Should I start a business or be a freelance language teacher?

Posted on

When you decide to leave a full-time teaching position and work for yourself, you’ll have an important decision to make… 

Do you want to work as a freelance teacher or become a business owner?

The two might sound kind of similar on the surface, but having worked with hundreds of teachers who fall into both categories, I have noticed that there are BIG differences that influence how you work. 

There is no right or wrong answer to this question because it really depends on what you want out of your work. 

So, in this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know so that you can decide  whether you should be a freelance teacher or start a teaching business.

Let’s start by looking at what freelance teachers and business owners do.

Freelance teachers

A freelance teacher is someone who works for themselves as an independent contractor. 

They set their own rates, accept which students they want to work with and handle all the admin involved in onboarding and teaching new students. 

Their client base may consist of individual students, but it may also include language schools who outsource some classes to freelance teachers. These teachers may also find students via platforms like iTalki or Lingoda. 

Business owners

Business owners, on the other hand, are usually self-employed people who work under the name of their company and take full responsibility for finding students. They don’t typically use third-party platforms, but create their own content and marketing that brings students to them. 

They also have the freedom to decide who they want to work with and how much they charge, but they usually have systems in place to improve the student experience and protect themselves and their business.  

What are the main differences between freelance teachers and business owners?

It’s true that these two words are often used interchangeably, but there are several differences between the way a freelance teacher and a business owner works, which is what we’ll look at now. 

These things will probably help you decide which option suits you best, so pay attention! 

Products

Freelance teachers typically offer one or two types of services: one-to-one classes and group classes. 

While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does limit your ability to scale your income because you only have a limited amount of time. And unless you continuously raise your prices (which you totally should at times but have to stop at some point), you will reach a point where you can’t earn more. 

Business owners skirt this problem by creating a more diverse product mix that consists not only of online classes but also self-paced courses, digital products (like ebooks) and workshops. 

This allows you to diversify and protect your income and possibly even make your business more fun!

Target students 

In my experience, a lot of freelance teachers market themselves as being able to help anyone who needs them. 

While this makes sense in theory, in reality it makes it a lot harder to stand out from the crowd and attract students because you’re competing against everyone.

The most successful teaching business owners choose one specific group of students they want to work with and create offers that help them solve a common problem and reach a common goal. 

This takes a bit of work, but it’s very much worth it when you start to advertise your services.

Marketing 

If you’ve already been working for yourself for a while, you’ll no doubt have done some marketing. Perhaps you’ve created an Instagram page or started sharing things on LinkedIn, and that’s fantastic! 

But if you’re thinking about shifting from freelancing to running a teaching business, you should diversify your marketing channels so you can stop searching for students and start attracting them. 

Some ways you can do that are by: 

  • Starting an email newsletter list 
  • Creating a website (although I recommend waiting until you’re established)
  • Improving your copywriting skills (the words you use to advertise your services)

These things will help you move away from having to sell your soul to the algorithm to building an engaged audience of ideal students. 

Pricing 

Another big difference between business owners and freelancers is in the way they charge for their services. 

Freelancers typically charge by the hour, and they may even only take payment after the class. 

(If that’s you, please stop that right now. You deserve to be paid for your services, and you don’t want to risk students taking class and not paying, which is bound to happen sooner or later. Sorry but it’s true!) 

In contrast, teaching business owners will charge based on the results they deliver. 

While their hourly rate may influence their price, they won’t reveal that to the student. They’ll present a package price, of which some (or all) must be paid before classes can begin. 

Teacherpreneurs also often add other resources into their packages to increase the value and turn them into programs rather than just classes. 

Goals

Generally speaking, business owners have big ambitions for their work. They may want to create something bigger than themselves, maybe hire teachers later on or make a lasting impact in their niche. 

That’s not to say freelance teachers don’t have ambition. They’re just typically more focused on building a comfortable life for themselves and their families than making waves in their niche. 

They may not be concerned with continuously growing or creating new offers – they just want a business that allows them time, financial and location freedom. 

Investment

While it’s totally possible to start and run a successful teaching business with a minimum monthly investment, there are costs involved that just don’t really exist in the same way for freelancers. 

That could be related to tax or the expense of actually setting up a business, depending on the rules of the country you are in. But it also applies to things like insurance, contracts, and marketing systems. 

As a freelance teacher, you should absolutely have these legal things in place, but you may find that you spend less on the marketing systems and business set up. 

So, which one is right for you?

By now, you may already have an idea of whether you’d prefer to be a freelance teacher or a business owner. But in case you haven’t decided yet or you’re still open to ideas, let’s do a little analysis. 

You might prefer to be a freelance teacher if… 

  • You want to stick to teaching small groups or private lessons and you don’t want to create digital courses 
  • You want to make enough to live a life of financial, time and location freedom, but you don’t want to scale massively beyond that 
  • You’d rather work with a mix of clients, including teaching classes for other organisations
  • You have a limited budget, and you want to start as a freelancer to test the waters of whether this is the right move for you (which is totally ok, by the way!)

You might prefer to be a teaching business owner if…

  • You have dreams of creating courses that you can run for years and use to impact more students (because you’re not limited by time)
  • You enjoy the challenge of marketing yourself and you want to build a brand that represents you and your ambition 
  • You’d like to scale your business to new heights, maybe even hire other teachers or outsource some work one day 
  • You have a higher budget and are willing to invest in different systems to set up and run your business 

There are pros and cons of both being a freelancer and a business owner, which is why it’s so important to consider what you want from your work. 

After all, there’s no point in starting a business if you don’t think it’s something you’re passionate about or will enjoy!

Whichever route you choose to take, I’d loooove to help you get started.

Whether you dream of running a teaching business or setting up as a freelancer, my programs are designed to help you monetise your skills and expertise, avoid burnout, price your work more effectively, stand out from the crowd and be happier.

Because the world needs your work, and you deserve to make a good living off it!