We’re happy to bring you a guest post today from James Heywood.  James has a background in language and linguistics and has lived and worked in Sydney, Paris, Auckland, Dubai, and Istanbul, and is co-founder of TurksLearnEnglish and Off2Class. Off2Class (lesson plan content for private ESL teachers) was launched to provide lesson content resources targeted to those looking to teach private ESL lessons abroad. James can be contacted at james@off2class.com and is happy to offer advice or assistance to the online teaching community.


Today we catch up with James Heywood. After an overland trip from Southeast Asia to Turkey, he fell in love with Istanbul, and soon after decided to call it his new home. To support himself, he gave ESL teaching a try and eventually had enough private students to quit his day job at his private school. Seven years after his first ESL lesson, James has started a project to release his own ESL lesson plans for other teachers building their own independent teaching businesses. Today, James would like to give advice to other ESL teachers living abroad, focusing on the importance of private lessons.

Private lessons can be lucrative while abroad… and when you move on

Private lessons are a great way to supplement your day-job income from your school or language institute. Many students (and their parents) are willing to pay a premium rate for an ESL teacher with whom they have a personal relationship. While teaching abroad, you will be in a great position to teach private ESL lessons as well. Of course, it’s not a good idea to teach your day-job students on a private basis. But regardless, in your current employment you will be exposed to plenty of parents and other contacts that are looking for a private tutor. Do not let these opportunities go! Actually, if there is a single piece of advice to offer teachers who are abroad or intend to be, it is this: save each and every contact detail you have about your current students, and if you teach young learners, establish a relationship with their parents too.

If one day you want to pick up and move on from the current place you call home, you can take your students with you through online teaching. The greatest challenge to all new private teachers (especially online teachers) is to find students, yet the task is so much easier when you have a bank of contacts to begin with. Save every detail. You will not regret it!

In my experience, once I had built a strong rapport with students and parents, the requests for private tuition started to roll in. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of teaching in Turkey was to learn just how much developing economies pour money into education. Where national school systems may fall down in some areas, parents are ready and willing to spend considerable amounts of money to ensure their children develop high proficiency in the English language.

More on online teaching…

In my case, the grind of moving from one private lesson to another in a city the size of Istanbul eventually started to wear me down. It was time to teach online. At the beginning of 2013, I stopped face-to-face lessons, set up a simple website and began moving my current students online. I love online ESL teaching because it’s flexible. It allows me to teach from wherever I am on the planet. I highly recommend it to any teachers considering the move. Even if you have no plans of moving from your current home abroad, you should still give online teaching a try to get comfortable with the format. During summer vacation you’ll still be able to teach your private students, as they move to summer homes or to vacations in other places.

As a private ESL teacher, my biggest pain point had always been the amount of time required to prepare lessons. So at the end of 2012 I decided to go one step further: I co-founded a business which offers ready-to-use lesson content for English as a Second Language teachers, called Off2Class. So far we’ve got a variety of teachers in a number of markets using the service. If you’re teaching private lessons, whether in-person or online, please feel free to get in touch with us and we will set you up with an account!

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