After you’ve been working for a school for a while and you start to get the hang of this English teaching thing, you’re going to start thinking about how to teach to private students. Teaching English to private students can earn you sometimes twice as much as you’d earn working at a school. You also get greater flexibility in your relationship without having to worry about a boss.
There are a few downsides to having only private students, but at the end of the day the extra income makes it worth it. You will be responsible for the administration of your students, meaning you will have to answer more phone calls and handle rescheduling if they don’t show up. You’ll also have to make sure that they pay you on time and nag them if they don’t.
The other downside is that it is harder to build up a network of private students. If you want more work at a school, all you have to do is ask your boss or go find another school to give you more work. But if you want to teach more private students you have to seek them out yourself. If one of them drops out, you will have to find another one to fill that hole.
Fortunately there are some proven strategies for finding private English students in Brazil.
Make Business Cards
Before you start looking for private students, you should get business cards made. As soon as you have your Brazilian phone number you should design a professional looking card and order a couple hundred thousand of them. Put your name, email, telephone number and “Profesor de Inglês” on your cards.
I also recommend putting something useful on the back of the card so that people will have a reason to carry it with them. Put a cheat sheet with common English phrases, greetings, travel vocabulary or a pronunciation guide. The more value you provide with your business card, the longer that someone is going to hold onto it for.
Talk to Everybody You Meet
Now that you have business cards, start talking to everybody that you meet. As you talk to people and they find out that you’re a foreigner they will ask you what you’re doing in Brazil. Tell them that you’re an English teacher and they might ask you if you have a business card because they or somebody they know is looking to start classes.
Talking to random people doesn’t have a high conversion rate, but you should be doing it anyway because it will help you improve your Portuguese. You never know if someone is interested in classes so it doesn’t hurt to talk to them. Even if they aren’t looking for classes right now, if you followed the advice and put something useful on your card they might hold onto it until they are looking for classes.
Aside from random people, you’re just going to be meeting lots of people in general. As soon as you start making friends and start getting invited to social gatherings, you are going to be introduced to a lot of people. All of these people are going to ask what you are doing in Brazil, so tell them you are there to teach English and maybe they will become a student.
Word of Mouth Advertising
A better way to find private students is through word of mouth recommendations. Brazilians prefer to work with people they know and like, and a personal recommendation from a friend is worth its weight in gold. Don’t ask me how much words weigh, but just know that it is a lot. Once you start getting known around the community people will pass your information around and you might get random phone calls asking for English classes.
Even better though is for you to get recommended by a past or current student of yours. If you do a really good job as an English teacher, your students are going to tell all of their friends and your phone will be ringing off the hook. It takes time to get to this level though, and you’ll have to be teaching for several months before this starts happening with any reliable frequency.
A bad idea would be to talk to the students you have from a school and tell them you’ll teach them privately and charge less than the school. This is just bad business practice and will come back to bite you in the ass. Counter intuitively, its actually cheaper for some students to take classes at a school because some companies subsidize the English instruction of their students, but only if they use a certain school.
Start an English Teaching Website
If you are planning on teaching English for a while, you need to start a website. Having a website builds your authority, increases your visibility and forces you to dive deeper into your craft.
Websites are incredibly easy to start these days, and it need not be complicated or expensive. You can get started with a free WordPress site similar to this one in less than 5 minutes. You should buy your own domain to show to prospective students that you are serious about what you do, and to make it easier to remember your site.
Once you have your website you should begin posting content to it regularly. Make your website as useful as possible for someone who is learning English. Get started by compiling useful content, reposting videos and share articles that other people have made. Its very important though that you make your own content, whether it be videos, audio files, pictures or written articles.
What is really going to help you get new students is making videos. Videos allow prospective students to get a good feel for your personality and build a deeper connection with you. By the time they start thinking about hiring you as an English teacher they will already feel like you are their friend.
A good model to follow for an ESL website that resulted leads for new private students is Real Life English. Over the last year since the blog was created the guys at Real Life English have been inundated with so many request for private English classes that they have had to turn many of them away. They would have never gotten to that point if it wasn’t for their website. Another teacher who has done a really good job leveraging the internet to get private students is Kevin with InglêsNinja.
Regardless of whichever approach you adopt, make sure you stick with it long enough to ensure success. Too many teachers give up after a day of passing out fliers. The more effort you put into your marketing the more your marketing will work for you.