Carl Heaton

Looking for private students

Part 1 of 10 ways to supplement your main teaching income

The average salary for an English teacher in Thailand is somewhere between 30,000 to 50,000 baht (with many earning even less than that) In my opinion, this is just not enough money to live on comfortably as a foreigner, especially if you want to stash some money away for a rainy day or pay for flights to go and see the folks back home.

I started teaching in Thailand six years ago and now I am lucky enough to be the founder of one of Thailand's leading web and graphic design schools. Getting where I am now has taken a lot of hard work - but I now realize that there are many opportunities for teachers to supplement their income like I did.

After reading my blogs, I hope you will become familiar with at least ten ways of increasing your income. I will also be providing you with plenty of links to get you started and moving in the right direction.

If any of these ideas work for you, please let me know in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.

How I started private teaching

When I first came to Thailand, taking a TEFL course seemed like a very good idea. I had no real experience as a teacher so it was important to at least have some idea of what goes on in a Thai classroom. When I finished my TEFL course, I was immediately asked to do private classes for friends and then ‘friends of friends'. I was eager to please and quick to say yes. Many of those private classes were great and often lots of fun to teach. And all you really needed was a brief lesson plan and a business card to get started.

Business card at the ready

If you are serious about taking on private students, I can't emphasize enough the importance of carrying business cards. Not only will potential students and customers take you more seriously, but a card has all your contact details on, depending on whether a student wants to contact you by phone or e-mail or some other way.

There are lots of online places where you can create your own business card online and have it delivered. Zazzle is one such example. You can also walk into any major shopping mall such as Mahboonkrong, near Siam Square, and have business cards made while you wait.

The important thing is to always keep your business cards handy in case you meet someone who might well become a student. Be confident and straightforward with people. Tell them what you do for a living and tell them what aspects of English teaching you specialize in. It's no good telling potential customers that you can teach kids if teaching kids is not really your bag. There are so many private students out there that you should easily be in a position to pick and choose your customers.

The best locations

Opinions will differ on where is the best place to conduct a private, one-to-one lesson but my advice on this is always to choose a public place. How about one of the many coffee shops that you see around Thailand in every town and city? Those places are ideal. With a nice cup of coffee in front of you both and a quiet table in the corner, you're all set to get down to some serious grammar action or casual conversation. I use to have two or three private students study one after the other on the same night! I used to use a coffee shop called The Bug and Bee right next to the BTS station in Silom. Not only was it a great little coffee shop, but because of its close proximity to the BTS, students could get there easily after work.

Meeting in a public place makes the student feel at ease and in turn become more relaxed and more confident. As the teacher, you'll probably end up finding the lesson much easier if you can create a relaxed atmosphere conducive to learning.

When doing private teaching like this, it's useful to take notes about what you discussed and went over with the student. That way, when your next lesson comes along you can pick up where you left off. It also makes the lesson run much smoother as you can start off by reviewing the last lesson and linking the new lesson to the previous one. For you as the teacher, with potentially many other students, you can remember what was covered and show that you have a plan and show that you have everything under control.

Teaching online

We live in an age of fast-developing technology so don't forget that you can also teach on-line these days! There are many websites where you can register as a teacher and the on-line companies will call you as and when clients become available. You just tell the company your specialty, location and availability and wait for the fishes to bite.

I recommend you take your time by compiling a good on-line profile because this is how potential students will choose you. To get you started, read this excellent article on teaching online and then head over to one of the ten on-line tutoring websites listed below:

Start your own website and profile

Having your own ‘teacher website' is like having a great big online business card where people can find out so much more about you. This is an area of private teaching that most teachers neglect but imagine how thrilled your private students would be to see your face on your very own website full of teaching photos, family photos, course outlines, English language games and quizzes, etc, etc. There is no end to the content you could fill a ‘teacher website' with.

Starting an on-line blog is also super easy. Wordpress is my own personal recommendation if you are thinking about going down this route. On your blog, you could include information about your educational background, experience, profile and then perhaps shoot some youTube videos of you explaining basic concepts clearly in say, under three minutes.

Once you have your on-line presence, other ideas to take things further might include creating a fan page and directing all your students there for regular English grammar and vocabulary tips.

Always be encouraging students to ask their questions on the fan page or comment on your website to provide you with a social media ‘buzz'. This will help raise your ranking and you'll start finding that Google shows you some love and thus enabling you to pick up students via search engine results. Consider writing articles and tips with keywords like "private English tutoring in Bangkok" or "Koh Samui private lessons" for example.

If all this sounds a bit daunting, don't forget that my company, Web Services Bangkok, has cost effective solutions to help you establish an on-line presence with your own professional website etc, etc.

Final words

Private tuition is always a great ‘sideline' because you can schedule classes around your main teaching gig. Use things like Google Calendar to manage your time or even services like Bookfresh There are plenty of places on the web where you can find a free system for people to make appointments online.

Online booking apps like these are great because they drastically reduce your administration time and save on countless emails spent organizing times that suit you and your student.

I wish you all the best and if you have any questions you can find me on Facebook.

See you soon for part 2 of 10 on how to make more money as a teacher in Thailand.

Further reading:

• Here you can see how people first create blogs and then register themselves

10 tips on teaching online


Thanks, Philip. I have 700 students in my classes and I am connecting with more through a language school so maybe I can skip their marketing help for now. There are probably some good reasons to use them, though, so I will keep them in my business plan.

By Roy, Thailand (30th March 2013)

"I checked out all the tutor websites you listed and each wants to take a cut of my income, some more than others. What is the advantage of those sites versus setting up a Skype and PayPal along with an appointment system?"

I'm guessing that the main reason is that those sites are already fairly established and have plenty of students signed up. There is of course no reason why you shouldn't 'knock up' a website and find your own syudents to teach on Skype. But you're going to need to reach people. And that's the hard part.

By philip, (30th March 2013)

I checked out all the tutor websites you listed and each wants to take a cut of my income, some more than others. What is the advantage of those sites versus setting up a Skype and PayPal along with an appointment system? I was blogging about coming here so it would also be easy for me to write an English blog. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts.

By Roy, Thailand (30th March 2013)

I get some ideas from this, thanks. But I only wonder about being legal. For working here we need a work permit. And what about being a private teacher? I guess you have to put some information on your blog too for new comers. But so far keep up the good work!

By Pieter, Bangkok (24th March 2013)

Thanks for your very informative tips!i find it very interesting and i'm looking forward to read more tips and advice from you...

By Rochelle, Khukhan,Sisaket (17th March 2013)

Thank you for this article. I taught my first year north of Chiang Mai and took on some private students. My trouble was I that I didn't know what to do with them regarding what to teach. I like the idea of business cards as I was usually at a loss as to what to give them when asked about teaching. During my "break" I have taken on work at a language school only to discover they have no big tricks for teaching, either. They handed me some students and a textbook and off we went. I am gaining confidence in my abilities as I do it more.
Keep these articles coming.

By Roy, Fang Chiang Mai (16th March 2013)

Really happy to hear you like the tips :) More coming soon.

By Carl, Thailand (15th March 2013)

These are great tips! Just got back to Bangkok and am looking for privates to get some income coming, I am going to check out those online teaching websites since I am on my computer all day anyways :) Can't believe I have never thought of that! Cheers, Carl!

By Elizabeth Frantz Larson, Bangkok, Thailand (14th March 2013)


Interesting article and provides some food for thought, although I suspect there will be a few comments by less admiring readers pinpointing some “errors” in your thinking.

While I lack the experience or knowledge to analysis the specific practices you are advocating here, I enjoyed the innovative, pro-active and optimistic nature of your post.

However two general themes you mentioned I could comment on, those two being ESL teaching can be a launching pad for other professions and the use of information technology increases our opportunities to a considerable extent.

I began my professional career in Thailand and have moved quite far from the 4 hour a day 220 Baht an hour job teaching English during my first few months in the country.

I am not very familiar with online ESL teaching, but I do know there are many online teaching opportunities in academia and even in high school (at least in the USA where home schooling is popular). My own teaching day started here in Thailand where I physically am, then moved virtually to a university in the Northern USA, then on to another university in the Midwest of the same country, and will now cross the pond to the UK (although almost all of my students at the UK online university are actually from the Middle East and Africa) and finally I will stop by Paris to see if the students I am advising on their doctoral dissertations need any help.

Not only with teaching, but in some other knowledge jobs, it is now possible due to technology to live in the East and work in the West. For those considering living in Thailand as a long term proposition and don’t want to permanently live on ESL wages, exploring professions which one can engage in from a distance and then acquiring the skills needed for these professions is a viable option.

By Scott, Bangkok (13th March 2013)

I agree with you Phil in regards to business cards they are crucial irf you are considerring private tutoring. I have managed to get many privates through having a well designed business card. I never go anywhere with out having a business on hand.

My wife and I have our own school (forum article 'starting out' therefore we undertake all our privates at the school. However, we have applied a different 'model' to the one you propose. We have marketted ourselves at 325 baht an hour if a student books 20 hours equating to 6,500 baht. The majority of our students are looking for conversation skills and this is where we propose that if the student can find a friend or we can 'match' them with another student of the same ability we can reduce the fee. We also make the point that a small group of two or three students leads to a more interesting lesson and is more beneficial to their learning. We also recommend two hour slots rather than just one hour slots.

We reduce the price using the following formula;

One student 6,500 for 20 hours
Two students 6,000 each for 20 hours
Three students 5,000 each for 20 hours
Four students 4, 000 each for 20 hours.

This approach has been very successful and the majority of students come in pairs or small groups of three. Since starting this approach we have never had a smaller group than two students studying with us.

Some people may think our rates are too low but we are aware we are in Udon Thani and we know our place in the market.


By Andy, Udon Thani (13th March 2013)

The Bug and Bee coffee shop certainly looks like an ideal venue for private tutoring Carl. You can't beat a table up on that second floor where the staff won't notice you've made one skinny latte last three hours 555555

By philip, (13th March 2013)

I would love to hear from anyone who has put these ideas into practice.

By Carl, Thailand (13th March 2013)

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