Teach Abroad

Ask a Teacher: How Can I Find Private Students to Tutor?

Richelle Gamlam

Richelle has been living, working, and teaching in China for the last four years, from high school English teacher to college admissions consultant.

Hey Go Overseas!

I want to tutor abroad, but I'm not sure where to get started. How do you find private students to tutor and land the first, crucial job? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

First-time teacher

Great question! I've tutored everyone from kindergartners to Chinese businessmen, and I can assure you that finding students to tutor is not as difficult as it sounds. It can be tricky to know where to look, and hard to find a job if you don't have any connections. But once you find the first job, you'll have a steady stream of clients in no time!

Tutoring Gigs Are All About Networking

Networking? Isn't that something for business people at fancy cocktail parties?

Networking is essential if you want to find jobs tutoring English abroad. Once you get known as a tutor and build up your reputation, you'll have more jobs than you know what to do with. Start with lower paying gigs and work your way up to higher paid clients. Make the right friends and take the jobs they don't have time for.

Trust me, it's not as hard as it sounds! Here are my top six tips for finding paid tutoring gigs as an ESL teacher abroad:

1. Research the Going Rate

Are you new to town with no contacts or local friends? Your first step is to find that initial job. Research the going rate for a tutoring gig in your city so that you don't accept any underpaid jobs. For me, the rate was around $30 USD for a one-hour English class at an academy part-time. I used that rate to negotiate tutoring jobs, where I expected about that amount or slightly less.

Students are always looking for a tutor or someone to help them edit English essays.

Be sure to consistently ask around and see what others are charging. Some clients will ask you to set your own rate, so be sure to have a number in mind. You can even quote a bit higher than what your target rate is, with the idea that you can negotiate.

If you're tutoring two or more students, you can also charge per student. I once taught a tutoring class of six kids that I set up with a group of parents. I was given a room at the high school I taught at for free, and I charged a low rate of $8 USD per student. But with six students in a class, I was able to make almost $50 USD in one hour!

If you need a little help coming up with a going rate for tutoring, Go Overseas has compiled a list of salary expectations for the top teaching abroad locations. While some countries already have an hourly rate for teaching and tutoring, for other countries you can come up with your own rate based on the monthly salary.

2. Check Job Boards and Listings

This old-school method of finding a job has worked for me in the past. Sometimes students and clients will post job listings in cafes and places that international English-speakers frequent. Chances are you've seen one of these boards somewhere, but if you haven't, try checking one at the local university. College students are always looking for a tutor or someone to help them edit English essays.

If you're not having luck there, you can also try online expat websites. Many of these sites will have classified advertisements where locals will look for tutors and teachers. Not sure which websites to use? Ask around or try googling your city name with "expat" -- but make sure to avoid the common ESL job scams!

3. Join Networking and Expat Groups

In China, all of us use a texting and social media networking app called WeChat. On WeChat, there are plenty of 200+ person groups mainly targeted at expats. I'm part of a salsa dancing group, Women's Networking group, and Health and Wellness group. There are even group chats for expats in my neighborhood and the coffee shop down the street!

Let your local friends know you're looking for people to tutor. They'll keep you in mind when someone they know needs help.

I can't tell you how often tutoring jobs are posted in these WeChat groups! If you're in China, joining groups can not only help you make friends -- you can find work too!

If you're outside of China, check to see if there are any forums or similar networking groups for your city. There might be an email newsletter you or an expat Facebook group you can join.

4. Make Local Friends

As a Master's student in China, I was one of two native speakers in my entire major. Everyone in the class knew I had experience teaching English, so when an aunt's friend's child needed a tutor, they asked me.

I even had a student come up to me during a school salsa class because one of my friends had told her I tutored. (But remember, you don't need to be a native speaker to teach English!)

The moral of the story is to let your local friends know you're looking for people to tutor. They'll keep you in mind when someone they know needs help.

5. Find "That Person"

Who is "that person" you might ask? "That person" is the resident tutor with too many job offers and not enough time. "That person" followed all of the steps above and is now desperately looking for people to give their jobs to.

This typically happens in smaller cities with less native English speakers. One or two people become known for teaching English, and all of a sudden they have a pile of jobs and no one to give them to.

While I was getting my Master's in Ningbo, China, I somehow became "that person." Everyone wanted a native speaker, preferably an American, but we all had more than one tutoring job. Unfortunately, there just weren't enough native speakers to go around!

Ask around until you find "that person" with all of the tutoring connections. Chances are, he or she will have a job for you within a few weeks.

6. Target Adults and Companies

In the rush to find young private students to tutor, most people forget that companies need English tutors as well. Not only are adults fun to teach, these companies tend to pay more! It can be somewhat difficult to get your foot in the door, but through a little networking (and even the right resume) you might just stumble on the right job.

For example, I went to audition as a catalog model for a German company in China. In the interview, I mentioned I used to teach English, and I ended up walking away with a part-time tutoring job! They invited me to tutor their design team in English twice a week and were willing to pay much higher than my other tutoring jobs.

Overall, finding a tutoring job abroad isn't as hard as it may seem.

Outside of companies, you can find adults to tutor on your own as well. One of my friends had a tattoo done in Nanjing and ended up tutoring her tattoo artist for a year. He was looking to improve his English to attract more international customers, and she was a trained TEFL certified teacher.

Overall, finding a tutoring job abroad isn't as hard as it may seem. The biggest trick to working as a successful tutor is to treat it like a real job. Know your market, research your target price, and ask for the salary you deserve. You'll need to network, make connections, and shop around for opportunities, but once you do, you'll have plenty of jobs to choose from.