Do you want to teach English online? Get all of the information you need from our ultimate guide and find helpful tips to get started. Let’s get into it!
How can I teach English online?
So, you’re ready to put on your headset and start teaching English online, that’s a great first step! However, before you get too excited and jump straight in, it’s important to understand the basics. After all, teaching English online is quite different to teaching English in the classroom.
What does online English teaching involve?
Online English teaching quite literally involves teaching other people English online. I’m guessing you already knew that part! Lessons are usually done via video calls using software such as Zoom, Google Meet or Skype. Although if you end up working for an online company you might be expected to use their in-house application to teach online and conduct classes.
When teaching English online you could be teaching children or adults. The subject matter can range from conversation, general English, business English or preparing students for exams.
Class sizes online can be either one-on-one or with multiple students, just like in a regular classroom. The key difference is that online you can’t see what all of your students are doing at once so easily. This can make it more challenging to hold their attention and check their work and comprehension.
You therefore need to understand the best practices for teaching online and have all of the TEFL teaching techniques down pat. This is why we always recommend taking a TEFL course before you go and teach English online.
The reason for taking a TEFL course is that when you’re teaching English online you’ll be teaching English language learners whose first language is not English. Hence the term teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
TEFL requires a variety of skills and techniques which you can learn by getting TEFL certified. These include classroom management, lesson planning and teaching grammar. Plus the four key skills of reading, listening, writing and speaking!
If you know that your focus is going to be teaching online, it can also be worth looking out for a course that is designed with this in mind. A number of TEFL courses will offer a teaching online module.
Why teach English online?
There are many reasons to teach English online. One reason is that it is a great way to make money from home. From a more altruistic perspective it also allows students from all over the world to learn English from a qualified teacher. It can even provide a more personal and interactive learning experience than traditional classroom settings. Let’s look at some of the key benefits of teaching English online and also consider some of the cons:
What are the pros and cons of teaching English online?
The benefits of teaching English online:
It can be done from anywhere in the world provided you have a good internet connection. This makes it the ideal occupation for those who want to work from home or travel.
Control your own schedule
You can set your own hours and work when, where and how much you want. This gives you much greater flexibility in your daily life and you can take holidays and days off when you choose. It can also be more flexible for your students, making it a more convenient option all round!
For many teachers, a good life/work balance can seem like a distant dream. But when you’re teaching online, you’re able to control your working hours and fit work around your life.
No more commuting to work
Do we need to say any more?
Online English teaching can be pursued as a brand new career or to supplement your existing earnings and provide a new income stream.
Good earnings potential
You can make decent money teaching English online and this will only increase as your experience grows. Freelance English teachers in particular can do very well if they have established a good reputation.
By not commuting you’ll save on travel costs and also won’t be tempted to buy that morning coffee or sandwich at lunch!
Relatively low barriers to entry
Getting TEFL certified doesn’t have to break the bank. There are a number of good cheap online TEFL courses available. Once you’ve done your TEFL course, all you need is a computer, webcam and headset and you’re ready to go.
No visas, flights or relocation to worry about
When planning on teaching English abroad these are all things that you have to consider. Working online removes these hurdles.
A great way to get started
You might be thinking about teaching English abroad, but are unsure whether it’s for you. Before you take that big step of moving abroad, teaching English online can be a great way to dip your toe in the water and see if it is for you. Once you’ve built up your confidence and got some teaching experience you can then think about applying to teach English abroad.
Furthermore, although online teaching may not be as glamorous as the idea of working abroad, don’t forget that you can still live and travel abroad whilst teaching online!
Cons of teaching English online:
In a permanent job, you know how much money you earn each month. With online teaching, you could have a month when you earn more than you anticipate, only to have that drop the following month. It’s therefore important to have sufficient funds saved for the quieter months.
Lack of students
As mentioned above, student demand can vary depending upon the time of year. Also, when you first start teaching online it can take time to establish yourself and your reputation so you may find it difficult getting students. One way to safeguard against this is to start teaching for an online company and offer your own lessons on the side. That way if you want to go freelance you can get some income whilst you establish your client base.
Even if you have a good number of students, reliability can be an issue when teaching online. Students can easily drop out at the last minute or turn up late and still demand you teach them their allocated time. To make matters worse, if you’re unfortunate enough to lose out on a class at the last minute, you may not be entitled to any money.
To prevent this, if you’re working for yourself you should put a refund policy in place and make sure students agree to and understand the rules. Likewise, if you work for a company you should check their refund policy on cancelling students to see if they offer offer partial or total compensation. If you’re dissatisfied with their services, you shouldn’t hesitate to look elsewhere.
Working odd hours
In order to get work you need to make yourself available when your students can have classes. This means that you could end up working very early in the morning or late at night depending upon where you are and where your students are from. For example, the greatest demand for online English lessons is from Asia. Peak hours for them are either side of midday in Europe, but if you’re in North America this can be in the middle of the night.
When you work from home it can be difficult to switch off and step away from the computer. There is always that temptation to take that extra class as well. To avoid this, you should establish a good routine and set aside time for yourself and take regular breaks from the computer.
This is something that a lot of people struggle with when working by themselves at home. If you do find yourself in this position, you should make an effort to get out and see people in your free time. That way you can hopefully find some sort of balance. If this doesn’t work for you then it might be worth considering going to face-to-face classes or working in a language school.
Ahh technology. When teaching online you’re reliant upon your internet connection and your computer. If one of these fails you it means no more lessons. You’ll inevitably encounter this at some point and you just need to make sure you have reliable internet and the best possible equipment to mitigate these risks.
What do you need to teach English online?
There are a few things you’ll need to teach English online. The first is a high speed internet connection. You’ll also need a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam and microphone. Finally, you’ll need some teaching materials. These can be provided by a company or you can find materials online and create your own. However, before you get into that it’s important to think about the requirements for teaching English online.
What are the requirements for teaching English online?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the requirements for teaching English online will vary depending on the company or organization you work for. However, in general, in order to teach English online most jobs can require you:
- To be a native English speaker, or have native level proficiency.
- Hold a TEFL certification.
- Have a degree. Although it is possible to get a job teaching English online without a degree.
- Have some prior teaching experience in TEFL.
Can I teach English online without a TEFL certificate?
Yes, you can teach English online without a TEFL certificate, but it is not recommended. A TEFL certificate provides you with the necessary training and knowledge to be an effective English teacher. Without a TEFL certificate, you may not be as successful in your teaching career. Whilst anybody can become a freelance online English teacher, most companies will require you to be TEFL certified in order to work for them. Not only that, if you want to provide a good level of tuition to your students you need to have the necessary skills. Doing a TEFL course will equip you with these skills.
What TEFL qualification do I need?
Almost all of the major online teaching platforms require you to be TEFL qualified. Some companies will have different requirements to others, but in general you should look for a 120-hour TEFL course from an accredited TEFL course provider.
In most instances a good TEFL course should be enough to get started. You may also choose to take a TESOL course, CertTESOL course or CELTA course depending upon your needs. Both CertTESOL and CELTA are more intensive and thus are usually more expensive teaching certifications. If you’re serious about pursuing TEFL as a career you should consider these qualifications. You can learn more about the difference between TEFL, TESOL, CertTESOL and CELTA courses here.
Bonus tip: It’s also worth keeping your eye open for a course that offers a specialization in teaching English online. This can set you apart from your peers, especially if you don’t have a degree.
Can I teach English online without a degree?
You can teach English online without a degree, but this can depend on what company you work for. You may also need to get a TEFL certification.
Many major online teaching platforms require their English teachers to hold both a degree and a TEFL certification. However, the degree can usually be on any subject so don’t fret if your degree isn’t English or education related.
Fortunately, not all online English teaching companies require a degree. There are plenty of opportunities out there for those with a TEFL certificate and a good level of English. Furthermore, nothing is stopping you from setting up as a freelance English teacher if you don’t have a degree.
You can head here to find out more about teaching English online without a degree and the positions available.
Do I need teaching experience to teach English online?
No, you don’t need teaching experience to teach English online. However, it can be helpful to have some previous teaching experience or to be very familiar with the English language. This is because some companies will look for applicants with experience.
If you don’t have any previous teaching experience you can still beef up your English teacher CV with any indirect experience from your previous jobs. For example, you may have conducted training online or run online presentations. You could even have direct experience teaching young learners. Anything that is relevant should be included in your TEFL CV.
If you’re completely new to teaching, in addition to taking a TEFL course, you may want to consider taking a course or workshop to help you get started with online teaching.
Do I need to be a native speaker to teach English online?
No, you don’t always need to be a native speaker to teach English online. You do need to be fluent in English and have a good understanding of the language. Additionally, you should be familiar with the basics of teaching English as a foreign language.
However, you should be aware that a number of online teaching companies look for teachers from the USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. So, native English speakers can have an advantage.
Don’t let this discourage you if you’re not a native English speaker. There are still plenty of online English teaching platforms that will accept you if you have the necessary skills. Indeed, some of the best English teachers out there are non-native English speakers.
For more information, you can check out our list of online English teaching jobs to see the requirements of each company.
How do I find online English teaching jobs?
To start with you can use the link above! Otherwise, there are a few ways to find online English teaching jobs:
Work for an online English school
One way is to search for online English companies that hire English tutors. This can be done by a simple Google search or by visiting a dedicated jobs board for TEFL.
Another way is to search general job boards, such as Indeed.com or Monster.com, for online teaching positions.
Teach private students
Finally, you can also search for private students who are looking for online English lessons. People run whole courses on how to achieve this effectively and work as a successful freelance teacher, but a good place to start is on Facebook groups or online directories where you can advertise your services.
The good news is that the popularity of online learning is booming. This means that a new online language learning platform is always popping up and there are plenty of opportunities out there. If I was starting out again, I would probably look to join a company that offered a good flow of students at a fixed hourly rate, whilst building up my own freelance client base on the side for extra profit.
How much can I earn teaching English online?
There is no one answer to this question as it can vary greatly depending on the company you work for, your qualifications, and your experience. However, most online English teaching positions pay between $10 and $25 per hour. However, if you work as a freelance teacher and build up your own business you can expect to charge a lot more.
If you’re new to online teaching there is a important distinction to make between companies that pay you a fixed hourly rate, versus companies where you can set your own rates. It’s up to you to choose which platforms to join and advertise yourself as an online English teacher, so you need to decide what works best for you. Companies that offer a fixed hourly rate will generally provide you with students.
If you want to advertise with a company where you set you’re own rate it will be up to you to attract students. This is done by building an attractive teacher profile and establishing your reputation on the platform over time.
A good way to quickly build a client base on these platforms is by identifying a teaching niche that you want to specialize in. For example you could specialize in teaching English online to young learners or teaching business English to adult learners. Preparing students for exams such as IETLS or TOEFL is also a great way to niche down.
How to set you own rate for classes
How you set your lesson prices will depend upon a number of factors such as:
- The type of lesson you offer
- Your level of experience
- Your qualifications
- The market conditions
- How you structure your offering
For example, you would charge less for a conversation class than an exam preparation class. The amount of money you can earn can also be determined by where you advertise your services.
Important note: If you use an online teaching platform where you can set your prices, you may still lose 15 – 20% of that on commission. Whereas if you directly acquire your own students privately you can keep all of the money.
If you’re looking for further guidance and want to save some time, check out the table below for a list of popular online English teaching companies and platforms to see what they each offer.
What types of online English teaching job can I do?
If you’re still unsure of what type of online English teaching job to go for, there are a few simple steps to help you narrow down your choice.
Firstly, you should see what jobs you are qualified for. Then you need to decide if you want to teach children or adults. Once you have done this you can decide if you want to work for an online teaching company or become a freelance English teacher and work independently. Naturally there are pros and cons for both.
Working for an online English teaching platform
In order to work for an online English teaching company you’ll first need to apply. This means that you’ll need to send in your CV and you may need to record a demo lesson for online teaching. To get an idea of what this can be like you can check out this demo lesson for Vipkid.
You can get helpful tips on the interview process for other companies by searching their name on YouTube along with the words “tips” or “demo lesson”. In addition to this you should always read the application guidance on the company’s website.
The pros of working for an online English teaching platform
They will source the students for you. This means no concerns about finding students. They will also already have a curriculum in place, meaning that you don’t need to spend time developing teaching materials. This can be particularly beneficial for new teachers who lack experience.
The cons of working for an online English teaching platform
With a fixed curriculum you don’t get much chance to develop your own teaching, and the company will be taking a significant amount of money that the student is effectively paying for your teaching.
Working as a freelance online teacher
Working independently as a freelance online teacher is a very common path for teachers to take after they have taught English online at a company. A lot of teachers will start by running a few of their own online classes whilst still working for the company. This is a good way to do it. That way, as you build your client base, get more students and develop your own lesson plans, you can gradually move to more freelance work.
Pros of working as a freelance teacher
There are several advantages to being a freelance teacher. Perhaps the most obvious is that you have more control over your own schedule. You can set your own hours and choose the days you teach. This can be a great advantage for people who want to balance work with other commitments. Another advantage is that you can choose the students you want to work with. This gives you the opportunity to focus on teaching students who are interested in your subject and who want to learn. You’ll also make a lot more money as you can set how much you charge and keep 100% of the profits!
Cons of working as a freelance teacher
Working as a freelance teacher isn’t always an easy ride. You have to build your client base and this can take time. You need to understand how to market yourself, build a good website and identify all of the best channels for promotion. Not only that, it is your responsibility to develop the online lessons and materials and deliver the online classes effectively.
What are the best resources for online English teachers?
After that statement you might be wondering where you can find some teaching resources! There are many great resources for online English teachers. Online EFL (English as a foreign language) and ESL (English as a second language) sites and forums can be a great place for finding lesson plans, activities, and teaching tips. You can check out some of the best websites for EFL and ESL teachers here.
Alternatively, if you and your students are in need of a bit of light relief there are numerous fun games you can play online. These are great for brining some enjoyment to the online classroom, which when combined with learning makes the whole process worthwhile.
Is teaching English online worth it?
Yes, teaching English online can be totally worth it! You can make money from the comfort of your own home whilst improving the English of students around the world. You can even travel whilst you teach if you want to and it is possible to make a career out of teaching English online.
Naturally, there are still a few things to consider when deciding if a job teaching English online is right for you. First of all, you need to be comfortable with technology and be able to navigate online tools. Secondly, you need to have the right equipment and a reliable internet connection. Third, you need to have some teaching experience or be willing to learn how to teach online. Finally, you need to be comfortable working from home. If you tick all of these boxes then you’re good to go and you won’t be disappointed that you tried it out.