Private English Classes: 7 Tips For ESL Teachers
Private English classes are a great way to not only supplement your income, but also be your "own boss" of sorts since you'll be able to not just choose your clients, but also make your own schedule. When done correctly, you may even be able to rely on your income from private English classes completely! Where there's a will, there's a way; however, there are certain aspects to take into consideration first before diving headfirst into the world that is private English teaching.
I'm an expat based in Spain and have over 10 years' teaching experience in the private and public sector. I've also given quite a few private English classes too, and here's what I have learned over the years!
Set Your Price & Don't Budge
Think about it this way: they're not just paying for a worksheet, and some error correction: the price reflects your brand and is a direct statement on the quality of the services you offer.
That said, you should always keep in mind the cost of living where you're based. What does that mean? I'd charge differently for an hour of class in Switzerland versus Guatemala, for example. On the other hand, I wouldn't simply lower my rates because a potential student left their iPhone in a taxi and can't afford it right now.
Do your research on the market, and set your price accordingly. Don't budge. If you want to have some discounts in place before speaking with a client, that's completely acceptable, but folding in the moment because of X or X makes you seem unprofessional and easily manipulated. Know the quality you offer, and only take on clients willing to pay for what your services are worth.
Draw Up a Contract/Agreement
It may seem tedious, but keep in mind, as a private English teacher, you're an entrepreneur and contracts are part of the deal. Again, it doesn't need to be super formal, but the clearer you are with your expectations, the better. In Spain, this may seem off-putting, but trust me, it's for the best.
A simple agreement stating the number of hours per week, the end goal of the course, the start and finish date, and the agreed upon rate will suffice.
Also, don't forget to include a safeguard for cancellations which we'll discuss later on! It never, ever hurts to cover your bases.
Block Off Hours in Your Schedule
If you're charging 20€ an hour for private classes, it may be tempting to simply teach 5 classes a day and earn 100€, right!? Boom! Living the dream!
Don't make the rookie mistake of not factoring in the time it takes you to plan and prepare your classes, and also, more importantly, the time it'll take you to travel to and from each class!
Make a timetable that suits you and then, build your classes within said parameters. If you tell someone you're available from sun-up to sun-down, then you're giving them an invitation to do as they please... with your time!
Decide Who You Won't Work With
Do you only want female clients? Male clients? Teenagers? Children? Exam preparation? Toddlers? Only conversation classes? By adding these filters of sorts you are limiting your options, but you're allowed to have preferences!
Especially if it means that you stay within your field. If you're a Cambridge exam expert and only want to prepare official exams, then that's what you go with. If you prefer working with children, not an issue, it just means telling everyone else 'no', Also, will you do mine-group classes, or only one-to-one? Make sure you decide before you start advertising your services!
Keep Your Resources Organized
There are a plethora of private English teachers and the market is over-saturated. What will set you apart?
Quality. Professionalism. Punctuality. Innovation.
Make sure that you stand-out. Consider using an online platform like Google Drive or Dropbox for your students to submit writing assignments, or setting up a Slack account for your students to interact and stay in contact with you about questions or doubts. Create fun challenges on Duolingo that foster healthy competition. Make flashcards on grammar points using Quizlet. Check out Asana if you'd like a way to keep your students' files and documents organized properly. This way when you say that you have 10 years' experience and charge 20+ euros an hour, but also offer access to an online community with free resources, you won't hear them protest!
Tip: Create a one-size-fits-all welcome package for your students as part of their onboarding experience. Give them a folder, notebook, pen, and an informative sheet with access to the Google Drive folder with free documents and pdfs, or instructions on how to join the Slack channel! It looks very professional and says a lot about you and your brand.
Choose a Location
Would you rather meet in your flat? Do you feel comfortable having your students in your home?
If so, make sure that you have a separate office / workspace so that you all can interact sans distractions.
If you opt for a public meeting space, keep in mind that unless you've discussed this with the owner prior to setting up shop, most places require that you order something to stay there for an hour. That's money out of your pocket. There's also no guarantee that they'll be open, or that there will be an open table!
If you go to your student's flat, then again, you should ask yourself what you're comfortable with!
Check out our Like a Local Guides to find some of the best cafes, restaurants, and hidden gems in your town!
Take Cancellations into Account
The most frustrating aspect of giving private English classes is the instability. "Teacher, I hurt my ankle, and my dog is sick" There's 20€ less of your paycheck! It's tricky because life happens, but you still deserve a steady wage! Perhaps adding a policy like "if you cancel with less than 24 hour's notice, you must pay for the class" or if they've paid upfront for a number of hours, "if you cancel with less than 24 hour's notice, you cannot reschedule the class".
Tip: I recommend that students pay for their hours at the beginning of the month. Again, you may have people that are hesitant to do that. Those are probably the same people who will flake on you at the last minute! You don't want their money. If you both agree on 2 hours a week, or 8 hours a month plus your cancellation policy, there should be no problem!
It's okay to have structure. This way, your income won't fluctuate so much!
Teaching private classes, especially in Spain, can be extremely lucrative. It's oh so tempting to charge next to nothing and grab as many students as possible, but you'd be doing yourself a great disservice.
Be firm. Choose quality over quantity, and then you'll be on your way to a loyal, dependable client base.
Also, don't forget to brush up on your Spanish too! This will improve your relationship with your students and clients! Here are some tips to get you started!
Did we miss anything? Comment below!
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.