need a website, business cards, and possibly brochures to back up your initial contact. How that contact occurs will depend on the culture in which you are living : there are some cultures in which “cold calling” may be effective, others in which you will need to be introduced by someone who the company already trusts.
  • In my experience, a lot of work – and most of the materials writing work which I’ve done – comes through personal contacts and networking. This may be because I live in a culture where “who you know” is important in every sphere, but it seems logical that the more specialised the work, and the more the client is paying, the more sure they’ll want to be that the person can deliver. And in this context personal recommendation is probably as effective as slick marketing in a variety of cultures. So don’t neglect networking opportunities. Conferences, local Chamber of Commerce events, and just frequent contact with others in the same field can all lead to work opportunities. Contacts like these are also important in terms of professional development. One of the disadvantages of home-based work is that you lack the stimulus of exchanging ideas on a daily basis with other teachers. Networking opportunities can also be learning opportunities.

What training do I need?
If you’re a native speaker, can you teach English without any further training? Well, a lot of people do, whether teaching privately or working in schools or on homestay schemes. If you are serious about becoming a professional English teacher though, just knowing the language is not enough. You need to have at least a basic knowledge of English language teaching methodology, the psychology of language learning, and the grammatical, lexical, phonological and pragmatic systems of the English language. If you just want to see if TESL is right for you, there are various on-line courses on offer, but ultimately you will need a more substantial course which includes teaching practice and leads to an internationally recognised certificate. The best known and most widely taken of these is the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) exam, administered by Cambridge ESOL. Or, if you want to specialise in teaching children, the CELTYL (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Young Learners). There, are however, many other schemes, and you will need to find out what’s on offer near you.

Recommended Reading
Tools of the Trade
  • A good library of textbooks and methodology books.
  • A computer with internet connection.
  • A scanner
  • For home-based face to face teaching : a teaching space equipped with CD player and preferably DVD. For group classes, a whiteboard or flipchart.
  • A bank of teaching resources – lesson plans, worksheets, flashcards etc
  • For on-line teaching – a computer with VOIP software such as SKYPE.
Organizations & Associations
Resource Links

Sue SwiftAbout Sue Swift

Sue Swift has over thirty years experience in the fields of ELT, teacher training and communication skills training. Originally an English graduate, she also holds the Cambridge ESOL DELTA and an MA in Applied Linguistics. She has lived in countries ranging from Finland to the Middle East to Japan, and has worked in companies, universities and private language schools. She is now permanently based in Italy where she runs Business Talk, a language training consultancy which provides both traditional and on-line training for companies in Italy and abroad. She is the author of a number of ELT textbooks aimed at primary, secondary and adult learners, and has most recently completed the series Playtime, Storytime and Kidstime (Sn@il Publishing) for the Italian Scuola Primaria. She runs An ELT Notebook, a website for ESL teachers, and is also an assessor for the UCLES DELTA scheme.

Married with a teenage son, Sue’s interests are reading, horses and gardening – quite a challenge in the land of apartment blocks. She also admits under duress to being an avid Star Trek fan.  Her gardening (mis)adventures can be found on her blog The Balcony Garden.

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