Teaching English Overseas: How Finding Your Own Students Can Really Pay Off

It can be tough when you have just qualified as an English teacher. You’re full of enthusiasm and desperate to get going, but then you spend weeks or months applying for jobs around the world with no luck.

But there is an alternative to applying of endless jobs, and it can often turn out to be more liberating (not to mention more lucrative).

Teaching in Bangkok
Teaching in Bangkok

Why I Chose to Go It Alone

I first started teaching English when I arrived in Argentina over half a decade ago. I loved the teaching, and work was not hard to come by, but the travel time involved in getting to classes at various locations throughout Buenos Aires soon became a real drag.

I fell into teaching for myself without really thinking about it. Word got around that I was a teacher, and friends of friends would get in touch and ask if I could give them a few lessons.

I started teaching them privately on the side, but soon it became obvious that there was less travel involved (lessons were usually held in my apartment), I could charge a higher fee (no commission taken by the teaching companies), and I was enjoying myself a lot more.

How to Find Your Own Students

  • Word of mouth was by far my most effective way of finding students. Tell your new friends, both expats and locals, and befriend other teachers who may not have the hours to take on new students but can happily recommend you.
  • Print off a few business cards and hand them out at parties, meetings, whenever you meet someone new. Word will get around (especially if your lessons are fun) and soon you may even find yourself in a position where you have to start turning students away.
  • Advertising can often bring in a lot of new interest. In Buenos Aires, the free ad site Craigslist is one of the most popular places to advertise, and a simple advert and a link to your website can generate plenty of interest.
  • The local newspapers can also be excellent places to advertise for students. Get a friend who speaks the language to write you a quick ad and place it in the classifieds section, and you could end up with more work than you can handle.
  • A few flyers stuck up in shop windows in your neighborhood, and even handed out in the street, can also help to keep the students coming.
Take advantage of the booming market – teaching English online to Chinese students from home!

What’s Not to Like?

Many new teachers enjoy the security that comes with working for a language school, along with the teaching materials they may supply and a constant stream of classes. But even with some basic equipment you can start to provide your own classes, and when you realize how much more you can charge private students—not to mention the freedom of teaching completely on your own terms—it can start to look like the better option.

Cancellations have always been my biggest issue. Whilst I was working for teaching companies I was paid for any cancellations, but with my own students it just became a part of the job. But once you have built up a good network of students, even this problem seems to become less of an issue.

Start With Conversation Classes

If you are still new to teaching English overseas and are unsure about your own capabilities, conversation classes are a great place to start.

You may be surprised by just how many people there are out there who simply want to improve their already-excellent English by conversing with a native speaker on a regular basis.

Many of them could do this for free by arranging to meet travelers for a language-exchange session—but there are many more who would prefer to pay for regular lessons that fit into their own schedules.

Once you gain more confidence you might then start looking for other students of lower abilities, but to be honest you could easily earn a living from conversation classes alone.

Don’t let lack of experience get in the way: The best Spanish lessons I ever had were with teachers who had no formal experience, but were simply really easy to get on with and held the sort of lessons I wanted.

Is Self-Employment for You?

It may not be for everyone, but all I would say is don’t immediately dismiss the option of working for yourself as an English teacher. For me, there is no more enjoyable way to teach—and it may be easier to get started than you think.

Global Work and Travel

Want to teach and travel around the world?

Since 2013, Global Work and Travel have been helping travelers work and fund their travels through cultural exchange programs both paid and unpaid.

One of the elements of a successful working holiday is to find local, seasonal employment to use as a means to fund your travels around the country. This is not easy, but Global Work and Travel makes it so as they have spent years with hundreds of local businesses that do hire travellers.

We are enthusiastic partners of theirs as we believe in what they do, avid lovers of working abroad, and know they can help you!

Their Teach trips give you the chance to take part in a 3-4 week class-based TEFL or TESOL course where you’ll learn how to teach English to foreign students.

You’ll be provided with accommodation, transfers and cultural activities and excursions throughout your course. Upon completion, you’ll be awarded an internationally-recognised accreditation which will give you the freedom to teach and travel all over the world or land a local teaching placement. 

Read our full review post on Global Work and Travel

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Author Bio: Connor Davies lives in South America where he works as an English teacher and freelance writer amongst other things. To find out more about how you can make a living whilst based anywhere in the world, you’ll find all you need to know—and a free ebook to get you started—at Aspirations Abroad.

Have you ever found your own students when teaching English overseas?

5 thoughts on “Teaching English Overseas: How Finding Your Own Students Can Really Pay Off”

  1. I actually looked into teaching English when I lived in Buenos Aires for 6 months, and the transportation time to and from a 1-hour class was just not worth it for the measly pay rate. Plus, I heard the companies can be kind of shady and not actually pay you. Definitely a better option to try to do it on your own.

  2. Just want to say that I totally agree with everything you say. In fact I began teaching ESL as a volunteer, so I had to learn quickly and on the job. I had a decent level of education and I’d done Spanish myself, so putting those two things together with an online course was fine. When the need for the volunteer classes dropped off (they were for a huge and rapid increase in immigrant/refugee numbers) I decided to do it from home, and every pupil has been by word of mouth. I love it so much I can’t describe it. It’s very rewarding, so much so I often feel guilty about taking money! I don’t know how it would work if I had to rely on it entirely for income, but there is more demand here since the recession and people want to increase their marketable skills.

  3. Stephanie – yep those travel times were a killer, I remember them well! Never had any experiences with shady companies myself but I’m sure there are a few out there!

    Linda – Great to hear that you are having so much success finding pupils by word of mouth – it really is the best way to go about it. And yes sometimes I feel guilty as well for earning money when I’m enjoying it so much!

  4. I am really proud of her since she was able to cope up everything for the sake of other students learn English language. I may say, it is never easy but through dedication and determination, we could set if off. Writing is a good start for my own opinion. Looking for a positive news of this. Cheers!

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