Quite a bit of time has passed (Four years! Whaaaaat?!?!) since I wrote one of my most successful blog posts, “So You Want to Teach English in Buenos Aires.” I still occasionally receive e-mails and messages requesting any updated and relevant tips, tricks, and advice. I am currently going on nearly 15 years of ESL/EFL experience (9 of which have been spent in Argentina), so by this point, I feel like I’ve got a firm grasp on what I’m doing.
Though teaching in a private school is now my bread and butter (as opposed to full time freelance tutoring), the need to supplement my income is a perpetual issue; hence, I still have plenty of side gigs to ensure that ends meet.
Some of my experiences have been extremely positive and fulfilling, while others have made me want to immediately get on the next plane out of Ezeiza Airport (and how many times have I threatened that before?!?). Nevertheless, I feel that I am more ready than ever to share the latest and greatest when it comes to teaching English here. While some perspectives and notions about teaching here have changed, there are still some tried and true facets about the ESL industry in this region of the world. So here we go!..
- Craigslist? Nonononononono!…
I have to say, after all this time, CL is still a no-go I still stand by my declaration that almost all institutes are exploitative, glorified teacher pimps, and many of them (not unlike real-life pimps) use a vaguely-worded Craigslist ad as a way of bringing in fresh meat. I occasionally find myself browsing the site when I am bored, only to find that not much has changed in terms of its usefulness to find gainful employment.
Most institutes that write up posts looking for teachers do not quote a determined wage. Those that do rarely offer anything remotely dignified. I have found ads as of March 2018 that offer as little as $150 pesos an hour (approximately U$7.50). As a frame of reference, a regular combo at McDonald’s here nowadays will run you about $170 pesos. Think about that. Remember, if you are a professional educator, you should be regarded and compensated as such. If you can’t afford to buy yourself a simple lunch after working for an hour, something isn’t right.
- Google… Google Everything!
Back in the day when I was a full time freelance tutor, I ran around Capital Federal like a madwoman with a ginormous bag with an insanely large accordion file folder with papers for all of my students for their individual classes. It wasn’t practical, cheap, or eco-friendly at all.
Though those days are behind me, nowadays, I take full advantage of Google Drive. With a ridiculously large amount of storage space (15 gigabytes), in a few words, it acts as a cloud for all your folders, documents, data, spreadsheets, and so on.
A main advantage over Microsoft Office is that, firstly, Google Suite and everything that it has to offer is free. Moreover, you and your student(s) can collaborate on the same document (like homework) at the same time or separately, and since it is a cloud, it can be accessed from any device with internet access. You can go back and see the history of the growing documents, who edited them, when, and how… Just trust me on this one: I don’t know how I ever did without it.
Furthermore, in retrospect, another personal pitfall was using a paper calendar for my erratic, unpredictable appointments. It worked fine and dandy until the day that I lost it (and subsequently lost my mind thereafter). Google Calendar has honestly been a lifesaver for me.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, Google Calendar is also synced to a cloud and accessible from pretty much anywhere. You can set up reminders, events, and also invite students via email to these meetings (hence eliminating any excuse for them to flake out). No muss, no fuss. No more lost paper agenda crises. Woot.
- Networking: “Allow me to introduce myself…”
Networking is, was, and always will be everything when it comes to making a living on the Buenos Aires ESL scene. Word of mouth is still the word. However, keep in mind that one must adapt to the changing times, including the means by which you network.
In the past, I had recommended double-sided, bilingual business cards. These have always been much more than cute, little pieces of cardboard. They make you look more professional and make it much easier for potential students and/or legit employers to follow up with you. You never know where they might wind up and whose hands they might fall into.
- What a Wonderful World (Wide Web)
Business cards are helpful, indeed, but if you plan on expanding your English tutoring business or experience in earnest, the internet is obviously a key resource (that is, if you know how to navigate it properly).
I may have already said it before a million times (so if it’s a million one, it won’t really matter), but seriously, discard Craigslist. It ceases to exist. Besides, it’s mostly only fellow English-speaking Yanquis who don’t know any better who use it. Instead, consider finding tutoring opportunities via:
- www.mercadolibre.com.ar – The Argentine equivalent of Ebay, but it can be used for services as well as physical items. ML permits you to set and negotiate your own prices with potential buyers (students). If you plan on charging upwards of, say, $350 pesos per hour, the buyer rating system can be a way to justify your prices. Provided you have enough stellar reviews and comments, other potential students may feel more certain that they will get their money’s worth. Be aware, however, that in these financially complicated times, Mercado Libre may charge a commision fee of up to 12% 😛
- www.OLX.com.ar – This website which is steadily gaining popularity amongst Argentines, especially since it does not involve any commision. You have the ability to both advertise your offered services, as well as scout out potential students if you specify “busco” or “se busca.”
- https://www.tusclases.com.ar – I have heard through the grapevine of people having success with this webpage, as it gets quite a bit of traffic from both teachers and students. The five-star rating review system makes it effective for dedicated, serious professionals. Not only limited to just teaching EFL, but other academic subjects as well.
- The Book of Faces!
Despite the recent controversies surrounding Facebook, I still find it to be an incredibly practical resource. Apart from spreading the good word to your local Facebook friends that you are taking on English students, You can start with setting up your own simple (and free) Facebook page to attract students who may want to learn a little more about you, read testimonials about your classes, and so on.
Furthermore, here are some Facebook groups worth checking out and joining for networking purposes if you are already based in Buenos Aires:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/eltargentina/ (Profesores de Inglés de la República Argentina)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/731253206931720/ (Bs As Profesores Swap Shop)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/217852108403813/ (Busco Profe de Ingles)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/874577962623741/ (Inglès. Francès, Italiano, Portuguès, Ofrezco , busco trabajo. Bs As)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/BuenosAires.classifieds/ (Buenos Aires Classifieds)
- Consider creating your own teaching webpage
Because you can’t simply hope that your potential student will be in the right cyberspace place at the right time to find your random ad, having your own personal teaching webpage could prove incredibly useful. It doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive endeavor, either. Get a professional Instagram and/or Twitter account and fill it with relevant hashtags to attract the attention of the right audience. Do this right, and remember: you’re creating more than just a teaching page, you are creating a teaching brand.
Creating a separate webpage or blog with a user-friendly (and once again – free) is surprisingly easier than you’d think. Try www.blogger.com or www.blogspot.com to check out what they can potentially do for your freelance teaching business. Appearing at the top of a Google search is just one of the perks if you have your own webpage.
Keep in mind that freelancing successfully in Buenos Aires is no minor accomplishment; if you are going to do this whole tutoring thing right, you might as well go all out and create a name for yourself. Set yourself apart, which leads me to my next point…
- Do the hustle: Online teaching
Due to the unpredictability of the local currency, it isn’t wise to put all your proverbial eggs in one basket. Over a year ago, I jumped on the online teaching bandwagon and haven’t looked back. If you are able to teach either late at night or in the wee hours of the morning (since most ESL students are located in Asia), teaching ESL online is an excellent way to earn in US dollars, and can be a great deal of fun, too.
Some popular online teaching companies are www.vipkid.com and www.dadaabc.com (both teach English to primary school students in China) as well as www.verbling.com (for teaching various languages, not just English). Of course, there are a TON of online companies out there to choose from, but ojo – Not all of them are decent and legit.
- Other points to consider: Just some food for thought…
- Be prepared to adjust for inflation… a LOT. I can’t even tell you what the annual inflation rate has really been over the past few years since Mauricio Macri took office. All I know is that this week alone (March 31 of 2018), public transportation will go up by about 12% and natural gas is going up an average of 32%. Inflación al palo. Yep, it’s Argentina.
- Stand out – As much as English is in demand in Buenos Aires, there is P-L-E-N-T-Y of competition among native speakers and locals alike. Your best bet to be competitive is NOT to lower your prices, but rather find some way to make yourself stand out. Find your niche, find a specialization in ESL (For example, gearing your classes towards very young kids, pilots and cabin crew, etc.) and go with it. Limiting yourself to teaching “conversation classes” like a quintessential mochilero will not get you very far.
Okay, I have thoroughly exhausted myself and my precious, precious brain for now, but I sincerely hope that this entry has provided some valuable pearls of wisdom. I reiterate: Teaching and making it in Buenos Aires can be ineffably messy, but it can also be rewarding in so many ways (and makes for great conversation when you are back home!) 😉