Career Tips and Friendly Words for Freelance Teachers: Paul Says Hello from Ireland

in Professional Development


Long-time Eltabber Paul recently moved from busy Berlin to quaint rural Ireland. There, he took a little time to sit back and ponder over freelance English teachers’ major challenges and possible solutions. He’s happy to share his thoughts and experiences with you.

The perennial problem for English teachers is that there is simply not enough work available from private language schools. I have tried to assemble some good and original suggestions to mitigate this issue. The bad news is that the good suggestions may not be original and the original suggestions may not be good (well, let’s see about that).

It may be a bit late for this year but there could be vacancies for teachers at summer schools. Cancellations mean that these might only be available at short notice. Given that most of this work is likely to be available in the UK, it may give some teachers a chance to meet up with friends and relatives. However, many firms give preference to applicants who are willing to participate in social events in the evening and on weekends.

At the ‘cheap’ end of the market class sizes can reach 15, although 6 would be closer to the average. Groups will often comprise several nationalities, which offers both challenges and opportunities. Having a repertoire of tried and trusted games is a great advantage. Make sure your travelling and accommodation costs are clearly defined in the contract.

Be open-minded about what you offer

Another strategy is to seek out clients in a particular profession e.g. law, medicine, IT, insurance… It helps if you have experience in one or more of these specialities but there are masses of books which will supply enough material to put together a marketable course. To illustrate the point, I recently gave a fifteen week course in ‘Fashion and Design’. Those who know me will be aware that a fashion guru is something I am definitely not.

My next suggestion necessitates good IT skills. Many clients have a fairly good level of English but panic when they have to produce some written material where accuracy is absolutely paramount.

Often they want someone to proof-read letters, reports, dissertations, job applications or press releases. A colleague of mine started doing this in Germany to supplement his teaching earnings and within five weeks it had become his principal source of income. The key to success in this field is a really top quality website. Note: you are not translating; a knowledge of the customer’s language can help but is not essential.

Finally, over the past ten years teaching foreign languages in schools in the UK has suffered a steep decline. Once, English teachers working abroad were neither required nor expected to speak the language of the country in which they were employed. Now attitudes of schools have changed and it is a distinct advantage to have some competency in foreign languages.

Apart from anything else, learning your students’ language helps you to anticipate the problems they may have in learning English.

Have a good summer!


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