Disclaimer: My rates are based on my location, experience, and the personal quantity of prep work I do on a day-to-day basis. They will be low for some areas and high for others.
When I arrived in Spain last year, I decided that my afternoons were far too empty (and let’s be honest, so was my bank account). So I started picking up freelance work as a private English teacher. And let’s just say, the Spanish demand for native teachers is HIGH. I now have 9-10 hours of paid work weekly, plus assorted language exchanges. And if I had enough hours in the day, I could easily have 3 times as much work.
I personally use my freelance income to pay for traveling and American bills (yay for debts!). The 700€ salary I earn from the Xunta is earmarked for daily living expenses. However, in practice I rarely make ATM withdrawals after paying my rent on the 1st. I live (i.e. buy beer, coffee, groceries, basic household items, bus fare) off of the cash in my wallet that comes from my assorted private lessons. This is completely doable as I’m frugal (read: cheap as hell). It also works as an excellent form of budgeting: I don’t have the cash? No more drinks for me. Plus there’s the added fact that most Spanish stores/restaurants either don’t have a credit card machine, or (likely) have to pay high fees, which means the clerk will give you the evil eye if you whip out your debit card.
Anyhow, over the last year I’ve got a pretty good idea of the market for teaching English in Santiago. Therefore, what I charge boils down to a couple of considerations:
High Demand ≠ High Prices
The first thing to remember is that while cost of living in Galicia is quite low, and so is the average income. While demand for private lessons is quite high, most people are still in recession-mode as far as spending is concerned. In addition, Santiago has a decent pool of private English teachers. The market isn’t saturated by any means, but the prevalence of Erasmus students and immigrants in general means that would-be students know they have options other than you when it comes to native teachers. Plus, there are plenty of non-native teachers out there. And most Gallegos are at least passingly aware of the average market price.
What does that mean in terms of euros? Well, if you want to charge 20€/hour as a basic rate, you’re not going to find many takers.
The average rate is 10-15€/hour, depending on the type of lesson. Which brings me to…
What Type of Classes Are you Teaching?
The average student will either be a young professional/university student or a parent wanting lessons for their kids. I charge less for kids, simply because it’s less prep work for me. My rates start at 10€ for kids and 12€ for adults.
I prefer having young students due to the fact that they are FAR less likely to flake on me mid-semester. Adult students tend to have busy lives and bills to pay. They are usually good for a month or two and then they start cancelling, or simply fade away (don’t show up to classes and don’t answer my calls). Or, they only want classes to prepare for an upcoming English exam and are thinking short-term, not long-term.
Parents make plans for their kids’ extracurricular lessons with a year-long frame of reference (usually), and so I can count on getting paid very regularly. Also, parents are quite likely to have multiple children (either their own or neighbors’). And that means they are likely to want group lessons, which are my favorite.
I teach several group lessons. Well actually, half of my classes are groups. Grouping means that my rates automatically increase with minimal (usually, small children can be tough) extra effort. It is also an incentive for the parents, as my per-student price actually decreases the larger the group is.
For example: one child is 10€/hour. But 2 kids are 15€ and 3 are 20€ (higher if I have to travel across town). Simple math says that by grouping the kids, I earn more and the parents pay less. And yeah, wrangling two hyper 8-year-olds is more difficult than dealing with one. But not significantly more difficult.
On the other side, there are my adult students. They either want conversation classes (12€ base rate) or exam preparation (15€). Twelve euros pays me to sit in a cafe and chat for an hour, with prepared subjects, new vocabulary, and a rigorous attention to their grammar and pronunciation (it is tiring until you get the hang of it). Fifteen means specific preparation for the Cambridge or TOEFL exams, plus usually working under a deadline.
*I often run into haggling over my exam rates, but the truth is that exams mean significantly more work for me. And I can often convince students to pay for 2-3 hours per week, which means I’m willing to give them a discount on rates. (3 hours at 45€ becomes 35€, for example).
Travel and Prep Time
In Santiago, nothing is more than 45 minutes away, and that’s walking time. However, if you have a class that’s a 15 minute walk from your house, and another that’s either 40 minutes walking or 15 minutes on a bus, you need to adjust the price to reflect that. It’s simple enough to tell a student that you have to take a bus to their house and that you have added the fare to their rates. (Some people are also willing to change locations when asked).
*I usually arrange my schedule so most of my classes are geographically close together on a given day. For example, Thursdays I go to the west side of the city, and then walk 10 minutes into the new zone. I don’t waste a lot of travel time because that’s time I can spend working.
Also, teaching isn’t just classroom time. Every lesson I give has a built-in amount of prep time. Sometimes it’s 30 minutes, sometimes it’s 5. But the thing I keep in mind is, I’m not usually charging 12€ for an hour; I’m charging 12€ for 1 hour + 15minutes of preparing the activities.
Preparation and travel time are essentially why you cannot drop your prices too low. Otherwise, you will be working for less than minimum wage, if you count up all the hours you actually are working or going to work, not just the time in a classroom.
Your Experience and Preferences
Your experience and comfort zone will dictate the work you take. Here are some questions to ask yourself before taking on specific teaching opportunities.
Have you ever taught one-on-one before? It is a completely different dynamic than classroom teaching.
Are you familiar with the nuances of English grammar? Can you easily explain the difference between the 1st and 3rd Conditional, or when to use the Past Perfect instead of the Simple Past (yeah this is a biggie for Gallegos)?
Do you know anything about the Cambridge Advanced? The First? The PET? They are set up a specific way and yes, the examiners look for certain types of answers.
Do you like teaching young children? Can you manage several antsy 11-year-old boys for 90 minutes? Would you rather deal with self-motivated adults?
This isn’t to say that you should never take on classes that are outside your experience level. But be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish. And are you the best person for the job?
Finally, the question that all English teachers have to deal with, usually immediately after putting up their ads.
When to Give Discounts
Everyone will ask.
You have to set a base rate (my 10-12€, for example). And I don’t let myself be talked down from my base rates without good reason. I am a professional and my time is worth what I decide it’s worth.
Here are some reasons that I personally will give a discount:
-More Hours a Week
-Paying For a Month’s Lessons Upfront
-Friends or Coworkers
Pretty much they are self-explanatory. The first 3 are instances where I am getting paid more over the long run, which compensates for a drop in my hourly rate.
Well, this is my work life this year. Funny, it’s also as if I’m running my own business. Who’d have thought?