Having made the decision to leave the shackles, or as you may yet come to see it, the safety, of regular, paid employment, new ELL entrepreneurs are faced with a decision to make about how to go forward. It may be too costly to fund the opening of a new school and start with no students – i.e. with bills to pay and no revenue coming in. Until that break-even point can be reached, or instead of taking the plunge into bricks and mortar at all, there are various other options:

Solo teacher
A grammarian gun for hire. It is possible to make a good living from private lessons and private students. It helps if you speak the local native language and can do all scheduling yourself by telephone and email. A Google calendar and documents can keep you organized. A small website and blog are easy to start. Lessons can be taught in your residence, at cafes, at students’ homes or places of business. Networking, word-of-mouth, business cards and flyers can all attract students. Just don’t arrange things so that your gigs are too far apart – always factor in travelling time to your prices and keep a meticulous record of not only who has studied what, but who has or hasn’t paid.

Jobbing teacher
Flitting from part-time gig to gig is the way some prefer to make a living. To this business owner this seems like swapping one unsuitable employer for many, and not so much jumping from the fat into the fire, but into multiple furnaces. However, a teacher with a wide network will always hear of the better jobs going. University jobs pay well and provide decent holidays, but many institutions are cutting back on recruitment, and you could wait around a long time to fill dead men’s shoes, only to find they end up on the pyre, too.

Bricks and mortar
Let’s face it, you’re not a school owner until you have a school with a sign, a website, a phone number, and your name on it – though hopefully not literally. Bill’s English, Bob’s English Club, Deron’s DIY English. The names say it all. Bill has his own school, and that’s what he calls it. Bill is from Canada, and we know this because as soon as we walk in the classroom we see a map and a flag of Canada, next to a map of the world. Building a rapport with students and selling English as a cultural experience via your own background and personality can be a good idea, but it can also be limiting. What if Bill needs to go back to Canada for three months and needs cover from Bob, who’s from New Zealand? What if Bill wants to sell the school in the future? Can he find another Bill from Canada to replace him? A short, snappy name can carry any nationality and will be easier to use in marketing and advertising.

Next: Location, location, location!