How To Create Unique Online Programs In 4 Easy Steps by Elena Mutonono

How to create unique online programs in 4 easy steps - Elena Mutonono

 Milton Glaser, the designer of the famous “I <3 NY” ad campaign, shared once about struggling to draw his mother’s face. He was shocked to discover that even though hers was the face he’d seen the most, he couldn’t find a way to sketch it. “We’re always looking, but we never really see,” he added.


Why do we look but not see?


When you begin teaching online, the same thing happens. You look at people giving lessons via skype (aka “teaching online”), as well as at those making and selling courses, and you think that’s all there is to it. 


You think that online teaching is about giving lessons. It’s about exchanging your hours for money.


Frankly, that thought used to make me uneasy. I used to see both online lessons and courses lacking in so many ways.


Giving online lessons was limiting and exhausting. You spend your precious time trying to teach someone something, and they aren’t always appreciative of your efforts. I felt like a babysitter recruited into the trade by an au-pair employer just for the sake of the experience.


Creating courses brought a whole new perspective into view. Despite all of their benefits, I learned that online courses weren’t always the most effective as there wasn’t a chance to provide feedback.


So out of frustration and also because I wanted to work smarter (spend less time, but impact more people and actually make more – how’s that possible?) I began looking at the problem intently.


The desire to solve it eventually pushed me to work differently and to challenge conventional online teaching formats. As is often the case, when you look, you will see.


In this post I’ll share with you the 4 crucial steps that helped me find completely new online teaching formats. Once I did, my online teaching was transformed forever. I started enjoying my freedom, flexibility and creativity.


I no longer brag about teaching 60 hours a week and squeezing just 1 more student in. Now I impact thousands of people on a weekly basis, making income without attaching my services to hourly rates, and teaching 1:1 no more than 5 hours a week.


Want to walk this journey with me? Let’s do it!


Step 1: Mindset change. Giving online lessons vs. running an online business.


The journey starts with changing your mindset. These days I hear coaches talk about giving online lessons as though it’s the synonym for running an online business.


You will save yourself a lot of confusion when you separate these from the very beginning, and choose the one you want.


I have a helpful post on this topic (see below), but essentially when you give online lessons your vision boils down to finding students and making them pay.


Perhaps you have a bigger dream, but it will be devoured by the hassle of looking for students, all the time. Whether you do it through a platform or on your own, your great vision will always be put on the back burner until you won’t remember why you’d started teaching online in the first place.


Running an online business requires a lot more than just keeping up with your day-to-day operations. You have to have a bigger vision, a dream that inspires and sets your audience on fire.


When you run an online business you quit selling your lessons. You begin selling your vision.


The best way to learn how to do it is to study Apple products. Apple doesn’t sell you products and their features. They sell you a different lifestyle.  Check this out:


  • iWatch: Live a better life.
  • iMac Pro: A Touch of Genius.
  • iTV: The Future of Television is Here.


Task 1: Go to and check out their amazing products and pay attention to their description. Take notes.


Step 2: Challenge the unspoken rules.


If we didn’t have rules we’d live in the world of chaos.


But if we always followed every known (and unknown) rule we’d live in a boring world.


A year ago I challenged the rule of “you can never charge for a webinar.” After all, have you ever paid for one? Aren’t they supposed to be free?


I thought to myself, “Teachers want me to tell them how to teach English pronunciation. I have 15 years of experience doing accent training. I have invaluable treasures to share, and I just can’t do it for free. Let me charge so that I give people an excuse not to join my webinar.”


I sent out an email and went about my day. A few hours later I had several payments in my account. Now I got really interested. I was selling tickets to a webinar and people were paying to attend.


10 days later I made $1,000 selling the tickets and the course on how I applied those principles while training a student.


Task 2: What are some silent rules that you have in your profession? Here’re some hints:

  • Nobody will pay X for Y.
  • You can’t charge for services without skype lessons (there’s another post on that, see below).
  • You have to teach people twice a week via skype to get results.


Continue the list and then ask yourself if these rules are really true. Then see if you can break them.


“Why join the navy when you can be a pirate?” Steve Jobs.


Step 3: Create formats that will give your clients results.


Whether you’ve taught online or offline, the first thing your potential client always asks is, “How long will it take me to get a result?” (that’s what teachers ask me, too, by the way, when I coach them).


Everyone wants results. But in the teaching world talking about results gets awkward and messy. “Well, it depends…”


My advice – get obsessed with providing the best results for your clients.


Let’s say your Intermediate student wants to learn how soon she can use complex Grammar in real speech.


You have to ask yourself:


  • Can I teach/do I love teaching Grammar?
  • Do I know how Grammar skills are formed?
  • Do I know what this client wants and how I can best serve her?
  • How can I create a format where she’s forced to practice a lot?
  • How soon will it take her to develop that skill?
  • How will she know she’s developed that skill?


If you can’t answer those questions, you need to take some remedial teaching courses. But otherwise, you do know the answers. All you have to do is to come up with a format that will help your student do more work than you do.


When you give online lessons, you do more work than the student does. If we’re honest with ourselves, in 1:1 lessons, all the student does is show up. Some will do their homework, but you spend a lot more time than the student.


Can you challenge that and flip it around? We can talk about “flipped classrooms” until we’re blue in the face, but they won’t be flipped if we drive ourselves in the ground doing our job. A teacher facilitates learning, i.e. causes the student to learn.


Sadly, most of us are spending time preparing for lessons and covering the materials, not delivering results.


A year ago I decided to create a format to help students improve their pronunciation skills. Since I’m an accent and fluency coach, I created a program that helped fluent students sound more native-like by focusing on 5 specific areas of fluent speech.


The program included only 9 short video-tutorials with over 200 exercises that students sent me via voice chats (see a post below on how to use chats).


That’s right, no skype lessons, no long webinars, just a format where the student did the most work and submitted their homework for review.


And it worked! And the students loved it. This is yet another “silent rule” that I broke, “Students can only learn via skype lessons.” Here’s what a student wrote:


I loved Elena’s bootcamp. It’s actionable! Which fits perfectly the student I am. I have a business to run and cannot spend hours and hours reading “accent books.”

I’m always looking for techniques that I can implement instantly and “see what happens.” I did this boot camp because I was in the middle of recording a project and the difference before and after is just amazing. ~ Yirlene


Task 3: The best way to deliver excellent results is when you offer programs within your niche. Spend some time thinking what your niche is and how you can best deliver your services without resorting to Skype lessons. At the end of this article you’ll find a helpful post with a worksheet to help you find your niche.


Step 4: Always engage yourself in mindful and actionable learning.


The danger with posts like these is you read and say, “Wow, this is so interesting. I think I could do it.” And then tomorrow your life continues as it was.


Until you and I as educators engage in actionable learning, we will never create anything other than skype lessons.


In my Opted Out group on Facebook I share marketing insights with several hundreds of entrepreneurs (yes, because this is what you are if you decide to run an online business, a teacherpeneur!).


At some point people always say,

  • “Well, that’s all great but I need a push to get started on all of your tips.”
  • Or, “I don’t think I’m ready yet. I still plan to teach 2 years in a traditional classroom, and then I’ll apply all these strategies.”
  • Or, “These tips are so helpful! But I’m afraid to try them out because I don’t like failing.”


If you want your students to experience transformational and actionable learning in a wide variety of formats, you need to start modeling it yourself, today.


What action have you taken after the Online Teacher’s Summit?


“Ready” is never in the future, it’s either now or never.


So take what you’ve learned and force yourself to apply it. Your perfectionism will be crushed, and your desire to “have everything lined up” will have to take a break, and your fears will take the “back seat,” as Elizabeth Gilbert put it, but you will really learn.


And then things will change. You will look around and see. You will learn from billboards and basic marketing campaigns at your gym. You will get busy applying what you’ve learned, not finding one excuse after another. Your business will take off.


Task 4: What small step have you done today to help you achieve your dream of teaching online? Write down 1 step a day and keep track of your journey. At the end of this post, check out my interview with Elfin Waters, a teacher like you, for inspiration.




To summarize what you’ve learned in this post, here’re your main takeaways:


  • You can teach online in a variety of creative ways. Challenge your conventional thinking on a regular basis until it becomes a habit.
  • Change your mindset from hustling lessons to selling your vision. You will start with lessons, but this isn’t where your journey ends.
  • Get obsessed with providing the best results over a specific time frame.
  • Take action today. It will be imperfect, awkward, messy, and you are most likely going to make mistakes, but nothing will happen without action.


“If you are only worried about not making a mistake, then you will communicate nothing.” Yo-Yo Ma.


Notes and suggested reading for depth and exploration:


How smart teaching moves you from apathy to joy: a story by Elfin Waters.

How I learned to teach online without giving skype lessons.

How to make your online course small, sexy and sellable.

One powerful factor for creating a successful online business.

Apple products (browse different categories for descriptions).

Will you rely on luck or strategy to work smarter (how long will it take to get your business off the ground)?


Learn vs. teach: In a lot of languages, these words have the same root. In Hebrew, one of the ancient languages, to “teach” means to cause someone to learn. The root of the verb “to teach” is the same, but the form suggests action: by teaching we’re inspiring learning.

How chat apps help online students collaborate and self-correct, by Elena Mutonono and Veronika Palovska.

Our Opted Out community for teachers-turned-teacherpreneurs on Facebook.


How to get yourself ready for teaching online: 10 tips and resources.

How to figure out your niche: 24 powerful writing prompts by Veronika Palovska.


Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.



Elena Mutonono empowers online teachers to grow into teacherpreneurs through the power of email and product creation so they can build a smart and solid business beyond skype lessons and enjoy the life of balance, creativity and sustainability. Receive her newsletter every Friday.


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