What is the Difference Between a Freelance and an Independent Teacher?

There are 3 categories of teacher employed by English schools and training companies in Italy – freelance, independent and staff.

The type of employment offered will depend on the teacher’s situation and whether the school is an agency (and so effectively taking a commission on hours taught) or a company.

1. An independent teacher (or ‘associate’) is paid exclusively for the number of hours taught each month, does not have a VAT number, and sometimes works for more than one company or school simultaneously. An independent teacher can be employed under either the second or third type of contract as explained in the FAQ on teaching contracts, and is also sometimes compensated for time spent travelling and/or paid a bonus upon completion of their contract.

2. A freelancer is also paid exclusively for the number of hours taught each month, but has an Italian VAT number, or (‘partita Iva‘ – see the FAQ mentioned above). A freelancer usually works for more than one company or school simultaneously, and for legal and financial purposes is effectively a small company.

The main difference is the administrative burden, with invoices, bookkeeping responsibilities, and tax deadlines.

3. A staff teacher is paid a fixed monthly salary which is reasonably independent of the actual number of hours spent in the classroom (though with a certain number of hours expected) and the contract often includes provisions for overtime. A staff teacher is employed under the first type of contract in the FAQ mentioned above.

Pros and Cons

Reflecting, listening and shouting - copyright P Shanks http://www.flickr.com/photos/pshanks/

The pros and cons of each type of position should be considered, based on your personal requirements and preferences.

Independent teachers are by far the largest category of teachers working in Italy, whether for a private language school, an agency or a state school.

“Independent teachers are the largest category in Italy, working for language schools and agencies.”

Freelancers are often employed by schools or agencies that require a lot of flexibility or have few hours to offer, or sometimes directly by corporate clients. For this reason freelance teachers need to have excellent business acumen and planning, as their position is often quite precarious.

The practice of hiring freelancers has recently become much more prevalent in Italy due to frequent, confusing and sometimes ‘difficult’ changes in Italian employment law, and offer the employer advantages in terms of a lower tax burden, increased flexibility and weaker commitments, though often to the detriment of the teacher.

Show me the Money

Independent teachers are normally paid between €20-25 per hour before taxes, depending on location, and freelancers normally the same. Staff teachers typically earn between €14,000-19,000 per year after tax.

Of course those with direct clients decide what to charge, and many teachers do private lessons. The houly rate for private lessons has been decreasing recently in Italy, mostly due to competition from online and Skype lessons, but varies from €10-15 per hour at the bottom range to €20-30, depending on location and the teacher’s experience and business skills.

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