Are you interested in starting a freelance language tutoring career?
Being at the beginning of anything is always the most daunting. And your career is no different. If you’ve ever thought freelance language teaching might be for you then this article by Ed O’Neill at UK Language Project should help equip you with a plan for how to get started.
The UK Language Project recruits lots of language tutors every year. They come across hundreds (possibly thousands) of tutor applications each year. The following are some handy hints to help you stand out from the crowd and start accepting your first students.
Elect the language you want to teach
This might be a simple choice of teaching your first language. But don’t miss out on the opportunity to teach a language you studied at University, or another language. The more languages you know and teach the more opportunities will be open to you. A word of warning though. It’s a crowded marketplace, and at least advanced level (C1 equivalent) in the language is recommended.
Make some early decisions
There are many ways to teach these days. From an in-person lesson, to remote learning at a computer using online video calling.
You will need to decide which you feel most comfortable with. Of course there is always the option of keeping everything on the table and opting to take on both online and face to face students. Especially in the early days. The more flexible you are the better.
It’s important to think about who you’d like to teach. We’d suggest deciding on a focus group of people you can help the most. Kids? Teens? Adults? Retirees? Deciding on this will help focus your mind on what’s important for them and select materials accordingly.
Teach for free
As mentioned before, getting started is the hardest part. One way to cut through that difficulty is by doing some free work with family/friends/university colleagues. That way you can gain experience, figure out if you enjoy teaching. And collect reviews and testimonials from these students before you ever teach a ‘paid’ lesson.
Find out more about qualifications for tutoring your chosen language
For teaching English as a foreign language you’ll need a CELTA as a minimum, plus your degree. For other languages it’s more flexible. A qualification will set you apart, but doesn’t need to be top priority if you’re just getting started.
Get your admin act together!
This is an important step. There will be a lot to prepare. You will need to buy, create or download materials for your lessons. If you’re teaching online you’ll need to make sure you have and can use all the necessary apps for video calling. It’s also worth investing in a good microphone so students can hear you loud and clear.
Some other things you might want to consider:
- Getting set up for tax
- Deciding how to accept payments and how much you’re going to charge
- Your cancellation policy
- How you’re going to organise your diary and routine to fit (e.g. are you fully available or will you only work evenings, or during the day etc.)
Register with some tutoring websites
This is probably the most important step here. With improvements in technology, a large amount of tutoring marketplace websites have popped up over the last few years. They do (pretty much) all your external marketing for you so you don’t have to.
It’s recommended to choose a few you’d like to get on and set up accounts there. Spend some time and effort on these. If your images, bio and general profile ooze professionalism and trust, you’ll be in pole position to start taking on new students.
Take a look at some now while you’re reading this. You’ll be surprised at how little effort a lot of teachers put into their profiles.
Be open to suggestions
When you’re getting started it’s best to just say yes to everything. Perhaps that student wants a lesson on a Friday evening when you’d normally be out with friends. Think about it and take the plunge. . Take every opportunity to gain the valuable experience you need. After the first 6 months or so, you’ll be thanking yourself that you did this.
Ask your students for reviews
You’ve probably heard this before. Reviews make you stand out. And they’re not that difficult to get. Ask previous students who you taught for free. Make sure that all your new students leave reviews. The sweet spot is 5-10 reviews. More if you can, but the effects diminish after 10 reviews.
Again, you’ll be surprised how little effort tutors put into this essential practice.
Improve little by little
This goes beyond teaching and tutoring and should be something you live by in your daily life. Always look for ways to make your teaching better. Evaluate your lessons, ask for and take on board feedback from students. Make your lessons that went well even better. Adapt or bin the lessons that didn’t go so well.
You can short cut your learning curve just by asking and answering ‘how could I have made that better’ after every lesson.
Moving to the next level
Freelance tutors are welcomed by language agencies and sometimes language schools as well. Often they may need teachers for short term or fixed contracts. It can be more cost effective to them to pay a freelance tutor a higher hourly rate but have the flexibility that they wouldn’t have with a salaried employee.
Their courses are often longer than private tutoring and you have the bonus of being protected from late cancellations as the school will often handle all those difficult conversations.
So that’s it. For more information and a deeper dive into the advice, head over to the the UK Language Project’s ultimate guide on becoming a freelance language teacher.
This blogpost is sponsored by UK Language Project. Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert firstname.lastname@example.org.