What does training cost?

I just got off the phone with someone who called asking what training costs. I find the price level here in Potsdam hard to gage. On the one hand, the prices I see are in fact very similar to Munich, and our rent here is actually higher than what we paid there (we were pretty lucky in Munich, frankly). In Munich I charged between 40 and 45 Euros for 45 to 60 minutes, providing clients who paid out of their own pocket with add-on free services like an online platform with media and their work to be checked, or ad-hoc email corrections to sweeten the p/bill. With long-standing, well-placed clients, it’s been years since I’ve been short of work. I have generally charged the same for one-to-one as for company courses, as one-to-one is just as challenging if you do it properly. I earn more for specialized skills training in remote locations, to make up for the travelling and the long scripts.

I’ve invested heavily in my training skills to make up for getting older (being young and pretty is undoubtedly the most attractive thing in a language trainer) without raising my rates for training or other services for 5 years. With my most important new client here I am in fact, for the first time, asking 50 Euros an hour. I prepare extensively for these sessions, and don’t teach unprepared conversation-style lessons at all anymore. A well-prepared lesson isn’t content heavy, by the way. On the contrary. Frankly, I’m happy to leave unprepared lessons to young people, just off the boat, who need a few Euros a month just to be able to stay for a while and who see “teaching English” as “open the book or let’s just talk”. They’ll learn fast, and they’ll be getting training (CELTA etc) if they decide to make it a profession, but how long will they work at the low rate of 15 Euros an hour once they have good skills? No, wait, that’s what the organization makes, and they take home even less. Clients, are you ok with your teacher getting that little pay?

Now, I’m business woman enough to respect price. But my caller’s somewhat shocked response is making me think that low budget, “off-the-boat-English” may be widespread here, and I must say: It’s not my scene, I’m not going there. I won’t charge people for simply speaking English to me, not in this globalized world. My clients get something else.

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Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

11 thoughts on “What does training cost?”

  1. Hi Anne,

    Stick to your guns! English is the easiest language in the world to learn and on of the hardest to perfect. You are in the top end of the market and there will always be low cost competition. What you have is a) perfect bilingual and cultural understanding (very rare!)
    b) understanding of the needs
    c) experience

    Young and pretty is only important if you are teaching French (pun and double entendre/double meaning in English and German intended).

    The problem is that many don’t see the value in really good training. IF you can aford it with a good base I would pass on lowball offers.

    One € 50 is worth 3+ € 15 not counting prep!

    All the best!


  2. Hi Anne,
    Mm, conversation-like lessons … I’m sort of curious about what that exactly is or rather what the opposite really is. If people can make – let’s say – conversation properly, isn’t that important? I prepare a lot for my sessions, too. Nonetheless, people need to be able to express themselves properly and like to focus on that, would you agree?
    Cheers from Munich,

  3. Hi Anne,

    This is a really interesting point! I constantly underprice myself. I live and work on a small island in the Canaries and I have to say that I charge 15 an hour for one-to-one. I’m definitely not just off the boat. I’ve been here 12 years and teaching 14. If I suggested 50 euros an hour here for a class my students would probably roll around on the floor laughing! even though they go to the UK and pay that exact price! I guess I’m just not a businesswoman. I’ve cut out a lot of one-to-one classes this year and found better paid work.

    A very intersting and thought provoking read.



  4. Hmmm… personally, I cannot see what could possibly be more important than the ability to speak effectively and accurately and that requires much deeply concentrated practice. Following from that, writing skills determinant to their company needs.

    Passive skills such as dragging in “prepared” reading or listening materials are, in my opinion, things that can be done at home and in the office or on our Ning.

    Now, personally I don’t charge 50 Euros except for highly specialized ESP: IT classes which require me to do extra work to understand the subject themes, read on my own to be able to contribute to discussions in classes (hence why I have a deep understanding of these issues now so I guess I earned twice)…. but nevertheless, I definitely don’t “prepare” but “react” to my students’ needs and therefore earn my wages appropriately.

  5. Joan, I’m with you about students wanting and needing to have a conversation. The difference between teaching and natural conversation? I’d say preparation for me includes getting up to speed in my student’s area of work before and after lessons, so that the conversations we have and the scenes they act out relate to the situations they need to handle: I don’t force in content, but need access to the authentic language they need. That means research and networking. It’s always an approximation, of course, always work in progress. Preparation also includes developing the type of tasks that will hit their sweet spot, and having the methods and the recording, processing and analytical tools and skills to give them constructive feedback on the language they produce. Again, this means being ready to do all of this, not running through a system. (Actually, developing and sticking to a system is quite good as long as everyone can all keep it up, recording feedback/take aways in a document and short mp3s.) Over a course the tasks will include materials to challenge and take them to the next level. Ok, tasks don’t have to include materials to train receptive skills, (Karenne), many productive tasks work better without or need minimal input, but you do have to coordinate selecting source materials – why not cooperatively – and that takes time and you have to know what to do with it. It’s a shame when you look over materials together and find they don’t really contain all that much for the group to learn from. So there’s got to be some preparation, you need to have a look at the stuff, no matter how fast you are on your feet.
    If you’re working with one company for quite a while, all of this becomes second nature, right, and you can charge less. That’s why we try to sell larger packages, right?
    I’m currently working my way into giving soft skills training to scientists. That isn’t content heavy at all, (Karenne), because it’s their content, but they need the right kind of challenges to hone their skills, and I need to be able to assess whether the language they are using, and their communicative behavior, is approriate for the various situations they need it in. So I’m reading and watching a lot, and I mean a lot, of videos and trying to figure out what kinds of events to attend to see what the benchmarks are. I also need to brush up in all areas of skills training, from voice and body language training to visuals assessment to training various kinds of communication (having them do it, sure; but also making sure they “get” how and why they are doing it). Giving effective feedback approriately to a large group of highly intelligent people, saving face and taking into account their various strengths and weaknesses: I’ve done a lot of that. How difficult it can sometimes be!
    I didn’t know how to do this stuff when I was starting out. Making mistakes is humbling, but a real driver to learn to do it right, for me. One of the reasons we stick it out in teaching is because each group is different, right? Going from first year students to graduate students, or from a job applicant or a manager to a group of secretaries or people who handle international guests or order processing, or engineers, or a lawyer, or from a group of kids to a teenager who is failing school, all of that is “teaching English”. That’s what got a lot of us hooked, I think.
    Karenne, I guess my prices fit what I want to be spending my time on. I’m sure it’s the same for you. My range has been from about 30 to 90 euros, and too little free charity work, and perhps I should have explained that better to my caller, but I’m currently interested more in this kind of challenging work.
    Big words. Defending values. I’ll know more in a year. After all, “It’s the market, stupid!” 😉

    PS: Sorry, I kept updating this comment, a very bad habit of mine.

  6. Hi, Leahn,
    I hear you! I think one of the reasons local teachers associations have grown is to give community support to those of us trying to market ourselves and build commensurate skills. I found being a part of MELTA in Munich very helpful, just haven’t gotten around to going local (bit to do for me). Do you have anything like that in the Canaries?
    Thanks for writing!

  7. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for them fightin’ words 😉 I think at some point, when I was looking at what I was earning in the early 2000s and started wondering whether this was a “real job”, I made the decision to go for high end work in combination with other language services to get “inside” my clients’ fields. But I’m a realist, and markets differ and change. Munich is saturated in many ways, the market is comparatively stable at a high level. Potsdam and Berlin are hungry, with really excellent people, but there’s also a lot of “fast food” out there. And I’m not the one to say no to a döner, if that’s what the customer wants.
    Thanks again, and take care!

  8. Hi again Anne,
    Yes, I did rise today at the crack of dawn today (for me), at 5:30, just to put my thoughts – hard and software – together for my HR manager (he’s a lawyer). I’ve worked with him for about 6 years now – so, I know the ins and outs , but still need about two hours before every session to harmonise myself and what I feel would make a good lesson. And the novel thing about the session is that it’s never the same. He may take over whereby I just sit and take notes and give feedback or he may say – as he did today – that I should do what I feel he needs. So, he keeps me on my toes. It’s very stimulating work, am I being paid €50/hour? No way but the story could be worse and it goes through the company so I’m not limited to just one client.
    What I’m trying to express is … what is conversation and what not?
    We do very specific HR stuff sometimes or corporate articles or just whatever comes into our heads at that moment but I think it simply has to flow.

  9. Oh, Anne, so, so sorry, I’ve just realized it’s your birthday, today!!
    Many, many happy returns of the day and I’ll drink a drop to your health later in the day.

  10. Thanks so much, Evan, it was super seeing you at BESIG and I’m really looking forward to hooking up with the great folks locally.

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