Leaping from Architect To English Teacher for Architects — Tara Cull
I’m an Aussie from Melbourne, Australia and I’m currently living in the south of France in a city called Montpellier. I’ve been living here for almost 3 years so I’m also learning French and always adapting to life on the other side of the world. I’m what Emilie Wapnicke would describe as a Multipotentialite — someone who loves to do many things and likes to see the intersections between subjects. I help architects and landscape architects who speak English as a second language to build confidence, find their voice and speak up.
Hi Tara, I really like how you describe yourself as a Multipotentialite. and I identify ourselves like that too. But tell us more about your backstory. How did you first get started teaching English?
I spent the first 14 years post university working as a landscape architect, but I’d always been interested in becoming a teacher. My family is made up of teachers — my grandpa, my dad, my aunties, my sister and now me. So 7 years into being a landscape architect, I decided I wanted to be one too. While I was studying, I managed to juggle working part time with studies.
After I did a Master of Teaching to become a primary and secondary school teacher, I taught in London for a year before returning to Australia for a year to do some relief teaching and teaching in an art school with kids and teenagers while working as a landscape architect in a plant nursery.
It sounds like you were so busy going to school while working full time, then working in both the UK and Australia. What are you doing now?
In the meantime, my partner was living and working abroad in France and I really wanted to join her. When I first arrived in France, my first job was teaching English to kids and adults. But when I worked with kids, I taught them drawing and art skills at the same time and saw how engaged they were while doing it.
Although I was enjoying the teaching, I still had strong ties to landscape architecture and was working freelance for Australia. I also really enjoy reading and watching videos and documentaries about architecture projects, and gardens, and particularly love visiting places here in France.
When I first arrived, some days I would teach, other days I would be doing landscape design for clients in Australia (which was becoming harder to manage because of the time difference). Once Covid happened, all my teaching went online. And one day, with my French teacher, we were talking about my landscape design projects and I realised I just didn’t have the French vocabulary to explain them to her. The next day, I was sitting at my computer doing a design project and I thought I’m sure that if I have trouble with this in French, there will be people out there who have the same problem as me, but in English. So I pulled out 5 A1 sheets of paper and started dreaming up ArchiEnglish.
I thought I’m sure that if I have trouble with this in French, there will be people out there who have the same problem as me, but in English.
I didn’t know if it would work, but I knew I needed to try and that if I put all my passion and persistence into it, at least I would know I had tried. From my experience of working as a landscape architect, I knew of so many design professionals who wanted to improve their English. I even spent time mentoring colleagues when I first started working as a landscape architect. General English classes just weren’t enough to push them or to help them with their specific tasks for work.
From what I realised, so much of English teaching for foreigners is centered around IELTS or exams rather than practical English to help them feel more confident in their jobs. From what I observed, so many incredible professionals can slip through the cracks because they lack the confidence, and this is incredibly frustrating when you know you can do it in your native tongue. So, I began speaking with my ex-colleagues and finding architects on conversation exchanges websites to find out what the real problems were. I wanted to be the person who could help solve these problems.
So it sounds like you got the idea of ArchiEnglish from a problem you faced yourself. You’ve also told me that you’ve had success closing business on LinkedIn. What would you recommend somebody do if they want to successfully use LinkedIn as a marketing tool?
So many incredible professionals can slip through the cracks because they lack the confidence, and this is incredibly frustrating when you know you can do it in your native tongue.
LinkedIn is a wonderful networking tool but it can be overwhelming. It looks different to what most people remember. My first piece of advice would be to go slow with it. It can be a lot to take in if you’re new to using it for marketing purposes. Get to know the platform, see what others are doing on it, particularly coaches and other entrepreneurs. This is a good way to research how you might apply it to your own ESL business.
If you want to use LinkedIn you need to do the work beforehand to understand who it is you’re speaking to. Who is your ideal client target? Start connecting with people like them or people who know them.
If you want to use LinkedIn you need to do the work beforehand to understand who it is you’re speaking to.
My LinkedIn profile is optimised so that it speaks to my ideal client and this was the result of doing Helen Pritchards free 5 day get leads from LinkedIn challenge .
I would also recommend not being a spammy salesperson. Every day I get so many messages in my inbox from salespeople trying to sell me something. Personally, that doesn’t work for me and if it wouldn’t work for you, then just know you don’t have to be like that either. As an educator, it takes a big mindshift to go from teacher to entrepreneur and salesperson. I’m here to say that you don’t need to be pushy and try to overcome objections. The most important thing is to be visible and showing people how you help your ideal clients.
Posting posts and articles on LinkedIn is the best way to be visible. Knowing what to post is the difficult part, but if you know who you are speaking, to then you will know what to post. I have done a lot of work behind the scenes of my business to understand what people need because my business is built on the fact that I’m helping people to get a desired result. If I’m honest too, my first assumptions about what people needed were not correct and I wouldn’t have known this unless I asked.
It sounds like you have put a lot of work into forming an “ideal client avatar” so that you know who you’re talking to. Do you actively ask potential clients about what they need help with the most?
My first assumptions about what people needed were not correct and I wouldn’t have known this unless I asked.
When I speak to anyone on a call, whether they become a client of mine or not, I write something about it in my notebook. I try to pick out key language they use so that I know that my marketing messages, so the way I speak to my audience, is using their words. I’m very curious and like to help people, so I often ask — “What would help you in this situation?” — and this helps me to see their beliefs and how it might help them.
Thanks so much for sharing how you are able to figure out what to say in your marketing message so that people really feel like they connect with you. Marketers often say that storytelling is the best way to connect with your audience, and you write stories about your clients’ experience working with you. How do you use those in your business?
I also have a small popup survey on my website where visitors can answer the biggest ways I can help them. So this also helps me to see what the biggest challenges are.
I use stories to share parts of my own life because I want my clients to feel like they know a little about me before we work together. Interestingly, these posts usually have the most engagement. In the beginning, I was so apprehensive to share parts of my life on LinkedIn but the more I do it, the more I realise it builds trust and authenticity with an audience.
I didn’t know that Jane Goodall links a lot of what she writes about to her childhood. But I’ve actually found that by using my own backstory (childhood) as a tool I can figure out best how I authentically interact with the world. I describe how people can use their backstory as a tool in my free mastermind called the 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? Storytelling Branding Jumpstart.
I also use stories to explain how I might have helped my clients and I share their stories of success to show what is possible. Jane Goodall is my absolute hero and I love the way she tells stories by relating it back to her own childhood experiences and experiences working in Africa. She often shares stories of hope, which is what I feel compelled to also share. I believe when people facing challenges see how others in similar situations have overcome roadblocks, it helps to give them the hope and to take action. When people feel empowered, they are more willing to take action.
I would also think that listening to what your students want makes you a better teacher too.
I believe when people facing challenges see how others in similar situations have overcome roadblocks, it helps to give them the hope and to take action.
After sessions with my students, I also tend to spend 5–10 minutes just writing something about our session and what I noticed, and when I’m writing posts for LinkedIn or Instagram, I use this as material. If one person is facing this particular challenge, there will at least be 100 others facing the same one. So I see storytelling as a way of being able to reach a wider audience of people who might not necessarily be able to work with me 1:1, but can benefit from my skills at noticing where the deeper challenges are.
I wish I had known from the beginning that I didn’t have to do it like everyone else. I would have started my business much earlier. I also spent a lot of my first years teaching English doubting that what I was doing was good. So if I went back in time, I would tell myself to focus more time on asking questions, listening to my students, and understanding them, rather than focusing so much on me doing a good job. As soon as I did this in my teaching, I realised how much better it is for the students.
I wish I had known from the beginning that I didn’t have to do it like everyone else.
I also would say to myself to prepare less material. When you prepare too much, you can miss the spontaneous teacher moments. Now when I occasionally teach kids 1:1, I don’t have much of a plan beforehand. I try to get them to choose and lead the learning process. I listen carefully to what they need the language for and try to teach them that. I apply the same principle to adults. I get them to contribute to the materials and I think it helps them to have quicker and more target results with their language learning.
I would also think that listening to what your students want makes you a better teacher too.
Okay, is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?
I recently completed my Neurolanguage coaching training and I’ve really enjoyed consolidating some of my teaching methods and having a qualification behind the coaching style I was adapting to my teaching. I really believe in coaching, having had it a lot myself in the last 6 months. So I want to continue to flex this muscle and continue to strengthen and transform my teaching more into a coaching style.
Something else I also feel is important, and I’m sure many other teachers feel this, I am someone who I would describe as highly sensitive. I like to feel connected to people I’m working with. So I was worried that online teaching would be a big challenge for me. Actually, what it has done is blown my world open. I just feel incredibly fortunate to have students all over the world from the US, to Argentina, Australia, UK, Italy, Hong Kong. It’s such a humbling experience to learn more about different cultures.
Lastly, I think many of my students would say I’m super passionate about what I teach. I love sharing my knowledge but I also love learning all the time. As well as being a teacher and landscape architect, I absolutely love art and drawing. I’m a big fan of street art and urban sketching, so in the last 3 years, I’ve spent lots of time travelling and trying to capture the world around me through urban sketching. I like to share my sketches on my website Tussock Studio.
Thanks for sharing that you’re a Highly Sensitive Person. I am too! I’d definitely like to talk to you more about how you use those skills to your benefit.
Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: hello [ at ] archienglish [ dot ] com