Many TEFL teachers rely on private lessons to supplement their income. They often pay more than regular lessons and qualified teachers who offer a professional service can earn a great deal this way. Some, in fact, will stop teaching at a regular school all together and set up as self-employed to teach English.
In most cases private lessons are one-to-one or perhaps one-to-two. But things can get bigger and some teachers will offer classes to small groups. Lessons are either held in the student’s home or in your apartment (see below).
How to find students
If you do decide you want to give private lessons, the first step is to let people know that you’re available.
Although it’s probably not best to mention anything to the students directly, you may find that once the word is out students (or their parents) approach you directly for lessons. If the school doesn’t already know, it’s best to run this by your DoS or school owner to make sure it’s ok, however.
Word of Mouth
Then of course tell your landlord, your next door neighbor, the lady at the bakery – basically anyone you meet and strike up a conversation with! One good idea here is to get a set of teacher business cards printed up. This doesn’t have to cost much and this can be done very cheaply online at places like www.vistaprint.com.
On the card have your name, telephone number, job (i.e. Language Tutor) and qualifications and give these to everyone you meet!
The next step is perhaps a flyer with a rip-off strip with your telephone number or email. Make them simple to read (possibly even in the local language) and then put them up on notice boards at your local supermarket, post office, gym and metro station, etc. Another good idea is to put them up around the local university if you have one.
Local papers are also useful. Inquire with those which cover your area and see if you can have a small add placed in their classified section.
Use the Internet and get onto local forums for students of English if they have them. Be careful not to use the forums just to advertise yourself directly though (webmasters don’t like that and you may get banned). Instead, take part and try and answer a few questions the students might have and if they see you are a regular poster they’ll be more inclined to trust you.
Also don’t forget local forums for expats. Often people will go there looking for a teacher and it’s worth keeping an eye on the job forums to see if someone is after private lessons.
Finally, the internet is also a useful place to advertise. Websites can be set up for free nowadays and you can place a link on sites where private tutors can advertise for free.
When to Advertise
Obviously you can advertise for lessons anytime you want, but a good tip is to post flyers near the schools when it approaches exam time. Advertising your services a couple of months before the annual English exams, for example, can work wonders in boosting your clientele!
Where to Teach
The next step is to decide where to have your lessons. You can have the lessons in your apartment, the student’s house or a public area and there are advantages and disadvantages to all three places.
If you have students come to your place then you need to have a suitable room for study. This can’t really be a bedroom and you need to make sure it’s tidy before anyone arrives. Another problem can be one of noisy neighbors or annoying roommates; you need a place that is quiet and where you won’t be disturbed.
Some students may also be reluctant to come to your house for cultural reasons, e.g. if you are a male teacher then female students (or their parents) may not want to be alone with you. In this case going to the student’s house is often an option or having the lessons in a café.
Punctuality and timing is also an issue. If you go to the student’s house then you control the timing – you can arrive on time and leave on time. However, if the student comes to you then they may turn up 10 minutes early or get very talkative and leave 10 minutes after the scheduled end a lesson.
Meeting at the student’s house will mean expense for you in time and money. Sometimes you may be able to offer the student different prices depending on where you have the lesson.
An hour or 90 minutes appears to be the standard length of time for a private lesson although with young learners you may well want to reduce this to an hour. Avoid two hour lessons as they are too long for both teacher and student when it comes to one-on-one tutoring.
What to Teach
First and foremost do a Needs Analysis and find out exactly what your student needs and/or wants to learn. After this you can plan your lessons accordingly.
Often students will say they just want conversation classes. This is fine but you will still need to plan for it. Talking is good but for conversation to be effective you need to structure it. Prepare your topic and make sure the content and language level is right for your student. Don’t improvise! You may get away with it once or twice but after that your lessons will slowly come apart.
Collect all the necessary materials. If you are not using a book and rely on handouts make sure you have copies for both yourself and the student. Don’t try and save a few pennies by not printing out a copy for yourself. There is nothing more unprofessional than a teacher always peering over their student’s shoulder trying to read the only handout.
One very important part of teaching private lessons is teaching exam classes. These most often take place a month or two before the student takes and English exam such as the FCE or TOEFL. Essentially they are cramming for the exam, going over past exam papers and making sure the student not only understands the language, but also the technique they should use in the exam.
What to Charge
People expect to pay for their private lessons so you don’t need to be too conservative with your figures but before you set your hourly rate it’s worth asking around to see what other teachers charge in the area.
Usually if it’s a one-to-one lesson you’ll charge the full rate. If you have two students you can charge each one slightly less and so on. For example:
Number of Students – Price per Student – Total Per Hour
1 – 30 – 30
2 – 25 – 50
3 – 20 – 60
4 – 18 – 72
5 – 15 – 75
Thus small groups can be much more lucrative than 1-1 classes.
Remember, however, if you charge too much you’ll get less, if no students; if you charge too little you will not be taken seriously enough. The following are very general prices for different countries however remember that your final price will depend often on the age and level of the student, the location and the general financial perception of the student.
Country – Local Currency
Australia – €30 ($38 USD, £24)
Greece – €25 ($32 USD, £20)
Italy – €25 ($32 USD, £20)
Russia – 650 RUB $20 USD (€16, £13)
Switzerland – 50 CHF or €40 ($51 USD, £32)
Thailand – 500 THB or $15 USD (€12, £10)
Turkey – 15 TL or $8 USD (€6, £5)
UK – £25 ($39 USD, €31)
USA – $50 USD (€40, £32)
If you can, try and get your students to pay you each time they have the lesson rather than at the end of the week or the month.
A sticky issue is that of students booking you for the lesson and not turning up. Sometimes there could be very serious reasons or unexpected events that prevented them from attending their lesson and you may be inclined to forgive and forget; other times it could be they just couldn’t be bothered.
However whether or not your students may have a genuine reason for their no-show, it is always better to set some rules from the start.
Let them know that they need to give you a 24hrs notice if they want to cancel a lesson. If they don’t you will have to charge them for the hour (or at least make a partial charge). The notice could be a day or a few hours. You will need to decide an exact time and let them know in advance. It is important however that you set this rule from the very beginning and stick to it.
Note that although in most cases you will be paid cash for private lessons, legally you should declare this and pay tax on this income. Many teachers do not, however, do this.
Also it may be stipulated in your teaching contract that you are not allowed to take on paid work outside the school where you’re working. Check this first or you could be in breach of your contract.
A First Private Lesson – how to prepare for a first private lesson with a new student.
Teaching Exam Classes – how exam classes differ from normal lessons.
Teaching Online – using Skype to teach students through the internet.
Private Lessons to Businesses – finding work with businesses