Freelancing vs working for a school

As some of you may know, I recently went from self-employed to working for a private language school. It was a welcome change as I was getting really tired of working long hours for peanuts, and after a few month I can still say that I’m happy with my decision.

In case someone else is thinking about going one way or the other (from freelancing to working for a school or vice versa), I thought I write down the pros and cons of both worlds as I see them — bearing in mind that this is specific to the Italian job market so I’m not sure it would equally apply to other countries.



  • theoretically, you can choose what courses/clients you want to get and which ones to refuse; this is the theory, because in practice you often end up taking up anything you can find for fear of not getting enough work. However, as you become more experienced and you start building your client portfolio, you can become more picky and decide to refuse some jobs that you know won’t be worth your time.
  • you can — again theoretically — take time off any time you want. You can decide to work during the Christmas holidays and have a month holiday in February. Of course this will very much depend on your clients and on how much money you are making. Yes, unfortunately you don’t get any paid holidays, so if do take time off, it’s money that’s not coming in.
  • you familiarise with all aspects of this business (and this I think is the greatest advantage of freelancing). You learn to compromise quality and price, to meet the client’s crazy requests with what is practically teachable, to deal with difficult students/customers; starting from promotion, you can see the whole cycle all the way to the final invoice. I think that taught me a lot both as a person and as a teacher (I can understand why the school I work for now makes certain choices)


  • money, money, money and money again. Here in Italy I think it is nearly impossible to support yourself only on freelancing if you have to pay rent — and let’s not go into mortgages. You can make it if your better half has a steady job maybe, or if you live in a place where you don’t need to pay bills or rent. Otherwise, from my experience, taxes and other ‘collateral’ expenses will kill your income.
  • no time for social or personal life: no matter how much you try to avoid this, you will probably end up working from 8-9 in the morning to 9-10 in the evening. So you can kiss any hobbies, sport or extra activities goodbye.
  • again here in Italy: no sick pay, no maternity pay, no pension — basically you are stripped of all working rights.

Working for a school

I’m sure by now you see where I’m going: better pay, working rights, (relatively) less stress but unfortunately not much less work. I still find myself working an average of 9-10 hours a day for what should formally be a 40-hour/week contract. But I get a decent pay, I don’t have to worry about taxes, invoices and accountants and what’s more I can enjoy my holidays in relax, not worrying that I’m not working so I’m not getting paid.

Oh, and I get (partially) paid training!

On the other hand, I have to take up any course/student I’m given (I can’t really refuse to teach something/someone), and I can only take days off during off-peak period such as Christmas or the summer.

This is my experience in a nutshell. I’d be very interested in reading the experience of freelancers and people working in language schools in other countries (or other parts of Italy), so feel free to leave a comment or a link to your blog if you’ve written about this.

Thanks! 🙂


3 thoughts on “Freelancing vs working for a school”

  1. This part “You learn to compromise quality and price, to meet the client’s crazy requests with what is practically teachable, to deal with difficult students/customers” is so true. I was a school owner for many years and how to compromise quality and price (not to mention saleability) became a big interest of mine in the years before we closed.

    1. Thanks for your comment!
      It is indeed a very tricky business. Often clients expect the best at the lowest price, they can’t really appreciate all the work and professionalism goes into teaching.

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