Six months of freelancing

Since leaving my position as Director of Studies at International House Bydgoszcz, I’ve been working as a freelancer.


I’m really enjoying the variety of things I’ve been working on and the range of people I’ve been working with. So far I’ve done:

  • two weeks of a CELTA course
  • co-writing a methodology book (watch this space for more info when I’m allowed to share it!)
  • workshops for two different companies
  • a conference workshop
  • two inspections
  • asynchronous DipTESOL training for OxfordTEFL, with some live sessions
  • mentoring for a teacher who wanted to retake the Delta Module 1 exam in December
  • my own Delta Module 1 course (see below)

I’ve got really interesting work lined up for the new year too:

  • consultancy work on materials for a company
  • book editing
  • teacher training via WhatsApp in two different countries
  • teacher training on a blended course about Teaching English for Academic Purposes
  • another workshop

I’ve been able to find time for volunteering too, as part of the MaWSIG committee, mentoring a teacher as part of the EVE/AfricaELTA Female Leadership Mentoring program, and participating in some research related to CELTA.

The best thing is the range of countries my work has covered so far, including but not limited to:

  • Bangladesh
  • Canada
  • China
  • Czechia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Russia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • UAE
  • Ukraine
  • UK


I’ve learnt so much already, including but not limited to:

  • how to use Moodle as a trainer
  • how to teach on WhatsApp (and what it’s like to be a learner)
  • how inspections work at two different organisations
  • how much the culture of an organisation can influence what happens there
  • how a writing project works from both sides – writing and editing
  • a more in-depth understanding of concept checking and guided discovery
  • a more in-depth understanding of how pronunciation works in the mouth
  • more about EAP (though there’s still some way to go!)
  • a much more in-depth knowledge of the requirements of Delta Module 1
  • how to organise and track my time
  • how to issue invoices and manage my money


I have to say I’m glad I don’t have to worry too much about money right now – I have some savings behind me, and am now co-habiting so can share bills. Pay isn’t always great when you calculate the hourly rate for freelance work, and you might have to wait a while to see the pay for any given project, especially if it’s in publishing. You also have to chase people to pay sometimes (don’t be afraid to do this!), so it’s really important you keep track of invoices and set aside time for admin.

The lowest was £12.99/hour for a CELTA course, and that was after I’d asked for a pay rise from the original offer – if I’d accepted that it would have been £9.09/hour. I don’t imagine I’ll be doing so many of those any more – I originally thought that would be a major part of my freelancing. I’ll still aim to do one course every couple of years to maintain my permission to do them, but I can’t justify working for that little. I’m sorry for other tutors who have to put up with those rates, but I’m not really sure what we can do about since there are so many tutors out there. It seems that we’re at the mercy of the schools.

The five highest hourly rates have all been for workshops, based on preparation plus workshop delivery time. That ranges from £44/hour for a brand new workshop, to £86.21/hour for a workshop I’ve done before which required very little prep time. Sadly I don’t think I’ll be earning those amounts as a rule.

Once I take away the workshops and the CELTA course, my average hourly pay for the other six things I’ve worked on is £24.63/hour, with actual amounts ranging between £17.24/hour and £35.42/hour. In three cases these were things I was doing for the first time and will (hopefully!) do many more times in the future, so hopefully the hourly rate will improve for those things as I go back to them again and my workflow gets faster.


I’ve been using Toggl to keep track of all of my hours, and Bokio to do my invoicing.

Toggl gives me weekly reports about the way that my hours break down – I find it useful to reflect on where my time has been going and how I might want to use it differently. It also helps me to quickly calculate total hours on a project.

Bokio allows me to send out invoices and track whether they’ve been received/opened, as well as to sync my accounts with UK bank feeds (though not Wise). It also gives me reports. I chose Bokio as it was free, but it will change to having payment plans very soon.

At the end of each project I use a spreadsheet to record the company, contact, email and project for future reference. I also note the total hours worked, prep hours and delivery hours if relevant, money earnt in the relevant currency, how much I was paid in pounds, and the invoice number. I set it up to calculate my hourly rate and 25% of the earnings in each case so I can set that aside for tax and other similar payments.

The best bit 🙂

My favourite thing I’ve been doing is my Take Your Time Delta Module One course. I’ve been working with four experienced teachers, and I know when we meet for our weekly Zoom session we will always end up laughing about something. The course is as relaxed as I’d hoped it would be, and we’re all learning a lot. We’re now nearly halfway through. Over Christmas the teachers will do their first mock exam, so I suppose that will be the first true test of whether this approach is working! Here’s what two of the participants said about the course:

I'm so pleased I decided to do the 'Take your time DELTA module 1 course' . The course content is manageable while working full time. I have particularly benefited from doing this at the same time as working because I can actively consider what we have worked on in the sessions and relate it to my teaching practice. Sandy is supportive and her feedback is always useful. Geraldine
I'm very happy that I chose to do Sandy Millin's "Take your time Delta Module 1" course. I'm enjoying the process of studying under Sandy's excellent guidance with a small group of fellow teachers. Doing the course over 30 weeks makes it possible to fit studying around my teaching schedule without stress and with space to reflect and research. Clare C

If you’re interested in the course, there are three start dates in 2022:

  • 30 weeks from March to November for the December 2022 exam
  • 30 weeks from October to May for the June 2022 exam
  • 9 weeks (3 sessions per week) from June to August, plus three monthly meetings for the December 2022 exam

Find out more and sign up.


I’ve been working far too slowly on this, especially because I discovered yesterday that I’d written down the wrong deadline for my assignments – they’re actually due on 31st January, not 22nd February. (I’m writing this post partly outside working hours to give myself maximum MA time!) I’ve done about 2/3 of one assignments, and know what I want to write about for the other one. Wish me luck!

Thank you

So many people have helped me as I start out in freelancing. I’m really grateful to those who have recommended me for particular projects, and to those who have trusted me to work with them on projects which I knew little about. I’d particularly like to thank Ceri Jones and Martyn Clarke for their support. I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Sue Swift for her support in getting my Delta course off the ground, and to Laura Patsko for her help on the admin side of things – they’ve both saved me a lot of time!

I’m really glad I made the decision to go freelance, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me over the next year.

To those of you who celebrate, have a lovely Christmas. I wish everybody a happy and healthy new year!

My first WhatsApp live lesson

I only learnt about the idea of WhatsApp live lessons a couple of weeks ago when I saw Nicky Hockly talking about them at the IH London Future of Training conference. Today I was lucky enough to be a participant in one. These are my initial impressions:

  • It reminds me of being in a Twitter (#elt)chat to some extent – things coming thick and fast and having to scroll up and down sometimes to work out what you’ve missed, though it was much more signposted and scaffolded than Twitter chats I’ve been in.
  • Icons given by the teacher really help you to work out what’s going on, but I couldn’t always find the icons I needed to post quickly enough as a student!
  • The combination of voice notes and text worked well – there was clear teacher presence and involvement, but the text was there to refer back to if I needed to.
  • Voice notes from the teacher responding to our answers, showing interest, and using our names made me feel involved and engaged in the lesson and helped to summarise what other students had said.
  • Sharing photos and voice notes with the other students was a fun way to get to know each other.
  • Group work/dividing the group is possible when the set-up is clear, and helps the chat to be less chaotic.
  • It was quite tiring – we had 30 minutes, and I’m not sure I could deal with much more than 45 minutes!

Thank you to Carol for running the lesson!

Reading Harry Potter in Polish

Spot the missing book… it’s in England with my mum, who also started reading them 🙂

Two weeks before I left Poland to move back to the UK, I finished my quest to read all of the Harry Potter series in Polish, with the added bonus of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Quidditch Through the Ages.

I started reading them 5 years ago, for a few minutes every night before bed. With some short breaks when I was away or waiting for the next volume, I read them pretty consistently over that time.

When I started book 1, my Polish was about A2 level. It took me around 10 minutes to read each double-page spread, and I think I understood about 10-15% of the words on the page. I generally read 2-4 pages a night and it took me about 6 months to finish.

By the time I finished book 7, my Polish was getting to B2 level. It took about 2 minutes per page, and I generally read 6-12 pages per night depending on how awake I was. It also took me about 6 months to finish, but it was nearly twice as long as the first book 🙂

I had sometimes read in other languages before, mostly in German, but never so consistently, and always after many years of study and supplemented by other learning. This was the first time that reading formed a major part of my learning, combined with studying vocabulary and living in Poland, though not using much Polish on a day-to-day basis.

I chose Harry Potter because I was familiar with the stories. I’d read them when they came out, and seen each film at the cinema. I’d seen some of the earlier films a couple more times, so I was more familiar with the key events. This familiarity was key I think: I knew enough about what was going on to be able to identify where I was in the story, but I couldn’t remember exactly what happened so I wanted to keep reading. The familiarity was helpful in another way too: because I knew where I was, I could make an educated guess about the meaning of some of the words.

How I read

When reading in a foreign language, I read to read, rather than reading to learn. What does that mean? Basically, my priority is to get through pages rather than learn lots of new words. If I see an unknown word come up lots of times which I think is in some way important, or is just annoying me because I’ve seen it a lot and still don’t know what it is, then I’ll look it up, but otherwise I just ignore what I don’t know and keep going. I had a couple of paper dictionaries by my bed so I didn’t need to use a screen to check things before going to sleep.

In the first two books, I also made use of the fantastic Polish-English glossary provided by the translator at the back of the books. I wish they’d been in all of them! In it, he explained the meaning of some Harry Potter specific vocabulary, as well as the meaning of some of the translations he had chosen to make. I learnt about the etymology of some of Rowling’s vocabulary choices in this way, not just the Polish words.

What I learnt

Apart from the magic-related words you might expect, like wizard, witch, broom, wand and so on, I learnt a lot of clothing vocabulary, as well as places and related nouns like hedge, and a lot of adjectives, especially to describe feelings.

My grammatical awareness improved. I was exposed to the adjective and noun declensions of the 7 cases of Polish, as well as verb conjugations, and over time I found that I was able to produce these myself much more naturally. Conditional structures were also interesting – I could recognise them, and was just starting to attempt to produce them myself as I got to the end of the books. I don’t always know the grammatical explanations for what I understand, but I don’t need to: my priority is understanding and communication, not a declarative knowledge of the language.

I think the main benefit though was for my reading speed – my Polish reading speed is now almost the same as my English reading speed 🙂

My top tips for reading in foreign 🙂

  • Choose a story you’re familiar with, or a world you know about.
  • Pick a book you would enjoy reading in your own language.
  • Read to read, not to learn. Focus on covering as many pages as you can, rather than understanding a lot.
  • Choose words to look up which seem key to the plot or which you see a lot. Limit how many words you look up each time – you’ll remember much more if you look up 1 or 2 words each time.
  • Enjoy the process!