How much should I charge for private ESL lessons?

Although most TESOL qualified teachers end up working full-time in a school or language center, some also decide to go it alone and offer private English lessons. In many cases this will be for just a few hours a week in order to top up the main income earned from a regular teaching job. However, it is not uncommon to find teachers working full-time as private English teachers once they have found enough regular clients to make it worthwhile. Whatever you plan for private teaching, one of the most difficult issues to deal with is how high to set your prices?

How much should a newly-qualified teacher charge?

While it might seem obvious that a newly-qualified ESL teacher is not in a position to charge as much per lesson as a teacher with many years of classroom experience, it is also unnecessary to sell your services too cheaply. As long as you have completed a TESOL certification course, you will find plenty of students willing to give you the opportunity to show them what you have to offer. Anyone attempting to break into private English teaching with no specific teacher training is unlikely to get very far as students are fully aware of the importance of training when it comes to teaching a language.

As a rough guide, inexperienced ESL teachers typically charge around $15 to $20 per lesson, which can last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. In order to encourage potential clients many teachers offer a free or discounted trial lesson and even if they don’t come back for more, you will have at least gained a bit more experience.

What about online lessons?

While some online teaching platforms set the pay rate for their teachers, many are set up to let the teacher choose their own fee schedule. Equally, many teachers decide to offer online courses independently, rather than through an established platform. Whichever way you go, it might seem like a great idea to start at a relatively high price, but unless you have bags of experience and plenty of online reviews from previous students, this approach is unlikely to create a queue of clients at your door. The world of online ESL teaching is very competitive, so you need to be realistic, at least in the early stages of your career. New teachers who are taking their first steps into online teaching typically earn around $10 to $20 an hour through online companies. However, this is the figure they actually pay the teacher and not the figure they charge the student. Independent teachers can usually afford to add a bit extra on top to take advantage of this difference.

How much can I charge once I have some experience?

In truth, you can charge however much you like. Prices per lesson can vary from $20, all the way up to $50 or even more. However, the figure you settle on should be informed by certain criteria such as the location you are in and the type of lesson you are teaching. If you are teaching high-level business related English in Paris, you are in a position to charge considerably more than you would for basic conversational English to a young learner in Mexico City.

What about group lessons?

The main benefit of teaching groups is that you only need to prepare one lesson plan for them all, rather than individual plans for each student. On the downside, they can often create extra work as group activities can be more time consuming and you will have to deal with different levels of understanding. For the students, the obvious benefit is that a group lesson should be more cost-effective than paying for individual classes. To meet this expectation, it is the general rule that you charge each member of the group around two/thirds of your usual individual rate. For example, if you usually charge $25 per lesson for a single student, a group rate would be in the region of $15 per person.

General tips for setting your hourly rates

  • One popular method for securing return customers is to offer discounts on bulk purchases. For example, if a student agrees to ten lessons you could offer them one for free.
  • Private teachers essentially live and die by their reputation, so if you have an online presence make sure you get your clients to give you a strong review that you can add to your portfolio.
  • When calculating your figures don’t forget to factor in any expenses involved such as teaching materials and transportation.
  • Make sure you have a clear cancellation policy that won’t leave you out of pocket when a client pulls out of a lesson on short notice or simply doesn’t turn up.
  • Review your price structure on a yearly basis to take into account your increased level of teaching experience and the rate of inflation.

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