We get a lot of questions that range from: "How much money can one make working overseas teaching in Japan?" to "How can I get started teaching freelance?" to Where can I teach?... I don't have my own school! So we’ve put together a basic guide to answer some of your questions and help get you going.
“How much money can I expect to make working overseas in Japan teaching students on the side?”
Teaching on the side is definitely where the money gets made. There are a lot of variables that affect how much you can make like, how good your teaching skills are, how much free time you have, net working skills etc.
We know some teachers who make only 2 or 3 hundred dollars extra per month. We also know some who make 2 or 3 thousand dollars extra.
Ultimately those who make fat money have good visa and sponsorship positions, i.e. they get a working visa from a company while only working 1 or 2 days for their sponsor. Or they own their own schools. Can big money be made? You betcha. Usually after you develop some contacts and start putting the word out that you’re looking for more work.
Working Overseas in Japan - “How do I get paid?”
Working in Japan teaching free-lance is easy because Japan is a cash based society. Generally, you ask for cash up front at the beginning or end of the lesson.
Some teachers will give their student a lesson card for 4 or 8 lessons, collect the money up front and then punch the card each time they teach a lesson. If your student goes for it, it’s a smart way to do business.
Survival Tip: Don’t do things on credit -like teach 4 lessons and get paid at the end of the month. Always “front-load” your fee.
Another commonly used method is to provide your students with a “gessha” envelope. Essentially, you’ll be collecting your teaching fee for the whole month in advance. It makes working overseas a breeze.
It’s basically a pay envelope with 12 squares on it – 1 for each month. You can buy them in bookstores and department stores. Every time they pay you just stamp the envelope to indicate payment has been received.
You give this to your student so they can pay your monthly teaching fee. When they agree to take your lesson, give them one. When you teach your first lesson they will give you your teaching fee in the envelope at the beginning or end of the class. Give it back to the student a week before the next monthly fee is due.
This serves as a gentle reminder that money will be due next week. Don’t worry about this part of working in Japan as a free-lancer because Japanese often pay for services this way. They’ll know what to do when you give them one.
How Much Should I Charge?”
This depends on how much competition there is in your area and to some extent how good you are at teaching and how much you need the work.
If you're just starting out and don't have much experience working overseas, you may want to stay on the low side. This is a safe way to build up a few clients and build contacts etc. A fairly common wage is 3000 yen for a 50 or 60 minute class. This is for a single student. Some charge more, others less. Ask around before you quote prices and take on students.
As your teaching skills increase and you gain confidence, it’s a good idea to crank up your price. Why? Because you don’t want to fill your schedule with cheap classes. You need to save scheduling room for group classes and other high money classes.
"How Should I Set-up Group Classes?"
There are 2 ways to approach group classes- for non-corporate classes. If you think you can build the class it’s a good idea to charge per student. (Often you’ll run across a student who has many friends and genuinely wants to build himself or herself a social outing via. you.
A common figure for a small group class is 1500 - 2000 yen per person - again, check with with other teachers for pricing. It’s easy to see how this can add up. One student brings a friend and you’re off to the races. It’s quite possible to build these classes up to 8 or 10 students. Building up existing classes is the most lucrative way to making good money working overseas.
Survival Tip: As you “build out” the class it's a good idea to lower what you charge per person. Your students can do math. Charging 2000 yen per hour per person is fine for 2 maybe 3 students.
When you start hitting 4’s and 5’s it starts looking like robbery. Lowering the fee per person as you build out the class is also an excellent incentive for students to introduce others to your group.
"Can You Give me Some Advice for Smaller Groups?"
If you feel it will be tough to build the class, it’s best to quote a single rate for a group up to 3 or 4. Often students will want to stay in tight groups and don’t want other “outside” students in. In this case, charge a “semi-private” rate in the 5000 yen range or higher.
Obviously, you need to charge more for a semi-private group of 2 than 3. (After all you need to charge the group for the right to restrict other students and limit your earning potential.)
Remember one thing about finding freelance jobs in Japan, - you can only teach so much before you get burnt out, so once you get a few students, your time will be better spent looking for or building cream classes - essentially marketing your services. This means checking your local English teaching publications like Monday’s edition of The Japan Times, checking with major internet job listing sites and more importantly networking with other teachers. Also be sure to check our Job postings page for more teaching gigs.
" How Much Should I Charge for Private Lessons?"
Often while working in Japan you’ll see ads for or be asked to teach a private English lesson. Be aware that they are actually harder to teach than group classes. Why? Because they’re so interactive intense. In groups, you can set-up paired interaction and essentially take yourself out of the middle of the class.
With private classes you can’t, be sure you'll be able charge a decent wage. What’s a decent wage? Again it varies according to area but a common wage is 3,500 yen per hour. Make sure to ask around before you quote prices! Part of working overseas effectively is knowing your market. So if you're in a very competitive market, you may not be able to get 4,000 yen.
In fact in recent years with increased competition coming from online teaching and an ever increasing number of young teachers who will work for peanuts the 4,000 yen per hour days are gone. Realistically folks 2,500 to 3000 yen per hour is the new norm.
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