Tutoring is a great way to make money in China, money that you won’t have to pay taxes on because it’s always delivered in cash. All you really need to do to get started is figure out how you want to market yourself. You can do this through your experience or the materials you have. Next, figure out where the students are and how you can get them. This is easy if you go through people you know or over the internet. And finally, figure out what curriculum you’ll be teaching the students. Be prepared; you don’t want to have an hour of tutoring with nothing to do.
All in all, tutoring in China is easy, doesn’t take much of your time, and will pay you better per hour than most other teaching jobs you can find. I knew people on business, tourist, and student visas that were pulling in 10,000 to 16,000 RMB each month tutoring, all of it in cash, all of it tax-free. And they sure weren’t working 40 hours a week. If they can do it, so can you.
To successfully tutor in China you’ll need to market yourself. Now, this will be pretty easy to get started on; after all, you’re a foreigner right? Most affluent or well-off parents are going to want to find a foreigner to tutor their children English. They’ll take just about anyone, too; I’ve met plenty of people whose first language isn’t English and they do quite well. And while many parents would prefer to have a white foreigner, preferably with blond hair and blue eyes, I’ve also met plenty of non-white foreigners that make a lot of money from tutoring.
There are several ways you can begin marketing yourself so that you can find better tutoring opportunities.
- Experience: By far the most useful marketing tool you’ve got at your fingertips is your teaching experience. If you’ve been tutoring, or even teaching students in schools or training centers for some time, you’ll be much better off than those people just getting started. Drum up your years of teaching, the age groups you’ve taught, and the grammar structures and vocabulary groups you know. Chances are most parents won’t understand all of what you’re saying, but they’ll be impressed nonetheless.
- Groups: One of the most effective ways to make a lot of money tutoring, about 200 to 300 RMB an hour, is to teach small groups of students. Many parents want to pool their resources, and you’ll rarely find a single parent willing to pay that much money by themselves. Instead parents will find other parents in their communities that are also interested in finding a tutor. You can make a deal with one of these parents to make the big bucks if you have 2 to 3 students in your tutoring group. That way each parent only has to pay 100 RMB each week, possibly less. And what’s more, when they see that they’re getting a good deal, many will want more than one lesson each week.
- Materials: You can put yourself above many other foreigners trying to find tutoring jobs. All you need are good materials, which aren’t hard to come by. The first thing is to find out what students are studying. Many parents will want you to go over the school’s English textbook. Others will want additional books, such as Longmen books which are British. You can also talk-up your own materials, such as things you’ve got on the computer or other handouts. From my experience with tutoring, most students don’t want to go over the book for a whole hour, so having your own stuff is great. And don’t forget the old standbys of Uno or Scrabble; these really go a long way when you get to the last 10 or 15 minutes of a lesson.
Now that you have some idea of how to market yourself, how can you find students? There are many ways to go about doing this in China, which I saw firsthand and took part in when I was living in Shenzhen.
- Word of Mouth: By far the most effective way to find students that need tutors is through word of mouth. No doubt you’re already working at a school, or perhaps doing business but just looking for some easy extra money. Everywhere I’ve worked there have always been teachers, parents, or even students that have come up to me and inquired whether I can tutor or not. You’ll probably know some other teachers too that have heard about tutoring opportunities but don’t want to do it or don’t have time. I’ve gotten many jobs that way from other teachers.
- Internet: There are plenty of internet sites that will help you find students. A few of these in Shenzhen were www.shenzhenstuff.com and www.shenzhenparty.com. Both of those sites have classified sections where parents will put up listings saying they want an English tutor. I’ve personally never gotten a job off of one of those sites, but I’ve talked to people who have and they made some good money. You’ll also be able to find similar sites in different Chinese cities.
Developing a Curriculum
Now that you’ve successfully marketed yourself as a competent English tutor, and found some students to teach, what do you actually teach them?
If you already had materials when you were marketing yourself, you’ll be fine. If you’re brand new to tutoring, however, it might be a bit more difficult. Here are a few things to think about:
- Level: The ability levels of students being tutored can be all over the place. Many of the students I taught were better than their peers at school. Still, many could be worse, which is why their parents want tutors. You really won’t know until you get to your first lesson. After you get through that, which could be a bit difficult, you’ll have a better idea of what to prepare. A good rule of thumb is to have about 20 to 25 minutes for your main lesson, which is usually from whichever book you’re using. Try to have about 15 to 20 minutes for an activity of some sort, perhaps a bit of writing and presenting. And use the last bit of your session for a quick game that should change often.
- One-on-One: What’s difficult about tutoring is that you’re only talking with one student, perhaps a few. Everything you plan will therefore take less time than you thought it would. Try to prepare a few lessons in advance of a week of tutoring. You’ll be prepared if things go too fast, and if they don’t you’ll be set for the next week. Have different activities and games ready that you can break out when things get dry, and also have a few fun worksheets like word searches and crossword puzzles for those times when the students don’t want to do anything.
- Talking: Lots of students you tutor won’t want to talk at first. They’re a bit nervous around a new teacher and you’ll need to break the ice. I used humor a lot when I tutored, and we never got a lot done during the first lesson. You’ll often be in their home, in their setting, perhaps even in their bedroom. Look around and ask them about their things. Try to get some short and simple conversations going about things they like. This will break the ice as well as give you ideas for future lessons. Everyone wins!