Teaching English in Prague and the Czech Republic (Guide 2020)

Teaching English to Czechs in Prague is big business. There are literally hundreds of ESL schools in Prague, and countless others all across the country. Fluency in English is a requirement for many corporate sector jobs, and to speak only Czech can be a big disadvantage. This drives the demand for English lessons, which is mostly met by private language schools, but also by freelance ESL teachers.

Teacher training schools churn out graduates on a monthly basis, granting them TESOL, TEFL and CELTA teaching certificates which along with a bachelor's degree is your ticket to getting employed by a private ESL school. And since newly minted ESL teachers lack experience they first go to teach at private language schools, where they receive guidance, materials and support as they begin teaching.  For many beginning teachers working for an ESL school is how they will always teach. Eventually as they gain experience they may start taking on a few private students on the side, and realize how much better the pay is. That said, as the years roll by they will most likely continue to teach through a language school, but then some will become dissatisfied for various reasons.


Teaching ESL in Prague - Salaries

Typical private language schools in Prague pay teachers 290Kc/hr, or maybe 320/hr for a more experienced teacher.  But when they teach a student privately, not through a school they can charge significantly more per hour, ranging from 400 to even 600 per hour. Some teachers will do the math, and realize that the language school is taking about half of the money they earn for every hour they teach through the school. Some are fine with this arrangement. After all, they are getting textbooks, copier usage, and the school is doing all the marketing, tender negotiating and assigning them classes to teach.  They get support from the school, and the comeraderie of fellow teachers. On the other hand, other teachers as they gain experience and build up their confidence will try to take on more and more private students because they want to make more money. These are the teachers that Speakify.cz was made for! They want to work for themselves, and earn better money than what they can make at the private ESL schools, who often require teachers to do mandatory administrative data entry, boring team meetings, and online computer payment programs to deal with to finally get paid, etc. If you like the idea of being your own boss and getting much better pay Speakify.cz is the way forward. 


Compared: teaching for a language school vs. teaching freelance

You can think of ESL teaching as a spectrum: at one end you can teach exclusively through a language school; or you can teach mostly through a school and have a few privates on the side. Or you can go 100% freelance at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Which route is best for you? It all boils down to your personality.  

If you are a team player, and value the comeraderie and support of other teachers and of a DOS or a school's managing director, then teaching through a school is the best option for you. The school takes up the responsibilities for marketing, textbook purchases, teacher library, renting office space for  teaching, negotiating tenders, and assigning you your classes. A lot of teachers fit into this mold.  After all, many of them have recently come from USA, the UK or Australia and don't know anybody in Prague and lack teaching experience. The school for them is not only their employer, but also their social life. The schools arrange pub nights, pizza and bowling, day trips to Karlstejn and other social activities for the teachers. The lower income from working through a school is offset by these perceived benefits for these teachers. 

On the other hand if you are more of an entrepreneur, and your work temperament is more independent than being part of a school team then teaching ESL freelance is the best option for you. The main benefits by going it alone are being your own boss and making more money.  Unfortunately, many ESL schools are rackets, i.e. they are not run in a fair, honest or equitable manner.  Teachers often do not know the tender, or contract payment details which are often kept from them by school management. Beyond their hourly rate, teachers usually don't know how much money the school is getting for the classes they teach (while the teacher does most of the work!).  Another great thing about freelance teaching is that you are completely liberated from the misery of office politics at language schools. More often than not, language schools are run like rackets or little fiefdoms, with exploitive managers and bitchy administrative staff. Office politics at language schools can be oppressive. Favoritism,  backstabbing and unjust terminations of teachers are commonplace. Sometimes even getting paid can be problematic at such schools. All of this is gone when you teach freelance. Of course being self-employed means much more responsibility. You sink or swim on how well you can attract and keep a sufficient student/client base, manage all aspects of your teaching business, and make enough money to support yourself. 

As is usually the case when running your own business, you have to work longer hours than if you work for a ESL school. For example, instead of just invoicing your school (almost all ESL teachers in Prague are independent contractors who have a zivnostensky list aka 'zivno' and invoice their school for lessons taught every month). When you are teaching freelance, you must attend to all of the administrative duties yourself.  

Advertising: how will you attract new students? One of the best solutions is to register at Speakify.cz – considered the BEST private freelance language teacher website in all of Czech Republic and beyond. 


Become your own School

Many private language schools have large libraries with a wide variety of teaching materials for teachers to check out and use. You might think something like 'Wow, all these textbooks must have cost a fortune', but actually you don't need to have such a huge selection of books, listenings, etc. to start your own freelance teaching business. For a modest investment you could buy the beginner through advanced student books of a popular textbook brand like Headway, Business Result, Inside Out, English File, etc. Another consideration is are you teaching adults? Children? Or both? If you decide to teach kids, you'll have to buy children's textbooks. You cannot use adult textbooks with children 12 years and younger. A tablet or iPad can be a great teaching accessory as well, where you can use a translator, watch videos, or look up anything on the web that comes up during the lesson. 

To handle the day to day administration of your teaching business, you'll need home office where all your files, materials, and a reliable computer are at hand. File cabinet, bookshelves, and a desk will all come in handy. It is very important to use a spreadsheet to manage student invoicing, and to set up your own invoicing system which can accurately track lessons taught against money paid. For teachers who just like to teach and dislike the hassle of generating invoices, checking bank accounts for payments clearing, it may be better to stick with working through a private language school.  If you make careless mistakes tracking lessons taught, it is very easy to end up unknowingly teaching lessons for free.  


Marketing your teaching business

Advertising your teaching business is obviously extremely important. You need to get the word out, and promote your business. Of course Speakify.cz is your best first step, but there are other things you can do as well. It is surprising how many teachers I know who do not have a website for their teaching business. This is a big mistake. It is not enough to only be on a freelance teacher website. You really need to have your own teaching website where students can find you and see your prices, background, and teaching experience. It doesn't have to be showy and elaborate.  At the very least have a few photos of yourself (better if in a teaching context with students), contact info, and some background info about your teaching experience as well as previous lines of work you did.

It's a good idea to say where you're originally from as some students will want a British teacher from the south of England say, or an American from the Pacific Northwest (they may want to learn more about the region through you).  You don't have to spend very much money on a basic website. You could use a WordPress template for free for example. If you're a really good teacher which students like, you can get a lot of new students via referrals which is the best. They'll be colleagues of your current students, so there is more trust right from the beginning. When you get enquiries from your teaching website, or through Speakify.cz, it is a good idea to reply to their message as soon as possible, say within a day or two. If you wait too long they will give up on you, assume you're too busy and find someone else. 


Dealing with Student Turnover

One important thing to keep in mind when teaching freelance, is that students come and go. Sure, you'll have some long term loyal students and that's the best. But more often than not students have to move on for one reason or another, so it's important to keep looking to add more students to your schedule in anticipation of other students ending the lessons.

Another thing to look out for are students who frequently cancel lessons, and know how to deal with this problem. The last thing you want in your teaching schedule are students who frequently cancel lessons. This is not unlike a tennis court hall, where players reserve a court for a given time slot and cancel the day before, or just hours before the start time. This will kill your bottom line and you must be proactive about dealing with such students. If a student keeps canceling, talk to them: try to find out what the problem is. Are they dissatisfied with the quality of instruction? Or is their job too demanding to set aside time for the lessons? Try to find out what the problem is, and find a solution. A very common policy used both by schools and by freelance teachers is the 24 hour cancelation policy: if a student cancels less than one day before the lesson start time, it is billed as if the lesson happened. If you are going to implement this policy, you should at the first meeting with the student be clear about this and have them agree to it. It could be a part of your new student intake meeting where you first meet and discuss all the details about the proposed lessons, e.g. the cost, where, when, and of course what the student likes to focus on in their lessons with you. If a student cancels too frequently even after talking about the issue with them you should consider ending the lessons and freeing up your schedule for a more motivated student.

One thing I've noticed is that students who pay for their own lessons are much better at attendance than students where their company is paying for the lessons. If they are not paying they simply see it as a break from their workday, a perk, or way to kill time. 


Where to teach - offices, cafes, flat or skype?

Another consideration the freelance language teacher has to make is where to teach your students? I think the best approach to this question is to offer a variety of options. Most commonly teachers visit students at their offices and have the lessons in meeting room or student's office. This can be good, but sometimes constant interruptions from other staff or managers during the lessons can be a problem. 

Cafe lessons are also a good option to consider, but be careful about which cafe you choose to teach at: most cafes are very loud, with espresso machines grinding and wheezing away with hurried baristas banging the coffee grounds out, in a hurry to make the next order, often with the main entry open and road noise flooding the cafe. Or they play muzak at a loud level. Avoid such cafes! It may take you awhile, but take some time to hunt down a quiet cafe where you can listen and speak to with your student comfortably. It makes a huge difference.

If your flat is suitable, have students come to your flat and save on commute time. All you need is a table large enough for two-four students. Teaching at your flat is the best because you have total control of the environment unlike at a cafe. You can play listenings, videos, play a game, even put a white board up on the wall next to the table to make it easier to teach grammar, vocab, etc. 

When you get a new enquiry, one of the first questions you must ask is 'where are you located'? Are they nearby where you live? Or really far away? Prague is a huge city, and sometimes the distance between student and teacher is too far to make it practical. Be realistic with yourself: do you really want to commute 1 hour on the metro there and back for a 1 hour lesson? That will take up an entire morning or afternoon. Not good. Often meeting a new student who lives very far away halfway in the city center at a quiet cafe is the best option in such instances.

Another option to consider is Skype: eliminate the commute for both student and teacher and teach through Skype! No more sitting in traffic, looking for a parking space, or getting jostled and shoved about on the metro: teach your student in the comfort of your flat and they do the same. Of course you need a good internet connection and web camera (most laptops come with one these days) and a decent computer. Once you have these you're good to go. One might be inclined to think that you could only teach lessons through Skype, but I have found at least in Prague that there is a lot of resistance to Skype lessons. Most students still prefer face to face in person lessons. 

Well that's all for now. I wish you every success in starting successfully running your own freelance teaching business! 

Don't forget to create your free listing here at Speakify.cz!


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