Published 2nd June 2017

Are you not 100% sure you want to commit to a life of TEFL but are thinking of trying it out? Do you want to try out your teaching skills on one student before you are faced with a class of 30? Are you looking for some extra work to supplement your income?

If any of these statements resonate with you, then you should consider finding private EFL students.

Having private EFL students is a very popular idea, no matter where you are in the world or whether or not you are a full-time EFL teacher. Having private students is a convenient way to get valuable teaching experience, get comfortable teaching and earn a bit of extra cash.

Who are private students?

Many people who want to learn English are working or studying full-time so they are not able to or don’t want to commit to a language course. It is not easy for them to make time to attend classes but they still want to learn the language and brush up on their English skills. Or sometimes students would rather have one-on-one lessons than learn English in a classroom situation, so they decide to try and find a private tutor.

How do you find private students?

As you can imagine, advertising is key. If you are already working for an institution or a school, you are usually not allowed to offer private lessons to your students because that would be taking business away from the school. However, creating a reputation for yourself among the students you teach opens yourself up to good word-of-mouth recommendations. Even if you can’t teach Galina because she’s in your Intermediate class, there’s nothing to stop you teaching her cousin.

Besides word-of-mouth, you can make use of websites to advertise your services. Gumtree is a common one for teachers to advertise themselves. As with anything of this nature, always be careful about students you find in this way. When you meet them initially, meet them in a public place and let someone know where you are going to be.

How does it work?

Well that’s the beauty of private students: it can work however you want it to. The rate you charge must be negotiated between you and the student, and will take into account the length of the lesson, the preparation required and the venue of the lesson.

It is also common to offer a free trial lesson. This is for both parties – for the student to know that you are a serious teacher and for you, so that you know what is expected of you and are happy with the arrangement. When the first lesson has been concluded and the details have been finalised, you are set to start your lessons.

Anything else I should consider?

  • Be careful with your pricing. If you are just starting out teaching and don’t have a reputation or experience to sell yourself, be prepared to start off charging a lower rate than you might want. You should by no means short change yourself and your rate will generally be higher than any hourly rate you will receive in a school or language centre, but in the beginning you may need to sell your lessons at a lower rate until you have some experience.
  • Be prepared for cancellations. Private students are notorious for cancelling at the last minute (or just not turning up) which can be really frustrating if the lesson includes a commute or if you have turned down other work at the same time. Make sure your cancellation policy is clear when you negotiate your rate. There is nothing wrong with charging for a cancelled lesson if that is agreed on in the beginning.
  • Consider bundles. If you’d rather not rely on payment from lesson to lesson, consider selling your lessons in bundles or packages. This will usually include a discount for a certain number of lessons that are booked, but this will safeguard you against cancellations – if your students cancel they have already paid for the lesson.

Having private EFL lessons does not suit everyone. You will need to source your own materials and construct your own syllabus, but the freedom of your working hours often makes up for this. In fact, there are some teachers who rely completely on private students, so if you are looking to up your experience, supplement your income or just try something new, think about trying to find a private student.