10 Steps to Launching Your Career as a Freelance Language Tutor [Guest Post from Ed O’Neill, Academic Director of UK Language Project]

It can be difficult to know where to start with anything (writing that essay anyone?!) If you’re looking at options for teaching or tutoring a language, we’ve compiled a 10 step guide to help launch your career and hopefully get you to where you need to be.


If you find this useful and want to really take a deep dive into some of the steps then take a look at the ultimate guide to starting your career as a freelance language teacher on the UK Language Project blog.


So without further ado, here are the steps:


Step 1: Pick a language and go for it

This is your choice. Make sure you have at least C1 (Advanced) level in your chosen language. It’s competitive. You will be up against teachers who have native-level abilities. A good option of course is to teach your native language.


Step 2. Decide who you’d like to teach and delivery method

You might have no idea about the kinds of students you prefer to teach. At the start that’s ok. You will definitely want to specialise later as it will save you a lot of planning time and materials buying.

Nowadays online delivery is incredibly popular, though offline, face to face, lessons are still in huge demand. As long as it’s safe to do so of course!


Step 3: Exchange languages with other students and go pro bono

Language exchanges are an excellent way to cut your teeth as a ‘real’ tutor. The university will be able to help you find opportunities to meet with international students and exchange language teaching for an hour each.

Other options for gaining experience include asking friends and family if they need help learning the language you teach. Maybe they’ll be kind enough to leave you a review once you get started for real?


Step 4. Get qualified (optional for foreign languages – for EFL you’ll need a CELTA or Equivalent)

Less important than you might think. Unless you’re looking to tutor English as a foreign language your degree will be enough. If English as a foreign language is your chosen path then a Cambridge CELTA will give you much better chances in a competitive marketplace. It’s the industry standard qualification if you want to teach English as a foreign language. If teaching another language, leave it for now, your degree and experience will be enough to start.


Step 5. Money, equipment and materials

You’ll eventually need to start accepting payments from your students. If you advertise your services on a tutoring marketplace (see later) they will generally handle all the payment side for you. If you advertise yourself and get your own students you’ll need to be organised.

  • Charge at or above the market rate — even if you’re new
  • Ask for money upfront for a block of hours
  • Have and enforce a 24 hour cancellation policy

If you decided to teach online, we can’t stress enough the value of a good quality microphone and camera. This is a must if you are to stand out and be successful.

The internet is an excellent source of materials to begin with. Moving on, you may wish to go through books with students or mix and match.

Step 6. Research and upload a profile onto tutoring marketplaces

There are a lot of these. The ultimate guide we mentioned earlier has a more comprehensive list and notes on creating a profile. A lot of teachers make a good living just using these to advertise their services. Most use them for some of their students and advertise privately for others.


Step 7. Gain that valuable experience

The first few months are about gaining that valuable experience. You’ll find your voice and your style in this period. It might not happen as fast as you expect but keep going. Deliver great lessons. And get better after each lesson to further build experience.


Step 8. Get reviews

Marketplace algorithms favour active teachers with lots of reviews. If they can, ask the people you did language exchange with to review your teaching. Friends and family as well. You need at least 5 to start with. Go for 10 – people (and the algorithms) will start to notice you.


Step 9. Keep doing it and doing it

There’s no other way. Once you’ve got students it’s about keeping them and getting more of them. The secret of success is definitely the day after day improvements, which eventually start to build up over time.


Step 10. Widen your net

Language schools and language agencies often have freelance posts available. Useful if you’re interested in this kind of flexibility. Agencies can offer you longer courses, cancellation policies that are strictly enforced and deal with pretty much all the course coordination and financial aspects of courses. Recommended if you’re a bit more experienced as something to add to your client mix.


So there we have it, hope this helps. Best of luck with your efforts!


Post written by Ed O’Neill, Academic Director of UK Language Project for yorksj.ac.uk

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