Everything You Need To Know About Teaching English Online

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Online teaching as additional income

Teaching English online is great, it’s both fun and rewarding. However, let’s be honest it’s not always the best-paid job in the world! The good news is that teaching online is a great way to make additional income. Whether you are a NET teacher looking to make some extra money, a teacher from a language school or if you want to make a few bucks while travelling. Working as an online teacher is an excellent way to both improve your teaching skills and make some extra cash on the side.

How does online teaching work?

There are several different ways to get into online teaching. You can either work for an online company which will pay you per hour, or you can set up your own online teaching business. Most teachers get into online teaching by teaching with an online company and then branch out and find their own students. Some examples of online companies you can work for are TOTA, Dada, VIPKID, EF Education First, SayABC, Cambly and VIPX.

Teaching online is usually delivered through an online virtual classroom. These classrooms usually have a 2-way video stream, virtual whiteboard, chat pods, drawing tools and a feedback or rewards system. Materials are usually in a PowerPoint format and are provided for you, so there’s no need to create lesson plans or teaching material. Just go into the classroom 5 minutes before the lesson starts, review the material and get started.

An example classroom from VIPX:

Online English Teach Classroom example
VIPX Online Classroom

What qualifications will I need to teach online?

In the past online teaching jobs have often had lower requirements than other teaching jobs. While this is still the case with some companies, recent changes to the regulations in China, where most of the larger online companies are based, have tightened up on teacher qualifications to increase regulation and teaching quality. For most online teaching jobs a degree and TEFL / TESOL qualification are required. Some companies will also ask for teaching experience but in reality, many teachers can get hired right after completing a TEFL qualification.  

Need a great teaching qualification? Check out our fantastic Online Trinity CertTESOL and Certificate in International TESOL.

How much can I earn teaching online?

Rates for online teaching vary depending on which company you teach for and whether or not you are a native speaker. Non-natives often get lower rates. Jobs for natives can go as high as $30 an hour once you factor in bonuses and other incentive programs. On average most online teachers working with a company earn around $16 an hour. If you have your own students you can build up to as much as $50 an hour, although this is very much for the very popular teachers that have built a strong brand and reputation. 

Where can I teach from?

The great thing about online teaching is that you can teach from anywhere. Most teachers work from hom and work either in the morning before or evening after their main job. It's also a great option for teachers with young children who need a flexible schedule. The third group of teachers that use online teaching for additional income are what are known as digital nomads. These teachers are often travelling and using online teaching as additional income and working from hotel rooms. You just need to make sure you have a stable internet connection. 

When can I teach?

Many companies offer classes 24/7, especially those teaching adults like EF Education First or Cambly. The larger Chinese online teaching companies working with kids have peak times from 18:00 – 21:00 Beijing time weekdays and 09:00 – 21:00 on weekends, as this is when the students are home from school. If you are in Asia this is great as you can teach evenings. The US-based teachers all need to get up very early in the morning. Summer (July – August) is a great time to teach as classes run all day during school holiday. You can check the time differences at https://www.timeanddate.com

What equipment do I need online?           

Aside from a moderately good laptop (Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 3-7), you will need are a good headset, microphone and webcam. The most important thing, however, is a strong and stable internet connection. The speed needed varies by the company from 2mb/s up to 20mb/s download. You can test your speed at www.speedtest.net. Also, critically important is a wired connection using a LAN / Ethernet cable. Online teaching companies hate Wi-Fi!

Can I teach online full time?

While most of the online teaching companies have limited class times to fit their students schedule, there are several that teach 24/7. These are mostly companies teaching adults. If you run your own business and find students in several countries making teaching online a full-time job is certainly possible.

How is online teaching different from face-to-face teaching?

The good news is that the skills you learned on your TESOL or in your current teaching position are transferable. Most online teachers started teaching face-to-face. As with most classroom-based teaching, the methodology is usually communicative language teaching and the materials and virtual classrooms are geared to this. Techniques such as TPR, error correction, instructions and modelling, pair and group work etc. are all used in essentially the same way as in a face-to-face classroom. 

There are some differences, however, especially if you are teaching children. Student engagement is key as there are many more distractions for children who are also learning from home. Skills such as TPR, use of props and realia, for example, become even more relevant in an online setting. Most of the online companies will offer you training before you start to help you make the transition.

What kind of contract will I be on?

If you work for a company you will almost certainly be on an independent contractor agreement, although the terminology used varies. The key things to know are that you are not an employee and will get none of the benefits of such. You are paid for what you teach and that is essentially it. The benefit of this is that the companies, in theory at least, have less control over when and how you work. This means that you can set your own hours for example. The main benefit of being an independent contractor is that you can work for multiple companies.

How can I start my own business?

We all want to be our own boss and teaching online is a great way to do that. There are many platforms available that you can use to teach on. From basic free platforms such as Skype and Zoom all the way up to dedicated teaching platforms that include scheduling systems and learner management systems. Some of the more advanced platforms will also handle student payment for you. A great starting point is the ‘From ESL tutor to Business Owner’ course at JustlESLtutors.com

How do I apply for jobs?

Most online teaching companies have dedicated forms for you to fill in on their websites. These will ask for your qualifications and experience, etc. If you are successful you will be asked for a short interview that usually lasts 30 minutes. During this, you will be asked to demonstrate your teaching skills to the interviewer by teaching them a short demo lesson. Once you pass the interview you may be asked to teach a mock class with real students and complete training. Training usually includes an orientation on how their systems and platform work and some basic skills needed for online teaching. 

Where can I find jobs and further information?

teachfromhome.online has detailed guides to online teaching plus the top jobs for native and non-native speakers. 

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

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