Thursday, December 18, 2008

Freelance Teaching in Tokyo--How in the hell am I gonna pull this one off?

Just like our flying sumo friend doing freelance in any profession takes some guts. Unlike working for a company, a freelancer never knows exactly how much money they will make each month. The big advantage to freelance is the freedom to create your own schedule and set your own prices. Although, there may be more leg work involved a freelancer can actually end up making more money than someone who is slaving away for a company day in and day out.

So, as I look at the job options in front of me freelancing seems to provide me with a way to bring home extra money, get a hell of a lot of teaching experience, and open up new doors of opportunity. The extra money is the biggest thing for me right now. The company I am currently working for has already cut almost everyone`s salary and future contracts looks to be even worse. If I can bring home a good amount of money from freelancing I will be able to ride out the current contract I am trapped in. Getting more teaching experience is a huge plus for me. I came to Japan with a degree in English but not teaching. I was able to score a job with my English degree but I have been learning the in an outs of teaching as a go along. Currently I am studying to get my TESOL which will be an advantage for me as I tread the rough waters of the Tokyo job market. The more experience I gain the better a teacher I will be and my resume will get an extra boost. I imagine that doing freelancing in the Tokyo area will open up doors for me which I never thought possible. If I get enough private students I may be able to avoid working for any company again and make all my money from freelancing alone. There is also the fact that I never know which student I am going to impress so much that they might offer me a job making some big money. Hell, with enough students I might be able to open up my own damn school.

With all the possible advantages of doing freelance work I still have the problem of having very little experience with the whole process. I did a little freelance journalist work back in the states but that was in a rural area with a much different daily pace. Tokyo is a huge fast paced city with a lot of people competing against me for work. I am not the only teacher out there looking to score money in the freelance game. I cannot just give standard lessons and expect to have students who come back time and time again. I have to have my own special method of teaching in order to set myself part from the pack. I am confident I can develop my own lessons plans. From what I have seen in the job market being able to develop, design, and plan your own lessons is a skill that a lot of employers love to see from a teacher. I have seen a few good paying jobs in which the employer required that the teacher be able to design and plan their own lessons.

I have been looking at some resources for teaching on the internet and there are some really good ones out there. Each student has a different speaking level which requires me to approach each lesson a little different. Beginners cannot be working on complex sentence structures and an advanced student does not need to be learning basic phrases and vocab. While it may be challenging to try and develop a basic lesson structure which can be modified to fit most students needs I feel that I am up to the task. The more I teach private students the more lessons I will have developed. Over time I will have a deep array of varied lessons to offer students.

While I write about my plans for doing freelance there is still the issue of actually attaining students. I have had a few fellow teachers give me some advice but they have been doing it for years. I on the other hand am entering the freelance game as a very new broom. One guy told me to put up ads at English book stores and wait for the offers to come rolling in. Another teacher said that craiglist is a good source to get the word out that you are offering private lessons. While I will give craiglist a shot I don`t think that putting up ads at book stores is going to be a big advantage for me. What I have done is sign up at a couple of teacher/student websites which connect teachers and students directly. The great thing about these sites is that are free to join and create a profile. The first one I signed up on is called They offer a very detailed profile set up and look to be a good source for attracting students. The other site I made a profile on is called They have a system which is a little different but it also seems to be effective in helping me gain some students. Although these sites have the ability to get me a good base of students to work with there is still nothing better than good old fashion word of mouth. This is were things set a little tricky. My current company has a policy which forbids teachers from using lessons to conduct business for personal gain. I do not want to get fired for such a thing, not because of the effect this may have on the company, but how it would effect my rep. in the teaching field. I think that the closer I come to the end of my contract or simply quitting to accept a position with another company, which ever comes first, I will quietly pass along my services to the students. I feel that I would get at least a few students from the place I am working now to start taking private lessons with me instead of dealing with the shit the company offers them as far as prices go. I could give them much better lessons outside of class with a fixed, stable, no non-sense pricing system.

So, this is what I am trying to do for the time being. I am going to give this whole freelancing teaching thing the old college try and see where is takes me. I still got a contract with my currently company until march 2009 so I will at least have a little base income coming in every month. The hardest part of this will be convincing my wife that this plan will work. She is a person who avoids risk at all cost. She likes the idea of me working for a company in which I get a salary each month. I will have to show her that I can do this and bring home a decent amount of money. Any advice on teaching freelance in Tokyo would help out a lot so suggestions would be appreciated. Also any advice on what to say to my wife would also help.

I am will swimming up stream in the this wild job market so as always wish me luck.


nearlyasian said...

First, I suspect you'll need to have a few hard, probing conversations with wifey. My god, it's one thing to treat a woman right, it's another thing to hand her a knife and a jar. That's the big mystery of it all, your one sided confession.

Now, knowing several EFL teachers to come and go in Tokyo, most supplemented their incomes with private lessons. All of them had a lesson plan formula, that's the key. Never change the plan, only the topic-subject-words of the lesson keeping the same formula. However, most teachers eventually moved on to more lucrative contracts abroad especially the Middle East. With that said, maybe now is the time to ask yourself what you really wanna do, instead of floating fantasies of freelancing to millions.

Now, if you're not committed to teaching for the rest of your life and if you are, then start looking into graduate study. It's the best thing to do in a downturn economy. You're a Hoopie goddamn it! And that means, you qualify for fucking federal aid, including schools abroad.

How about going to Sweden, bring Makiko along? Education K-PhD is free there and you can do your studies in English, and after a year anyone can establish residency, and once you start your PhD they start paying you as an employee of the state. Plus you'll qualify for $20,000 a year, no interest federal loan.

That one legged man in the ass kicking competition just put on his bionic prosthetic.

Power-up bitches!

TheGhost said...

Thank you for the suggestions. I am very thankful for your honest and bold advice.
As far as living in Japan goes this is the place I want to stay. My wife is from Japan so there is no reason to up-root and move.
I am sure that I will not get rich from freelancing. Right now I want to make more money until I get with a different company that pays more. I do want to keep the freelancing up because the money will be constant if I keep at it.
The whole deal should work out ok as long as I keep on top of things.

Briancobes said...

Awesome Blog!

Anonymous said...

"b bold and mighty forces will come to your aid"

TheGhost said...

Oh yes, those who dare win.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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