A Guide to Being a Freelance English Teacher in Japan

Teaching English abroad is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do. Many teachers begin their Japan journey teaching in schools, but there is an excellent freelance teaching option in Japan which can be a huge bonus to teachers already settled here. 

By hiring a freelance teacher, students are able to skip the costly sign up fees of traditional language schools, as well as saving money on the hourly rate of lessons (think of the cut that usually goes to the school).

There has never been a more significant demand for English teachers in Japan: along with an increase in demand from adult learners of English, more and more parents are seeking out freelance teachers for their kids. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find work as a freelance teacher in Japan. There is fierce competition, and you will need to stand out from the crowd. 

However, the good news is it’s entirely possible to be your own boss and teach freely in Japan.

This article is a guide on how to be a freelance English teacher in Japan.

What are the benefits of being a freelance English teacher in Japan?

Charge your own rates

A massive benefit of being a freelance English teacher is the ability to set your own rates. You can set your rate according to what experience and skills you have. And generally speaking, you can earn more as a freelancer as you can charge less than the hourly rates of traditional language schools while pocketing more than what you would earn teaching at one.

You don’t have a boss.

Having no boss is exceptionally alluring to many teachers. And it means you can work whenever, wherever, and with whoever – and that is a considerable upside. 

Work from any location

Are you bored with catching the busy Tokyo Metro to work every morning? A great benefit of freelancing is the ability to choose your location. You can work at a cafe in your neighborhood. 

Where do I start?

So now you’re attracted to the proposition of becoming a freelance English teacher in Japan – that’s great. 

Here are some websites where you can make a free profile to attract students. 

Enjoy lessons

A fantastic platform to find students is Enjoy Lessons. The website will help you find students from all over Japan, and it will give you the option of teaching via skype or face to face. 

Orangutan Japan

Another superb way to find students is through Orangutan Japan. On this site, you have the option of a two-minute video of your teaching style which really helps students to feel comfortable in contacting you. The platform has a great base of students that are looking for English teachers, check it out.

Hello Sensei

Probably the best-known site of all is Hello Sensei. There are many numerous bonuses to this website, such as broad customization, a massive number of students, and a user-friendly website. 

Eigo Pass

Some of the other sites on the list offer the opportunity to teach numerous languages. However, Eigo Pass wants English teachers. Therefore, there is an array of students purely looking for English teachers. A considerable benefit of the website is a staff member will bring you to students which gives the students more confidence in the process.

But I still can’t find students?

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned how competitive freelancing could be – that’s true. Freelancing in any industry is challenging, and it’s no different in the ESL industry in Japan.

But let’s look at some useful tips to increase your potential to get students and build that successful freelancing career you dream about now. 

Have a professional picture

Japan is a conservative society in many ways, and if you want to look like a credible English teacher, make sure your photo isn’t you at the beach.

If you have a professional picture, it will give students more confidence in your teaching. And better still, they will be more confident approaching you.

Don’t charge too much when you begin teaching

One of the most significant issues for many freelancers when they first begin is setting their rates too low. However, some teachers are simply charging too much without the credentials to back it up. 

Don’t put off prospective students by charging too much. Many students in Japan will pay up to 3,000 yen per hour for a class. If you have the experience, you can charge students more, but make sure you set a reasonable fee when you begin. 

Have you described yourself in detail?

If you’re using a website to find students – make sure you describe yourself in detail. Students want to know what you offer to them. Do you have experience teaching ESL all over the world?

And another great idea is to seem personable. Some of the older Japanese students are more likely to choose a teacher that they can relate to. You could always add some of your hobbies and interests. In a way, freelance teaching in Japan involves some marketing.

Are you willing to travel to meet students?

It’s a great idea to stay in your neighborhood and steer clear of that busy Tokyo Metro, and it does get jam-packed during the week. But if you add more locations to your teaching profile, you will stand out from the crowd.

It’s a great idea to add as many train stations as possible. Students love to see teachers who are dedicated and willing to travel. Yes, it will be at your expense. But when you’re building that initial pool of students – go for it. 

Are there any other ways to get students?

Absolutely, there are many ways. These websites are a great starting base if you’re new to freelancing or just arrived in Japan. But another great way is word of mouth. 

If you’re already teaching in Japan, you can let parents know that you offer private lessons outside of school.

But maybe you want to be your own boss and not work in schools?

A great way is to tell everyone and anyone. Make it known to people that you meet that you are a private freelance English teacher. There is a great demand for English teachers in Japan, and word of mouth is often all it takes to get going.


Teaching English in a foreign land is an incredible experience. The potential to be your own boss and help hundreds of Japanese students on your own time, cost, and discretion is possible. Now get to work and make it a reality!

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