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Published on November 30th, 2010 | by Paz


How to Negotiate Your ESL Contract

How to negotiate your job offer, get the best paid position abroad!

I always like sharing important tips on how to get the best job abroad. Especially since I am learning as I go and hope to make your job hunt a little easier. I thought I would share this important tactic of: Negotiating Overseas. This will of course be in my upcoming E-book; How to get an ESL Teaching Job Overseas . But why wait. I thought I would share now. Especially since it works!

So first keep in mind that you have to have a couple offers. (I will cover the best way to get those offers in the FREE E-Book) Now that I have received a few offers I have to compare them. You must keep in mind that there are a lot of variables to an offer abroad, very similar as the variances to offers in the US. An offer for a 40K job in New York is not the same as a 40K job in Montana. So you first have to do your homework on the locations and their cost of living. You don’t want your prospect to be able to deny your counter offer with a simple…”well the cost of living is very different here”. You want to make sure that you are making an apple to apple comparison. Make sense?

Compare your offers -This is a brief overview, I will go into further depth in another post.

  1. So look at the cities, sizes, population, and cost of living. How do they compare to each other?

  2. Look at the fine print. You MUST take into consideration the small things, because they add up. Here are a few to look for.

    • End of contract bonus
    • Health Insurance (make sure to ask what this covers-may not always be what you think it is)
    • **Accommodation***** Please read contract carefully. Does this include a shared accommodation or a single unit. You should always get the square meters of apartment. This will give you a good idea of what it is. Find a good metric converter. Or use this Metric Converter.
    • Hours (compare teaching hours and lesson planning hours) some jobs expect you to prepare you lessons on your own. Others have you work with other teachers to create lesson plans. Some schools have you create, prepare, and critique your lesson plans on your own. All teachers are different and would like a different working environment. Be sure you know what you want, and what the job is offering.
    • Paid vacation. This can greatly vary. Some jobs offer 5 weeks paid or 10 days. Which would you rather have??
    • Visa assistance. Some schools help you with obtaining your work visa. Others don’t. But don’t risk working with out the proper documents. Not worth being paranoid that you might get thrown in some foreign jail with crazy lunch ladies.
    • City size. Keep in mind some rural locations should pay more, not everybody is willing to live in the boon docks
    • Finally SALARY
  3. What type of organization is it? English School, Corporate School, University, etc.

  4. Working environment? Ask questions! How many English teachers are there? How long have they been there? How often do you meet with your advisor? If you needed assistance who would give it and is it available?

  5. Finally a question I think is always beneficial is: Are there any other requirements/obligations that are not in the contract? Good idea to ask and get it out of the way. The most common answer that I received was conversation time with the students so that they can practice their English. Sometimes between classes or right after school. Nothing crazy, but good to know.

As you can see getting and reviewing any ESL Job offer is a tedious task. Reputable schools want teachers to understand their contract and agree with all the conditions. They don’t want you coming with false pretenses. You would hate it, break your contract and go home. For us since we have 2 kids in tow we can’t afford not to know the answers to these questions.

So now you have all of your questions answered and you should have 2 or more to review. I had 4 offers that were fairly similar and each enticing. After doing my due diligence online research we narrowed it down to 2. (I will go over due diligence online research in the Free E-book as well-no worries) Now both were in different parts of the country and their main differences were in the accommodation stipend, Salary, and bonus. So basically the difference came down to money. All in different parts of the total package.

I have been working in some shape or form in sales and marketing for over 5 years and recently have become more bold in my methods. I know it sounds scary, but I thought everything is negotiable. All you have to do is ask. If you ask in the right way you won’t not only get what you want but you will get the respect of those that you are requesting it from. They know that you are confident and savvy enough to negotiate. They must have you. 🙂 It also worked!

How to Negotiate

  1. Reach out to the person that made you the offer. Work directly with the person that can make a decision. Let them know politely that you have received another offer that is more/different than their offer, however you are still very interested in their company and give some reasons why. (Make sure to include specific details about that position. There is always something that makes one position stand out.) You would like to see if they could match the other offer.

  2. Put together a brief synopsis of what the other position is offering where their position is lacking. For example I told them that they would be covering all of our living expenses 100% where they were only offering 50%. Put this information in bulleted points. Make it easy for them to understand and see the difference. If the contracts are from different countries make sure to make the currency conversion and cost of living conversion for them. You should have already looked up this information so you should have it readily available. Here is a great cost of living site.

  3. Let them know that all other aspects of the contract are similar. You can even mention a few points. This shows that not only have you actually read your contract, but you understand what it says. See you are already smarter than the average bear.

  4. Let them know that if they would like to see the contract that you have no problem sending it to them to verify your claims. Obviously never send the contract with the other companies information on it. You can delete or blacken that part out prior to sending, if they request it. Many won’t. This lets them know that you are honest. You should NEVER lie about receiving an offer that you haven’t or exaggerate the offer you have received. If they find out they will most likely retract their offer.

  5. Let them know that you are more than happy to discuss the details of your contract at their convenience and thank them for their attention to this matter.

  6. You are always happy to discuss your qualifications in further detail. Why you are worth more! Whala!

Now you have just successfully started the negotiating of your contract.

Final Negotiations
Now you should have received a message back about when they would like to speak. Yes, just like that you have changed the game. Things to keep in mind.

  1. Always sound excited about the job and enthusiastic to jump on board. No one wants to hire a downer.
  2. Don’t apologize for negotiating.
  3. You are bringing many wonderful qualities to the job. Remember they will expect you to deliver everything you said you would. So don’t exaggerate too much.
  4. Ask questions! If you don’t understand the new structure then ask. Remember you are going to be across the globe working for them. There is no better time to clear any confusions up.
  5. Don’t agree to anything on the phone. Say you will think about it and ask when they need an answer by.

Now you have 2 amazing offers!

We now have 2 amazing offers to review. They gave me everything that I asked for and are eager for me to start. (If we go with them) You never know unless you ask. So now we are deciding on where to go based on the local food, weather, and distance to the nearest beach. These are the important things! I haven’t burned any bridges and know that I am getting the best possible offer from both schools.

Pass this on to anyone you know who is thinking of working/teaching abroad. If you have any tricks that I missed please let me know. I love to learn.

Happy Negotiating!

More to come in my FREE E-Book.

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About the Author

Paz is an avid adventurer in life and food. Traveling across the globe with her family they enjoy cultural immersion and checking out the local eateries.

5 Responses to How to Negotiate Your ESL Contract

  1. Pingback: Job Offer in China; YES! | International Cravings

  2. Catherine says:

    How did you get visas for your children?

    • Paz says:

      Catherine- We applied for thier visas at our local Chinese consulate in Chicago. Each visa was $140 USD, but they are good for one year. Let me know if you have questions about specific visas and I am more than happy to pass along the information that I have. Where are you looking to travel to?
      Take Care, Paz

  3. Rusty says:

    I just got a job offer from an English First school in china. They offered me 8500 RMB but as i was browsing jobs on Daves ESL cafe i noticed that the same job was posted with a salary range from 9500-10500 RMB based on experience and qualifications (with all other benefits being the same). Though i did not apply through daves els cafe, It appears that i should try to negotiate into the advertised pay range. Any thoughts on the situation? Any further advice on how to approach this? (most was probably covered above but i would love to hear everybody’s thoughts and opinions!)

    The benefits that were posted on Daves ESL cafe:

    -Our benefits package is one of the best in the city
    • Compensation package of 9,500-10,500 RMB/month (based on qualifications and experience).
    • Up to 6000 RMB per year in performance bonuses
    • Paid annual leave (10 days + Chinese National Holidays)
    • Sponsored Z working visa
    • Airfare allowance
    • International Health insurance
    • Arrival support
    • Free, shared, fully furnished accommodation option
    • Induction teacher training program
    • Classroom-based professional development
    • Career promotion and transfer throughout the world’s leading private educational organization

    • Paz says:


      First I am very excited to hear about your taking the leap to go to China and great you reached out. First know that 9,500- 10,500 is going to be more of the going rate once you get into China. It would be easy to find a job that paid that. Now saying that they are not all English First which has a name behind it and are not all very reputable, but you will get paid and have a job. I suggest you take a look at as well to give yourself a good idea of the going rate. Okay about the negotiating.

      I would be very upfront with English First, they seem to be a good company. Let them know that you found the same job on Dave’s ESL Cafe and you would like that rate. You have seen some of the going rates and you would like to be paid that. Simple. Remind them of how wonderful you are and your commitment to working with them and not just leaving. They have many teachers that just bail on them. Another good thing to keep in mind is that English First is a franchise so while some EF’s will pay really well others don’t simply because the school can’t afford it. So keep the cost of living, city, and environment in mind. It might not be the same school just because it is in the same city or even owned by the same people.

      Hope this helps and supper excited for you adventure.


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