Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All work and no play makes Jim a dull boy

I knew the day would come when demand for my simple “English Polishing” conversation classes and casual business/career consulting tucked in between explaining phrasal verbs would start to actually keep me busy. Add to that requests to provide written translation services – and suddenly I am very busy.  OK, well, not busy by my old San Francisco American Cancer Society 60 – 70 hour work weeks busy.  But for a guy who has gotten used to working 10 – 15 hours a week for the past three years, this drawing up lesson plans/exercises, working with students and meeting deadlines thing is starting to feel like real work!
The good news is that by working in the private teaching space I earn considerably more per hour than when teaching in a language school.  And the economies of teaching groups go into my pocket, not the school’s.  Being a native speaker allows me to charge more for both classes and written translation.
Although, when you add up the health care benefits, the 13th salary, paid vacation time, contributions to one’s retirement by school employers, etc. perhaps it all evens out or is maybe even better at a good paying school.  But the monthly financial reality for me, at the rate I am currently working, feels much more liquid as a private instructor.  (If I worked as many hours at home as I did in the schools – I would definitely make a lot more – but as I have said before: we did not move to Brazil to make a lot of money.)
Feed the pig!

Also- things can be really feast or famine.  One month I’m getting a flat, sore butt sitting in front of my computer all day (working), and another I am out enjoying the beach all the time, but having to run to the ATM more frequently.
All in all I’m getting to enjoy the work, and the more lesson plans I have banked the less time I have to spend on same for new students.  But I really sell myself as a customized teacher.  If (for example) your business is in computer graphics, I’ll make plans and exercises that grow your vocabulary in that area specifically.  Or if you are prepping for a big job interview, we focus right in on what you need to get the job.  There is no avoiding a little extra work prepping for these clients.
It’s all about balance.  Being my own boss is wonderful.  For the past 20 years in the US I was always in leadership/decision making positions.  Here, it drives me up a wall (and I can sometimes be insubordinate) being treated so poorly by managers.  Better I work on my own.
So for now I am busy.  But I relish being able to take time off when I choose.  And if a job looks hard or the client appears to have a lot of disposable income – I can charge more and see how it goes.  If I over-reach and miss out on the work, well, there is always the beach.


Gil and Ray said...


I think you are totally on the right track.
Brazilian managing styles creep me out as, ai, ai... I hear you... I am afraid I grew too Americanized on that field... I better adapt quick or find a way to be my own boss just like you did... ;)

Nina said...

congrats!! All is going super awesome for me, just on the up and up.

Most schools pay so crappy that it's not worth it at all. Sadly in Campinas good paying schools are not associated with English.

Nina said...
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Anonymous said...

Nice! I hope that I can contribute to make your days even more busy by telling friends about your classes, teacher! rsss

forhever said...

always enjoy your and my wife are going to be living in Curitiba sometime in the near do you usually drum up clients...just online/newspaper ads? Also do your clients usually already have a good level of English?..Just curious....

Jim said...

Thanks Fernanda!

forhever - I started by putting up flyers with tear-off tabs with my phone number at the universities. I emphasized that I was a native speaker from the USA. I also made up business cards and gave them to everyone who would take one (friends and all the doctors/lawyers/dentists I came across) - told them to pass it along. Everyone knows someone who wants to practice/improve their English.

I am clear with people that I am not an English grammar instructor. They must have good enough English for us to speak entirely in English and do not require me to explain in Portuguese when we get stuck -- although this happens anyway.

I pretty much work with professionals preparing for a career change, interview, trip abroad, conference presentation, graduate thesis, etc.

Good luck.

forhever said...

Thanks Jim!

Sounds like a plan...funny, that is exactly the expectation that I want to set that there has to be a level of English already..of course with an hourly rate and my level of Portuguese I could make some serious money taking time to explain hear so much a about a demand for qualified workers that speak English..I'm surprised no company has scooped you up by now, but I have been in corporate America for just 5 years so far and i can understand how someone might not want to jump back in that rat race :)