By Joe Lopes
Here is the sixth part of Joe’s article about teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant link at the end of the article.

Rates & Things
Which leads us into the next issue for teachers: that of how much to charge students for your wonderful classes. What’s the standard going rate for in-company lessons? And for that matter, what’s the hourly rate for teaching at home? That all depends on a wide variety of tangible and intangible circumstances.

Suffice it to say that São Paulo is the unquestioned Mecca for teaching English in the country, and because of this elevated status your rates perforce will be higher there than for most other regions.

Expect to charge less – significantly less, in some cases – if you live outside the city limits. Conversely, the cost-of-living index in another city or state may be considerably lower than in the major overcrowded urban centers. This is the inevitable and expected tradeoff of living and working in a less hectic environment.

As a general rule of thumb, the rates for private in-company lessons vary from about R$35 to R$55 reais per hour, sometimes even more. You may find that your classes are somewhat longer when you teach at a corporation – the average duration is about an hour and a half – than when you have them at home. In that case, add on an extra 30 minutes to your standard hourly rate to arrive at an acceptable amount.

When in doubt, just negotiate a mutually agreeable figure with your prospective pupils. They will appreciate your having taken the time, and their personal financial situation, into consideration before your teaching fees are etched in stone. I knew a teacher who basically charged whatever her students could afford. There was one catch to this winning arrangement: she was already financially secure and only took up the teaching profession for the fun of it.

Of course, the vast majority of English teachers will definitely NOT be occupying such a privileged position, and will need to charge their students accordingly.

Payment for your classes is due in advance and for the entire month. For instance, on July 1, or whenever you meet with your students for the first session of the month, you will ask for the entire month’s fee for your services. There are exceptions to this and many other regras do jogo (rules of the game), but know upfront that this is the normally accepted and customary practice for all private teachers in the country, no matter the field of expertise.

For teaching at home the rates can be anywhere from R$25 to R$60 reais per hour, or higher. The considerations here are the neighborhood that you expect to live and teach in (of very high importance), the aforementioned financial condition of your students (equally important), and whether or not they have long-term aspirations regarding learning the language. These are some of the most tangible and quantifiable factors surrounding the topic of rates.

The more intangible ones all revolve around the current state of the Brazilian economy, which, as you may (or may not) be aware, is in perpetual flux. For now, things have stabilized somewhat and the currency under the Lula presidency has recovered a little of its former buying power. But like most things in Brazil, the leading economic indicators cannot be counted on to remain healthy and strong for very long.

In the entire time I taught in São Paulo, I was only able to raise my rates once, and that was back in 1997, when the economy was still considered relatively robust. And the course of the economic headwaters has a way of changing rapidly, sometimes overnight-as with the devaluation of the real in 1998. You and the rest of the population have little to no control over these aspects, so don’t spend time worrying about them: just know that they exist and may possibly interfere with the fair practice of your livelihood.

Bear in mind, also, that if you raise your rates too often or too high, you may lose the very students you hope to keep or attract, as well as get yourself into deeper financial straits than you may already be in. Don’t put up roadblocks to what could be a highly satisfying business relationship for you and your students before you’ve had a chance to reap the full benefits.

Like the President of the Central Bank or the head of a major utility company, you should carefully review your proposed monetary modifications against the potential downsides before you contemplate passing along any rate hikes to your customers. And make no mistake about it: your students are your customers, and should be treated as such.

In addition, as a self-employed teacher you are also entitled to paid holidays, regular days off, and a reasonable vacation allowance. These must be made clear to your students before you accept any teaching assignment. This means that if you decide to take the months of January or July off for leisure time, you will still be paid the full amount of your monthly fee. Comparably, if your students decide to go on hiatus for a spell, they will need to pay for the entire month in advance in order to reserve their spots on your busy calendar.

Both students and teachers need to be flexible here, for this part of the negotiations can – and will be – a particularly sticky one to overcome. I’ve had students suddenly quit on me, the sole reason being their refusal to pay for my vacation time. And, as much as I sincerely regretted it, many times I had to bear this loss of income in silence before I would compromise what is a basic and fundamental right of all workers, i.e. to take time off to recharge one’s batteries and to be fairly compensated for it.

On the flip side, there are federal, state and municipal employees who have not had any adjustments to their wages in almost a decade. Unemployment in the country, especially in the large cities, remains cripplingly high. There will be plenty of student cancellations for you to deal with – and many of them permanently – due to this precarious state of affairs.

There will also be thousands of native and non-native speaking teachers of English out there just waiting for a chance to pick up the discarded strays and add a new aluno (student) or two to their busy agendas (schedules). You could be in a perfect position to profit from the turbulence. It’s all in how you view the situation.

Teachers must take all of these variables – including both the known and unknown aspects – into advisement when planning for their own financial contingencies.

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

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