Teachers Aren’t Marketers

A line from the original series of Star Trek is now so famous it has become a meme on its own.  The ship’s doctor, Leonard McCoy, complains to the captain about doing tasks outside of medicine: Damnit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not an engineer, psychologist, diplomat, or whatever role Captain Kirk wanted him to fill.    

Whether or not an online teacher is a fan of the Star Trek fictional universe, if they decide to teach independently, they can probably relate to McCoy’s frustration.  Independent online teachers must also manage essential tasks outside their primary occupational expertise.  The role forces them to develop the skills of an entrepreneur.   So many online teachers do this now that a new word exists for it: teacherpreneur. 

 If they want their freelance business to succeed, they must spend tons of time not teaching.

A Teacherpreneur

Independent online teachers must learn a variety of skills, such as copy-editing, social media management, and even videography. 

Above all, an independent online teacher must learn marketing.  She must advertise herself constantly to make sure she has a steady flow of new potential students to convert into regular customers.   She must become a teacherpreneur.

Diplomacy and medicine are at least metaphorically related.  Both diplomacy and medicine involve the delicate care needed for healing and the steady work required to maintain healthy systems.  Marketing, by contrast, is as different from teaching as night is from day.   

Teachers focus on their students and the knowledge they are transferring to them, not on themselves.  The traditional photo of elementary school classes has the teacher standing to one side of the rows of smiling children.  Sometimes she is barely in the frame at all.  This is a nice visual metaphor for the slogan of the student-centered teaching approach.  “Be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage”. 

Teacherpreneurs Try Marketing

Marketing requires the seller to take absolute center stage.  It requires that they become more than a giver of knowledge and wisdom to passive listeners.  A teacherpreneur must be a branded commodity.  

Teachers focus on their students’ needs as learners, who do not know everything and are not always right.  Marketing involves either telling people what they want to hear, creating a desire that didn’t previously exist, or both.  Teachers must be empathetic towards their students, but they must also be willing and able to tell them the truth about their current knowledge and skills.  

Independent teachers should be guided by their students’ goals for learning.  “Upselling” to students threatens to destroy the student’s trust that the teacher is using her expertise to serve their learning. 

A Teacherpreneur is a Gig Worker

If online teachers don’t make it as independent teacherpreneurs, they mostly head back into the gig economy.  All of the stresses and uncertainties that pushed them to go independent return.  They must pay a commission to for-profit platform sites. They have no control over how the platform works.  Like everyone from Uber drivers to YouTubers, they are at the mercy of a for-profit algorithm. The company could hire many more teachers so that each teacher has fewer and fewer students.  The whole situation forces teachers into intense competition.

The Solution is Cooperation

Online teachers have a solution to this teacherpreneur dilemma: an online teacher cooperative. The cooperative model allows teachers to share the tasks involved in marketing.  They can also learn from other teachers who may have picked up skills in this area through their journeys. 

Yet more than anything, a cooperative helps teachers by being the project they can market instead of themselves.  A service-focused democratic venture is a much better object for a marketing campaign than an individual teacher trying to make herself into a product or a “coach”.  “Come learn with us and be a part of the supportive community we’re building that centers you” is a much better message from a teacher to students than “Buy what I’m selling, which is me”. 

MyCoolClass is the online teacher cooperative teachers need.  It brings together online teachers of different subjects so that they don’t have to be teacherpreneurs.  Instead, they can be teachers who do a bit of marketing.

Teacher-members of MyCoolClass can collaborate to build a collective organization that values teaching and learning for their own sake.  They can learn as much as they want to learn about marketing.  Beyond that, they don’t have to feel that they have to manage everything or compete with their fellow teachers.  Marketing a cooperative organization isn’t about who can outshine someone else.  It’s about what we can build together for the benefit of all.

Marketing is still necessary for a teacher cooperative.  But at least now the teacher isn’t sitting all alone in a stall.  

Damnit, Jim, she’s teaching.


What are Platform Cooperatives?

The digital age has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for freelancers, especially in areas such as online education. The gig economy is thriving and more people are taking advantage of remote work to increase their income while maintaining flexible hours. However, there is an even more revolutionary way to ensure that freelance workers get fair compensation – worker-owned platform cooperatives.

Platform cooperatives are essentially digital businesses owned and governed by the workers themselves. Unlike traditional companies, their primary purpose is not to maximize profit but rather to provide decent wages, job security and autonomy for the workers. This form of organization democratizes business ownership, giving power back to the people who make the business successful.

Platform cooperatives have become increasingly popular in recent years due to the rise of online platforms such as Preply or Outschool that enable freelancers to easily find work without having to invest in expensive overheads or marketing campaigns. By creating a platform cooperative, these freelancers can benefit from the advantages of being part of a collective while still maintaining their individual autonomy and agency. 

There are many reasons why freelancers should consider joining a platform cooperative instead of setting up shop independently on independent platforms like Preply or Outschool. Firstly, they will benefit from collective bargaining power which allows them to negotiate better terms with customers than they could on their own. This could include lower commission rates or access to larger projects with higher payout rates. Secondly, because platform cooperatives are owned by the members themselves, this gives them control over decisions such as pricing models and dispute resolution processes which can reduce costs and protect against exploitation from customers or employers. 

Furthermore, by joining a platform cooperative freelancers can also enjoy greater job security since they will not be vulnerable to changes in market forces or customer preferences that might affect them if they were operating independently on a single platform. They will also benefit from being part of a supportive community where members can share resources, advice and experiences which can help them become more successful in their jobs. Finally, many platform cooperatives offer additional benefits such as paid time off – something that individual freelancers typically don’t have access to. 

Overall, it is clear why so many freelance workers are turning towards worker-owned platform cooperatives in order to secure better pay and achieve greater job stability in the digital age. Platform cooperatives provide an opportunity for freedom that traditional companies simply cannot match – one where workers receive fair compensation for their hard work as well as greater autonomy to make decisions about how their business is run without external interference from corporate interests. As this model continues to gain traction amongst freelance workers it will no doubt revolutionize how people view work in the modern age – providing an empowering alternative for those who want fairer pay and more control over their livelihoods without sacrificing job security or financial stability.

If you’re an independent teacher looking for a better way to do business, look no further than MyCoolClass. It’s the only online educator-owned platform that gives educators what they really need: a sense of community and cooperative ownership. With everything else out there feeling so corporate and profit-driven, it’s refreshing to know there’s still a place where teachers can call home. Ready for a better teaching business? Check out MyCoolClass today!

Online Teachers Are Seriously Getting Ripped Off

The online learning industry is expected to be valued at $1 trillion by 2028. Venture capitalists are making record breaking profits, often 40% to 60% returns on their investments, while exploiting the labor of online teachers and ripping off students.

It should come to no surprise that many of these investors, such as Hoxton Ventures who financed Preply, have also backed companies such as Deliveroo, who have been embattled with lawsuits in multiple countries for labor exploitation and unfair algorithms. There is also Coatue and Tiger Global, two colossal hedge funds that dumped $75 million into Outschool in April of last year and another $110 million in October. Coatue has amassed a good chunk of its wealth backing Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, whereas Tiger Global has had large stakes in Amazon, Meta, Airbnb, Shopify, and Spotify. All of these companies have horrible reputations regarding labor rights. They’re rich from ripping off workers.

Angel investors and up-and-coming hedge funds are dumping their money into the hundreds of other start-up online learning platforms, many with the goal of making a quick profit before letting the business crash and burn leaving teachers choking in the smoke.

Working on these platforms is not sustainable nor equitable for teachers as companies maximize their profits by oversaturating their marketplace and spreading students thin. This ensures that teachers pay a higher commission, such as what Preply does. Teachers used to rant and rave about Outschool until they drastically scaled from 1,000 to 10,000 teachers over the past two years. While Outschool is seeing major profits, teachers are earning a lot less due to oversaturation and having to spend a lot more time marketing themselves while still paying a 30% commission.  

None of these companies, nor the investors backing them care about education. They do not care about students. They don’t care about teachers.

These companies don’t owe teachers anything. No rights. No voice. No job security. They can have secret algorithms, discriminatory marketing and hiring practices, shadow block your profile, or even delete your account without reason. These companies have zero accountability to anyone.

Because of this, many teachers are going solo, which has left a vacuum for snakes to plague the industry with “how to be a successful freelance teacher” schemes, often costing a lot of money for subpar training that can easily be found for free on YouTube. Anyone that claims to be able to teach you how to run ads on Facebook or Google in a few hours is a fraud, and any digital marketer would say the same thing. Even as a freelancer, how much money do you actually make per hour after factoring in other expenses such as lesson planning, administrative tasks, tools, and time (or money) marketing?

As a freelance teacher, one must ‘stand out’ among the crowd. This really just looks like a pack of hyenas fighting over a single carcass while the lions are already full and happy. Instead of trying to push ourselves up by pushing others down, online teachers need to come together to be able to gain some authority and power in an industry where selling our labor is the sole reason these businesses survive in the first place.

Online teachers are getting ripped off, and we are sick of it. We have been completely left out of the discussion about what happens in our industry. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of professional online educators around the world being exploited by people and corporations that don’t care about us.

Lawmakers and labor groups are focused on providing more rights for Uber, DoorDash, and Deliveroo workers, but there has not been a peep about how online teachers are victims of wage theft, discrimination, and unethical business practices. This needs to change and online teachers need to be seen as a professional community with common needs and aspirations.

As more platform workers become increasingly dissatisfied with their working conditions, there is a powerful movement of worker cooperatives restoring democracy and bringing equity back to working people. After years of unstable pay, unsustainable work, and getting ripped off, online teachers are fed up and it is time to organize.

MyCoolClass Co-operative is the first and only online learning platform collectively owned by our members in 25+ countries. No venture capital. No hedge funds. Just teachers that came together to build a platform that works for teachers and our students. We are only as strong as our members and right now we are building an army of teachers who want something better.

Imagine if Etsy was owned by artists and creators? Through platform cooperatives, a better, fairer, and equitable workplace is possible for independent workers. The Drivers Cooperative has 8,000 drivers competing against Uber and Lyft in New York City and is looking to branch out to 8 more US cities in the near future. Fairmondo is a German ecommerce platform cooperative, like eBay but collectively owned by the sellers. Stocksy is a platform for photographers who sell stock photos, like Shutterstock or Adobe. Launching soon is PlatformX, a freelancer-owned hybrid cooperative similar to Upwork.

If you’re an online teacher and ready for something better, MyCoolClass is the place for you.
We’re looking for active teachers and supporters who will help spread the news about our co-op so we can grow.

Ready to join us? Learn more about membership and apply here.

Watch a full presentation about MyCoolClass explaining the nuts and bolts of how we work.

Support MyCoolClass by sharing this blog with your family and friends.

It’s time to organize.

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