It’s no secret that an English academy can be a profitable venture, allow you to be your own boss and obtain a high level of job satisfaction by giving something back to your local community. Before you go out there and open up a language school or English academy, you will need to consider a number of very important factors. Critical to your academy’s success and beating your local competition in an ever more rapidly changing world that revolves around technology, is understanding one factor in particular:
Every month in Spain, between 11.500 and 30.300 searches are run every month for the keyword “academias de ingles”…
…and here’s the proof:
This number was taken from the search marketing tool Moz, which obtains this number with a 95% level of accuracy. Perhaps such a high search volume for this keyword isn’t so much of a surprise when technology is such a big part of our lives now and many people are turning to online resources to learn new skills and obtain new qualifications. Most importantly for us, what this data shows is that thousands and thousands of people in Spain are now searching online for an English academy every month and if you thought word of mouth was the best way to get new students, then you should reconsider your marketing strategy and pay more attention to getting your academy’s presence established online.
A saturated market
In cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia or Sevilla; there exists hundreds, if not thousands of language schools in these major cities, so much that the market has become saturated and people who search online have hundreds of language schools to choose from. If you live in a smaller town or village away from bigger cities like these, it’s also true that you will have competitors to deal with, who perhaps have decades of experience building up strong links with their local community. Essentially, if you’re thinking of opening an English academy it’s very important to choose the right location and one that’s well connected; ideally being close to schools, supermarkets, colleges and universities. If you’re an existing English academy or you’re thinking of starting your own academy, read on to find out how you can open an English school which caters for students’ specific needs and beats your local competition with a differentiated concept that’s marketed properly both online and offline.
Analyze the market and your local competitors to differentiate your English academy
Going in head first and just opening an academy in some building on some street is a surefire way to an unsuccessful business. One of the best ways to obtain a good understanding of the local market is to look at where your competitors are and what they are offering to their students. You will probably notice that some academies are targeted towards kids and others towards university students or perhaps older adults; so it’s really important that you also define who your customers will be and build a differentiated English academy.
It’s really important that you define who your customers will be and build a differentiated English academy
Additionally, it helps if you analyze your local market by conducting market research and discover what it is that your potential students might expect from an English academy. As more and more people take advantage of technology which can help them learn a language, such as apps, online courses and online classes; you will need to find a way of replicating this experience in your English classes or offer them something they can’t get at home – a great example of this is the relatively new English academy chain, What’s Up! Also, you should remember there is no substitute for an experienced native English teacher who knows how to teach classes for either the Cambridge or IELTS exams and who can guide their students towards passing. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on how to research and define your target students.
Consider becoming an exam preparation centre
Most of the top English academies in Spain offer exam focussed classes for either Cambridge, IELTS and/or are accredited by the British Council. If a language academy is accredited by the British Council it carries a multitude of benefits. Achieving British Council accreditation status is by no means cheap and for the majority of English academies in Spain it’s perhaps too expensive. Nevertheless, just because an English academy doesn’t have this sort of status doesn’t mean it’s a subpar English school. If you can hire native teachers who are experienced in preparing students for the Cambridge or IELTS exams you are setting yourself apart from other academies. An easier and more cost-effective way to establish your academy’s level of prestige is by becoming a Cambridge exam preparation centre. There are different levels of Cambridge preparation centres and normally it takes time for you to be able to obtain this status. Additionally, Cambridge English require that you send a certain number of students to an assessment centre each year before they will allow you practice as an official Cambridge exam preparation centre. Generally, the more students you send to an exam centre, the more benefits you can obtain, such as having permission to use the Cambridge exam centre preparation centre logo and other trademarks. For more information visit the Cambridge English Assessment website.
Implement technology into your academy
Technology is an aspect that is now intertwined into people’s everyday lives. Many children, teenagers and adults take advantage of technology and online resources which they now have access to at their fingertips. English academies which use smartboards in their classrooms can take advantage of the many pedagogical benefits they can provide your teachers with and it can put your English academy at a distinct advantage in comparison to other academies who haven’t adopted this. English teachers can make use of text book publisher’s software, use online games and smartphone games like Kahoot to liven up their classes, or make use of videos and music to bring real life context to their classes. You should consider budgeting for this if you want to stand out from the competition.
Choose the right location!
El Universo del Inglés looked at the opinions of English academy owners shared on social media. Many academy owners expressed in their comments that it’s important to choose a location that’s as central as possible, well connected by public and private transport, near to schools, libraries, offices, workplaces, colleges and universities. This also helps parents of students or older students save on time spent travelling. There would be little point in opening an English academy that’s far away from any of the local population and is home to a town where there are few local residents. If you search in Google maps for “academias de Inglés” wherever it is that you live, you will find that many are nearer to schools and areas of population. Academies which are near to universities will often specialize in Cambridge or IELTS classes for students who need to obtain the certificate for these examinations.
It’s important to choose a location that’s as central as possible, well connected by public and private transport, near to schools, libraries, office, workplaces, colleges and universities
It’s also really important to consider the size and capacity of the building you will use for your academy. Firstly, how many students do you need to at least break even and how many do you think you can manage? If you’re just starting out, the number of enlisted students at your academy is probably low, so it makes sense for you to teach them yourself (if possible) and only hire another teacher if you really need to.
Think about the size of your school and its capacity
As for the venue itself, it’s important that you can build enough classrooms which are big enough to accommodate for the number of students in each of your classes. For a typical academy of 130 m2, you could probably fit in two classrooms which have the capacity for 12 students each. This would then require two toilets, an office or office and a reception area to serve customers. Of course, if you want to increase your income you will need to increase the number of classes you teach and therefore the capacity of your academy. Make sure that you choose a building where it’s possible for you to build additional classrooms.
How to attract students to your English academy
How will you promote your academy and make sure your potential students know about it? El Universo del Inglés can help you establish your presence online and allow students to find your differentiated academy. Generally speaking, the more you spend on your online presence and on local advertising the more students you will get. It helps if you are a well connected person who is well known within your local town or area, and if you’ve chosen to set up an English academy for kids it certainly helps if you know the local mums and dads!
Establish your presence online with a website and a profile on El Universo del Ingles
Having a professional-looking website which details all that your English academy has to offer is a must-have if you want to make a good impression on your potential students and clients. Having a website professionally made is certainly not cheap and you must also pay additional costs for the server hosting, domain name and email accounts. Moreover and as mentioned above, having a website about your academy doesn’t mean people will able to find it in a Google search unless you have invested in SEO and/or PPC advertising on Google or social media platforms. Most website developers or agencies will just build you a website and then leave you on your own, leaving it up to you to promote your site.
There are various methods you can use to promote and market your academy. As more and more people in Spain are turning to online resources to learn English, it’s certainly worth your while investing in promoting your academy online with your own website. However, it won’t be enough to just have a web page – in order for people to be able to find your website, it must be optimized for Google using SEO. It takes a lot of time and money to get your academy listed on the first page of Google for a given keyword.
At El Universo del Inglés, we have dedicated our time to being discovered on Google and so by having a profile on our platform which lists your language school, your potential students will be able to find you. Not only will you receive more traffic to your website, but our platform allows you to display how your academy stands out from the competition and allows students to compare your academy with others in your local area. You can list features of your academy such as class sizes, accreditation status, prices, types of classes offered and many other features. You can also upload images and videos of what your students have been getting up to (like this one) to really make your academy stand out from the crowd and establish your presence. It’s important that you fill out as many of the criteria boxes as possible when you create your profile as this is how people can search and filter for your academy based on their specific needs.
It’s essential for you to fill out as many as the criteria boxes as possible when you create your profile as this is how people can search and filter for your academy based on their specific needs
Make and distribute printed marketing material about your academy
Producing brochures, business cards and leaflets about your academy and the classes you offer can still be an effective way to inform people about your academy. You could source an affordable and reliable print company to make these for you and then post them through people’s letter boxes in your local area, or hand them out at your local supermarket, shopping centre or school.
You could also contact local newspapers and radio stations to make a press announcement about the opening of your new academy and details of its launch.
You should also try and create a brand for your academy and produce merchandise such as pens, folders or bags with your logo and name of your academy and consider distributing them in your local community so that people get to know your brand and what your business is.
Other ways to promote your academy:
- Put up posters in schools, colleges, universities, churches and community centres
- Advertise online using Google adwords or social media platforms (expensive, so consider a pricing plan with El Universo del Inglés which does this already)
- List your academy in telephone and business directories
- Offer discounted prices for select groups of clients such as students and unemployed people.
- Offer competitive prices – charging more than your competition in the beginning will make things tough. Be creative, perhaps you could offer discounts to loyal students who have been with you for a long time.
Teaching methodology and working practices
A great way to differentiate your English academy is by adopting a specific teaching method. You will find many teachers, academies and institutions swear by their own method, but the reality is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that works for every student. Each student has their own specific needs and method of learning which works best for them. Some academies and course providers will insist that they don’t use books and only do speaking activities, others may use a combination. The reality is that your students will stay with your academy if they feel that the teacher is adding real value to their learning, caters for their specific needs and is generally somebody your students like.
You will need to group your students according to their level and ability. Good academies do this by using a combination of an oral and a written test before deciding which group they should go in. Some academies allow their students to decide for themselves which class they should go into, but this isn’t good working practice as ultimately it will depend on what the teacher of the class feels is best for them. While it’s true that you should cater for your students’ needs, you need to show that you are the authority on this matter and that you have the expertise, resources and teaching staff to decide what is best for your students. By doing this, you are showing to your customers that you are the expert and they can rely and trust you to help them with their English learning needs.
Consider setting up as a franchise
If the thought of setting up an English academy all by yourself seems like a daunting task, perhaps you should consider opening an academy under the name of a franchise. A franchise is generally less risk and can offer you more support in the initial stages, as well as giving you more marketing reach. Depending on which franchise you operate under, you will probably have to pay an initial set up cost and then monthly and/or royalty payments to the franchiser.
Legal aspects and licensing
Setting up a business in Spain comes with its own set of legal hurdles and formalities that you must adhere to. Although this aspect of setting up an English academy or language school is a time-consuming and bureaucratic process, you will most likely need help from legal professionals – such as a lawyer, an accountant and/or a gestor. They will be able to advise you on what type of business you will need to form and how to apply for your business license. You will also need to create an activity project to obtain your business license to practice as a language academy in your chosen premises. Each region of Spain has its differences and you will need to speak with your local town hall and inform them about the opening of your business. Of course all of these requirements you have to adhere to will cost you money; including the cost of legal fees, so make sure you factor this into your budget as well.
Hiring staff – hire experienced native English teachers
When you’ve just opened your English academy, the number of students you have is going to be low, so it’s likely that during this time you will either be teaching a large number of the classes yourself, or you will have one other teacher to help. Staff salaries are academies’ highest monthly cost, so in the beginning you probably won’t be able to afford to employ many people. Once your academy has started to grow and you have reached a point where you can’t teach the extra student numbers yourself, you will need to start hiring more teachers and possibly some extra staff to manage and administrate your academy.
Typically, academies need to hire:
- Director of studies / Manager: this person will be responsible for carrying out all academy management tasks, marketing, sorting students by level and into groups, choosing what books to use and course structure.
- Teachers: these are your most valuable staff members who can make or break the success of your academy. You should consider hiring a number of native English teachers to cater for your students’ needs. Also make sure that you choose teachers with enough experience, some level of certification such as a CELTA and the right attitude.
- Administrative assistant: This person will be in charge of attending the center, the information needs (telephone attention, mail reception, etc.) and will also perform the usual administrative tasks (attendance tracking, collections, documentation, etc.). Due to the nature of the position, make sure you hire somebody with strong interpersonal skills and can handle potentially difficult mums and dads.
Cost analysis, amount of initial investment required and income projections
You will need to have some initial investment to start your English academy, this sum of money will be needed to finance everything your academy will need – including furniture, decoration, classroom equipment, working capital and computer supplies. You should also consider how you will source the following equipment:
- air conditioning
- Internet access
- printer, a scanner / photocopier
- CD players
- Technology and multimedia equipment – e.g. smartboards
- Filing cabinets
- paper, pens and other stationary
Below is a summary table adapted from the Empresa e Iniciativa Emprendedora website, showing the estimated cost for each type of expense. We adjusted the cost for several expenses you will incur in order to account for extra hidden costs and inflation.
|Initial investment needed to open an English academy|
|Expense type||Cost (€)|
|Furniture and equipment||5500|
|Computer equipment and software||5500|
|Office supplies and consumables||800|
|Gastos de Establecimiento||1200|
|Fondo de Maniobra (3 months approx)||25000|
You can see that the initial cost of setting up the academy is indeed a relatively large sum of money, so you should make sure that you explore all available sources of finance available to you. You should contact your local government for information about grants and subsidies which might be available to you.
Other sources of finance which you should consider:
-Your own savings
-Family and friends
-Bank loan (highest risk and most expensive)
In addition to the initial costs incurred of setting up your academy, you will need to budget for your monthly costs too. Your biggest monthly expenses will be your staff’s salaries, so as mentioned before you will probably be doing most of the work yourself in the beginning or have only one extra teacher to teach the classes you don’t have time to do yourself.
|Monthly expense type||Cost (€)|
|Expenses for external services||100|
|Staff salaries||5000||Other expenses||200|
Income forecast and student pricing
The price of English classes which students pay will vary according to the location, types of course being paid for, duration of the course, how long the classes are and the level of prestige for the institution. The most demanded courses have a price that ranges between €30 and €80 euros for two or three hours per week of classes. It’s a good idea to make sure students pay the course fees at the beginning of the course.
In Spain, the average monthly payment for two hours per week of classes is around €42 per student and €59 per week for three hours of classes. Often an initial course registration fee is charged to cover administration expenses, this is typically €25.
So, based on the prices which you will charge and your estimated number of students per month, you can estimate how much income you will take. If you’re applying for a business loan at a bank they will also need a detailed plan of this before agreeing to give you a loan.
Summary guide of how to open an English academy
- Analyze the local market and determine if there is demand for English classes in your chosen location. Plan how your English academy will meet people’s specific needs for learning English.
- Look at what your competitors are doing and decide how you could either provide something they don’t or do what your competitors are already doing but do it better – perhaps they’re at full capacity and can’t accommodate for a surplus of students?
- Take advantage of technology and decide how you can implement it into your academy and your classes.
- Choose a suitable location that’s well connected and make sure the premises you build your academy in has room for expansion.
- Create both an online and an offline marketing plan of how you will get students to enroll for English classes at your new academy.
- Decide on what pedagogical teaching methods you will use in your academy and how this will be implemented into your classes. If you will be giving exam classes, look at working towards becoming a Cambridge exam preparation centre or applying for British Council accreditation
- Make sure you address all legal and licensing aspects for setting up a language school in Spain. You will need to speak with legal and finance professionals.
- Produce a business plan which details how your academy will make a profit. Carry out a full cost analysis and determine how you will finance your English academy. Consider all sources of finance available to you.