If you’ve had some experience in the TEFL world you must have thought, at least once, about ditching the institutions and going solo. How do those teachers with 10-15 private students do it? The good news is that it isn’t rocket science.
Finding private students is a relatively simple process. Here’s a few of my top tips:
First and foremost, attracting private students depends a lot on your own confidence. It’s an entrepreneurial endeavour after all and one that you must get accustomed to if you want to stick it out.
If you’re a well-qualified teacher you’ll likely have no problems, yet enthusiasm and the ability to remain independent from the text book, support centre and library that a school offers is critical.
Even if you’re not a qualified English language teacher you can offer (and get paid) for conversation classes. It all helps to improve a non-native’s speech and pronunciation.
Go Where the Students Are
Just like fishing, you’re not likely to catch anything if the pond isn’t full. Language teaching is the same. Go to the places where the demand for learning English is high.
Major countries, cities and towns with military bases are a good bet, as are places where people have the disposable income to pay for lessons in the first place.
This doesn’t mean you have to go abroad. A bountiful pool might be right under your nose.
Well, not literally, but your services at least! You want to get privates? You’ll have to advertise. Whether that’s traditional – word-of-mouth, notice-boards, flyers – or digital, the method is the same.
You don’t have to give yourself a hard-sell but letting some of your personality shine through in an advert, perhaps letting people know about your doctor of education and the like, is key to appealing to a prospective student. A nice photo doesn’t go amiss, nor does a testimonial from a student or two.
Beat the Competition
You might have realised by now that finding private students is a little like running a small business: you have to compete.
Take a look around at the advertisements and services of other teachers and work out what’s unique about you.
How about lowering your rates to attract more students in order to build your experience? You needn’t be shy about this in your ad either.
Teaching privates is no free lunch. It takes hard work, preparation and a small amount of risk. Having said that the reward of working for yourself and not having to answer to a boss, is liberating.
Before you set out and take those first steps towards teaching privately, there are a few final things to consider.
If you’re teaching in a language institution – in any capacity – you must check with your Director of Studies to see if your contract permits you. Taking privates (and advertising publically) may seriously affect your steady paying job if it goes against the regulations.
Preparing all those hand-outs? Do yourself a favour and invest in a printer. Handwriting isn’t expected nowadays.
Finally, the trick to teaching privately is to be flexible. Without being able to chop and change classes, travel out of your suburb or prepare lessons on borrowed time you’ll likely to find the whole thing fairly stressful.
*Will Peach is a CELTA qualified teacher and the site editor for Gap Daemon, the social network with travel advice for backpackers and gap year travellers.