Sunday, November 15, 2009

Advantages and Disadvantages

Like any business, being self-employed has its advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons, good vs. bad, upsides and up-side-downs...

While weighing your do-I-or-don't-I options for going independent in France, consider these:

Professional Advantages
  • You can explore unlimited realms of ELT around the world,
  • You can accept work from almost every language school and company that rings you up,
  • You have the freedom to accept other offers, not just in teaching (e.g. materials and test writing),
  • You can accept unlimited vacataire offers (being independent IS your employeur principal),
  • You can subcontract your freelance friends,
  • You develop basic accounting skills.
Financial Advantages
  • You have more flexibility with earnings and spending (e.g. fees, investments, etc),
  • You can declare up to 50% of your rent as a business expense* not to mention telephone, internet, equipment, etc.,
  • Training (e.g. TESOL France membership, attending and speaking at international conferences, etc) is written off as a business expense,
  • If you are married, the reduction on income tax spills over onto your spouse.
* 50% with a studio; approx 40% if a 1-bedroom apt. Consult your accountant.

Personal Advantages
  • You are your own boss,
  • It gives you an edge in your classes especially if you teach English for Specific Purposes (ESP) such as in Business or Finance,
  • Your employer goes from being your boss to being your client,
  • It looks great on your CV,
  • You can develop self-promotional skills,
  • It will improve your French.
  • It can cause administrative overload, especially in the beginning,
  • Independents often feel like they're drowning in mail, taxes, estimates, billing, banking issues, etc.,
  • Dealing with the jargon – in English and in French - can cause migraines,
  • Technically, you are personally liable for your assets should the business fail or a client calls into question your professional responsibility. *
* But last time I checked, teaching English wasn't considered "risky business" ... unless you count teaching the present perfect.

What does it take?
  • Extreme patience
  • Meticulous organization
  • Creativity
  • A tough gut
  • Determination
  • Assertiveness
  • Functional French
  • Pride & a tough ego ... yet: humbleness
  • If applicable, a supportive spouse, ideally French speaking
As you weigh these advantages and disadvantages remember: going independent isn't for everyone. But neither are bungee jumping, guerrilla marketing and escargot.