Moving to Spain: Ten Cardinal Rules for Teaching Private English Classes

Over the last decade, Spain has made a huge push for its population to become more proficient in English and as a result, native English speakers are in extremely high demand. For Language and Culture Assistants, AuPairs or other jobs that are moderately paid, extra income from private classes can mean the difference between a frugal year or enjoying all that Spain and Europe have to offer.

However, before agreeing to take on a new student, consider COMO’s Cardinal Rules for Teaching Private Classes first:

1. Spread the Word
Word of mouth is perhaps the most trusted way to find classes. Tell your roommates, co-workers or even the man who makes your coffee that you’re a native speaker, and watch the requests roll in. You’ll also want to make it more official by posting an ad on a website such as Tus Clases Particulares. Not only does Tus Clases allow for free ads, but you can also browse students looking for a teacher in your area, as well as modify your CV and hours of availability.

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If you’re not drowning in classes after the first two tries, go the more traditional route and hang up advertisements at local schools, universities, and around town. Remember to double-check your contact details, particularly phone number and email, so that interested parties can reach you.

2. Do a Self-Assessment
How much do you know about teaching English and how long have you been doing it? Do you have any experience with official exams such as Cambridge, Trinity or TOEFL? How familiar are you with grammar tenses and rules?

If you’re just starting out and have no previous experience, best to stick to classes with the kiddos, low-level adults or strictly conversation. If you do agree to teach a higher level class or exam prep, do your due diligence – these classes often require far more prep work, photocopies and knowledge on your part.

 3. Research Market Prices
Where you live in Spain will determine the going rate for classes, usually charged by the hour. Rates in pueblos and smaller cities will be much lower than an hour of conversation in Madrid or Barcelona. Expect to charge between 10 and 15€ an hour for conversation classes and homework help for school-aged children. Exam prep courses usually range from 20 to 30€.

Not sure how much to charge? Ask in expatriate forums or on Facebook, as veterans will be able to speak about current rates. By charging too little, you undervalue yourself and the work you do; by charging too much, you may be missing out on classes.

4. Charge Students Consistently
Establish your own fees and be consistent amongst your students. Much of your business could stem from word of mouth and variations in price will inevitably lead to a string of very uncomfortable conversations. Avoid giving “friend” rates and be firm with your pricing. Remember your services are not on oferta at the local mercado and bartering is not part of the process.

Also, consider how far you’ll have to travel and how much prep work will go into each class. If a student is willing to pay 15€, but it will take you an hour’s time to arrive at their house and 2,50€ in transportation, it may not be worth your while.

5. Arrange Group Classes When Possible
If you’d like to maximize your time, try and group students of like ages and levels together. Each student will pay a bit less than the going rate (8-10€ for example) but your haul for 2 or more students will be more than the average one-on-one class. With group classes the teacher earns more for the same amount of time and preparation, and clients are happy because they pay less – a bona fide win-win for everyone involved! Plus, with group classes you’ll have more possibilities for speaking exercises and games.

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6. Set Up a Cancellation Policy
While easier said than done, a fair and well-established cancellation policy could save you both time and money. Some private teachers even draw up an informal contract explaining pricing, scheduling and a cancellation policy. Both students and teachers normally agree to give notice more than 24 hours in advance should a class need to be annulled. When classes are cancelled less than 24 hours before, students must still pay. In the event that the teacher is cancelling the class, a new class should be scheduled at the student’s earliest convenience.

 7. Stick to a Schedule
Never agree to give a class to a student who can’t commit to a set schedule – you will inevitably spend more time arranging when to give the class than actually teaching it! Plus, by keeping your availability open for one hard-to-pin-down student you might potentially lose out on other classes. That said, don’t agree to classes on the weekends if you think you’ll want to travel or stay out late at night, no matter how lucrative.

8. Remember That For Every 9 Nos, There Will Be One Yes
Not every phone call from a potential client will be the right fit. Scheduling could be impossible, what they are willing to pay might not match with your established rates or their particular needs might not enter in your area of expertise. However, do not fear! There are always more classes around the proverbial corner. Keep your ads up around town and give 110% to your current clients. Soon enough you’ll establish a schedule, prices you are comfortable with and groups of students who value you.

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9. Prepare for Class, Even if it’s Just Conversation
Don’t drop the ball when it comes to class prep. After all that insistence on pricing, scheduling and cancellation, those who don’t come to class prepared will lose all of the professional pretext it took to arrange the class in the first place. Plus, if students aren’t happy with your classes they will look for a replacement without hesitation.

Be organized, make photocopies, bring games to play, newspaper articles to read and debate or simply a list of topics to discuss. Never show up without a plan!

 10. Intercambios Should Be Equal
If you’re keen on learning Spanish, consider looking for an intercambio, or an informal language exchange. The agreement is that you meet a Spaniard somewhere public and speak for an even amount of time in both English and Spanish. In theory, it’s a pressure-free way to improve your spoken Spanish and meet locals, but be insistent that half of the time should be spent conversing in Spanish and half in English.

You know that saying, if you give an inch? Some language exchange partners might try and turn your intercambio time into a free private class. If your partner is looking to get more out of you than some oral language help, remember that you charge other clients for grammar or exam preparation. Politely remind your intercambio of that and stick to your guns. If your partner insists, look for someone else or attend a conversation group in your town or city.

Moving to Spain COVER 2015 EnglishPrivate classes may seem daunting, but they’re a great way to earn a bit of cash while filling your spare time with something other than a siesta. Plus, many clients will often go out of their way to make you feel at home, and soon you’ll be invited to communion, Sunday luncheons or all-day parties in the campo! All in a day’s work, really.

Still nervous to give private classes, or unsure of what to do? Our eBook, Moving to Spain, has two full chapters on teaching, including more details on how to advertise your clases particulares, a list of online resources and 10 tried and true games for students of all ages.

Have you got any great resources to share? Questions about how to find students, give them an assessment or find new inspiration for students? Leave us a message in the comments! You can also work out your budget using our Cost of Living Series as a jumping off point – you’ll find over 25 cities featured!

Author: Como Consulting Spain

Cat and Hayley are relocation specialists who can help you move to, live in and work in Spain. We'd love to hear from you! hola@comoconsultingspain.com

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6 Comments

  1. I moved to Logroño, Spain a little over a month ago and was nervous about getting private classes. I knew I wanted to do them but was scared I wouldn’t find any. Now, I have more people wanting private classes than my schedule allows. I’m still a beginner in giving private lessons, but these ten tips are incredibly helpful! If you’re looking at teaching private English classes in Spain, please take these to heart!
    Mike of Mapless Mike recently posted…My Blog Writing ProcessMy Profile

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  2. …I, too, was “that guy”–I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to find that many classes (I work at a language school, so the hours are screwy), but I’m starting to get a LOT more offers than I thought!!…

    Here’s another rule: If the students miss/don’t alert that they’ll be absent 3X, terminate your services…
    Betty J. Ogburn recently posted…Zesty Zaragoza: The Exterior of San Gil Abad…My Profile

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  3. Cool! Teaching English is one thing I want to do when I retire to Malaga and I’ve saved this so I can refer to it later. I’m not sure which route I’ll go since I have zero experience teaching English. Will likely go the easy route. Guess I’ll see when the time comes. Thanks for the tips!
    tobyo recently posted…Walker Art Center, MinneapolisMy Profile

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  4. Interesting! I’m planning to start teaching private classes in English but I thought that it’s not the right time after reading your blog. 🙂

    Thanks! I enjoyed your article.

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