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Belinda, Teacherpreneur From Malaysia

independent English teacher, Belinda

Since she took the leap from lawyer to English teacher, Bridge Teacherpreneur Academy member Belinda Peyrelongue has grown in many ways. After years of teaching children and adults at a language center, a language school, and a university, she has transitioned to an independent career as a teacherpreneur. She shares how she specialized her offerings and offers tips for others considering a career as an independent English teacher.

Hi, Belinda! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m originally from Malaysia and I went to the U.K. to study law. I then worked as a lawyer for 10 years in London and Northampton. I came to France in 2010 with my family, as my husband is French. I was given a TEFL course as a gift from a good friend who encouraged me to go into teaching, which I did. I loved it and haven’t looked back ever since!

So far, I’ve been teaching English for over nine years. I started teaching at a language center and I taught kids first, then adults. I then went on to teach at different language schools where I taught adults in companies in France for five years. I specialize in Business English and teaching French professionals and lawyers who want to improve their ability to speak English for professional and personal reasons. In 2019, I went to Reunion Island to live there for five years and I continued teaching kids and adults at a language school there. I helped children prepare for the Cambridge exams and adults prepare for the IELTS exam and the TOEIC. I also taught English at the university for three years as well as English for French professionals in the legal English and tourism fields.

Interested in teaching English to adult professionals? Learn more about the 60-hour Teaching Business English Specialized Certification.

What motivated you to transition from a traditional teaching role to an independent teaching career?

I’ve been teaching online off and on since COVID-19 in 2020, and I liked the idea of working from home. Last June, I decided to move away from a traditional teaching role to become an independent teacher to teach mainly online. I enrolled in a coaching program that motivated me to learn more about myself and about starting my own business, as my husband and I were planning to go back to live in France at the end of 2023. I came across the Expert Series webinar with Rachel Story for teacherpreneurs and was so inspired by Rachel about becoming a freelancer working for myself that I jumped straight into Bridge’s Teacherpreneur Academy.

Join the Expert Series community to watch more than 75 on-demand webinars on topics ranging from teacherpreneurship to teaching methodologies and best practices to career advice and professional development.

Belinda posing by the river in Bayonne, France.
Belinda by the river in Bayonne, France.

Could you describe your current role as an independent teacher?

I’m in a transitional period now, as I’ve just moved from Reunion Island to Anglet, a town in the southwest of France. I’m building my own business and starting to make myself known in my area. I’m teaching students privately online and I’ll be working with an online language school in March to teach legal English to lawyers and students taking the TOLES (Test of Legal English Skills) exams.

Read about an experienced teacherpreneur’s six reasons to become an independent ESL teacher.

How did you prepare to teach English proficiency exam prep and legal English?

When I started teaching English proficiency exam prep (TOIEC, IELTS, and Cambridge), I researched the exams, their contents, and what was required to pass and get good marks. I did the exams myself to make sure that I could do them and found the best methods to get good results before I taught the students. I believe that teachers should be able to do the same work that we give our students. Then, I researched and prepared the materials and created lesson plans accordingly. As for legal English, I was already familiar with it as I was a lawyer for 10 years. I just revised the topics beforehand, created lesson plans, prepared the materials, and got ready to teach the students. I had to set their exams and grade them as well.

Explore Bridge Micro-credentials, which include Teaching TOEFL Test Prep, Teaching IELTS Exam Prep, and Teaching PTE Test Prep.

Belinda standing on the beach in Anglet, France.
Belinda by the sea in Anglet, France.

What qualities or skills do you think are essential for someone considering a career as an independent teacher?

Many qualities are essential for someone considering a career as an independent teacher, including:

  • Organizational skills. Independent teachers often handle administrative tasks themselves. Being organized helps with scheduling, lesson planning, and managing business-related aspects efficiently.
  • Self-motivation. As an independent teacher, you are essentially running your own business. Self-motivation is crucial for setting and achieving goals, managing time effectively, and staying on track, as you will have to find your own students.
  • Being tech-savvy. Proficiency with technology is beneficial for conducting online lessons, creating digital resources, and managing communication with students. Embracing digital tools can enhance the overall learning experience.
  • Networking skills. Building a network within your community or online can help you attract students and identify opportunities. Networking can also provide support, resources, and collaboration opportunities with other educators.
  • Business acumen. Understanding the basics of running a business, including marketing, budgeting, generating invoices, and managing clients, is important for sustaining a successful independent teaching career.
  • Feedback and reflection. Being open to feedback and regularly reflecting on your teaching methods can help you continuously improve and tailor your approach to meet the evolving needs of your students, hence ensuring that your business thrives as current students bring in future students.

Download a sample of the Teacherpreneur Playbook: How to Build and Manage Your Own Student Portfolio, a resource for Teacherpreneur Academy members.

Belinda exploring France.
Belinda has explored many parts of France for the past decade.

What challenges have you encountered in your independent teaching journey, and how have you overcome them?

Being an independent teacher has its lows and highs. One of the low times was when I wasn’t getting enough students so I had to teach at language schools to ensure the security of having a regular flow of students and income. I also had to give face-to-face home tutoring. I had to be resourceful and adapt to any situation. There were times that I had to accept working with students that I wasn’t very confident with.

Read about strategies for finding ESL students from experienced independent English teachers.

What are some of your strategies for marketing yourself and attracting potential students?

I use networking on social media and also among friends and family to market myself and attract new students. I try to post regularly on Facebook and LinkedIn as these are the two platforms where my ideal students are active. I create flyers and put them in strategic places. I join local Facebook groups in my town and initiate events to enlarge my networking circle. I ask friends and family to spread the word about my English teaching services.

As I’m still new at being an independent teacher working on my own, I’m still figuring out the best ways but so far, I have found that joining an active Facebook group is very effective as that is the best way to make friends and connections. I had seven people come to my first event and they want to come again. Some have asked to bring their friends and others have shown interest in attending the next event. They may even recommend me to others interested in online courses with me.

Read about seven ways you can use social media to get more online English students.

What do you find most rewarding about being an independent teacher?

Being an independent teacher has its benefits. First, I can choose when and where to work! I can also plan my own program and I get to start and finish with the same student. When I was working for language schools, especially when I was teaching kids, I could only take holidays during school holidays. I had to refuse many invitations during the school term. For example, my good friend was getting married in another country during the school term and I couldn’t attend her wedding.

Belinda sitting on a swing at the beach in Madagascar.
Belinda during her holiday in Nocibé, Madagascar.

What do you hope to achieve in your future endeavors in this field?

I hope to get students from all over the world, and I’ll choose the region and time zone that suits me. I plan to work in the mornings and late evenings. That leaves me free to go to the gym, shop, and see friends in the afternoons.

How was your experience with Bridge’s Specialized Certificate in Succeeding as an English Teacherpreneur?

The course was wonderful and had all the tools I needed to get started. It is full of vital information about how to begin, and I have found it very helpful as it takes you through the process one step at a time, starting with identifying what you want, then finding your niche, then creating a profile, etc.

I’ve learned so much about social media and how to create the right profile, etc. I have a teaching job to teach legal English online to lawyers and students in March. This was thanks to the Succeeding as an English Teacherpreneur Specialized Course as I learned about making videos and I had to do a video for the interview, which I passed with flying colors.

At the moment, I’m enrolling in lots of self-development courses and tutorials about teaching online and marketing on social media. I’m at this stage because of the Bridge course with Rachel.

Additionally, I have also become bolder about getting myself out there on social media! Some of the most interesting things I’ve learned about the program were through the recent articles on social media and how to market myself using all the tools of modern technology. The articles recommended as further reading have blown my mind, and I have learned so much about funnel sales, social media, marketing, etc. The list is endless. This program is worth its value. I’m glad I enrolled in it!

What is your advice for other English teachers who aspire to become independent?

  • Keep your day job first and learn about how to build your business before launching into it. It will take time to learn and build a network on social media.
  • Be patient and it will happen.
  • Join the Bridge Teacherpreneur Academy. It will give you all the tools you need to get started!

Interested in training and support for a career as an independent English teacher? Learn more about Teacherpreneur Academy.

Back in her hometown in the Philippines, Krzl worked as a writer at a TV station before moving to Chile. After she completed her TESOL certification, she worked for language institutes and then decided to become an independent English teacher to business professionals. When she’s not giving classes, she’s either surfing along Chile’s long stretch of coastline, traveling, or practicing photography by the beach.