How to Turn Your Love of Languages into Profit — Nathalie Danon
I’m Nathalie Danon, a 40-something French native who moved to the UK nearly 21 years ago with just a suitcase and a few pounds to live off… Less than a month! I discovered a passion for teaching languages to young children in the process and I have since been working hard to build my language businesses, both in the UK and in France.
I work hard but always make sure life is fun! Any job done with a smile is more enjoyable than one completed with a frown — to use a French expression, I think it is my ‘joie de vivre’ that inspires others to be passionate about doing something they love.
In the last 5 years, I have been developing and growing as I chose to help other language professionals turn their love of languages into profit, by sharing with them the skills they need to run a sustainable business using my experience, lessons learnt and highs and lows of being a modern language entrepreneur!
I definitely want to hear more about how you help other teachers. But first, tell us a bit about your backstory. How did you first get started teaching French?
Purely by accident! I never wanted to go into teaching. My sister did. I used to ask her: “Why? “Surely it’s boring, you do the same thing over and over again’! (Little did I know…). I worked as a marketing assistant in a small firm near Newbury in Berkshire when I first settled in the UK. It wasn’t particularly inspiring. I also found myself a bit strapped for cash each month being on a moderate wage in an expensive part of the country. So I thought: ‘What can I do to earn a little bit of extra money?” — Not feeling fulfilled in my job, I also questioned: ‘What am I good at?”. The reply was: ‘Not much, but you can speak both French and English very well and you love children!’.
I put an ad in a local village shop. One phone call came in. (Not 2 or 3. Just 1.) That was the beginning of the adventure! I loved teaching the children, researching material, understanding how best to approach language-learning at a young age. It truly was like an epiphany to me!
I loved teaching the children, researching material, understanding how best to approach language-learning at a young age. It truly was like an epiphany to me!
That’s similar to how I got into teaching too. I wasn’t inspired by my job in marketing, and wanted a closer connection with you I worked with on a day to day basis. You’ve pivoted a lot from those early days. What do you do now?
I still run a foreign language training company yet now, I have a physical academy, still in the same town in the south of England, Newbury. My team and I have also developed a commercial branch so we don’t just work with children and families but corporates clients too, offering translation and transcription services. We have also opened an agency in France, in Jura, where I’m from, so we can provide online language training to our students and language immersion programmes in the UK. And of course, I have set up my consultancy business to coach other language professionals run their own successful language enterprises!
I have set up my consultancy business to coach other language professionals run their own successful language enterprises!
I definitely want to know more about how you help language teachers. In what ways do you support the community of independent language teachers?
It’s vitally important to that community because, as language professionals, we tend to come from academic backgrounds rather than business. We ‘know our stuff’ but that doesn’t make us skilled business owners. Teaching languages, accountancy and sales & marketing are VERY different things!
So many independent language professionals out there are extremely passionate about what they do, eager to make a difference and help others, but fail to make their business a success. They get stuck and often don’t know why.
So many independent language professionals out there are extremely passionate about what they do, eager to make a difference and help others, but fail to make their business a success.
Many want to work independently to generate an income with a good work/life balance but they’re broke.
My own journey has not been easy. It still isn’t! There have been times where I felt like jacking it in. But I’ve persevered. I’ve learnt. I’ve studied. I’ve sought out the biggest and best mentors in the business growth space. And all of that time, effort and energy has paid dividends — I now run a great business, enjoy a very good lifestyle and am able to more than provide for me and my two handsome (and hungry) boys!
I am rather active on social media and give a lot of (I hope) useful tips. I have a private FB group where I share lives and videos. I organise regular online networking events where language professionals meet, share tips and open up about where they’re at in their business journey and the kind of help they’re after.
I also offer 1:1 coaching packages for those with specific business needs. I also run a 6-month Mastermind programme for language pros wanting to really boost their business knowledge. And I offer a monthly accountability club for those looking to be part of a close-knit community where implementation is key!
Wow, that all sounds so helpful! So, what business practices do you use in your own business that you have found the most beneficial in reaching your income goals? How have you actually been able to turn your love of languages into profit?
Can I make a list?!
- Business Coaching.
- Never stop investing time and/or money in marketing.
- Learn to sell.
- Get your inspiration from others who have done it before you.
- Don’t hesitate to hire people.
- Network, network, network.
In my own entrepreneurial journey, I’ve found all of those helpful too. But what I think is most helpful has been changing how I envisioned my own future. What kind of mindset shift would you say is important for an independent language teacher to make the leap from struggling to successful?
Another list, please?!
Stop thinking that you know it all because you master foreign languages!
- Understand that your business degree and further studies mean nothing to your students; their level of commitment to you and how much they’re willing to pay for your services are irrelevant to your CV. It is about them, not you and what you can do to help them reach their goals. That is where the value is.
- Ask yourself that question: “Are you willing to work without any security net?”. I feel that too many language professionals love the freedom that comes with being independent but struggle with the accountability that derives from having to make your own income.
- Be comfortable with feeling vulnerable in a constantly evolving business world.
Be comfortable with feeling vulnerable in a constantly evolving business world.
All of that is such good advice.
If you could go back in time, is there anything that you wished you’d known about earlier when it comes to your language teaching career?
I wish I had a ‘me’ who could have warned me against all the pitfalls! ;-) But then again, there tends to be a reason as to why we are where we are in business, so I probably needed to do all the learning myself, the hard way! That’s also probably why I enjoy my work as a business coach for language professionals so much — watching them succeed on their own with some of my ‘ingredients’ (or remedy!) is very rewarding.
Yeah, I think the good thing about “learning things the hard way” is that we tend to internalize those lessons better.
Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: hello [ at ]nathaliedanon [dot ] co [ dot ] uk