Wednesday, November 18, 2009

3, 2, 1, Charge!

The most common question new independent teachers ask me is: how much should we charge? Before you ask: "what can we charge?" you have to ask: "what do we earn?"

In France many teachers have grown accustomed to earning between 15 and 22€ an hour net.

Frankly, I don't know why anyone "speaks in Brut" (before taxes). Hiring managers at language schools "speak in Brut." Many teachers I know "speak in Brut." At the interview, they give you the Brut hourly wage and hope you don't bring up Net (after taxes). Friends: what's the point of "thinking in Brut" if you don't pocket that sum?

Below, I walk you through how much you are worth as a non-independent and calculate the minimum price you could charge a language school once you become an independent.
  • Look at the bottom of one of your monthly Bulletin de Paie (pay stub) at your Net pay (Net a Payer).
  • Find your Total Brut pay, in bold.
  • Look at the right-hand column. It should be called: Charges Patronales. At the bottom of the column, in bold, you'll find the total charges patronales. This is a tax your employer pays to have you on staff.
  • Add the Charges Patronales to the Total Brut.
  • Divide the total by the number of hours you worked that month.
  • The result is how much you are worth, per hour, for that language establishment.
Let's look at this example.
  • One month, as a CDII teacher, I clocked in 41 hours at a language school.
  • I was paid 714.82 € Net (17.43€ / hr)
  • My Brut pay was 918.40 €
  • The Charges Patronales was 394.81 €
  • 918.40 € + 394.81 € = 1313.21€
  • 1313.21€ ÷ 41 hours = 32.03€ / hr
Once an independent, I decided to give myself a little raise, wrote a proposal for 35€ / hr and the language school accepted. After the charges and taxes I paid as an independent, I pocketed a bit more than my days as a CDII teacher.

When calculating your hourly rate, it's usually best to be conservative and assume that 37% goes towards charges and taxes. So with the above pay, I made 20€ as an independent instead of 17.43€. That's still pretty low if we calculate the time it takes to do all the paperwork, the billing, the pay chase and the other nitty gritty.

In a future post, I'll go into why time really is money for an independent teacher in France.
But at least you can now look at your Bulletin de Paie with a informed eye and charge full steam ahead.

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.