Welcome back to ESL Gypsy. This week, we’re going to deal with the impending regulations in China that are requiring students to finish all online classes by 9pm BJT. Many digital nomads who are making their living teaching English online are teaching for Chinese schools. This new regulation may cause companies to cut classes that finish later than 9pm, leaving many teachers to deal with a what could amount to a substantial shortfall in revenue. In this week’s blog, we’re going to outline some possible scenarios that may play out and how teachers may choose to react to this.
Possible Scenario- NOTHING HAPPENS
This is unlikely as it seems the wheels are already in motion. However, throughout my 15 years in education, I’ve seen regulations, codes, laws, and statutes that were definitely going into effect- then, at the last minute, something changed. As of right now, my company has not commented on the impending changes and until they do, I will continue to show up for my 9pm BJT classes.
Possible Scenario- SCHEDULES ARE JUGGLED
This seems the most likely of all scenarios. If this law does go into effect, there are two things that I doubt regulation will change: 1) Chinese entrepreneurs/business people are incredibly hardworking and will look at every possible solution to ensure that the impact on revenue is minimal. 2) Chinese parents have an unquenchable thirst to deliver more education to their children.
As a result, teachers may be asked to open additional time slots- either on their days off, during the day on weekends, or at earlier times during the week. This would spell good news for those teachers who are concerned about how the new laws would impact their take-home pay.
Possible Scenario- CLASSES ARE LOST
The new regulation not only says that classes must end before 9pm, but also that online classes must not interfere with a child’s regular school day. This might make scheduling earlier classes more difficult. However, for the two reasons mentioned in the previous scenario, I think this is unlikely to happen. I do think that the companies will find a way to work around this regulation. However, in the event that all classes after 9pm are lost and teachers are unable to open additional slots, let’s take a look at how teachers might respond to the lost revenue without sacrificing quality of life and their savings.
Take Time for Yourself
This may not be an option if you are struggling to pay bills, but if possible, think about taking the extra time for yourself and your family. I currently look after my mother in her old age. If my school cut my 9pm classes, I’d spend more time with her. The best part of my day is when she says, “Thank you for the life you’ve given me.” Walk your kids to school, make breakfast for your wife or husband, and (if you can) try not to think about the lost revenue. This is where the FIRE lifestyle really pays dividends (literally and figuratively).
Seek Out Additional Income with Your School
I’ve written about this before, and I truly believe this is the best way for online teachers to supplement their income. Look at opportunities to write curriculum, do teacher training & evaluation, or recruiting & interviewing. One (or more) of these options can add significantly to your income. I’ve done all of these things at one point or another in my career and the money really adds up!
Supplement Your Schedule with Non-Chinese Companies
China is undoubtedly the largest market for online ESL jobs. Many of these companies also offer the most lucrative earning opportunities. However, there are other companies with students outside of China. You can still keep your classes with your young Chinese students, and just supplement your income by adding a company, such as Now Speak English, EF Englishtown, or Learnship. The pay may not be what you are getting with your Chinese company, but the additional revenue should help cushion the blow associated with losing classes. Check out eslgypsy.com/jobs and look for companies based in other locations. Another benefit to this approach is that companies like EF run classes 24/7- allowing you to have a bit more flexibility in your schedule.
The struggle with freelancing always seems to be finding students. There are a lot of websites, such as Wyzant, that seek to connect teachers and students. If you’re just looking to teach English conversation, it can often be hard to make yourself stand out. You usually wind up competing against so many other teachers that you have to knock your rate down to nothing to get students.
Two things you may consider:
Jump on with a young website that is just getting going. You’ll have first mover advantage. Talk to Sarah and Jake at TeoLeo about the new project they’re working on. This is a great way to connect teachers and students and their platform offers a lot of great information for prospective teachers.
Specialize. This is really the best way to do well freelancing. If you find a niche, you will stand out from the crowd. Consider teaching TOEFL speaking or IELTS writing. Not only will you cut down on competition, but you can charge more. A friend of mine started his own tutoring service focused on test prep for the Cambridge exams. He charges a minimum of 50£ an hour. He doesn’t have a ton of students, but at 50£ per hour, you don’t need many. Check out his website Cambridge Business Essentials, or subscribe to his YouTube channel to get some ideas for how you might start your own freelancing business.
Final note on freelancing– do the right thing. This should go without saying, but don’t steal students from your school. Even if your student complains of a scheduling conflict created by the new regulations, tell them they need to iron it out with the school, and you are unable to teach them privately.
Look for Revenue Streams Outside of Teaching
This is something I hope to do more of in my early retirement. However, if we wind up with extra time on our hands, there’s no reason that we can’t start now. The options are literally endless! I recently purchased an entry level SLR camera and went down to the beach near my house. I live in a surfing town with TONS of surf schools. I planned to shoot landscapes when I decided to ask some of the people taking classes, “Hey, you want some surf photos?” I sold batches of surfing photos to seven different people at 10€ a person and wound up with 70€ for sitting on the beach doing something I enjoy. Check out an earlier blog post on Earning Extra Income Outside Your Teaching.
It seems like the regulation really is coming and it’s going to affect all of us who are employed at Chinese companies. If you’ve positioned yourself for FIRE (being Financially Independent Retired Early), then consider this as an opportunity to transition to a lifestyle closer to what you might enjoy in retirement- that’s what I plan to do. If you do need the money, consider offering your school some flexibility in your schedule (perhaps giving up a day off). If you can’t open additional time slots, look for other ways to supplement your income. In the meantime, don’t worry about something out of your control.
Enjoy the ride-