Do you want to start a sign language school? If YES, here is a 19-step guide on how to start a profitable sign language school with no money or experience. Sign language is a form of language used by the deaf to interact. Sign language is the use of hands and facial expressions to pass information as spoken language.
So when people who are deaf want to use sign language to communicate with those who do not understand sign language, they have to employ the services of an interpreter. Starting a sign language school can be a very lucrative way of serving the needs of a deaf community. You will need a comfortable space to start and run this business successfully.
This business requires more than one person to operate. You will need sign teachers, someone to answer the phones as well as someone to greet clients and maintain records. Note that your ideal employee should have at least some knowledge of sign language and an excellent understanding of the needs of the deaf community.
An individual who is post-lingual deaf (deafened after the acquisition of spoken language) may be an excellent employee to help you bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds. Also a person who has full hearing but grew up with a parent who is deaf and is fluent in sign language may also be the perfect partner.
If you don’t know sign language, you will have to ask potential employees to go for testing to verify they can communicate effectively with sign language. But if you are fluent in sign language, you can test the employee yourself. You can hold a 10-minute conversation with them to determine if they are skilled in the language.
You should also consider hiring employees who speak multiple sign languages. After you must have hired employees and set up your school space, you need to then attract students for your school. You can contact local court offices and social agencies that work with the deaf to help grow your name.
Consider membership in a professional sign language organization such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. You can be added to the organization’s database once you have met certain qualifications. For anyone fluent in sign language or very certain that he/she can run this business, it is a promising industry with the capability of changing your financial books positively.
19 Steps on How to Start a Sign Language School in the US
Table of Content
- 1. Understand the Industry
- 2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
- 7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
- 8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
- 9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- 12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
- 17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- 18. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
- 19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
1. Understand the Industry
The huge global language services industry was worth approximately 40.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2016. Within the next four years, experts believe the industry will experience a growth of five billion U.S. dollars, reaching 45 billion in 2020. Over half of the language services market was accounted for by Europe. North America was the second largest market at 34.82 percent, with a market size of just under 17.4 billion U.S. dollars expected for 2019.
Statistics has shown that there were more than 53,000 people working in interpreting and translation services in 2017, and this figure is expected to increase to almost 93,000 by 2022. The same report has it that the State of California had the largest number of people working in this area followed by Texas and Florida.
The most lucrative state to work in this field was the District of Columbia, which paid its interpreters and translators an annual mean wage of 92,420 U.S. dollars, around 19,000 dollars more than the second highest paying state New Jersey.
According to reports, the demand for industry operators’ services was somewhat stifled within the past five years as a result of slower government investment. But the growing immigrant population, increased trips to the US by foreigners and increased global business activity have led to increased demand for the translation and interpreting services provided by industry operators.
Also note that with the growing use of technology in industry services and the internet providing operators with growth opportunities, industry revenue grew during the period. Over the five years to 2023, the industry is forecast to grow in line with an improving economy, greater globalization and beneficial immigration patterns.
You should also note that this industry has a low level of capital intensity. Experts believe that for every $1.00 spent on labour in 2018, businesses in the industry allocate an average of $0.02 on capital equipment, and this figure has not changed over the past five years. In nearly all cases, firms in this industry make use of computers and relevant software to aid the translation process.
Even though translation memory and computer-assisted translation programs can be used to increase productivity, industry services remain heavily reliant on labour. Have it in mind that this industry is knowledge and skill intensive and needs direct human involvement in many areas of the translation process, which translates into high reliance on labour.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
With the growing rate of hearing and deaf people learning sign language, the range of people open to that skill has broadened. In addition to traditional careers like interpreting, new career possibilities open up as technology evolves. Most sign language school graduates are hired by schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges. In education, there is always a need for people who know sign language.
Your students will be individuals who want to become sign language interpreters for individuals, groups, meetings, and classes in an educational facility; also aspiring teachers at deaf schools and special education centers. Sign language teachers are found at colleges teaching classes, giving private lessons, or leading baby sign language classes.
3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
Competition has led the world to understand that more money and market share can be acquired by specializing in a particular niche. It gives you a direct clue to who your target market is and how best to reach them. By choosing a specific niche you can be able to achieve more with the little available incentives at your disposal.
In the sign language school business, the target audience you hope to render your services to can be your business niche. You can decide to start a school that teaches parents sign language or the military sign language. Sign language is becoming a huge necessity in this age and this demand is looking promising and lucrative. Below are few niches you should consider when you’re planning to start this business.
- Sign Language School for Health staff
Medical professionals who know sign language are in demand. Speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and occupational therapists who know sign language can work better with their clients. Also social workers who know sign language are also needed.
Psychologists who know sign language are employed at schools for the deaf and colleges as counsellors, and can also work for private and government mental health service providers. Also note that ASL interpreters who are skilled in medical terminology are required by health care facilities to communicate with patients and their families. You can make them your target audience and create specific marketing plans to reach them.
- Sign Language School for Government and Law Enforcement Officers
Presently, Federal, state, and local government agencies offer better platforms to people skilled in sign language. These individuals can be found in equal opportunity offices, or working as deaf and hearing specialists at vocational rehabilitation agencies and state commissions for the deaf and hard of hearing. They also work in law enforcement, judicial, and detention environments. Also the demand for police officers who are skilled in ASL are growing.
- Sign Language interpreters school
Note that interpreters can be found in multiple environments. They are in government agencies, courtrooms, hospitals, schools, museums, amusement parks, theatres, and more. Community interpreters may be self-employed or work for an interpreting service and provide their services in a variety of environments. You can focus on nurturing and teaching interpreters, getting them ready for the huge task ahead of them.
Level of Competition in the Sign Language School Business
The general language industry is big business, with the worldwide language services market growing at an annual rate of 5.52%. Reports have it that localization and translation is the 4th fastest-growing industry in the United States. This industry is diverse and technology-driven, with an increasing impact on both global and regional economies.
The size of the overall global language industry in 2016 is estimated at $40 Billion (USD), with estimates of up to $45 Billion by 2020. Also note that the projected growth rate of this industry is 6.5-7.5% annually through 2018. In the U.S. more than 3,000 firms employ over 55,000 professionals in various aspects of the language service. More than 50,000 people work as translators and interpreters.
Although reports have it that the vast majority of language agencies are small firms engaged mainly in translation or interpreting, many of the larger language companies are considered “full-service” providers. Services can include translation – including machine translation – trans creation, localization and localization engineering, dubbing, voice-over, and narration for audio and video content, desktop publishing, consulting and more.
These services are supported by advanced language technology and software, and a thriving R&D sector helps fuel progress and innovation in the industry. By any measure, the language industry is healthy and growing.
As the language and translation industry keeps growing, so does the need for educational institutions that can teach sign language. Thus demand has made this industry very competitive but still open for willing and focused individuals to gain a substantial amount of market share.
4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
- Lionbridge Technologies
- HPE ACG
- LanguageLine Solutions
- RWS Group
- Welocalize, Inc.
- STAR Group
- Hogarth Worldwide
- CyraCom International, Inc.
- RR Donnelley Language Solutions
- Honyaku Center Inc.
- Pactera Technology International
- Keyword Studios
- Logos Group
- Capita Translation and Interpreting
All over the United States, the need for sign language interpreters that are fluent in ASL is growing massively and so does institutions that teach them. In Florida alone, there over 3 million people with varying degrees of hearing issues.
Individuals who are fluent in sign language are in high demand at businesses, theme parks, schools and especially hospitals/healthcare facilities. Sometimes the use of a sign language interpreter is made available via live video feed. Hearing impaired individuals can request the use an interpreter and view the class or other event in real time.
Statistics has shown that the need for interpreters will grow approximately 20 percent by the year 2022. The need is so apparent that organizations for the hearing impaired are asking colleges to implement degree programs in ASL and other forms of communication.
Have it in mind that many businesses will often give more thought to a job candidate if they are bi-lingual. In the past, a lot of people did not consider ASL when choosing to learn a second language as most opted for Spanish, French or German. But with the rise in the number of individuals who are experiencing hearing difficulties, sign language is becoming a more popular choice.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
Starting a profitable business is not an easy task, especially if you are going to be impacting knowledge. You need to analyse all your options and decide the best model for your business. You need to lay down your goals and visions for your business and decide if starting from the scratch would favour you over buying a franchise.
- Working with a proven business model
- Building for the Future with Fulfilling Work
- Brand recognition and marketing support
- Support for Yourself While You Support Others
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
Sign language schools are needed to help deaf or hearing impaired individuals interact. These schools are helping people discover a lucrative industry that has been neglected for so long. To be successful in this business you need adequate planning and preparation, but you can typically start out on a budget and gradually expand your business over time. Here are a few challenges of Starting a Sign Language School;
- Writing a business plan
- Choosing a suitable marketing strategy
- Choosing a niche for yourself
- Developing your curriculum
- Registering your Sign Language School as a company
- Renting space
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
Running a school that will teach sign language in the United States is a serious business and the legal entity you choose will go a long way to decide how big you want the business to grow. Choosing a suitable entity for your business can be a daunting task, and since you will be working with individual students and probably educational institutions.
It is advisable that you incorporate your business as a legal body because it may be difficult for you to get their attention if they know you are running the business as a private individual, not a corporate firm. Advantages of incorporating your business include…
- Protecting your personal assets
- Have Easier Access to Capital
- Enhancing Your Business’ Credibility
- Perpetual Existence
- Gain anonymity
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
- Sign Approach
- ASL School
- Red Teaching
- Precision Academy
- Art World
- Simple minds
- Revolving Tutoring
- Science School
- Maths Legends
- Main stone Sign Language School
- Learning crib
- Special Kids
- Clean Step Academy
- NYC Private School
- Over Achievers Academy
- Future legends
- Learning Company
- Academic Doctor
- Friday Educational Group
- Detroit Learning
- Premium School
- The Study Shack
- Lively Sign Language School
- Brilliant Minds
- Click Studies
- Educational Endeavours
9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
It is important in the business world that you cover yourself as a business owner from potential lawsuits by purchasing business insurance. Note that not all of your risks as a business owner can be covered by purchasing a basic insurance policy.
The more reason you must first know what your risks are before you start contemplating on the best ways to protect your business. To identify the risks of your business you can simply consult with an attorney or even an insurance professional.
Have it in mind that the risks for a Sign Language School business can be very huge because of the different exposures involved with your business activities. There are a number of risk management controls you can put in place:
- Privacy Statement
- Information Security Policy (you can find some great templates for Information Security policies on SANS website)
- Customer Contract Revision Provisions
- Standard Customer Contracts
- Standard Agreements for Vendors
- Recall Plan
- Vendor Certification Process
- Quality Control Program
- Obtaining Customer signatures on each phase of the project.
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
In this modern age, you should strongly consider going for intellectual property protection to be able to protect your intellectual property. You need to understand that filing for intellectual property protection for your Sign Language School goes beyond protecting your company’s logo and other documents, but also protecting your investments, patents and of course the name of your company.
If you want to file for intellectual property protection and also register your trademark in the United States, then you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
A certificate in American Sign Language (ASL) will give you the opportunity to pursue an excellent career with deaf people, or may assist you in communicating with your students. Note that a certificate is proof that you completed a course of study on ASL at a postsecondary institution, but a professional certification shows your expertise in the field.
It’s advisable that you check with local associations and colleges to see if an ALS certificate program is offered in your area. Local community colleges often offer such programs. You can also do an online search for this information. Also remember to check the costs and requirements for the ASL program of your choice if there are several options in your area.
If you want to get a good overall education in dealing with deaf individuals, you may prefer one that delves into the overall aspects of deaf culture. You can also pursue certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) (www.rid.org) if your goal is to become an ASL interpreter. Various levels of certification exist and can be acquired through examinations.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
When starting this business, you need to register your business with the IRS. All businesses should apply for an EIN (employee identification number) on the IRS website. This process is free, and you can submit the application online.
Your EIN is needed for filing for a business license. The process and requirements for applying for business license differ from state to state — contact your local business authority for details on how to register your Sign Language School business with your state.
Some states in the United State may need you to have special certifications or permits; however, other states such as South Carolina, do not. These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own Sign Language School business in the United States of America;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Business License and Certification
- Insurance Policy
- Consulting contract documents
- Business Plan
- Employment Agreement (offer letters)
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Apostille (for those who intend operating beyond the United States of America)
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
Starting a sign language school will cost a lot, the more reason you should consider external funding options. It’s advisable that you pursue funding from investors or by getting a loan from a commercial lender. When working with a lender, the money must be paid back at some point.
If you bring on investors, your future profits must be shared. Have it in mind that both investors and lenders need a copy of your business plan before they will think about giving you the money you need. Ways to finance your Sign Language School may include…
- Debt Financing
- Personal savings
- Raising money from investors and business partners
- Applying for loan from your bank
- Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and angel investors
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
You have to understand that the size, layout, location and appearance of your school will have to be suitable enough to boost your school operations while respecting zoning and environmental regulations. Educational facilities come in different sizes, locations and prices, so you need to know what your needs are and how much you can afford to pay.
If you’ve worked on a business plan, you probably know the amount you can spend on rent or a mortgage, utilities and taxes. Note that a cash-flow analysis will help you understand your budget, and if you can afford to buy a commercial property or if renting is your only viable option. Things to consider when choosing a suitable location for your Sign Language School include;
- Does it require modification?
- Tax and infrastructure
- Does it allow for future growth?
- Separate your needs from your wants
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
The manpower requirement for this business may include freelancers with whom you network or share tips, a technical support person for the day your laptop dies in the middle of a huge project (because odds are that it will) and, perhaps most importantly, a good accountant. Note that enlisting the services of a good accountant will end up saving you thousands of dollars in taxes in the long run.
Also note that to help your students succeed and take responsibility for their learning, a sign language school must be able to encourage students, to provide a safe environment in which students are treated with respect, and to offer reasonable and ethical support that is mindful of students’ privacy.
Also note that your employees must be intrinsically motivated to help others. But preference should be given to selecting staff who display above-average people skills; technical skills such as handling software and hardware may often be taught more easily.
Also since the operation of today’s Sign Language Schools involves ICTs, it is essential that your employees know how to use them. Individuals who are organized, technologically inclined or savvy, and have basic accounting skills may help make sure that the school runs successfully.
The business funds would be handled by a central organization or via mobile phone money-transfer software so that staff will not be tempted by corruption. Note that immediately your Sign Language School staff are hired, they must be informed about the institution’s programs and its admission and registration procedures as well as the services that are offered or could be offered at the School.
Also have it in mind that that the two-way capabilities of today’s technology have created a platform for the learner to reach out beyond his or her environment. Due to modernization, technology has become a very important component of today’s educational system. It can facilitate efficient communication and help students to obtain the information they need to succeed.
Don’t forget that the information and the procedures involved in acquiring information must be in a language that people can understand. This is why the success of any educational program involving technology is highly dependent on the capabilities, confidence, and enthusiasm of the staff at the institution.
The Service Process Involved in the Business
Sign languages are languages that use manual communication to convey meaning. Note that sign languages often share significant similarities with their respective spoken language, such as American Sign Language (ASL) with American English.
Grammar and sentence structure, however, may differ to encourage efficiency and fluidity in speaking. Have it in mind that just because a spoken language is intelligible transnationally, such as English in the United States and the United Kingdom, does not mean that the sign languages from those regions are as well;
ASL and British Sign Language (BSL) were formed independently and are therefore not mutually intelligible. Experts in these languages see both spoken and signed communication to be types of natural language, meaning that both emerged through an abstract, protracted aging process and evolved over time without meticulous planning.
Note that wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have developed. Even though this language is used primarily by the deaf and people with hearing difficulties, it is also used by hearing individuals, such as those unable to physically speak, or those who have trouble with spoken language due to a disability or condition (augmentative and alternative communication).
There are many sign languages in the world, so don’t deceive yourself by thinking that all sign languages are the same worldwide or that sign language is international. Aside from Pidgin International Sign, each country generally has its own native sign language, and some have more than one (although there are also substantial similarities among all sign languages).
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
You can start by informing everyone you know (friends, family, former colleagues) about your new business and ask them to spread the word. Create business cards and leave them at coffee shops or in other public areas that may attract potential clients. You can also contact translators you know who work in different languages and ask them to send clients your way.
You can also join a small business association and attend their monthly meetings. Contact companies with whom you would like to work either and direct them to your site. Don’t forget that every social event is a potential marketing goldmine – don’t be shy to talk about your business and hand out business cards.
As your business grows and you acquire a strong brand name, most of your clients will come through referrals or word-of-mouth, but it’s always good to continue to carry around a stack of your business cards and continue to market. Things to have in mind when developing a marketing plan for your Sign Language School may include;
- Determine conditions for success
- Ascertain the amount people are willing to pay
- Establish partnerships
- Find managers
- Differentiate service
17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
Your School can be advertised using more traditional means, such as a professional website, advertisements in local newspapers and on television, etc. Note that word of mouth is very important in schools: creating a positive relationship with local teachers, administrators, and guidance counsellors means that you will get direct referrals from those who are best in the position to recommend your school.
- Conduct Free Value-Driven Webinars
- Create branded pdf reports
- Refer Service to Get Services In Return
- Give 100% Commission on a Front End service
18. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
You need to understand that your business is providing potential solutions to problems that students already know they have or want to help people that have. If a client is not happy with a project, do everything you can (within reason) to make things right.
This will pay off in dividends, especially if this client ends up using your services again and recommending you to others because you went the extra mile. Also to retain customers, you must demonstrate that you definitively offer the value they are hoping for.
- Focus on becoming a dependency
- Listen to them
- Keep your eyes open for external environment changes
- Know your weakness
- Set and meet students expectations
- Nail the first impression
- Always be adding value
- Improve competitive advantage
- Build ‘sticky’ customer loyalty
- Let students know what you’re doing for them
19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
In this business, the only way to become more profitable is by attracting more students, and the only way to attract more students is by advertising more. You can consider offering free workshops or seminars at local schools and colleges. Note that this will help you advertise your services and demonstrate your value to potential customers.
You should also consider guest publishing on educational blogs or blogs related to your field—this will indeed help you become more of an established name when someone is looking for more specialized instruction. Other things to bear in mind may include;
- Develop entrepreneurial skills
- Use open educational resources
- Motivate your students
- Employ two-stage implementation process
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