Despite the English speaking level of Japanese people nation wide is pretty low, learning English is still hugely popular. Most Japanese people I run into are either currently taking some type of English lesson or have a desire to learn English. One would think that all the professional language schools would be able to maintain a decent profit. Well, the truth is that most of the language schools in Japan are either not making any money at all or turn only a small profit. Due to the very public meltdown of several Eikaiwa English school over the past several years the Japanese public are a hell of a lot less willing to fork over cash to these types of companies. This does not mean a lot of Japanese have stopped taking English lessons. From a raw street level point of view, I have noticed an explosion in the private English lesson market. The money a lot of Japanese used to hand over to professional language schools are now going to teachers who are willing to do a shit load of private lessons on the side.
Before I go on let me make it clear that unless you are willing to do a hell of a lot of foot work you cannot survive on private lessons alone. You still need a stable job. Currently, you can still get a job as an ALT or Eikaiwa instructor pretty easy(although I don`t how long that is gonna remain true). A lot of companies are being pretty damn cutthroat concerning which teachers they keep and how many lessons per week they give. The ALT racket looks to be on it`s heels with the possibility of JET getting the boot. So, a keen English teacher in Japan better be trying to work on getting him/herself a stock of private students in order to maintain their income a bit. If you are polite and friendly you can usually get between 2,000 and 3,000 yen per lesson in the Tokyo/Yokohama area alone. It may seen like a big challenge to sling English on your own without the convenience of going to work at the language school and having the students walk right though the door. A little more work is involved but it can be done.
There are `placement` companies which, as many of them commonly say, `match the right student with the right teacher.` The real reason these companies are set up is to act as a middle man and exploit the direct exchange of money between teacher and student. These kind of companies can be really helpful. They usually have a website which you create an account on and students have access to view and choose your profile for a `trail` lesson. During the trail lesson a rep. from the `placement` company will be there to do all the sales work for you. If the student likes you then they will sign a contract with the company and schedule the first lesson with you. The student will pay you directly during each lesson. Lessons usually take place at a cafe or sometimes the students home. Here are a few company websites to get you started: enjoylesson.com 7ACT 121sensei.com. The short list I just provided is just a start. After looking around on the net you will find better companies.
Dealing with a `placement` company is not the only option open to a keen teacher. If you really want to get your hands dirty and do it on your own there are a few things you should do. A good idea is to make up a business card stating that you teach private English lessons. Get a shit load of them made up. Give them to everyone who meet. Be sure to put your name, phone number and e-mail on the card. Adding a picture to your business card is not a bad idea as well. Also, some used English book stores are cool about letting teachers put up a flyer offering private English lessons. Be sure to ask first before putting any advert up at a place of business.Another thing you can do is simply get the word out in the street. Be real nice to people and you might be able to score a new student. Be sure to get your Japanese friends to tell their friends you teach private lessons.
That is just about all the advice I can offer concerning getting private lessons. If you can get five or six students you can make about 20,000 extra yen a week. That is a lot of damn money over the course of one month! Hang in there yall.