note (09 August 2023): since this post was first written, somos has evolved! while we started as a community for online language teachers, we've taken those learnings to build out an edtech product that is designed to support and champion online language teachers around the world. to learn more about our latest developments, please check out our teaching toolkit. for now, here's a look back at our beginnings:
hey! I'm khawar and I head things up at somos - a free to join community for online language teachers that launched in may 2022!
over the last few years, an increasing number of language teachers and tutors globally have moved their businesses online seeking remote and flexible style work - a trend only accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
there are (i) numerous global platforms and marketplaces like italki, verbling, preply and verbalplanet along with (ii) several niche and smaller companies like cambly, latinhire and natakallam to name a few that offer teachers the opportunity to build their own language tutoring business online.
so where does a community like somos come in?
poor pay, only so many hours in the day and no protections
there are exciting upsides to running your own language teaching business online but that doesn't mean there aren't challenges:
- behind all of the promises of 'work anywhere, anytime' and 'be your own boss' many teachers face a grim reality of poor pay, burnout risk, loneliness and no or limited access to basic employee style benefits such as sick pay or compassionate leave.
- many platforms and marketplaces offer few ways for teachers to differentiate themselves beyond their hourly rate resulting in race to the bottom pricing.
- where there are healthy hourly rates paid by students, these can involve teachers paying very high fees and commissions.
- some platforms have confusing algorithms where teachers may have lots of new students one month only to have very few the next! this results in inconsistent and unsustainable income streams which is stressful to build a business around.
- with dropping pay rates, increased competition and rising living costs just about everywhere, teachers are beginning to see the limitations of only relying on 1:1 classes for their income. with only so many hours in the day, this also brings wellbeing and burnout challenges.
- teaching languages 1:1 online isn't like an offline school in that there aren't immediate personal development opportunities or teacher networks to share experiences with and learn from.
how can the somos community help confront some of these challenges?
somos is unashamedly a 'teachers first' community platform. we believe teachers who are both earning and working sustainably will be best positioned to deliver great value and results for their students. burnout helps nobody!
we're on a mission to enable language teachers around the world to build and grow sustainable businesses.
we're here to help make sure that you have everything you need to build your online teaching business or community language project in a healthy way.
some benefits to expect:
- networking: starting a new online business is daunting whoever you are (we know!) and having access to others who have already done it makes for helpful learning and support! somos will include an (optional) matching service and regular 'ask me anything' sessions so teachers can get to know one another, make friends and contribute to discussion threads on topical items (e.g. how best to set your pay, protect your wellbeing etc).
- reviewing platforms & marketplaces: the community will include spaces for teachers to share what they like (and don't like) about existing platforms & marketplaces out there to give you a rounded view on some of the benefits and challenges of each platform or marketplace.
- personal development: we will host regular events giving access to trainers, experienced teachers and helpful language tech to support building your business, managing your finances and protecting your wellbeing.
- fresh ideas: along with 1:1 teaching, there are numerous ways to expand your offering via social media marketing, selling courses, e-books and supplementary translation services, setting asynchronous tasks for students etc. hear from teachers who have made innovative changes to their business models to create sustainable income streams whilst also preventing burnout.
- resources around linguistic diversity: somos is committed to language rights and is also a proud community member of the international decade of indigenous languages 2022-2032.
about somos: building a new type of business
somos is community backed with 23 investors taking part in our pre-seed fundraising round. they've all bought into a business model that allocates equity ownership for employees, teachers and grassroots community organisations.
It's super early days at somos and I'm sure there will be plenty of challenges ahead as we try to build our teacher first community.
for now, the pre-seed fundraise leaves the business well placed to build both an initial operational structure and prototype to take to market in 2023 - excited to get going!
feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, thoughts or would just like to find out more 😀
you're welcome to connect with me 👋🏽:
join somos 🚀 teach languages, co-own the platform!
🛠️ everything you need to build your online teaching business.
🎓 host communities, create, sell and teach classes & courses - all in one place!
🌱 champion language diversity, heritage languages, and language rights.
🤝 co-owners, not customers. earn shares in somos doing what you love.
welcome to somos 🚀... an edtech startup? sure, but more than that we're a social enterprise on a mission to create a first of its kind platform co-owned by language teachers...
we here to build more than just tools for teaching - we want to be part of movements championing language, migrant & worker rights. ✊🏾
all of our paid pricing plans offer paths to co-ownership in somos.
why? we don't want customers, we're inviting co-owners who can help us build a new kind of platform and be rewarded fairly for doing so.
as a co-owner in somos, you'll be a crucial part of a global community celebrating languages, peoples, cultures and fair pay for educators.
we're aiming to give you the tools to make meaningful connections with students, fellow teachers, activists, and grassroots organizations, all while having the power to create and sell your own digital language products.
we want our mission to cut across not just everything we do but how we do it.
along with co-ownership for teachers, we also have a community ownership programme for grassroots organisations and have put a unique entry-level hiring programme in place for refugees living in limbo.
ready to transform your teaching and make a real difference? get on board and let's change the world of language learning together 🌍