Teaching English in Taiwan is a lucrative business. While the established schools possess the lion’s share of the action, it is easily possible to take on private students to supplement one’s income.
Note that it is ILLEGAL to do this without a license, and can result in ARC (visa) cancellation and deportation. Most contracts have a clause prohibiting you from working anywhere else and since your employer controls your ARC, if you are caught doing so, kiss that visa good bye. Hasta la vista baby. Sometimes, there will also be a ban from Taiwan included in the punishment.
But like anywhere in the world, if you don’t get caught, it’s not really a problem eh? No fuss, no muss.
That being said, many Taiwanese want the one on one attention of a foreign teacher. And they are willing to pay big bucks for it. Foreign teachers take advantage of this, but of course it’s all on the down-low.
Without any sort of advertising or effort on my part, I was approached within my first 3 months of being here by 2 different parties. At that time I was making 550NT ($18.33 US) an hour at my regular, full time job. One offered me 750NT ($25 US) and the other, 800NT ($26.66 US). I declined both because I didn’t want to take any risks and I didn’t feel that I had enough experience to properly do the job. I have heard of people with a lot of experience charging upto NT 1200 ($40 US).
Taking on private students is a mixed bag of apples.
- Huge increase in income if the student becomes regular.
- You set your own hours, and things become very flexible.
- No taxes, cash only.
- Easy networking opportunities with well to do, successful folks (who are usually the only ones that can afford private lessons).
- Risk of discovery and deportation.
- If you already have a full time job, you may get more tired and stressed out. Also less time to pursue leisure activities.
- Travel time to the students house is unpaid.
- Some privates can be unreliable, cancelling when you get there or just not showing up without prior notice.
This is not an exhaustive list, but the more common points that regularly come up in conversations with people who have private students. So really it depends on how much risk you can tolerate and how much free time you want VS. how much more money you want to make.
It is possible to temporarily take on a student (3 or 4 months) to boost short term income. I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you really need to. I say this because word of mouth spreads VERY fast here (that’s how most private teachers are contacted), and if you are viewed as a teacher who won’t stick around, people will not want to hire you. Once you have a reputation of any sort, it pretty much sticks.
Adults Vs Children
Picking the kind of student you want is also plays an important part in taking on privates. Some people prefer to work with kids, and some prefer adults.
Adults are much easier to deal with, and there are no disciplinary issues. They know they are paying lots of money for the lessons and therefore tend to be much better students. The are more attentive and motivated. The downside to having adults is that you are under constant pressure to show them measurable, short term improvement. That’s a bit tough with a language after one passes a certain level of proficiency.
Kids on the other hand are not as predictable. While you may luck out and get a motivated and enthusiactic student, you are just as likely to get a student who just doesn’t care and seems like he is on morphine the whole time. Parents in Taiwan force feed their kids education, so that by the time morphine boy gets to you, he has already been through the wringer of school, piano lessons and extra math tutoring today. No wonder he just doesn’t care. If you get a motivated student though, private teaching can be a ball. Kids love to have fun, and you can play games that you couldn’t necessarily do with adults.
So choose your padawan carefully, Jedi master.
Getting private students
Most prospective students find their teachers through word of mouth. Having a good reputation with your school, and just generally looking professional will go a long way in cementing the local peoples’ perspective of you. Don’t walk around town like a schmuck. Don’t chew and spit out betelnut on the street. Do be friendly and courteous. Always smile. As the locals become more familiar with you, it is likely that you will make a few Taiwanese friends, and requests for your awesome teaching services will come. Chose your student(s) carefully and be serious about teaching. Otherwise, you may get a bad rep, and there goes your private teaching career.
Know your stuff
Just because they cannot speak English well, doesn’t make a person dumb. If you have no idea what you are doing, and just trying to wing it, your students will smell the bulls**t and kick you out the door. You may get away with this (for a while) if you have kids as students, but definitely not with adults. So prepare well for private classes and make sure you know your stuff. If you don’t know something don’t lie. Admit it, and give them the answer at the next class. Students will respect you more for this.
When thinking about taking on a private student, it is important to consider all these factors. If enough consideration is given, then (illegality notwithstanding), some find that teaching private students is a lucrative and enjoyable venture.