It’s common to be unsure of how much to charge students for ESOL lessons since the decision is entirely yours. However, it is an important part of becoming an ESOL tutor.

Your hourly rate for classes will depend on a number of factors, including experience, qualifications, and the type of class you are offering.

In order to offer the best price to draw in more students and give good value for money, it’s worth taking stock of all the factors and assessing how much the students stand to gain from taking one of your classes as opposed to one with another tutor.

Of course, your hourly rate can change over time, but once you have secured a good number of students you’ll be loath to change it for fear of losing some of them, so setting a rate you’re happy with from the outset is quite important.

What factors should determine your rate?

Teaching in a classroom
Experience can help you determine your rate.

Consider the point of view of the typical ESOL student, while we can’t generalise, it’s probably fair to assume that most of them will value similar things in an ESOL tutor or class.

There’s a few reasons why some ESOL tutors can command a much higher hourly rate than others, so let’s dive into those reasons to provide some perspective as to what you should be charging.

Experience level

Experience is a big factor if you’re looking to set a rate that’s higher than the average.

If you were trying to learn a foreign language yourself, would you be more inclined to splash out for the tutor with 5+ years experience, or spend less to have classes with the relatively inexperienced tutor?

I believe most people would opt for the former, purely because they will likely have a proven track record of helping students pass exams and improve their linguistic competency.

With more experience, you can make bold claims about how effectively or quickly you can improve the student’s level of English, and also include testimonials in your ads which will lend to your credibility as a great tutor.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t yet have years of experience behind you as a tutor though, since there are other ways to give off the impression that you have a wealth of experience behind you.

One of the best things you can do in your pursuit of becoming an ESOL tutor is head abroad for a semester or longer, and become an English language teaching assistant.

This kind of experience will look great if you’re trying to convince foreign students to take your class, as it will prove you’ve been there and done it before, working with non-native English speakers in a classroom setting.

A few other things you can do to get ahead in this regard despite not having much experience is to focus your efforts on qualifications, the amount of effort you put into each class, and your online presence.

Your qualifications

Whether or not you need qualifications is one issue, but how much they can help you attract prospective students is another entirely.

You can see every relevant qualification you acquire in your pursuit of becoming a better ESOL tutor as a gold star against your name in the eyes of potential clients.

The more you have, in theory, the better your profile as a tutor, and the more likely you are to be able to find more students.

While this isn’t always the case, and some people value other factors such as experience more highly, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a number of teaching qualifications.

After all, if you don’t have much experience (which you won’t when you first start out), then all you have to rely on is your word, and your qualifications.

In terms of what qualifications will help, you should think along the lines of the TEFL certificate, and perhaps accredited online courses which will lend credibility to your abilities as a tutor, and most importantly your ability to teach English specifically.

Interestingly, it can also help your cause to get a qualification of proficiency in a foreign language. This will let students know that you have been through the process of learning a second language yourself, which will make you more relatable as a result.

The type of classes you offer

Diary and coffee
Planning classes well can make a big difference.

While not as important as experience and qualifications, there’s a strong argument for giving the student as much value for their money as possible.

What I mean by this is going above and beyond to warrant a higher hourly rate.

Selling classes as an hour of studying English grammar sounds fairly uninspiring. However, selling them as dynamic, conversational classes in which you explore the student’s interests and plan lessons around their specific needs, is much more interesting to the student.

The more you personalise classes and cater to the needs of the students, and the more you can convey that in your ads, the better a position you will be in to set a higher rate as you are offering more value for money.

Your online presence

Something that is becoming more and more important in society for tutors is some kind of online presence.

A tutor who is established online will have an easier time charging more for their classes than one who doesn’t.

By online presence, I’m referring to everything you do online to get the word out about the services you offer as an ESOL tutor.

This can take the shape of your own language-learning blog where you share tips about learning English, a YouTube channel where you share your thoughts on the difficulties and issues faced by those learning English, or just a social media account sharing advice.

If a student can look up your name and see a portfolio of work in the form of a blog for example, they will see that you have spent the time and effort to provide free value, and might be more inclined to pay for your services.

Having a solid online presence will also allow you to one day monetise other elements of your business, such as blog posts or YouTube videos, meaning that you don’t need to rely on classes as your sole source of income.

Group classes vs individual classes

Students in a classroom
Group classes and individual classes have different dynamics.

Whether you give group classes, individual classes, or both, will also determine the amount you should charge for each class.

Group

With group classes, your students will expect a slightly reduced rate from your individual class rate, since they will have less one-on-one tuition from you.

While this doesn’t sound great from your point of view, it can actually work out to be more lucrative than individual classes if you go about it the right way.

If you don’t mind giving classes to small groups, then several small group classes will bring a greater monetary return than several individual classes.

What’s more, as far as planning the lessons is concerned, you won’t have as much to do since you will go through general lesson plans with the group.

It will also take up time allowing each student to speak and work through exercises, so you won’t need to plan as much as you would with a single student.

On the downside, it’s hard to keep everyone satisfied in a group class with the language. Everyone in the group will likely have a different level, and each person will progress at a different pace depending on how much study they do outside of classes etc.

Individual

With individual classes, you can charge more than you would with a group class, since you are focussing on one person and planning everything around their specific goals.

Giving individual classes is more beneficial if you thrive as a one-on-one tutor, and provides a fantastic opportunity to show a student your teaching ability, which can lead to testimonials and positive word of mouth regarding your tutoring services.

While you may have to plan more to cater to the goals of the individual, these types of classes can lead to significant progress with the language, and will likely make the student feel like they are receiving great value for their money.

What is a good starting out rate?

To reflect what I explained about the difference between group and individual classes, if you charge £30 for an individual class, you should charge around £20 to each student in a group class.

£30 might be too high as a rate to start with, especially if you don’t have too much experience, so you should perhaps consider a rate within the range of £10-£20 per hour.

Of course, if you have more experience, qualifications, or a great online presence, then £30 or more could be a realistic amount to charge for an hour of your time.

In addition, you should consider offering initial discounts to attract potential students, or offering a reduced price for a batch of 5-10 classes, as these types of offers can help seal the deal in some cases.

To summarise, your hourly rate should be a reflection of all the factors we’ve discussed in this article, plus an awareness of what people are willing to pay where you live if you decide to teach locally.

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Samuel

Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.