How do I start a Language School?

Starting a language school is often the end-game of a lot of language teachers, and there are a bunch of advantages to doing so. Firstly, you get to run your own business, which of course is stressful but rewarding in equal measure. Secondly, language schools tend to be in very  nice areas to live, scenic spots, tourist locations, and so on, so you benefit from living in a nice environment of your choosing. Thirdly, you get to finally put that practical teaching experience to use, but also learn about how to build and run a business.

To start a language school, there are a few steps you need to follow.

1. Choose your niche
It’s not enough to start a ‘general language school’ these days – the market is highly developed and competitive, and if you don’t have a niche then you’ll likely struggle to fill up spaces.

A niche could be something as simple as the age range you plan to teach, or you could cater specifically for one type of client – e.g. affordable or high-end, academic or communicative, or even appeal to a specific demographic. Either way, you’ll need to have a USP and something that makes your language school different from the others.

2. Develop your strategy

How will you get students? How will you recruit teachers? What will your strategy be for the year and how will that be built into your business plan? Aside from a USP, you need to know what practical moves you’re going to take to get into business. This includes your pricing, marketing, and positioning. You might also choose to open as a franchise, which may provide a safer option with a much higher chance of success, although at a cost of lesser freedom and fees paid to the franchisor.

3. Consider your funding

Language schools may have lower start-up costs than other businesses, as there is no physical ‘stock’ to order, but there are still many expenses to consider. This includes rent, wages, and resources such as textbooks, as well as a hefty marketing budget. You’ll need significant funding to keep running while you build up to a profitable state. Ways to fund this include privately, through a bank loan, or through partnership. EIther way, you’ll need to complete a cash flow forecast and keep a track of your finances.

4. Legal stuff
If you’re planning on opening in the UK, then you need to consider your company structure.Will you be a limited company? Who will be the directors? You’ll also need to register for various taxes and charges. If you’re opening up abroad, you’ll need clear, expert advice on how to operate correctly. One method is to hire a local lawyer or accountant to help you out with this stuff, or alternatively, purchasing an already established language school eliminates a lot of the early-days leg work.

5. Get going!

These are all tricky, complex tasks to master, and will likely take you a long time. But once you’ve got the basics down and you’re all ready to start trading, there’s only one thing left to do – trade!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to open and run a language school, there are some great resources and other articles online, including at StudyCELTA and the IH Journal, as well as TEFL.net.