How can you find private students?

How can you find private students?

What works when it comes to marketing yourself as a private teacher?


I was contacted by an ajarn reader with a simple question - "I'm looking to teach private students perhaps ten hours a week but how can I market myself? What works for other teachers?"

I thought this would be a good topic to kick around. Private students can be quite a lucrative source of extra income if you manage to hit it right. But how do you go about finding them?

It's been a good while since I taught private students at home but I found that once you had attracted half a dozen students to come and study with you, then word of mouth generally did the rest. If students genuinely enjoyed the lessons and felt they had learned something, they couldn't wait to tell friends, colleagues and other family members. It wasn't long before I was turning students away because I just couldn't find the time to teach them. A couple of nights a week and the odd Sunday morning I didn't mind, but I wasn't willing to teach every single evening and give up a good portion of my precious weekend.

To get the ball rolling, once I had set up a room in my house as a study room, I made friends with the local 'songthaew' drivers. These were the guys who ferried residents from the far-flung corners of my housing estate to the main road. I got some good-size stickers printed with my name and phone number and the courses I offered, and then paid the drivers 200 baht a month to put the stickers in the area where the passengers sit. Those stickers brought me in a fair chunk of business.

I also see a lot of 'private teacher' ads in the area around BTS Prompong. Just off the main station is a bookstall called 'Book of World" where for about 50 baht a month, you can put a flyer on their notice-board. Go down to street level and both Villa and Fuji Supermarkets have prominently displayed notice-boards with 'apartments for sale, maid wanted, and the odd private English teacher for hire. These notice boards have always struck me as a fantastic option for teachers to tout their services with so many Japanese housewives walking around that area.

So if you teach private students, what works for you? How have you built up your own little private teaching empire? And what are some of the perils and pitfalls of the business? 

Send us your comments below and help out another teacher.




Comments

well as I am trying to switch to private lessons. I feel quite relieved about how to move on with private students. This is actually a good encouragement for someone starting. At least you know you are not taking a wrong step. Thanks.

By Harriet, Italia (27th June 2014)

Do I need a workpermit when teaching privately in my home? If I don't have a workpermit can I still put up stickers on the roadside? Or would that attract the authorities? Thanks for advise on this matter.

By Bengt Brag, Nontaburi (11th March 2013)

The best way is through word of mouth. It's part of the culture I believe. If you are recommended my rates never get questioned. Over the past 5 years I have constantly had more extra work than I could handle at 800-1400/hr. I turn new gigs down monthly. Every business I have worked for I build a relationship and let them know I work on referrals. I even ask for referral letters from them all and they are happy to give them. Basically, once you have worked in several small companies word gets out and they get asked about who is teaching at their company. Alternatively, when you do privates with teens, their friends normally become students. Thai parents don't want their kids to be at a disadvantage, so if one has a private tutor...you get the picture.

By Jon, Bangkok (8th June 2011)

Sometimes it can just be luck. I was approached by a Japanese woman in a department store here in Bangkok. She asked if I was a teacher as I was wearing a shirt and tie and had been at work. A few weeks later I was teaching her two daughters for 500B/hr - still am. At my request, she recommended me to other parents at her daughters' school and now I teach a few other Japanese students through this one contact. Great to teach other foreigners living here and nice to have a change from the Thai pronunciation of English too.

By JR, BKK (25th October 2010)

I've been teaching in Thailand for about 15 years. I started out at a school and then took on privates while I was nursing my newborn. After a year of on again off again, I went back to my regular job with young kids.Steady salary and reasonable benefits. Also a good place to get and give ideas- a sense of community. But through all of the years I have still kept my privates. They are business people and keep me active for higher langauge. I set a flat fee of 500 baht per hour- 1- 2 students. I have 1 group of 3 (just tagged on another 250 per hour. They thought that was fair.) They pay at the beginning of every month. No cancellations but if they are busy I give makeups (I just count the number of Saturdays and they pay the first week. I have never advertised. My first student has studied with me for 13 years and by word of mouth I have always had students Tip: be real and honest. Your home students can be a really rewarding job.

By CAL, bangkok (13th October 2010)

I worked for various language schools and touted the odd one or two from there. My big break came through a government contract,the students recommended me to their respective managers and I promptly became 30-40hr contracts at 750B per hour.

By Ajarn Susaan, Phuket (24th September 2010)

Anyone going into private teaching, or any business for that matter, should always ask to get paid up front. That's what the top languages schools do. Students pay for 10 or 20 lessons in advance and if they don't show up, then too bad! If a student is not prepared to pay up front, then at least the moment of truth is clear at the beginning rather than 2-3 weeks weeks down the line when they don't show up and you lose out.

Students who pay in advance are more likely to show up...after all they've paid for it. I did private teaching for 5 months then gave it up to do better things. I charged 800 baht per hour and I got it! Students will pay more if you can convince them that you are a better teacher and they will learn how to speak English, if they put the effort in that is!

Also the more you charge, the lesser number of students (and lessons) you need to make ends meet. You just need to practice in front of the mirror keeping a straight face when asking for 800 baht per hour x 10 up front :-)

By Jimmy, Bangkok (19th September 2010)

One point I would add is that it's very important to take on private students that you like and private students that are willing to learn. Don't ever just 'do it for the money'. We're all doing it for the money in a way but why spend an hour of your valuable time with a student who doesn't want to be there.

Years ago, I took on the task of teaching a teenage brother and sister every Sunday morning for an hour and a half each session. I could tell that they hated the lessons. No matter how much fun I tried to make the lessons and no matter how relevant I made the lessons to them, their body language said everything. They were 'forced' to come and study with me by their overbearing father. I actually liked the guy, which was probably the single reason I decided to take his kids on in the first place.

But I dreaded the sound of that doorbell ringing every Sunday morning. It used to play on my mind all through Saturday and in many ways, ruin my whole weekend. You don't owe that to yourself.

After probably 20 weeks of teaching these two bored teenagers, I lied to the father and said I had got a new job that would keep me busy at weekends. I hated lying to him but it was probably my only way out without hurting anyone's feelings.

By philip, (15th September 2010)

I'm now teaching privates and as Kyle has wrote sometimes the money isn't great. I had one girl I was teaching on a Saturday from 1pm - 3pm for 500 baht, that's right 250b an hour. As she was a friend of a friend of another friend I gave it a go as it was one of my first experiences of private teaching.
I am so glad I taught her now for those 10 lessons, she was a happy, interesting, funny girl and may I say easy on the eye. The two hours seemed like 10 minutes.
Don't get me wrong but it's 100 times more fun teaching someone with the points I have just mentioned.
Anyway I heard she is working in the U.S.A now so hopefully are conversation classes has helped her.
Still doing the private work ( when I want to )
Peace

By Ben, BKK (15th September 2010)

Prior to starting my current full-time teaching position, I relied heavily on private students. I was teaching about 8 students total. How did I meet them?

3 of my students were nurses at a local hospital. I met them while spending time there recovering from a motorbike accident. One of them told me she wanted lessons and then she brought along some friends. I taught them twice a week for about 2 months. 2 of my privates were former students at a language school where I had previously worked. I taught them twice a week for about 6 weeks.

The next group I met while teaching at a university. One of them was getting ready to move to the states so she wanted to brush up on her conversation. She also brought along a friend. The last student I met at a bar. We struck up a conversation and she asked if I could teach her English.

I would say the worst thing about teaching privates is the money, but that is my fault. I'm too nice a guy to ask for anything more than 250 baht an hour. After browsing Ajarn and seeing most users said they ask for no less than 500 I felt pretty silly. The nurses I was teaching worked 12-16 hour shifts, 6 days a week and were paid peanuts. I just couldn't bring myself to ask for a lot of money from them.

The best thing about teaching privates is the freedom. Most of my students just wanted to learn conversation so it was extremely easy for me to prepare lessons. Most of all of my lessons were spent just talking about random stuff (another reason I didn't charge a lot of $).

The other great things: no lesson plans, no shirt and tie, no waiting 4 weeks to get paid, etc. I usually had my students pay me at the end of the week, but they always wanted to pay after each lesson. I enjoyed teaching my privates. It is extremely easy to find them as well, and once you find just *one* I can almost guarantee they will have friends who would like lessons.

By Kyle, Chiang Mai (15th September 2010)

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