Can You Make Money Teaching English Freelance in Japan?

Sensoji Temple in Tokyo - Daderot, Creative Commons License

Sensoji Temple in Tokyo – Daderot, Creative Commons License

During my years teaching in Thailand, I’ve met and become friendly with a number of teachers who later moved on to teach English in Japan. Knowing that Japan is one of the best countries in Asia for teaching, particularly when it comes to the salaries that are paid, I wasn’t surprised when they moved there. I must admit, however, the shock came when I realized just how much money they were making, particularly when it came to teaching English freelance in Japan.

In fact, teaching English freelance in Japan is probably one of the most lucrative businesses any teacher can get in to. So much so, one of my friends actually saved enough money just teaching freelance in the evenings to buy a condo on the beach in Hawaii.



Teaching freelance in Japan full-time – Some teachers in Japan decide to go the full-time route and set themselves up as freelance teachers. They’ll teach in coffee shops, in their apartments or even at the homes of their students and, while the most lucrative way of making money teaching, it can also be the most difficult.

That’s because, unless they are on a spousal visa (ie: married to a Japanese national), most full-time freelance teachers tend to be teaching in Japan illegally. That sets them up for possible arrest, although it doesn’t happen much, and for the need to leave Japan every three to six months, depending on their nationality. to do a visa run. Hardly conducive to a stable lifestyle, no matter how much money they are making.

Teaching freelance in Japan part-time – One of my closest friends who lives in Japan also teaches freelance to students all over Tokyo. The difference from those who do it full-time, however, is that he already has a work visa through his permanent, full-time teaching job, and the freelance teaching of private students that he does is just a sideline.

That being said, he still makes an extra $1,000 a month just from working one evening a week and a Saturday. Remember too, almost every teacher that does offer private lessons in Japan is working under the table, so any money they do make is completely tax-free.

Teaching freelance part-time in Japan is often the easiest and smartest way to do it. You’ll have a work visa through your job and, if you are good at making contacts, some of your private students will come from there as well.

How to get started – Depending on your current employment situation in Japan, you’ll have to go about finding private students, or groups of students, in two completely different ways.

If you are new in the country and are just getting established, your best bet to find freelance teaching work is to look at one of the Japanese online newsletters as agents and would-be students advertise for teachers all the time. Start with Japan English Teacher and O-Hayo Sensai for online newsletters that always have freelance teaching jobs listed by agents, and Findstudents.net for some of the best private freelance teaching opportunities.

Just be aware, if you decide to teach private students through an agent, the amount you make per hour will be substantially less, as an agent fee is deducted from it before you are paid. With many agents, you’ll lose more than a third this way.

If, however, you are already an established teacher in Japan and have a full-time job, finding private students can be as easy as just letting the students at your day job know you are available for private classes (discreetly, of course), or by telling Japanese friends.

Word of mouth travels fast when it comes to a good English teacher in Japan, so if you are successful with your first few classes, expect to suddenly have a lot more.

Typical hourly rates for private English classes in Japan – A typical hourly rate for an English teacher teaching freelance in Japan, by the way, begins at around 3,500 yen or $35 an hour.

As you can imagine, it only takes teaching a few hours a week to really begin increasing your monthly salary, especially if you teach group classes where 1,500 yen to 2,000 yen per student is quite normal.

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