PRIVATE LESSONS

 


An overview of what it's like to make a living from
private English lessons in Istanbul.

Overview

One of the best ways to make money as an English teacher is by giving private lessons, and there is a huge demand for this in Turkey.  Many potential students of English have busy family and work lives which prevent them from attending an English course at the weekend or in the evenings. However, they are keen to learn English and they may actually need to learn English for career development.  This need can be addressed through private lessons and many students will pay a serious premium to be taught 1-1 in their own home. A great deal of money can be made this way, but starting from scratch isn’t easy. That said, if you know a few secrets and learn a few tricks of the trade you can make an excellent living, while at the same time staying in control of your working hours. The challenge is that many teachers find that they get the odd private student here and there but they don't stay on that long, and its hard to make a full time living. 

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. There are several ways to build your roster of students, but word of mouth is still probably the best.  Let friends and family know that you are available and make up some business cards so that you are ready to take every opportunity that comes along.  If you are living in Turkey you will already have noticed how many taxi drivers and waiters ask if you give private lessons!


Advertising Your Private English Lessons

If you really want to make a good income from private lessons, at some point you’ll probably need to take out an ad or make a post on a website like Craigslist. You should also try www.sahibinden.com which has proven to be a great source of students for us in the past.  Creating ads can be tough because you have to sell yourself.  Here are several keys that have worked well for me :

 

  1. Be honest about your experience, credentials and expertise. Highlight what you do best. This paves the way for honest students.
  2. Include some kind of expectation in your ad.  I always say something like “Serious students only. Beginners are expected to practice 15 minutes a day.”  All of my students have told me that this is the thing that made them contact me over anyone else.  There’s no short cut to learning English, and students that understand this show the most improvement and stick with lessons the longest.
  3. Offer a free trial lesson.  This will allow you to judge their level and personality before making a commitment.  Its not easy sitting 1-1 for up to a few hours a week so make sure you are both comfortable.  Take a notepad and listen carefully.  If you decide to go ahead, the notes you make now can form the basis of your first lesson.
  4. Pricing.  I don’t include pricing in my ads. Where the student lives, whether or not they’re willing to come to my place for the lessons, and when they’d like to have the lessons all factor into my quote.  Everything starts at a basic price of 120TL/hour and works down, so I’m simply less likely to negotiate with somebody that lives further away and needs to do their lessons at 9am on Saturday, while my neighbor could probably get a great deal on lessons at 11am on Mondays.
  5. Be professional.  Stay organized with everyone you’re emailing with and respond in a timely manner.  Use punctuation and grammar, even if they don’t.  These are small details that can make a big difference in making a positive impression on potential students.

And remember, your time and expertise is valuable.  Don’t sell yourself short.  How smoothly your association with a students goes and for how long, depends on your attitude, style and numerous factors to do with students own life.

If you do find you face problems with reliability or cancellation then you might find a verbal agreement at the start helps reduce.

Final Thoughts

Teaching private English lessons 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 English 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 private lessons (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 with a scanner. Keep everything you create in properly organised files.  You wont be able to use everything you create with every student but after a while you will have built up an invaluable resource of materials that you know work.  Keep a file for each student and insert the worksheet and notes from each lesson into the file in chronological order.

Each lesson should begin with a review from the previous lesson, so the file makes planning easier and makes the lessons flow more logically and constructively.

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.

Resources

I believe these are probably the two best resources for anyone giving private English lessons.  Whenever you need an idea for a lesson these two sites will deliver every time.

1.  Lesson Stream is a selection of lesson plans – or rather, recipes – which serve to demonstrate how teachers can make use of the explosion of good materials we all now have access to via the internet. Beautifully organised with great attention to detail, there is something to interest everyone here.

2.  Breaking English News

  • The lessons are free.
  • Each lesson has 26 pages of printable activities / handouts.
  • There is a new lesson every two days.
  • The lessons alternate between pre-intermediate and intermediate (plus).
  • All lessons are based on stories currently in the news - as the world's news breaks, teach it.
  • All lessons are also downloadable PDF format.
  • There are 30+ online quizzes for each lesson.
  • Listening files can be downloaded in mp3 format or subscribed to via a podcast.
  • Classroom handouts are readily reproducible.
  • There are graded listenings with each lesson.
  • Thousands of teachers and students say they love using the news lessons.

What more do you want?! Can you recommend any other good sites?  What have you found works well with private students?  Use the comments box below to share your ideas.

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