I haven't done a ton of private teaching, I'll admit, but I've learned some things from the little experience I have, and I've heard "horror-stories" from friends of what not-to-do. I'm an optimist, so I'm going to focus on the things TO DO or must-knows, as I like to call them.
But first! Let me explain that I, personally, prefer working for a university or college. Recruiting students can be a challenge, especially if you're wanting to make private teaching your main source of income.
Sometimes students "fall into my lap," just from being an instructor at a university or college, so I sometimes end up private teaching. (That happened to me this summer. I'm teaching two Chinese students, referred to me by a fellow ESL instructor). Each time, it's adventure!
My first piece of advice when considering private teaching is...
For example, I'm used to teaching college-age, so I wouldn't feel comfortable teaching anything younger. If I'm not comfortable, I won't enjoy the teaching. Of course, you want to be open-minded, but it's still a good thing to think about and consider when you're thinking about private teaching ESL.
2. Know what you are good at.
I like reading and writing, so that's what I offer for private teaching. I'm qualified to teach Listening and Speaking, and still do a bit of that, but I tell students straight-up that my strength in teaching ESL is reading, grammar, and writing, especially academic essays and creative writing. What are your strengths? What do you enjoy?
3. Know how to assess needs.
You're assessing what they want to learn and what they already know. The first day I meet with someone for private teaching, I give him/her a little form to fill out. The first half asks general questions: how long have they been learning English? What kind of skills are they hoping to learn from me? I have them tick boxes for some of the questions, almost as a shopping list for what I can offer.
The second half is a little grammar and vocabulary assessment. Then, if I know he/she wants help with writing, I give a little writing assessment. (It usually takes about 20 minutes). I'm including my latest drafts of assessments at the bottom of this blog.
My assessments don't end there, though. People like to know they're getting what they paid for. This summer, I've started using "exit tickets," which is something you give student at the end of each lesson. It's a quick card that asks what the student liked about the lesson, what they'd like to learn more about and/or what they think would improve the lessons. I also fill out one, telling them where I think they're starting to improve in.
4. Know what to charge.
Every state and country is a little different, but most private teachers (right now) are charging somewhere between $20-$75 an hour. If you have a TESOL certification and/or degree, AND you have experience in teaching, you can charge on the higher end. Of course, if you're nice like me, I usually land in the middle ($40-$50 an hour).
The best advice given to me? Have a contract and ask for the payment upfront. It's not rude. It's business. This summer, I'm teaching a Chinese couple, and I tell them to pay me for the entire week on every Monday. Of course, you can have them pay for the month or two months in advance, depending on how you want to do it, but always get payment upfront.
Middle-Eastern students, by the way, will negotiate the price and form of payment. Other students will as well, but Middle-Eastern students are notorious for bartering. My advice is to only negotiate if you feel comfortable with it; otherwise, just state the price and stick to it. If they want lessons bad enough with you, they'll pay the price you ask for.
5. Know your personal limits.
Private teaching is unique because you're basically tailoring the learning to meet the individual. In that way, it's quite rewarding. It can, however, consume a lot of your time. Again, students want to know that they're getting their "money's worth." Your lessons need to be organized, professional, and thorough.
Don't take on too many students, especially if you have other commitments.
BONUS: Know where to meet.
If you're meeting with students via Skype or some other online mode, make sure you clean-up your room and dress professionally. It can be easy to just "go to work" in pajamas, but that can lower your credibility with students.
If you're doing it face-to-face, know where you're going to meet. My friend had a spare room in her apartment and set-up her private teaching in there, but not all of us have that luxury or feel comfortable with "strangers" in our homes. I suggest a library or some other study space. Most libraries allow you to reserve a room. Right now I'm meeting my private-teaching students on campus in one of the study lounges. That works for us. Choose somewhere that works for you and make it consistent. Try not to change the location and time of lessons too often.
That's about all I have for you today. Enjoy the documents below. Tweak them to your needs. Happy teaching!
Tutoring ESL, college writing, reading, and English grammar since 2005!