How to begin your career as a freelance language tutor: 10 step guide

Written and provided by UK Language Project

1: Choose your language

You’ll need at least C1 (advanced) level of the language you want to teach. Native-speaker level is best. Decide whether to teach your native language. Or if you studied/are studying a language at University it can be a great way to continue using it while helping others.

2: Plan the ‘How’ and the ‘Who’

No-one can halt the shift towards online learning. A benefit of this is that your students can literally be from all over the world. Never has there been a better time to advertise yourself to the world! You’ll need to get familiar with online learning technologies and also decide who your target students are going to be. We suggest brainstorming types of student (kids, adults, teens etc.) and decide who you’d prefer to teach.

Globe, laptop and languages books

3: Teach for free / offer language exchanges

Teaching friends or family for free at first can be a great way to get some experience. They can even write you a review of your teaching for later.

Ever wanted to learn another language? The Uni may be able to help match you up with a fellow learner who is looking to learn the language you teach. In exchange you get to learn for an hour, and they learn for an hour.

4: Gain a qualification (optional)

For teaching English we’d definitely recommend the Cambridge CELTA as an absolute minimum. You need observed teaching practice.

The weekend or distance learning type TEFL courses are fine as a general introduction and for some roles, but as the sector is highly competitive you will be up against other teachers/tutors who have a full CELTA which has quickly become the industry standard qualification.

If teaching another language leave the qualifications aside for the moment. Your degree will be enough to get you started.

5: Organise pricing, equipment, materials and payments

Pricing: Research what other tutors are charging. Look to price yourself as high as possible. Balance that with making things attractive in the beginning. You won’t have much experience or reviews so you’ll be relying on potential students taking a chance on you.

Equipment: Depending on whether you decided on face to face or online delivery you’ll need to get yourself sorted with at least a decent microphone/headset for your computer. A high-quality camera can also make all the difference.

Materials: Decide on books to use and put together a library of online resources you can dip into if needed.

Payments: Generally you can use your own bank account to accept payments for private students, or even tutoring marketplaces. If you’re taking private students take payment for a block of lessons in advance and have a 24 hour cancellation policy to protect yourself from cancellations and now shows. For taxes, it’s important to register as self-employed with the HMRC within 3 months. As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for declaring and paying your own taxes and national insurance.

6: Start advertising on tutoring marketplaces online

A search on your favourite search engine for your chosen language and area along with the keyword ‘tutor’ should help you find these.

E.g. English tutor Reading

These are the fastest way to start earning students, and money! You will need a well curated profile, with good images and a thoughtfully written bio. As well as information on your skills and experience. Don’t waffle, keep it succinct but let your personality come through in the images and text.

There’s a lot more to this so if you want further details we’d recommend looking at the Ultimate guide to starting your career as a freelance language teacher over on the UK Language Project blog which goes into greater detail on this step.

woman with heaphones, at a computer holding up a lesson 1 sign

7: Do as much teaching as you can

We can’t stress enough the importance of experience. Of course, you probably know this by now. But once you’ve got a few students do as much teaching as you can. Put yourself out for a bit to gain the experience. Once you’ve got the experience, the reviews, and the good standing on the marketplace it will be much easier to get more students.

8: Get 5 – 10 reviews

It’s incredibly important to get reviews for your teaching. 5 is great, 10 is better. More than 10 doesn’t really push things any further, so if you aim for 10 you will be well on your way.

Top tip: Ask your students for reviews. They are unlikely to leave a review without you prompting them.

9: Keep going

The secret to success is doing something well; over and over and over again. Once you’ve started, keep moving forward. You will need at least 6-12 months experience. After that, your career direction is up to you.

Plenty of tutors make excellent careers on these marketplaces and are fully-booked all year round. Others use them for extra work on top of more formal commitments. It really is a great way to earn an income but retain control of how and when you work.

10: Apply to language teaching agencies and schools that take on freelancers

If you decide freelance teaching is for you we’d definitely recommend looking at applying for freelance work with language schools/agencies. Their courses can often be booked in longer blocks so there is security of work there.

The agency/school will also deal with most if not all of the financial and course coordination aspects of things. You’ll also be protected by a cancellation policy so you get paid if students cancel.

So there we have it. 10 steps to beginning your career as a language tutor. Best of luck!