Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Advantage of Doing Private English Lessons in Japan

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. 


untmdsprt said...

I've worked for 7Act before and rarely did I get a student with them. They kept advertising for teachers along "xxx line" and yet no calls for me to teach students.

Also their salesmen are very unprofessional when it came to talking to us teachers. They never spoke clearly, so you never knew what their name was or their phone number until they followed everything up with an email. Even then they'd leave off the contact info if you have a problem. More often than not I got a phone number that was either out of service or their voice mail was never set up to accept messages.

The final straw with this company was I was going to meet a salesman and her client for a trial lesson and I was late getting there. Naturally she never left a number where I could reach her, and then finally when I got to the station she finally calls me after 20 min screaming at me. I finally told her that if the student wanted an English lesson right then and there I'd give him one but I wouldn't reschedule. I said this job is just extra money for me and that I don't have to have it. I ended up leaving her there looking like an ass trying to kiss the client's butt to find another teacher for him. ;)

Honestly, I think people would do just as good going to a busy station and holding up a sign stating they teach English. Unfortunately, most expect you to speak to them for free.

TheGhost said...

Sounds like they were giving you some of their `less than best` sales staff. I don`t know why they behaved in such a manner. Yeah, 7ACT is not one of the best placement companies but they have been in business for a long time so they must be doing something right. teacherstudent.com is pretty good actually. I suggest setting up a profile on their website. You may have better results.

Billy Cox said...

Good points, and thanks for the info. Now check your spelling. 😌

Lucky Joestar said...

How about conducting private lessons via Skype? Your students have to have Skype installed on their puters, but I was thinking that could expand your coverage area essentially to the entire country (and the whole world if you have a merchant account) and save you and your students a shitload on travel expenses. I’d stick to bank transfer for payment, though, as I’ve heard horror stories about PayPal.