As 9 year old Pedro dangled my bag out of the 3rd floor window in Portugal menacingly, I regretted 2 things; firstly, that I hadn’t taken my bag with me when I slipped out of class to photocopy something and, secondly, that I had gone the private language school route at all!
The reality is that most private language school timetables will include teaching children – and while I personally grew to enjoy this over time, I realise that teaching English to large classes of sometimes unwilling primary or teen learners is not everyone’s bag (no pun intended).
If you really cannot imagine yourself standing in front of 12-30 little Pedro’s, then consider freelance EFL teaching where you will generally teach 1:1 or small groups of focussed and more motivated students. Freelance teaching usually pays better than school work and you are more in control over the hours you teach. The downside is you will have to source your own students which can be time consuming. Also, work cannot be arranged from outside of the country so you will need to ensure you have sufficient funds to keep you going while you build up your business. However, for the keen and enterprising, here are some ways to maximise your freelance teaching opportunities once in situ.
Maximising your freelance teaching opportunities
1) Teach English online: this form of learning is growing worldwide and is already very established in Korea and France, as more people take advantage of free internet phone services such as Skype. It does not pay well but can fill in unwanted gaps in your timetable. As you build your student database you can also offer Skype-to-Skype teaching to your own busy professional learners as an option. Telelangue http://telelangue.com/ is just one big company offering this service in France.
2) Contact your local chamber of commerce: some countries have large and influential networks and I know that many EFL teachers in France have sourced work through their local chamber and are now engaged in lucrative in-company teaching.
3) Build your own twitter, Linked in (for business) and Facebook profiles. Follow and engage with local community and business groups.
4) Network: go to English language bookshops and talk to other teachers about where they found their students. Take advantage of any free ad space you can use to advertise your services such as notice boards at universities, book shops and internet cafés.
5) Get cards printed in the local language and put them in places where they’ll be seen by your target market: this could mean leafleting the car park of a local school, college, university or business park. One EFL teacher I know leafleted his local village in France with a ‘New Year resolution – learn English’ message and was rewarded with a steady stream of 1-1 students.
6) Just be in 1 place long enough: another English speaker living in Italy hadn’t considered teaching English but neighbours and friends were soon asking for English tuition. This prompted her to take a TEFL course and she now runs her own school. The key here is that she was part of a community and was easily and readily contactable.
7) Start volunteering in your free time: the local school is a good place to start. Yes, we are back to teaching children, but on your terms! Offer a free fun lesson once a week to the school and then offer paid options such as small group or 1-1 children tuition to the parents. A colleague in Portugal started a very lucrative mobile nursery service. She visited the local kindergartens where the children had all paid a small amount to sing songs, count to 10 and so on.
8) Do some research before you go: in Sweden, Japan, France and Germany, for example, business English is in high demand. You might want to take a TEFL with a specialisation that reflects the local market.
A final word
Freelance students will still expect a professional service. Look the part, invest in getting business cards printed, make sure you are easily contactable and ensure students clearly understand your cancellation policy. Think; where will you teach and consider safety issues if travelling to a student’s home. Check out the visa regulations before entry and that you are allowed to work legally in a freelance capacity.
In the end, like many EFL teachers, you may end up combining a few hours for a private language school with freelancing. If so, I hope I have not put you off the private language school experience. In the end I did manage to coax Pedro into removing my bag from danger and we went on to have many ‘interesting’ classes together.