Most western EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers tutor private students at one time or another. Technically against the law in Thailand, the Thai government turns a blind eye as so many Thais want private lessons to improve their English skills. If you’re an English teacher in Thailand and want to take on some private students, how do you get them? Surprisingly, it’s easy. Simply follow these quick tips and you’ll soon be busier than you want to be.
Your Own Students – If you’re already teaching English at a school, university or company in Thailand and they haven’t told you not to, let your students and their parents know you have a few openings for private students. When I did this at the school I taught at, I was inundated with parents who wanted me to teach their children English in the evenings or weekends. So many, in fact, I had to institute a first-come first-served policy and then have a waiting list for the rest.
Word of Mouth – Much of what happens in Thailand is as a result of word of mouth. Thais are masters at passing on information, if not just plain gossip, so if you want to find some private students to tutor tell your Thai friends you’re looking. Within a couple of days, you’ll have so many sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, friends and even bosses who are desperate to get private English lessons, again, you’ll probably have a waiting list.
Put Up a Notice At Home – If you’re not in a main area trafficked by a lot of police (don’t forget, giving private tutoring in Thailand is technically illegal, although everyone does it), put up a small notice either outside your house or apartment. State you’re a qualified English teacher, you are looking for 2-3 students and specify how much you charge per hour. The price specification is extremely important as many Thais will think paying 200 baht per hour is appropriate when the going rate is actually 600 baht. With the figure already up there, it saves embarrassment for people who obviously can’t afford your services.
Visit Area Businesses – A friend got some wonderful private students by visiting several large companies near his home and also near his school. While they didn’t want him to teach on-site as it was too difficult to arrange classes in their busy company, they were happy to send to him, and pay for, several employees who needed extra help with their English skills. Print up a flyer advertising your services and drop it off at a few businesses near your home or office. State your qualifications for teaching English, how long you’ve lived in Thailand (so you look stable) and what levels of English skills you tutor. If you don’t get jobs from the company, you’ll likely hear from employees who want you to be a private tutor to their children.
Advertise in Local Free Papers – There are several free papers printed daily or weekly in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok. You can advertise for free, or a small fee, that you’re a private English tutor looking for students. To me, this is an avenue of last resort though, as it’s much more visible to local authorities who may suddenly decide to round up known teachers who are giving private lessons. (Again, it’s highly unlikely to happen, but it is Thailand and circumstances can change fast). Friends have done it though, with no problems whatsoever, so it’s entirely up to you what you feel comfortable doing.
All of my friends who teach English to private students have used some or all of these tactics in Thailand to get new students with great success. Just remember, decide what your hourly rate will be before you even begin to look for students and don’t reduce it. If you do, word will travel fast (it is Thailand) and soon you’ll have hordes of people wanting to know why they’re paying more than someone else.