499
10 min 45 sec

English Teacher Turns Passion for Verbs Into Online Income

In search of extra income, an ESL teacher creates a game that shows students how to use phrasal verbs. Turn it up!
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What It's About

An ESL teacher brings fun into the classroom with his new approach to teaching phrasal verbs.

Business Model
Product
Skills Required
Teaching & Communication
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

For Phrase It, Alan took the ‘go with what you know’ approach. Rather than trying to understand a new market that he knew nothing about, he looked around at what he was already doing—teaching English to international students. He understood these students’ needs better than anyone, and figured he could come up with a product that added value for them. The result? He created a one of a kind, truly innovative product.

Fun Fact

There are over 1.5 billion English language learners in the world. According to the research you will see in Alex's Phrase It book/cards combo, phrasal verbs are one of the most difficult constructs for English language learners. There are over 5,000 + combinations in the English language. Alex spent time discovering 70 of the most common ones for students to practice.

Notes from Chris

Episode 499
Teaching is one of the most important professions in the world. And taking the knowledge you’ve gained in your own life and passing it on to others is a noble endeavor. But...as many of us know, the salary of a teacher isn’t usually enough to live the high life. There’s an old joke that goes, "Teachers deserve a lot of credit. Of course, if we paid them more they wouldn’t need it." In most cases, the earning potential is limited to the amount of time they’re physically in front of students, and there are only so many hours in a day.

So, what do you do when your passion doesn’t align with making a lot of money? You get creative!

This is the situation Alex Bricker from Ft. Collins, Colorado found himself in. Alex is an ESL teacher—that’s English as a Second Language—and enjoys his job.

More than five years ago, Alex had tried starting a side hustle together with his brother. Their goal was to create an online directory of businesses for sale. The project wasn’t a big success and never made much money, but it did teach Alex a few lessons and gave him the confidence to have a go at something else.

So in early 2017, he got interested in starting a project. He went back to the blackboard—after throwing around a few ideas he devised a truly unique concept. One he was fairly certain he could find a market for and make money with.

For his second lesson in the entrepreneurial classroom, Alan took the "go with what you know" approach. The result? He created a one of a kind, truly innovative product.

Now, before I can explain exactly what the product is, I need to give you a little background. I’ll do that with a quick English lesson of my own. Apologies to all real teachers out there...remember I am a high-school dropout.

English is one of the hardest languages to learn, or at least it’s hard to master. Native speakers like myself find that difficult to understand. There are so many little quirks of the language that make it really hard for non-native speakers.

One of the hardest things to master are what's known as phrasal verbs, or multi-word verbs. It’s best illustrated by an example. Take the phrase, ‘turn off’—like turn off the light, or turn off the stove. While intuitive to me—and a lot of people listening to this podcast—it’s really difficult to understand for English students. It’s because the word ‘turn’ literally means to turn around, as in go left or right. Not to turn something off or on. Make sense?

Alex was confident he could gamify the learning process and make it easy for phrasal verbs to stick in the minds of students. The concept he landed on was a card game: a way to make learning fun by producing random phrasal verbs. The name of the game? Phrase It!

While the setup costs were relatively high, the project has more than paid for itself. Currently, Phrase It is generating an average of $1,000/month profit, mostly through Amazon. But that’s not all, the revenue generated from the card game enabled him to launch a new product line. From January of 2018, versions of the game are available in both dice and magnet form. It’s been driving even more revenue and Alex expects things to grow fast. 2018 is already looking very promising with $3,000 worth of sales last month alone.

While the money earned so far isn’t quite enough to quit his job, it's a good start. He’s able to supplement his teaching income while essentially teaching more students without being on the clock. Teaching continues to be his passion and he’s excited to see what happens when the new versions of Phrase It. This is a story that deserves more than just a passing grade.


MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"I love innovating and developing things, so this fits my gifts and passion. I also love teaching, so to teach teachers how to implement something is a joy. The best part of the experience has been seeing international learners get the 'aha' moments when playing the card game."
—Alex Bricker #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau