In March of 2012, my wife and I made the decision to move to Japan. I was leaving a job in Texas where I had been promoted twice in the previous year and most recently, selected to go to the police academy. I was not sure what type of employment opportunities I would have as a foreigner living in Japan and began to question if we should even be moving.
My wife gave me the e-mail of one of her friends who had moved to Japan from Australia many years ago. I wrote to him asking about what my options for employment would be in Japan. He informed me that the easiest job to obtain was teaching English and that I could apply at schools or start my own business.
I decided that I would start applying at schools before we moved to Japan and once we arrived, I would start teaching English at our home with my wife. I made this decision because if I was hired by a school, I could teach part time at home. If I was not hired by a school, I would be able to teach more students at home. In either situation, I would have a source of income.
In July 2012, my wife and I moved to Japan with our dog. Immediately, we sat down and began to plan the details of our school. Things that we had to decide were the name of our school, price of lessons, hours that we would teach, would we meet students at other locations to teach, etc. The first decision we made was the name. I liked one name and my wife wanted something else. Finally, to decide the name, we picked the three names that we liked the most and asked my mother in law to pick. She picked the name Jelly Bean English.
Next we had to determine the price of each lesson. The way we chose out prices was to research what the other schools and private lessons cost in our area and to make our lessons slightly cheaper. For example is most schools and people charged \4,000 and hour, then we would charge \3,000. Smart consumers are always doing price comparison and charging a reduced price for the same amount of time, would attract more students.
We mainly wanted to teach at home because of the convenience factor. However, our house was approximately 15 minutes away from the train stations. This may not sound like a long time to travel, but most English schools were located near train stations. Some even offered lessons at cafes and coffee shops near the train stations. In order to attract students that did not live near us, we decided that we would travel to the train station near us and even a few stops along one of the lines.
Finally we had to decide how we would advertise. If you have money to spare, you could take an ad out in a publication, have a television ad, make signs, etc. However, we had just moved to Japan from Texas and were on a tight budget. In order to advertise, we placed free ads on craigslist, made a Facebook, page, and made flyers on the computer that we printed out passed out when we would go out.
We began passing out fliers and using free online ads. Being that we were a new school, we did not have many students at first. In total, we only had one. However, as time passed, we had more students come to our house. We also began to get calls for students who wanted to meet at one of the nearby train stations.
If you are thinking about starting your own school, the best advice that I can give you is to utilize any free advertising service that you can find online such as craigslist. Facebook is not known as an advertising page, but it can help promote your business to the many users online. However, the best advice I can give, is to remain patient. Do not think that just because you put hours into creating lessons and hours into advertising, that people will automatically come. You need to know that being persistent with your efforts and not giving up will yield the best results.