What do you do when students in a group class finish tasks before the others?

Even before I started working for myself, working from home was a bit of a treat! Apart from the 3 hours of life I got back each day because I didn’t have to commute into London, I always found that I got more done. There was nobody to distract me with their loud conversations at the end of my desk because I happened to sit near the meeting room. I could just focus on what I was doing. I was in charge of the room temperature, so I didn’t need to remember to take a jacket in the middle of summer. I could get a coffee without having to queue!

Of course, there were some benefits to working in an office with others. I had someone to talk to if I wanted a second opinion, or to have a chat. When a colleague was pregnant and having chocolate cravings, I munched through a variety of bars with her – to show support of course! When it was Christmas, we made the office look nice and organised meals out or secret Santa. In fact, I could usually be relied upon to get involved in after-work activities.

But it’s not always positive. You might be sitting with people who don’t talk to you all day long, or who sing – yes sing – and you have to ask them not to because you can’t hear the other half of the telephone conversation that you’re trying to have.

To be honest, I didn’t mind when there were just seven or eight of us in one room, but when we moved to the big open-plan offices that held around 100 desks in each room, I hated it and seized any opportunity I could to work from home.

So now I work with customers online from the warmth and comfort of my own office and I love it.

When the rain is pouring, the trains are all cancelled, or snow has brought everything to a standstill – I don’t have to worry about how I’ll get to or from work.

You wouldn’t be able to entice me out of my cosy office to go and work in a shared space. However, I wanted to be objective in this post, so I’ve also included some quotes from teachers who do things differently.

Questions to ask yourself

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance teacher, here are a few things to ask yourself.

1. Do you have a quiet place where you can work?

It’s easy for me because I have an office at home. We set this room up as my working space and nobody disturbs me here. I have good wifi and everything I need is here. However, if you don’t have that at home and you’re sharing the space with others, you might prefer to work somewhere else. Also, working from home may not be for you if you want to have a very clear, physical boundary between home and work life.

2. Do you want people in your home?

This isn’t an issue for me because all of my training takes place online. However, if you’re providing face-to-face training, do you want customers to come to your home? To be honest, I’d have no problem with any of my current customers coming here, but you don’t know what someone is like until you’ve met them, and I have had to sack one male student for being inappropriate. I’d prefer not to be dealing with something like that in my own home.

3. Do you miss having people around you?

For me, one of the nicest things about my home office is the lack of other people in it, but some people hate not being around other people. Of course I work with my customers in meetings, but I’m talking about the general energy that comes from working in a space with others. For some people it’s stimulating and motivating, whereas for others, it’s draining. Where do you fall on that scale? Would you get lonely if you didn’t have any face-to-face contact with people?

4. How easy is it for people to get to you?

Again, this isn’t an issue for me because all of my training is online, but if you live far away from anywhere and have no reliable public transport links, it may be easier for you to rent a base that is more accessible to anyone coming to meet you there.

5. How easily will you get distracted?

To be honest, I might stick a load of washing on in my lunch break, and I love the fact that working from home means I’m there for whenever my friend the postman comes (online shopping is one of my hobbies!) However, I can focus on what I’m doing without getting distracted by the home-related things around me. If you would struggle with this, maybe a separate space would be better for you.

What are your options?

Most teachers do one or more of the following:

1. Teach exclusively from home and only work with customers online. This is the option that works best for me.
2. Teach at home and customers come for face-to-face training.
3. Teach at the customer’s office/home – this means you don’t have to work from your own home, but it does take more time and may be more expensive when you add in the travel. I know teachers who complain about the time they waste in this way, whereas others enjoy the travel time because it gives them the chance to clear their head and get some exercise.
4. Rent an office and either teach online from there, or invite customers to come for lessons there. This can be more expensive, but it does give you a base that is separate from your home. If you’re in the office on your own, it might not solve the problem of socialising with other people, unless you have something like a shared kitchen area.
5. Rent a desk in a shared space with other freelancers. This is probably cheaper than renting your own office and it gives you the feeling of working with others, even though you’re not working for the same company. You have other people to talk to, and maybe some of them will be possible collaboration partners, but you don’t have anywhere for private meetings with customers unless there is an additional meeting room.
6. Work in a public area such as a library or a café. You have free wifi, no rent costs, but factors such as background noise are out of your control.

Which of these set-ups would you prefer?

I didn’t want this to be too one-sided, so I asked a couple of other teachers to share their experiences as well.

Cara

I decided not to work from home because I was getting fed up of the distractions in my house – mess, washing up to do, decluttering I wanted to do. It made me far too sensitive to all the things that needed doing at home, which I hadn’t necessarily noticed before.

Also, some weeks I hardly left the house because we mostly stayed in during the weekend. I think I was starting to get cabin fever.

I also wanted somewhere I could go that was dedicated to work. I have an office at home, which I still use sometimes if I have classes or just feel like staying at home. But I like going somewhere where everyone else is working. It’s a chance to meet people and also get a bit of visibility. Our place is open to the public – anyone can come in off the street and say hello.

Our workplace is a former laundrette that became a non-profit in 2012. It was set up by a local comic book writer, Maxime Peroz, who wanted to create a space for comic book writers and creatives (graphic designers, illustrators, writers etc) to get out of their isolation and come and work together.

We each have a desk in a big room there’s 6 of us altogether. There’s a kitchen at the back and a mezzanine level above with a bed because we sometimes have artists in residence stay here for anything from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

Because the space is run by a voluntary organisation and not a private company, it’s pretty cheap compared to other co-working spaces where you have to pay 50€ a day. I pay 115€ a month so it’s a small price in comparison.

A big advantage is that you separate your work and home life better. You get out and meet new people. It also opens up possibilities for collaboration. I recently got one of my colleagues to create a poster for me for a workshop I’m giving in town. As my other colleagues work in communication/comic book illustration, we’ve also talked about me maybe doing some translation work for them when the time comes.

I also like being able to say to people, especially locally, that I’m based here, rather than giving out my home address. I think it helps me to come across as a real business, not just someone behind a computer at home.

Also, I don’t think renting a space has to be expensive or complicated. You could find some other local entrepreneurs who want to get out of their house and find a place to rent together.

You can find out more about Cara and her work on her website, Leo Listening.

Gordon

It’s a rainy and cold Monday morning here in Fukuoka, Japan. I’m happily working from home. I don’t have to bundle up and crowd onto a bus or train full of wet and cold people sniffling, sneezing, and sharing their colds. My wife is getting bundled up and dreading the commute to work as I write this article.

However, working from home isn’t always as good as it sounds. Have you ever been stuck in the office and just wanted to get outside in the sunshine? Have you ever wanted someone to chat with and discuss an idea in your head? Have you ever been distracted by all the little things that need to be done around you? Have you ever just wanted to turn everything off and get away? These are hard to do when you work at home. I can see into the kitchen and the dishes that need to be done. I can see the dusty floor that needs to be vacuumed. Sometimes when I’m working, I can hear my wife snoring or watching TV. Or, I’m up early or late and working and she can’t find peace and quiet in the house. She often leaves the apartment for a few hours when I’m in the middle of running several online sessions in a row.

To deal with this, I intentionally work outside the home a couple of days a week. Also, We are looking for a new apartment or a local space to rent: something close but separate. I like the variety. I like the change of pace and place. I like meeting people face-to-face and shaking hands. I like running into friends around town. I like riding my bike across town to run lessons at a local client’s place of business. I like the exercise, the socializing, and getting outside into the fresh air and warm sun on my face. I like shutting everything off, shutting the door, and walking away from work. That “the day is finished and it’s time to go home” feeling is nice.

Whether you work from home or a traditional office, you have the same challenges. You have to manage your schedule effectively. Find a place and time to concentrate and work. Find time to exercise. Find time to socialize. Find people to talk to and share ideas. Find time to shut off and relax. I don’t know how my sister in law manages to work from home and run a family. I’d go crazy with all the distractions and kids running around. But, even she goes out to meet clients. I understand why some of my friends rent shared spaces. Despite the costs, it keeps them sane, productive, and out of their spouse’s hair.

You can find out more about Gordon and his work on his website Learn While Creating.

Ruth

With face to face teaching, I have worked in public places, our library was the best and preferred by my students for its central location. I often cater for working travellers/backpackers and my personal location can be difficult if they are working it around long days. Hence a local central place.Also, it is free, has quiet spaces, free WiFi, and Any resource you could need.

I did this in Cambridge too. Another hidden advantage was it got me out of the house!

You can find out more about Ruth and her work on her website English Language Services.

More from English with Kirsty

If you would like more articles like this and other news from English with Kirsty to be delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Also, if you’re interested in posts for teachers, you can see my other articles about teaching English and running an online language teaching business on my page for teachers.

Achieving results online with adult language learners

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in my book about teaching English to adults online. You can find the book, “Achieving results online with adult language learners – by Kirsty Major” on Amazon or iBooks, or you can read more about it here.

In the 40 chapters of the book, you’ll find several articles that I have published online, along with exclusive content that can only be found in the book. I talk about my experiences of setting up an online language teaching business, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve dealt with a variety of challenges, both in terms of organisation and running the lessons.

book front cover



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.