Help! How Can I Succeed Online if English Is Not My Primary Language?

SPI reader, Anne, recently asked about succeeding in online business as someone whose primary language isn’t English. Here’s my answer.

Last week, an SPI reader named Anne emailed me the following question:

Greetings Pat. I am a reader of your Smart Passive Income blog and want to say thank you. I want to do like you and start a blog and start writing but this is a problem because I am no good at writing and with my english. English is not my native language and it is because of this I give up before. I want to try again but I ask you for help. Please what can I do because my english is not even perfect?

Instead of replying directly to Anne’s question, I thought it would be more beneficial to share her email publicly on the blog (with her permission, of course), because I know there are a lot of other people who are in a similar situation, and also because the awesome and active SPI community here would be more than happy to offer some advice and encouragement.

I know for a fact that a good percentage of my readers are from outside the US and English is not their primary language, yet several of them have successful blogs and online businesses of their own too.

My first piece of advice would be to get rid of the idea that you have to have perfect English.

You don’t. Not even close.

Good and proper writing will help, obviously, but as long as readers can understand what you’re trying to say, you can make progress and do well online.

Take Anne’s email, for instance. Her English was not perfect, but I totally understood what she meant and was able to respond and react to her message accordingly.

You don’t need perfect English to get people to take action.

My second piece of advice is for everybody—not just those who aren’t native English speakers: whenever you write something to publish online, make sure it’s something unique. If you regurgitate material that has already been talked about before, you’re not going to stand out of the crowd, and if your writing is a little off because of the language barrier, it’s going to be even harder to make a difference.

If what you write about is unique, innovative, novel and interesting—whether it’s the actual topic you’re writing about, or the unique angle you take with something that has been talked about before, it doesn’t matter how good your English is—great content will attract people’s attention.

My third piece of advice is to try to include things other than words to convey your message.

What do I mean?

I mean things like images, pictures, info-graphics, charts and numbers, which are universally understood regardless of background and native tongue.

For those who don’t primarily speak English, these things can make it a lot easier for you to get your idea across, and at the same time it makes it a lot easier for your audience to understand you in a very memorable way.

And lastly, my fourth piece of advice is to practice, practice, practice. No matter what you want to do, and what skills you want to learn, you will never just wake up one day and suddenly become an expert. Keep learning by doing, and never give up.

Publish those blog posts, write emails, participate in forum discussions and leave comments on other blogs, and over time you’ll eventually see that your writing skills will improve.

If English is your second language, I give you major props. I’m from the U.S. myself and even I have a hard time figuring out this crazy language, and the fact that you are learning English, of all languages, on top of your own illustrates exactly how much you can do and what you can achieve.

So now I hand this off to the SPI community.

Please, if you have anything to add to this discussion, anything to say to help Anne and everyone else out there who is struggling with the language barrier online, please let me know on Twitter.

Even if you do primarily speak English, what are your thoughts on this topic?

Share this post

  • Pat Flynn

    Hi, I’m Pat, founder of SPI and host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Let’s continue the conversation over in our communities.

Get Unstuck in just 5 minutes, for free

Our weekly Unstuck newsletter helps online entrepreneurs break through mental blocks, blind spots, and skill gaps. It’s the best 5-minute read you’ll find in your inbox.

Free newsletter. Unsubscribe anytime.

Join 135k+