From the classroom to Instagram, a teacher builds a business online

Journalist: Armine Avetisyan

Illustrator: Tina Chertova

06.07.21

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Lusine Zakalashvili discovered how Instagram could turn her successful digital career into a vocation.

Working online was nothing new to Lusine - two years before the rest of the world was forced to work online, she and her sister Ita were already successful online English teachers, working via the online platform Skyeng. 

But when she saw reports about children being displaced from Karabakh during the 2020 war, Lusine began to see how to use her work tool as a platform to help. English lessons cost between three and 24 dollars an hour in Armenia. Lusine,30, and Ita, 24, for example, earn between 15-25 euro an hour.

But Lusine decided she could use her skills to help “people learn a language from scratch for free.”

To date, she has already published 30 free videos on her Instagram account, and has over 5,000 followers. The lessons, which average several hundred views, are a few minutes long and usually focus on building vocabulary. 

“I posted on the Internet, shared my idea and it turned out that there are many people who need free English lessons, so I decided to make videos for everyone, helping people to learn a free language from scratch,” Luisine says.

“When my mother, who is also an English specialist, and my sister supported and helped me with all the methodology and all other issues, as they are very strong teachers, I realized that I could really make a serious positive change.”

She notes that even her father has been able to use her videos to begin to learn English. 

“I have reached the period of my life when my job allows me to devote some time to good deeds, dreams and changes,” she says. 

Before she started her account @english_with_luisine, the sisters had a strict policy about using digital technology: the internet and computer were for work only. Once they were off the clock, they powered down their laptops and went out.

But now, Lusine spends her evenings planning Instagram lessons. Over the past several months, she has grown close to her online students, she says, and has even written job recommendations for dozens of them.

In addition to her free language videos, Lusine and Ita collectively own several online ventures: they both teach English online and own a jewelry design business.  Lusine credits Ita for introducing her to the business side of the internet.

“I’ve been giving private English lessons since I was 18 years old and I can say I earned quite a good living. I have a principle: if you value your knowledge, you charge a lot for it. I charged about $100 for eight lessons, which was a lot of money in those years,” Lusine recalls. “But one day I discovered that my little sister worked less than me, taught online and earned more. I became interested in what program she was involved in, and so I started working online, too.”

Ita recalls she had her doubts about teaching online at first, especially when she learned she could set her own hours and work from home.

“At first I was a little skeptical about working online. They offered quite a high salary. I thought they might create attractive conditions for me to work and not pay,” she says. “But I have been working for three years and my salary has never been late, not a single day.”

Ita adds that the work provides something even more valuable than a good salary: the freedom to be your own boss and decide how to schedule your time. 

“Online work is not just about making a lot of money,” she says. “It also enables you to build your own work schedule.”

Today, the sisters earn 15 euro an hour teaching English online through the platform—and can earn twice as much giving private lessons. They were able to work without a problem through the pandemic, even saving enough to start another online business, designing jewelry.

“My sister and I design jewelry, my dad's friend makes it, and we have a big platform for sales via social media pages,” Lusine says, adding that when she first entered the market in January, many worried the timing was bad, but today she has already been able to return 80 percent of her investment.

“Success is guaranteed with the right use of the Internet,” she says, adding that she frequently posts about her online career to encourage others to try their luck, too. “Smart use of the Internet is profitable.”

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