Here’s how to become a freelance English teacher in Germany
Published on August 1, 2020 / Updated on December 12, 2022
As a former English teacher, I can confirm that it was a wonderful experience working with all of my students. Seeing their success truly made all the difference! Plus, it’s also great to make your own schedule and work in the best way that fits you. So to help you get started in the right direction, here are the steps you need to become a freelance English teacher in Germany.
If you’re a native-level English speaker with prior teaching experience, then having a teaching degree or certificate is less important and may not be required (depending on the school). But if you don’t have these, then you’ll need to prove your English skills and teaching capabilities with one of these certifications:
In my case, I am a native English speaker and have a BA in English so that was sufficient for all the schools I applied at when I was teaching.
Becoming a freelance teacher in Germany begins with getting your freelance visa if you’re not German or an EU citizen. Depending on the city you live in, you make an appointment with the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) and complete the application process. During your appointment, you also need to make sure that you specify your intention of becoming a freelance teacher, so that it states that as your job title on your visa. Generally speaking, you’ll need to have contracts from at least 3 schools to complete your application and begin working.
You’ll also need to register for the correct health insurance in order to get your visa, as well as for those who are EU and German citizens. Here there are two options: public and private insurance. If you opt for public insurance, the monthly amount will be a fixed percentage of your income (which changes on a yearly basis and also depending on a few add ons). As of this year, it’s about 15%. If you choose private insurance, your monthly amount is based on the starter amount they quote you in the beginning.
Here is my advice on health insurance as a long-term freelancer myself: for the first few years, public health insurance is better because it will cover everything and you don’t need to worry about having to make advanced payments like you need to do with private insurance. But after this, it’s much better to switch to private insurance, because it will end up costing way less over the long run. As your income increases, the public amount will go up and this can end costing a serious amount if you earn a good income. Keep in mind though that if any pre-existing issues arise during public insurance coverage, they likely won’t be covered under private insurance.
In order to finalise the visa process (or simply begin working as a freelance English teacher), you’ll need to find some students. I recommend working for schools in Germany, because they handle all the admin work and you can spend your time teaching. The pay also tends to be better than with private students. A few schools I can recommend are:
Even though you’ll be working as an English teacher, some language schools don’t have English speakers on their administrative teams. So it’s highly worthwhile to learn German to prepare for job interviews and any subsequent documentation.
You can also search for private students if you wish. One great way to do this is to create an ad on eBay Kleinanzeigen and offer your teaching services. With this method though, you are 100% responsible for planning the classes, providing the materials, and determining the pay.
No matter whether you decide to work at a language school or with private students, you need to have contracts for all of them. You’ll need them not only for your visa process, but it also protects you in the case of any non-payment issues. Most contracts in Germany are in German, so here too having knowledge of the German language is highly recommended.
A few notes on how language classes work: language classes in Germany work on a system of units, in which each unit is 45 minutes. One class is typically 60 or 90 minutes, unless you get specialised classes that are sometimes longer. In any case, your payment is typically based on the number of 45 minute units you teach.
Secondly, you likely won’t be teaching 8 hours in a row. Instead, you’ll probably have between 2-5 classes per day depending on the length and location. When I was teaching, I had to go to the student’s business office, which meant I could manage an absolute maximum of 4 classes per day due to the commute times. So location and timing are things you’ll have to organise in a highly structured manner, because being late to such short appointments is extremely unprofessional in Germany.
Lastly, sometimes even when you work with a language school, class materials aren’t provided. I decided to purchase a yearly subscription to Linguahouse, because they have interesting topics and comprehensive grammar lessons for all English levels. I sometimes used them in place of the lesson materials, because my students tended to enjoy them so much more than textbooks.
Taxes in Germany are insanely complex. Period. And they become even more so when you’re a freelancer. So my first advice to anyone who wants to become a freelance English teacher is to find a tax advisor. Although there are many online softwares for taxes, you are solely responsible in the case of mistakes and they also don’t maximise your savings. It’s much better to work with a tax advisor who knows how to handle things like VAT, quarterly tax payments, if your invoices are done correctly and any tax-related documents for your visa.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to have a successful career as a freelance English teacher in Germany!