Introduction to Teaching English in Japan

Would you like the chance to spend some time in Japan but feel turned off by whistle-stop package tourist trips? If so, teaching English may be the answer. There is no better way to get to know a country than by living and working there. By teaching English you become a part of Japanese society, rather than just an observer looking in.

Teaching English is big business in Japan. Despite the collapse of the so-called bubble economy Japan remains one of the richest and most sophisticated nations on the planet, and this status is largely due to its success in overseas trade and investment. Thus, to get ahead in Japanese society, proficiency in English is a significant advantage. Add to that the fact that being able to speak English is simply considered cool and the huge demand for English teachers becomes clear.

Don’t Japanese people learn English at school?

Yes they do. Usually for 6 years or more. The problem is that, unlike most of the school curriculum, English isn’t taught particularly well. Japanese schools tend to follow traditional teaching methods in which the teacher stands at the front and lectures the class. Students are expected to absorb rather than question. The method produces excellent results for subjects like history and mathematics, but not for communicative, participative skills like language. School English education is likely to consist of lots of reading and writing, lots of grammar practice, but very little – if any – spoken communication.

Do I need to speak Japanese?

Not at all. Of course, if you can pick up a little nihongo (Japanese) it will make your daily life easier, but it won’t help one bit as a teacher. The reason is that the most effective way of teaching language is to use only the target language. Thus the only language used in English lessons is English.

How do I start?

Well, you could simply buy a ticket to Japan and start looking for work. Unfortunately, without a work permit, that strategy is illegal. Unless you have a Japanese spouse you need to find a job that will sponsor you for a visa. It is possible to travel to Japan as a tourist and approach a few of the numerous schools advertising for teachers asking if they are prepared to sponsor your visa application.

It helps to undergo some TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training before looking for work. Not only will this give you some basic teaching skills and confidence, but it also shows potential employers you are serious about teaching and not just a backpacker looking for some financial re-fuelling.

TEFL courses are advertised in most English speaking countries. The more useful ones are provided by working English schools and offer face-to-face teaching practice with real learners.

Accommodation

If you are employed by the JET program or one of the big English school companies they will more than likely arrange accommodation for you. You are of course free to find your own housing if you so wish.

Living in school-found accommodation has the advantage of an English speaking contact to sort out repairs or other problems. The disadvantage is that it’s difficult to quit a job that may not be for you while living in their accommodation. I have also heard of at least one school that charges its teachers a significant premium over market rental rates for use of its accommodation – so beware!

There are several English speaking accommodation agencies advertising in the free English language press, and these generally provide decent accommodation, but at a price.

An alternative favored by many single English teachers are the so-called “gaijin houses” (literally foreigner’s house). These are basically hostels that rent out basic, but adequately comfortable, rooms mainly to non-Japanese clientele. Usually bathroom, kitchen and sometimes communal sitting room are shared. Gaijin house advertisements are to be found in the free English language press.

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How to Start a House Cleaning Business on a Tight Budget

“If you use Emotion and Love to drive your sales and your business, you will create Loyalty Beyond Reason. And I promise you, you will build relationships and enjoy a business that exceeds beyond your wildest expectations”

First of all, before you decide to start your cleaning business, make sure this kind of work is right for you. You will need to be in good physical condition. Cleaning is very hard strenuous work. You will need to have good customer relation skills. You will need to have basic office skills and some accounting skills.

If you are planning on leaving your full time position to start a cleaning business, make sure you have at least six months of savings. Or keep your full time job and start out part time.

Research all the aspects of the cleaning service business. From customer service to advertising, taxes, employees, insurance and bonding, what to charge and how to clean a home professionally. Cleaning your own home and cleaning professionally is totally different. Learning how to clean professionally takes a lot of time. When a client pays for your services they expect to come home and find their home spotless.

Getting those first clients takes time, persistence and patience. You will not get a hundred clients overnight.

Obtaining Those First Clients The hardest part of starting your own cleaning service is obtaining those first clients. Most clients want to know how long you have been in business and want references. The best thing to do is let clients know that, yes, you are new to the business but that you have thoroughly researched all aspects of the cleaning business and assure them that you know what you are doing and that you are quit capable of cleaning their home to their specifications. Be confident. I can’t stress this enough. Clients love to see confidence. It relieves their worries and lets them know that their home is in good hands.

References: To get a few good references when starting out, ask some friends or family members if you can clean their home for free or at a discounted rate. The sound of working for free may not be appealing but it will be worth it to get some good testimonials.

When cleaning those first homes, go for quality, not how fast you can clean the home. Cleaning efficiently takes a long time, but you will get to the point where you can do a thorough cleaning in a short time. After cleaning make sure you go back and double check all rooms to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Impress those first clients and word of mouth will spread soon.

Advertising Your company image is everything. Before you start advertising, decide what image you want to portray on your advertising material. Your image is very important. Be consistent with all your advertising. If you have a logo be sure to use it on all your advertising materials. I think it is best to have a website developed before you start advertising. When advertising, stick with the same logo and colors.

Advertise in Local Paper: Start by running a text ad in your local newspaper. Try to come up with an eye catching ad. Do not sell your services on low rates, sell your services on your quality of work and what you can do for the client that other companies don’t. There is a lot of competition in the cleaning service. You have to stand out from the rest.

Magnetic Signs or Lettering for your Vehicle: Having your business name and contact information on your vehicle is a great way to advertise. We use the vinyl lettering. The lettering looks much more professional than the magnetic signs.

Flyers: You can print nice flyers on your home computer, but I would suggest investing in some professional flyers. Hang flyers at Hair Dressers, Laundromats, Restaurants, Bakeries, Grocery Stores, etc. Put flyers on car windows at local groceries stores and businesses. You can even go door to door in neighborhoods you would like to work in. You cannot put them in mailboxes. but you can put them in the front door.

Door Hangers: Door hangers are a great way to get new clients. Pick the neighborhood you would like to work in and hang the door hangers on the doors. When people get flyers or ads in their mailbox they usually throw them away with the junk mail. But if there is a door hanger on the door they will take the time to look at it.

Business Cards: Start passing out your business cards to friends and family members. You can also ask your local businesses if you can leave some cards on their counters.

Referral Program: A great way to obtain new clients is through a referral program. Offer existing clients a discount when they refer a friend. You can give your existing clients a discount when the friend uses your services three times.

Website: These days people live very busy lives so they use the convenience of the internet to shop for the services they need. A lot of working women will shop for services while at work. Everyone that has a business should have a website. It shows clients that you are serious about your business and allows them research your business in their own time.

Cleaning Products: By using all natrual products, you can offer your clients a healthy cleaning experience and protect ourselves against harsh chemicals. Clients love the natural cleaning products with essential oils. They come home to a healthy clean home filled with the wonderful scents of aromatherapy essential oils.

Tip: Always carry hand sanitizer and wash your hands often while cleaning homes. Wear gloves when cleaning bathrooms. You will be exposed to a lot of different germs in clients homes.

Remember most customers prefer that you bring your own cleaning supplies. That way they do not have to worry about going to the store for cleaning supplies before you clean. Some customers have special cleaners for certain appliances or floors in their houses. These customers usually will have these cleaners on hand for you to use. We almost always use the customers vacuum cleaner. That way you do not have to carry a heavy vacuum from house to house.

What to Charge I mentioned earlier that you should sell your services on your quality of work and not your low rates. If your rates are too low, clients will think that your work is sub-standard and that you are not experienced. Also you want to attract the clients that can afford your services. I made the mistake of pricing my work too low when I first started out. Cleaning is hard work, charge what you are worth. As the old saying goes “You get what you pay for.”

Some companies charge by the hour, some charge by the room, some charge a flat rate per home and some charge by the square foot. I think it is better to charge by the home, not by the hour. If a client knows they have to pay one set fee, they don’t care if you take 2 hours or 5 hours. Also your clients will know what they are paying up front and won’t have to worry about added expenses.

No two houses are the same. And there is no set charge for all homes. You have to clean for awhile yourself to get some experience and to work out a system to clean efficiently. Only you know what you want and need to make. Decide what you need to make hourly to cover all expenses and still make a good profit.

A word of advise: Make sure when you start your company that you charge what you would charge if you had employees. Some people make the mistake of under charging when they start out just to get customers and then later on when they grow and need to hire help they aren’t making enough money on their houses to pay help. Don’t under price your work. Cleaning homes is very hard physical work and you didn’t get into this business to work for nothing.

New Construction Cleaning If you decide to do this type of work you will need more equipment. You will need ladders, window cleaning kits with long extensions, a shop vac, etc. These types of jobs are usually 2 to 3 person jobs. New construction cleaning requires a lot more cleaning. You may have to remove stickers and labels from windows and bathroom showers, sinks and toilets. Some require that you clean the vents to remove dust from construction work. There will be ceiling fans to clean, scrubbing floors, and cleaning woodwork to remove dust. New construction cleaning rates depend on the area you live in.

Insurance and Bonding. You need to be an honest person and somewhat personable. People will need to trust you to be in their homes. Most clients are concerned about having someone new in their house, with good reason. You should be bonded and fully insured. Liability insurance rates depend on your insurance carrier and where you are located. Each person you hire will increase your liability insurance. It’s well worth the cost. You can pay quarterly or yearly. You can purchase your bond through your local insurance company. You will need to renew the bond every year. *Note: if you hire employees and cover them under your insurance, they must be an employee on payroll and not a sub-contractor. If you employ them as a sub-contractor your insurance will not cover them. If they are a sub-contractor they are required to carry their own insurance. You

Hiring Help If you start out cleaning the homes by yourself, you will eventually get to the point where you need to expand your business. Start out with one part time employee. Train her and let her take your place one day a week. Then have her take your place 2 days a week and so on. This will give you the free time that you need to market your business and obtain more clients. After you get more clients you will be able to hire more part time help. Eventually you will be able to stop doing the cleaning yourself and just run the business end, which is the only way you will be able to grow your business. When training new employees, always, either train them yourself or have a lead person train them. Make sure there is a lead person on each and every cleaning job. Employees have a tendency to slack off when they are on their own.

Growing Your Business You will eventually get to the point where you have enough employees and lead people and you will be able to stop working in your business and start running your business. You will find that after awhile it will get to be too much trying to clean everyday and at the same time giving estimates, answering calls, scheduling, doing book work, obtaining new clients, etc.

Remember one of the most important qualifications for a cleaning service is TRUST. A client has to know they can trust you alone in their home. After you acquire a few cleaning positions ask the clients if you can use them for a reference. Most of the time they are more than willing to let you use them for a reference. This is how you build your business and acquire new clients is through referrals. Be dependable. Most clients will want to be set up on an every week or every other week schedule on the same day of the week. Try to always keep this same schedule unless the client asks you to switch to another day. If you have to cancel a cleaning date, make sure you try to reschedule at the earliest possible date to make up the cleaning.