When you’re first starting out as a freelance ESL teacher, there are so many things you need to be wary of to avoid stepping into a horrible teaching gig. After 16 years of freelance teaching AND running my own business providing English classes, I’ve stepped into my fair share of them!
Horrible Teaching Gig: School wants to hire you on the spot!
Professional ESL schools should have a multiple step interview process in place so they can REALLY get to know you, and so you can really get to know them. (It’s a two way street on that!) If they are willing to hire you immediately, nobody has gotten to know each other. This is an awful teaching gig! (It also likely means they are desperate. You don’t want to work for desperate.)
True story: My first time teaching EVER as an ESL teacher was in Mexico. I answered a job ad in the local newspaper, went to the interview and was offered a job on the spot. They wanted me to start that night. I told them no, simply because I was terrified, but agreed to start a week later.
The school turned out to be….a pain. They promised to help me with my working visa, and never did. Management later mishandled their business so badly that they couldn’t pay teachers and staff for over a month….it was horrible.
While I did gain a lot of great experience with these guys, I sure had a whole lot of trouble to go with it.
Never rush into working with a school as a freelancer! Never!
Awful Teaching Gig: They are willing to pay you ‘under the table.’
From one teacher to another: please do your best to work legally wherever you travel/teach. If a language school is content to pay you ‘cash’ so you don’t have to get your hands (their hands?) dirty with government paperwork, run far away from them! I have been there – see previous point. I was working without proper papers for a year or so – waiting for my employer to keep their word with me to sponsor my work visa. Never turned out. They just had one excuse after another – their lawyer wasn’t available yet, they were getting the paperwork from the government still – the red tape is so thick they even take a long time to get you proper paperwork to fill out! Blah, blah, blah.
Great employers will help you get your legal working papers in order. They will pay for it too, or help you pay the majority of it. Look for them! They will be the employers who require you to give them a tax receipt each time they pay you. They will also insist on paying you through direct deposit to your local bank account – which you can only usually get if you are legally able to work in the country.
Costly Teaching Gig: Payments are more than 30 days after you invoice
This is one of the most horrible traps to fall in: a client who pushes your payment out past 30 days. I’ve had this happen to me, and it almost broke my business. Worst of all: I was small, and had no legal way to force payment (meaning no expensive lawyers to ‘help’ the payment along) so they strung us out for well over 45 days. By us I mean a team of teachers working with me – serving THAT client. Which also meant I had to be paying my team their biweekly payments outta my pocket!
This was one of the most painful, sleep robbing, stressful times in my business. After the first agreed upon 30 days came and went without payment, I was calling these guys daily for answers. Got the run around. They were a really large company – over 300 employees – and they blamed their slow payment on their fancy payment system – and then passed me on to other departments and nameless drones who didn’t give a rip about a little guy like me. Horrible.
As soon as I got paid, I dropped them. NEVER work with clients, be they big or small, who don’t keep their word – and who force you to wait more than 30 days for payment.