Neat! My first question from someone who is already an expat. Thanks!
Sooner or later native English speakers will be asked to teach English and many expats supplement their income by tutoring kids and adults in English. I had good and bad experiences tutoring and didn't understand why it wasn't all good until I understood Chinese culture a bit better. While bad experiences are not totally unavoidable, they will be rare if you keep the following points mind.
- Be fair and respectful, yet firm. Negotiating is an art and it takes a lot of skill to succeed at this in China. While practically everything is up for negotiation in China, I found it's best not to allow or even start negotiations when someone wants you to tutor them or their kids. By this I mean, tell them your hourly price. Let them balk, they may even complain, then tell them they can think about it and get back to you. Ninety percent of the time they will call you back and agree to your price for two reasons, 1) they probably asked around and found what you're asking is the going rate and 2) It's probably a lot cheaper and more flexible than going to a language school where they wouldn't get one on one attention. I learned from my bad experience that if you cave in the beginning, it open the door for more pressure to cave even more later.
- If it feels weird and uncomfortable or is too far away, don't do it! The weird tutoring job you were offered with a bunch of stipulations and requirements isn't worth it. You'll be offered other jobs with less hassles.
- Tutoring referrals can be a blessing or a curse. If other expats friends are going to refer clients to you, make it clear how much you charge and what your expectations are. Some tutors get a lot of referrals but only want to teach kids or adults. If possible, everyone in your expat tutoring circle (if you have one) should all charge the same amount per hour. You will get referrals from clients and you'll find they all know each other too. Not only will expats refer you when they have too many students, but clients will tell their friends about you. If you and other expats charge the same, this cuts down on negotiating hassles. Chinese people value personal connections and this can be a valuable resource for you if you do a good job. If you don't do a good job, you'll hear about it and your client will tell their friends.
- Do negotiate payment options. I liked getting paid for a bunch of lessons up front. Then the client and I would keep track of their lessons and go from there. For instance, you could offer that the client pays for 10 sessions up front. Then if they have to cancel last minute you're not out any money and they have the motivation to reschedule, the same goes for you. If that isn't appealing to them, make sure you reach some kind of agreement as to what will happen if they cancel last minute. This helps them understand your time is valuable. Treat them like their time is valuable too, then they will be more willing to pay as you like.
China Expats, do you have anything to add? Let us know!