Josefina Castillo, from Argentina, has been teaching English for 10 years. She got her start working for a language institute but soon found the structured environment of being an employee was not the best fit for her, so she made the leap and became a teacherpreneur, launching her own English institute. She shares the benefits of becoming an independent ESL teacher for anyone considering teaching on their own terms.
Who becomes an independent teacher?
Maybe you’re an experienced English teacher who has taken countless TEFL courses and worked in the industry for years. You get up every day, lessons ready, and head out the door to the institution you work for. Perhaps you still feel passionate about what you do … but something is amiss. Alternatively, you don’t want to work for others anymore. You feel the need to work for yourself, to be in charge.
Or, maybe you’ve just finished your online TEFL course and are a new teacher at a school or online tutoring company. You’ve long wanted to teach English, but now you’re feeling disappointed. This structured environment is not what you imagined it would be. You want freedom. You want to be in the driver’s seat.
If you’re reading this, the independent spark is probably already burning within you, and one of these descriptions might hit close to home. I understand because some years ago before I decided to take a leap of faith to do what I loved, I had been the main character in these stories for a while. I felt frustrated, overwhelmed, and trapped in a safe, regular teaching job at a school. My heart just wasn’t in it, and I knew I wasn’t giving 100 percent.
There are many options for teaching English independently. A freelance ESL teacher teaches online as a contractor with an online marketplace or language school, choosing their students, schedule, and teaching niche. Some teachers use this path to find students and begin private tutoring. Others, like me, become teacherpreneurs, creating their own online English teaching businesses. I specialize in teaching Business English and English for Specific Purposes for adults, and once I got my business off the ground, I never looked back.
The benefits of becoming an independent online teacher abound. Here are some reasons I recommend you take the leap:
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1. You can do what you love, as all types of ESL teachers are in demand.
There are potential students all over the world, from all ages and walks of life, looking to learn English, and they all have different goals. That means you’re going to find a match between what you love doing and what students are hoping to achieve.
Personally, I love working with adults in general, and retirees in particular. I enjoy every class that we have and how much energy they put into everything they do. I feel like I always get the chance to fulfill my passion as an independent teacher!
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2. You are your own boss – teach who, what, how, where, and when you like.
You can not only choose your ESL teaching niche and preferred student age, but you also have the freedom to establish your own rates, curricula, and teaching location (whether at home, a café, or an Airbnb while you’re traveling!)
For example, when I worked for a language institute, I was teaching kids, but that wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. So, I became a teacherpreneur, starting my own teaching business. I specialized in teaching adults and began offering an online conversation group centered around having coffee together. Today, these “Coffee Talks” are a favorite at my institute!
3. You can feel free to let your personality shine.
As an ESL teacher, your preferences, style, and personality can permeate your teaching materials, methods, and processes, which is something that you often can’t do when you work for others.
I have an active personality; I’m very energetic and enjoy games a lot. Working for myself, I always try to transmit this style to my students: being passionate, taking the lead, and never being afraid to make mistakes!
4. You’re always allowed to have fun and opt for a change.
ESL teaching jobs are versatile; they keep you constantly challenged and learning new things. Maybe in the morning, you choose to teach English to children and in the afternoon, you teach a group of marketing professionals! Variety is the spice of the independent teacher’s life.
5. You’re able to make some time for yourself – at last!
Since you’re the one calling the shots, you decide your daily schedule, meaning you now have the chance to finally take that ceramics course you wanted to take. Or you can go hiking or start baking. I, for example, finally made the decision to buy my first mountain bike, and start riding it to the mountains – and beyond!
What’s important is to stay organized and set your own rules from the start.
6. You will always feel welcomed and included in the English teaching community – there’s room for everyone.
English schools, institutions, and companies that hire teachers can have firm requirements, such as a university degree and teaching experience, or even that you’re a native speaker or have certain citizenship. With teaching independently as a freelancer or teacherpreneur, on the other hand, there’s no need to fit standard job qualifications. Instead, you can highlight your unique background and skills and determine the course of your own career.
My advice? Don’t ignore the independent spark burning inside you – ignite it! Whatever is driving you to make the leap to independent teaching, once you’ve experienced the benefits of becoming your own boss – and the possibilities have taken root – you may never want to go back.