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Embarking on a career as a TEFL teacher can be daunting yet incredibly rewarding, but many new entrants are unsure about it and would rather dip their toe in the proverbial pool before taking the plunge.  Perhaps they’re unsure of their ability to teach, or terrified at the thought of standing in front of a class of 30 faces staring back expectantly. Here we discuss an alternative by teaching private students.

Testing out your teaching skills on students on a one-on-one basis can be an easier way to decide if you have a knack for teaching English as a foreign language and finding private EFL students is the solution to this conundrum. Private lessons are a convenient way to gain valuable teaching experience, develop confidence and earn some extra cash.

Who are private students?

As with people who want to learn any extra language, many private students either work or study on a full-time basis and aren’t able to commit to classes or a language course.  Their time is precious to them and fitting into school schedules can be tricky. Other times, students would rather have one-on-one lessons than learn English in a classroom setting, so hiring a private tutor is a more flexible option.

Finding private students

Advertising is key. If you happen to work for a school or institution, there may be clauses in your contract restricting you from offering private lessons to your students as it would be perceived to be taking business away from the school, but there is a way around this. By creating a reputation for yourself amongst foreign students who want to learn English, it opens you up to word-of-mouth recommendations. While you may not be able to teach Raoul because he’s in your English class, there is nothing to stop you from teaching his neighbour, Genevieve.

The internet is your best friend when it comes to free advertising as there are loads of websites on which to advertise your services. Gumtree is a common one for teachers and Superprof is becoming increasingly popular for private tutors. 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 do private lessons work?

The great thing about being a private tutor is that you’re in control of your time and when and where you teach. Whether it’s in the evenings after work, or during the mornings or afternoons, it can work however you want it to. When charging, negotiate a rate with your student that you are both comfortable with, taking into account the duration of the lesson and the preparation required on your part.

Free trial lessons are also common for both parties to assess one another so that expectations are managed, and you feel comfortable with one another. Once you’ve finalised the details, you may begin teaching.

Anything else to consider?

  • Be mindful with your pricing. If you are starting out and are new to the field of TEFL, don’t overprice yourself. Students will pay a higher rate for an experienced teacher with a good reputation so be careful not to overcharge. In the same vein, you should never short change yourself, so your hourly rate should be better than that of the hourly rate you’d be paid for teaching in a school or language centre.


  • Cancellations happen. Private students are notorious for either cancelling or just not showing up at all for their lesson, which can be frustrating as a tutor. Have a clear cancellation policy along with your hourly rate. There is nothing wrong with charging for any lessons that may be cancelled if that is agreed upon in the beginning.


  • Consider bundles. Selling bundles of lessons can be cost-effective from a student’s perspective and reassuring for the tutor. Students can pay upfront for a set number of lessons, which not only safeguards you against cancellations but also gives you a sense of financial security for the month ahead.


Private EFL lessons aren’t for everyone and there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes when preparing lessons for private students. Tailoring a lesson to an individual is a lot harder than teaching a group of people who may share common interests. You will need to source your own materials and construct your own syllabus but the freedom of working your own hours can make up for this extra bit of preparation. Some teachers rely completely on private students, so if you are looking to increase your TEFL experience or supplement your income, becoming a private tutor may be just the thing for you.


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