Six months of freelancing

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

Projects

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

Learning

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

Finances

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.

Tracking

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.

My MA

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!

7 thoughts on “Six months of freelancing

  1. Thank you for this! I appreciate you being transparent about your rates; I’m just starting to build up my own business in Germany (mainly English courses & private lessons for adults) and it’s really hard to decide how much to charge.

    Like

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