Starting an English Language School From Home

March 4th, 2013By Category: Starting a Business


In March of 2012, my wife and I made the decision to move to Japan. I was leaving a job in Texas where I had been promoted twice in the previous year and most recently, selected to go to the police academy. I was not sure what type of employment opportunities I would have as a foreigner living in Japan and began to question if we should even be moving.

My wife gave me the e-mail of one of her friends who had moved to Japan from Australia many years ago. I wrote to him asking about what my options for employment would be in Japan. He informed me that the easiest job to obtain was teaching English and that I could apply at schools or start my own business.

I decided that I would start applying at schools before we moved to Japan and once we arrived, I would start teaching English at our home with my wife. I made this decision because if I was hired by a school, I could teach part time at home. If I was not hired by a school, I would be able to teach more students at home. In either situation, I would have a source of income.

In July 2012, my wife and I moved to Japan with our dog. Immediately, we sat down and began to plan the details of our school. Things that we had to decide were the name of our school, price of lessons, hours that we would teach, would we meet students at other locations to teach, etc. The first decision we made was the name. I liked one name and my wife wanted something else. Finally, to decide the name, we picked the three names that we liked the most and asked my mother in law to pick. She picked the name Jelly Bean English.

Next we had to determine the price of each lesson. The way we chose out prices was to research what the other schools and private lessons cost in our area and to make our lessons slightly cheaper. For example is most schools and people charged \4,000 and hour, then we would charge \3,000. Smart consumers are always doing price comparison and charging a reduced price for the same amount of time, would attract more students.

We mainly wanted to teach at home because of the convenience factor. However, our house was approximately 15 minutes away from the train stations. This may not sound like a long time to travel, but most English schools were located near train stations. Some even offered lessons at cafes and coffee shops near the train stations. In order to attract students that did not live near us, we decided that we would travel to the train station near us and even a few stops along one of the lines.

Finally we had to decide how we would advertise. If you have money to spare, you could take an ad out in a publication, have a television ad, make signs, etc. However, we had just moved to Japan from Texas and were on a tight budget. In order to advertise, we placed free ads on craigslist, made a Facebook, page, and made flyers on the computer that we printed out passed out when we would go out.

We began passing out fliers and using free online ads. Being that we were a new school, we did not have many students at first. In total, we only had one. However, as time passed, we had more students come to our house. We also began to get calls for students who wanted to meet at one of the nearby train stations.

If you are thinking about starting your own school, the best advice that I can give you is to utilize any free advertising service that you can find online such as craigslist. Facebook is not known as an advertising page, but it can help promote your business to the many users online. However, the best advice I can give, is to remain patient. Do not think that just because you put hours into creating lessons and hours into advertising, that people will automatically come. You need to know that being persistent with your efforts and not giving up will yield the best results.

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  • Marcelo Anicius says:

    Hello Jack I am also running my school with my japanese wife , would you mind if I add you on FB to exchange some information? Cheers

  • Thomas Daniels says:

    Thanks,I’m getting ready to start my own school now,any tips,I’m i kansai.

  • Corine says:

    Hi Jack,

    My husband and I are planning on moving with our 2 children to Niseko and set up a French and English language school. He is French and I am an American citizen so we would like to know if you have any insight on how we could set up a business in Japan? I heard that if you have proof of

    $50K that you can automatically get an investor visa but then I read that you also need to hire 2 full time nationals? Very confusing…thanks for any insight.


  • Bart says:

    Hi Jack
    Can’t seem to access your Facebook info, could you possible email me. I have a couple questions regarding your article.

  • Stanford Kekauoha says:

    Hey Jack, my wife and I are in the same situation. She is a dual citizen and I am in a pretty decent job. We don’t have any kids yet, just a shiba inu, and think that now might be a great time. How are things working for you now? Do you regret it? Thanks man for the article, gives me hope!

  • arvin narayan says:

    I have set up my English school in Shizuoka city.We sent out many leaflets by post but response was too little.Is it same for other English Schools when they started. Really would like to know about this

  • sammyhk says:

    Hi, do you need any sort of license for that? or a company registry?

  • Hey Jack,
    Hope you are doing fine.
    I have some questions for you. We are so undecided if we move to Japan or not. I’m actually from Brazil, my wife is Japanese, we have two U.S. born and raised children who have only spoken English their entire life. I was born in Brazil but I’ve been living in the U.S. for the past 20 years. I majored in English/International Business. But when applying for a teaching job in Japan, that “native” thing kind of stands in the way and people tell me they want a “native” English teacher. I’ve thought about offering “2 fer One” classes teaching them English and Portuguese for those who want to go to Brazil to watch the World cup. I know that the economy there is in bad shape. My in laws are discouraging me into going to Japan, but I’d like to give my kids a chance of knowing and learn the language while they are still kids. What do you think? Thanks.

  • Gaijin Girl says:

    Usefull information, especially about advertising! Did you have any prior teaching experience? Do you give only conversation lessons?

  • Shahab Khan says:

    how to get self sponsor visa can any one tell

  • Perry Constantine says:

    Given that it wasn’t crucial to the article’s intent, it’s pretty easy to forget to include that bit of information. Overall a very good article and very informative.

  • Jack DeBerry says:

    I am sorry that I did not mention it in the article. My wife is Japanese, so I was able to get a spousal visa. Since we had just moved here and did not have an income, we were required to show the income and proof that taxes were paid for the people we were living with (we are living with my wife’s parents). The entire process only too about two weeks. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask me. Have a great day.

  • Jack DeBerry says:

    Yes, my wife is Japanese. I am sorry that I forgot to add that in the article.

  • zoomingjapan says:

    I know, but I didn’t know his wife was Japanese. That explains a lot. 😉

  • Perry Constantine says:

    If you’re married to a Japanese national, you can get a spousal visa.

  • zoomingjapan says:

    You didn’t mention anything about visa issues. How could you just move to Japan without having a visa sponsor? Usually you can’t start out with a self-sponsored visa. So, how did you do it?