Does the thought of signing a big scary contract for a job at a language school in a country you’ve never been to scare you? No sh*t! It’s very daunting and if you end up hating the job, it can become a sticky situation trying to get out of.
Well guess what!? You don’t have to sell your soul for 1-2 years with a binding contract for a big corporate language school. Because the demand is higher than ever for ESL teachers, especially ones that will actually teach IN PERSON lessons!
Due to the global pandemic and massive shift to working remotely, online English lessons are more popular than ever. This is making a lot of native speakers teach from the comfort of their home rather than going abroad to find a job. Which, in turn, is creating a shortage of face-to-face English teachers!
So this is where you come in if it is your dream to live and work abroad but still have the flexibility of being your own boss. Let working for big English companies with strict rules become a thing of the past and live life on your OWN terms, around your OWN schedule and with your OWN students! Start taking these steps now to become a private English Teacher abroad…
STEP 1: Get certified
Even if you are a ‘native speaker’, getting some kind of qualification is critical, not only for your professional image, but also to gain insight into the basics of being a teacher (especially if you have no experience).
The initial training that is globally recognised, is a TEFL certificate. This is the ultimate beginner teaching course that you can complete fully online over a matter of months, or with an additional in person weekend workshop to practice games, activities and other hands-on exercises.
It’s called the ‘Level 5 – 168 hrs’ course which is also the one I took and I found it pretty interesting, reasonably simple and VERY useful in getting my work abroad in Poland and Japan. Stay tuned for my full review of the course coming soon!
STEP 2: Choose a country
This is the fun part! You’ll probably already have a good idea of what kind of countries you’d like to go to, so before you spend hours on a Youtube or Google spiral actually do some research to find out;
FIRSTLY if you can legally actually live and work in that country,
SECONDLY the level of English,
THIRDLY the demand for English teachers!
After that I’d recommend searching for ‘Expat Lifestyle in [country]’ online for videos, blogs, articles and whatever you can find to get an idea of what to expect. Especially take note of how easy it is to make friends, socialise, internet speed, and culture.
STEP THREE: Affordability
Time to get the old calculator out to see how much you’ll need to make to stay afloat and afford a good quality of life in this country. You’ll need to research the cost of living, including rent, utilities, groceries, spending money, saving money!
e.g Edinburgh Affordability:
Rent = £700
Utilities = £200
Groceries = £100
Spending money = £250
Saving money = £100
Then you’ll take that number, divide it by 4 weeks / 20 days (average weeks and working days in a month) to get the amount of money you need to make each week or day.
e.g 1350 ÷ 20 days = £67.50
Now you can also figure out how much you should charge per hour which will entirely depend on the cost of living in that area and the strength of the currency. That’s right, you can’t base your hourly rate on your home country’s prices! Wherever you teach, your rates MUST be based on that country’s currency and cost of living, for example English lessons in Germany will be a lot higher than in Vietnam.
Finally you can divide the amount of money you must make each week/day by the hourly rate and that gives you how many hours you’ll have to work each day (Mon-Fri).
e.g 67.50 ÷ 25 = 2.7 hrs teaching each working day
STEP FOUR: Check demand
Now you’ll want to do a test to see how responsive people are and how quickly you could fill your schedule. In order to do this you’ll need to set up a Facebook page for your ‘services’ where people can get more information and contact you.
Setting up a business Facebook page is pretty straightforward. Just make sure to create bold graphics with all the important information (Canva is the best free tool out there for this). And post some interesting grammar and vocab rules to start generating content. Make sure to stay consistent with your content to grow your following and gain trust in potential students.
After that you can search the local ‘English Language Exchange [city]’, ‘English Conversation [city]’ group or something along those lines on Facebook and join the group to tell them you are coming there soon and will be teaching English lessons if anyone is interested etc.
Additionally do a quick Google search to find the most popular jobs and services website for locals and post about your services in a similar way. I’d also recommend hiring a translator on Fivrr or Upwork to translate the advert/post into the local language as well to attract more potential students.
See how many people you get after a month and let that be the deciding factor on whether to make the move or not! Remember, as a private teacher, as SOON as you have a handful of students who enjoy your lessons, they will tell their friends about you who will tell their friends and you will quickly attract more students to fill your schedule or increase your price!
STEP FIVE: Set up a calendar & payment method
Now you’ll need an efficient system for managing your schedule and payments. For your booking system, you can opt for either the traditional, more time-consuming way where you simply discuss or message them back and forth when they’d like to have their lesson then write it in your calendar.
Or use a good scheduling website where you can simply highlight the dates you’re available, add the different lesson types/price brackets you offer and then you can share the link with your students for them to choose the best time slot for them! You will receive a notification when someone books one of your classes in order for you to approve it before it is confirmed via email to the student. I use Appointlet’s free version, and find it has everything I need for effective lesson planning and fast time-saving booking creation for the students.
As for the payment method, again, you can opt for the traditional cash payment or bank transfer approach. Or, if you want to look more professional, open a Paypal Business account where students can pay you with their card online EVEN if they don’t have a paypal account themselves. This is what I do and it works perfectly.
STEP 6: Reach out and connect with potential students
Finally, you’ll probably need to spend a little more time getting students to sign up, so there are several things you can do to take action with this.
Firstly, something that could fill your entire schedule would be to find the biggest or most relevant companies in the area you have moved to and reach out to them saying how you are a native English speaker that’s just moved to the area and can offer English lessons to their employees. This is definitely a great opportunity for both you and the company so I’d recommend doing this before anything else!
If your target students are school kids then of course you should put up posters in and around the school. If you can speak the local language a little or can get someone to translate, contact the school telling them about your services and that you can offer after-school tuition etc, etc.
Another great opportunity is the local magazine/newspaper. This may seem old fashioned, but definitely will get a lot of eyes on it. Especially in smaller cities and towns this is a great marketing method that shouldn’t be too pricey and will let people know there’s a native english teacher in town!
Similarly, you can go super old-school and make eye-catching flyers to post through people’s doors! Could actually be a fun way of getting to know the area; going for a 30 min walk every day posting a handful of flyers.
For those of you who don’t feel confident about contacting all these institutions in a foreign country, then simply search online for people who are either working in the industry you specialise in (via LinkedIn) or are members of Facebook groups that include your target market. And then send a private, PROFESSIONAL message to them about what you do and how you can add value to them to reach their goals.
Whether you want to be able to work around your own schedule, make more money per hour or are simply tired of working for an uninspiring school with material you know could be better, these steps are how you can start taking action NOW!
Let me know in the comments if you’re ready to take action now and what country you’re thinking about!
Not convinced that going private would be better than your teaching for an ESL school? Read my article, ‘6 Reasons Why You Should Go Private as an ESL Teacher’, to fully understand the benefits and freedom that can come with pivoting to private lessons.
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