Since the recent shakeup of China’s ESL industry, hundreds of thousands of online teachers and tutors around the world have been scrambling to find other options to continue teaching their students and replace their lost income.

Some teachers are looking for work on platforms based outside of China, while others are trying to go into business for themselves. Some successful independent teachers have started expanding their business into helping others achieve their same self-employed success. 

First, I think it’s important to mention the three big problems online teachers face when deciding on what the heck to do:

Problem #1
Big platforms take a high commission fee, offer no job stability, have draconian rules, and are oversaturated with teachers.

Problem #2
Starting up and managing a business as a freelancer can be a big challenge. Besides being time consuming, there can be issues such as not having a business license, how to accept payments, lack of tech knowledge to create a decent website, and how to market.  The cost for all these things can add up quickly too.

Problem #3
Finding decent curriculum can be expensive if you don’t have the money or not enough students to make it worth purchasing. Creating your own curriculum is often too much work, especially for teachers with families.

Over and over again, the same three problems run like a broken record in online teachers circles.

Here are 5 reasons why online teachers should join (or start) a co-op.

Cooperatives are better for workers, customers, and the world.

1. You collectively own and run the business

All members purchase a share in the cooperative, which also gives you the right to vote in elections and take part in making decisions. All members, regardless of position or shareholding, get one equal vote and can even run for the Board of Directors.

2. Earn your fair share

When the cooperative creates a surplus, you get to decide what should be done with it, such as paying out member dividends, reinvestment, donating to charity, and more.  It is in all members best interest to work together to be a collective success. This creates a friendly and transparent environment among teachers and workers.

Just imagine if these huge platforms making millions in surplus paid dividends to the workers based on how much money they generated for the company. There is a reason why investors are dumping big money into the industry. There isn’t a reason why teachers should not be able to invest in their workplace and get their fair share. 

3. Democratic member control and decision-making

When was the last time a CEO asked for your input and let you run for a seat at the Board of Directors table?  You really don’t need to answer that one.

While most companies are out to maximize profits for investors and shareholders, a cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Democratic member control can prevent things like pay cuts, lay-offs, price wars, unfair rules and harsh penalties, and the oversaturation of teachers on the platform. Benefits can include things like paid time off, free training and career development, support groups, and anything else that may be proposed and agreed upon.

Teachers vote and elect the directors, who hire managers, who train and supervise workers.  Everyone has one equal vote in all elections and polls.

4. Most people aren’t good at everything and teamwork is better anyways

I’ve been self-employed most of my working life and have always loved it.  But to be honest, being self-employed is a pain in the ass. You can be great at your job, but maybe lack the tech knowledge to create and manage a website. Maybe you aren’t a social media guru with the marketing skills needed to easily gain new students when your current ones stop taking lessons.  Maybe you’re like me and really suck at accounting and dealing with numbers.   

Co-ops are great for this very reason.  It allows people to focus and excel in areas they enjoy and are good at. 

Like any other company, different people with certain professional skills are needed to run different departments, such as IT, marketing, sales, and accounting. Co-ops work the same way, except the workers control the company, not a small group of head honchos.

5. Build a reputable brand that you own

Brands build reputations by providing a good service and having people talk about it. The possibilities of having an army of awesome teachers operating collectively under a reputable global brand are infinite.

Teachers can collaborate to create course curriculum, earn royalties for the content they produce, form teams and committees to manage different projects, and so much more.

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

-African Proverb

There are many more reasons why you should consider cooperatives. They aren’t new and are a tried-and-true business model with millions of co-ops and members around the planet in just about every sector imaginable.  

In recent years, platform cooperatives such as The Drivers Coop, Stocksy, and Meet.coop have been popping up, offering alternatives to these giant companies that we wish we didn’t have to rely on.

It’s time to reimagine our work lives and demand democracy in our workplace, online or off.  We are teachers and totally capable of organizing and taking control. We don’t need to accept the short end of the stick. We don’t need to break our backs. We don’t need to be at the mercy of millionaires and not even know if we will have a job next month.

We just need to organize.  

MyCoolClass is a registered cooperative in the United Kingdom comprised of over 300 teachers in over 45 countries.

Click here for more information about joining MyCoolClass and to learn more about how co-ops work.

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