Where can I get a job teaching English online? What are the top jobs for ESL teachers online? What kind of experience do I need to teach online? The number of questions for those that are new to teaching English online can be long. Even those that have some experience in the field have questions that need to be answered. The point of this guide is to help you get started or to fill in the gaps for those of you who are already down the path but need further help.
If you want the short version and top tips on how to get a job teaching online then just follow these steps:
- Get a TEFL certification. If you can get a CELTA that is even better. Of course, if you are an English teacher and have experience that is the best!
- With each school that you apply to make sure that you include a cover letter that talks about how you meet their needs. Do not be lazy and use the same cover letter for each school. Take the time to read each school’s requirements and simply list them out.
- Create a well thought out introduction video that you can link to in your resume. Provide a YouTube and Youku video. Why both, you might ask? Because with Youku the Chinese are able to see it, unlike YouTube which is blocked.
- Create a resume that focuses on solutions for teaching students. Include how you helped students to improve their test scores, helped with their pronunciation, and other items such as fixing their grammar issues in an effective manner.
- Make sure that you have a quiet place to teach from, with a plain backdrop, good headset with microphone, and as fast of an internet connection as possible. Many schools prefer a wired connection. Include this information in your resume.
- With many of the schools, you need to follow up with them. Keep a list of schools that you applied to, when you applied, where you are in the process, and if you have to follow up with them. Persistence is key!
Ok, now on to the long version of teaching online.
Table of Contents
- 1 Short Version
- 2 Can I Teach English Online?
- 3 Why Should I Teach Online?
- 4 Is Teaching Online For Me?
- 5 What Are The Drawbacks Of Teaching Online?
- 6 Creating Terms And Contracts
- 7 How To Create Your Own Lessons
- 8 How do I get paid?
- 9 Planning Your Lessons
- 10 How Do I Communicate With My Students?
- 11 Platforms For Online Language Courses
- 12 Creating Your Own Website
The English teaching market has matured significantly over the last two to three years but there is still room for growth and the demand for teachers is ever increasing along with it. Teaching English online offers flexibility for those who are looking for part-time teaching jobs and can turn into a fulltime job for those who are willing to put in the time and effort.
It should be noted that the highest demand for teachers is from countries such as the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Yes, you can still get a job if you are a native English speaking teacher from another country, or a non-native who has put in the time and reached a level that is good enough for online teaching.
I do not make the rules, but knowing and understanding the market in its current state is necessary so that you do not waste your time applying for companies that might be looking for someone with a different profile than yours.
Can I Teach English Online?
A lot of the times the requirements vary from job to job, but some of the general requirements to teach English online are:
- Being a Native English Speaker
- Have a PC or MAC with a high speed and reliable internet connection
- Being willing to learn a new skillset and handle any technical issues that might arise
- Having the ability to accept payment through Stripe, Paypal, Gumroad or other similar services
- Willing to keep a positive attitude and smiling face with each lesson you teach
- Having to deal with unhinged parents from time to time if you are teaching children
If you have the qualities below, you can earn an even better teaching job if you possess these qualities:
- Experience as a teacher in a classroom environment
- Earned a teaching certificate or a university degree
- Bilingual in another popular language, such as Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean or Chinese
- Have marketing skills to promote yourself and courses if you chose to create them
- Able and willing to work odd hours or on the weekends. Of course, this depends on where you live and where your students are from
- Are clean cut and have a professional look
- Can create your own courses and are willing to learn how to market them
- Have or are willing to learn skills such as WordPress and other online programs needed to develop your own website
If you possess the above qualities, you could have great success teaching English online. About one-third to half of the teaching platforms are looking for teachers with some experience so do not shy away if you are trying this for the first time. There are places that do not require you to have a degree in order to teach online, but having a TEFL Certificate is an almost must have if you want to earn more than the average. This is only required if you teach locally in a classroom setting or at a university.
It is possible to begin teaching online if you have no experience although you will have to work harder. Even though most online platforms do not require their teachers to be bilingual, teachers with this skill use it to their benefit. Knowing a second or even a third language allows them to further connect with their students and help them learn the course material easier. This is especially useful for those students that are in the beginning stages of learning English and don’t understand very much of the language yet.
The main thing is ensuring that you understand the grammar rules and how to teach pronunciation. Many of your students are going to ask you how to pronounce words and phrases. Understanding the various vowel and consonant sounds, the ever famous schwa sound, and common pronunciation mistakes is vital if you want to become a top level teacher. Grammar can be tricky to teach given all of the exceptions afforded in the English language. If you are new to teaching English you might become overwhelmed with some of the finer details when it comes to the various grammar rules.
Why Should I Teach Online?
If you enjoy teaching but do not want to teach in an institute or other classroom settings, you may be a good candidate for teaching online. Other reasons to teach online include flexibility of scheduling, talking to people from other countries, being able to live nearly anywhere in the world while teaching, the satisfaction of teaching someone something new, and for those of you who start your own business you will enjoy being your own boss.
For those of you that need a list, well here it is to help get you motivated:
No Need To Discipline Students
What are your online students going to do that is so out of hand that you would need to discipline them? Right, you get the point. Much better to deal with students online who are simply sitting in their chairs with headsets on listening away. Of course there are rude kids and helicopter parents at times, but for the most part, they are pretty easy to deal with. Teaching adults is even easier.
Controlling Your Own Time
If you own your own website or teaching platform you will put in a ton of work in the beginning which will dwindle down a little later on. Once you are all setup, then you will mainly spend your time teaching and writing up reports.
Now if you are working for an online school you will have certain time schedules to deal with, but you make the choice on where you work. Yes, of course, if you want to make a fair amount of money the market for teaching children in China is the way to go and that means early morning hours for many of you. Again though, it is your choice so choose your school or platform wisely.
You Can Be A Digital Nomad
If you want to become a digital nomad and travel the world while working, then online teaching is a great option. All you need is internet and a few ideas for your lessons. If you work for a company that provides you with students, then you don’t need to plan your classes either! One caveat is you need to make sure you are in a place with a stable internet connection. Sitting in a small hut on a vacant beach in SE Asia might be nice, but I doubt the coconut palms will be pumping out an LTE signal!
Students Seem To Make An Extra Effort
With online students are typically only seeing them for an hour each session, or even less. In these situations, they seem to be more motivated, focused and willing to make that extra effort to do well.
Say Goodbye To Grading Tests
One of the best things is that you rarely will have any tests to grade. Instead, your automated systems like you see with Off2Class that easily spit out results telling you and what level your students. Of course, you have to write small progress reports for each student, but those take very little time and there even automated systems to help you out.
Work With Students From All Over The World
Do you want to learn about a new culture without even having to leave the comfort of your room? That is one of the perks that I like the most about teaching online. Of course, they can be issues and group lessons when you mix some of the cultures together, but one-on-one sessions with students from around the world is a real joy. Some of them are into swapping various recipes back and forth. You’ll be surprised at how eager they are to learn about your culture while also sharing a wealth of knowledge about theirs.
Is Teaching Online For Me?
This is probably one of the most burning questions that you ask yourself when you first start thinking about teaching online. This seems to be a case for people that have never taught ESL before, and even with those who are familiar and have experience teaching in real life.
One of the biggest perks of teaching online is the flexibility of your schedule and the ability to work from the comfort of your home. If the idea of creating your own schedule and being able to make money without leaving your house sounds like a great opportunity, read on.
If you are now a stay-at-home parent but want earn extra income for your household by using your degree that you earned in college, teaching online may be for you.
If you are part of the growing trend of homeschooling your children, you may be perfect for this job. You are already being a teacher inside your home. You may as well make money from it!
If you are a college student and want to find a way to make money without leaving your dormitory or apartment, then this might be the right job for you.
If you are looking for a part-time job that allows you to earn money in your free time without too much stress, then you too might find online teaching to be perfect for you.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Teaching Online?
Although there are plenty of benefits of teaching online, there are a few drawbacks as well. There are some areas where teaching in a classroom setting is more beneficial than teaching online. We are going to look at a few of those reasons below.
You Have To Control Your Own Destiny
Yes, of course, everyone likes to say how much they want to be in control of their own destiny. In reality, many human beings prefer the safety and comfort of the job when they are told what to do and when to do it. This can be seen in a regular classroom setting where you receive feedback from the school district on your teaching methods.
You have an opportunity to compare your teaching methods with your fellow teachers. None of this happens when you are teaching on your own. Well, this is not completely true due to the advent of Facebook groups we can share different teaching methods and so forth. If you do choose to become an online teacher, I definitely recommend that you do find one or two good Facebook groups are teachers are supporting other teachers.
One such group is The Online Teachers Bar and Grill an another one is The Online ESL Teachers Support Group. There are other groups as well these are the first to the company mind. Granted, some of the groups you get involved with are simply places for people to spam referral link after referral link for jobs that promise a higher salary than what they deliver. That is just me being cynical, or stating a fact, and you can be the judge by joining a few groups.
You’ll find that some of the schools do a great job of training teachers while others seem to go through a couple of my classes and then give you free reign. It seems like the longer the school has been around the better the training experience will be.
Fluctuations In Salary
When teaching online one of the difficult things for people get used to is the fluctuation that can happen when it comes to making money. Learning about the various holidays around the world, and other times when students are not around can be a steep learning curve for some or simple one for those who are willing to do a little research.
If you decide to build your own website and find your own students, you might run into a feast or famine environment when you first start your adventure. Being your own boss is great, but with anything that is worth having, it can be hard going in the beginning. If you take this route, you really should have some money stored away or be teaching on another platform while you build your student base.
Another unfortunate trend with online teaching is with schools that promise to pay a certain amount and in the end offer you less than advertised. They will tell you as well that if you just stay with them for a certain number of months you will get a raise. Yes, there are schools that are honest and true to what they say, but there are other schools headed in the other direction. Being cautious in doing your research will help you to avoid these pitfalls.
You should also take into consideration how you’re getting paid. PayPal, for instance, takes a fair amount of fees out of your salary. Another issue with it is how it does not offer the fair value when switching from USD to other currencies. This something else for you to look out for and understand when you venture into the world of online teaching.
The Marketplace Continues To Grow And So Does The Competition
While the internet’s popularity serves many purposes and is the leading way that many freelance workers make their living, you must take into consideration that people all around the world are doing the same thing. This can lead to lower salaries and competition with people who are living in lower-cost environments.
People that live in countries where English is not the native language can charge incredibly low prices for their work. Some of these prices can be as low as $2-3 per hour. Most people that live in a country where English is the native language simply cannot compete with those rates.
Having your own website in teaching platform will help you to get a decent rate as long as you are good at what you do and know how to market yourself. There are also plenty of websites out there that will pay more for a native English speaker from Western countries.
The secret to turning a big profit online is to differentiate yourself from your competitors online. If you offer something different from everyone else, the students will come to you. You need to find your niche basically. Many people find this through test preparation, specific types of training, and pronunciation, just to name a few.
Creating Terms And Contracts
If you are teaching on your own you really should have a contract that your students are aware of. At the very least, it is recommended that you take time to create a FAQ-style document to send to new students. They will probably have questions when they first sign up for your course, and if you send them a prewritten document, you could ease their concerns. This will help them trust you, and when you are providing services online, trust is everything.
How To Create Your Own Lessons
There are many resources that help teachers create their own lesson plans, curriculum, and plans for their students. there are also sites out there that have everything done for you in a turnkey manner.
One of the top sites for ESL teachers is calledOff2Class. It is extremely powerful since it has a vast library of various lessons in a full-fledged platform for teachers to work off of. You’re also able to white label the site with your own logo and login. They also have a good method for onboarding students with an ESL placement test which in turn generates a custom student gap analysis and individual learning plan.
If you click on this link you will receive $5 off your first payment of Off2Class. Let me know if you signup through the referral link and I will show you how to white label OffClass.
There are also websites such as Best Teacher that offer many different written exercises and ideas for teachers to use. Even if you decide to not use something directly from these websites, they may inspire ideas to help you create your own written exercises.
If you need some ideas for your videos and other presentations, take a look at Prezi. This resource allows you to make high-quality presentations for your classes. Think of it as PowerPoint on steroids.
SpeechPeek allows you to show individual attention to each student. With this tool, you can record your assignments as a video. Your students then use the software to record their answers with audio. You can then send them feedback about their audio files. This is a great tool if you have students that require extra attention.
WizIQ Has continued to grow in popularity since it is a full platform for teachers who create courses or simply want to teach one-on-one. They continue to add features on a monthly basis and from what most teachers tell me it is a must-have if you do not have a technical background but want to have your own platform. They do not provide lessons or courses, but they get rid of the headaches when it comes to building them out, a place for hosting, and selling them to potential students.
One of the most difficult things, when you are just starting out, is putting together a curriculum on your own. It can be difficult to learn how to put together a curriculum to help your students when you are just starting out.
How do I get paid?
Being paid by providing services on the internet is now easier than it has ever been before. There are multitudes of different ways that you can accept payment, but two of the most popular are:
- Paypal – By far the largest of online payment providers and currently available in 203 countries. The majority of your students most likely already have a Paypal account. This makes it easy for them to pay you.
- Gumroad – This is an excellent and easy to use system that allows you to accept payments through credit cards or Paypal. They pay you through PayPal as well. One other function that Gumroad has which most others do not is the ability to collect taxes from people who are located in the EU.
- Stripe – this is a popular platform that can be used by most payment plugins on WordPress and other online systems. It is harder to get approved than with PayPal or Gumroad but you will incur lower fees in the long run.
- SamCart – this has become a fairly popular system to use but can get a little pricey if you are not pulling in a large number of students. There are a large number of functions that can help you to promote your lessons and courses as well and provides strong tracking software.
Planning Your Lessons
Even though you will be teaching your courses online, you will have a lot to remember and to keep track of. To help you with this, you should use a calendar to efficiently plan your lessons. Here are three of the most popular. I highly suggest that you use Google Calendar or iCal. The reason why is that if you plan on having your own website or will be freelancing then either of these will probably sync up with whatever online booking system you are working with or plug-in that is being used as a booking system.
Here are a few online booking systems:
- Acuity Scheduling – one of the main things about this calendar is that it will adjust to the time zone of your student. Your students can view your real-time availability, select the date and time for a lesson, and then pay with Stripe, Paypal or Authorize.net.
- Appointy – with this scheduling system you have a lot of social sharing functions and have the ability to integrate with Reserve on Google.
- SimplyBook.me – this looks like another solid solution for teachers since it offers a booking web page, Facebook button for instant booking, full-blown statistics tracking system, and a booking button to help you integrate into your existing website.
Here are a few plugins for WordPress sites that allow for online bookings:
- Bookly – this plugin integrates with Google Calendar and WooCommerce for a streamlined user experience for you and your students. If you do not have WooCommerce you can still receive payments by using PayPal, Authorize.Net, and Stripe.
- PinPoint – another scheduling plugin that integrates with WooCommerce to ensure you get paid. Alternatively, you can use their PayPal option which allows for credit cards as well. You can promote your lessons through coupons and discounts as well.
- WPBooking Calendar – if age is a sign of quality, then this plugin should be the top on your list since it is one of the oldest booking plugins. The main quality about this plugin is that it is extremely easy to use for you and the student. It is well-documented and allows you to customize your functionality by adding custom fields.
- Birch Press – this is another plugin that is proven and allows you to add a professional booking management system without too much in terms of configuration. Your students can easily book appointments and pay for them using PayPal account or Credit Card.
If you are developing your own website or other types of online platforms you should consider looking into planning and tracking software. This will help you to stay on track and understand how much time you are spending all the various tasks. Here are some popular tracking tools:
- Tracking Time – this is what I use all of the time. It can be used with multiple people as well by simply adding them to your tasks. It helps me to understand where I am putting my effort without making much effort to set up projects and tasks.
- Asana – highly popular tool and good for when working with teams. It is extremely fast and responsive to use. The downside is that it can get rather costly once you add on a large number of team members.
- Due Time Tracking – Has a great free and paid for versions. This is a good choice for those who are also billing for freelance work.
- Rescue Time – Another great free application with a feature-rich paid for version at a reasonable cost.
How Do I Communicate With My Students?
There are many, many, many different tools you can use to help you communicate with your students. The most popular ones are Zoom, Skype, Appear.in, and Wiz IQ. Many of the schools also have their own proprietary communication platforms. Some can be a bit flaky at times, just so you are forewarned.
You will now learn which communication tools are best for teaching and why. I like using Appear.in due to how easy it is to use and the fact that you do not need an account and you do not have to download anything. I find that the students tend to have fewer problems connecting as well.
You only need a basic communication tool in order to be effective as an online teacher. Any other features you choose are preference only. However, it is good to have a communication tool that allows you to share your lessons in an interactive manner.
You also need to be considerate when it comes to the fact that your student might be running on a low bandwidth connection. If you are sharing your screen or lessons and they lag due to a slow connection it can ruin your lesson with your student.
You want to use a communication tool that feels natural and easy to use because the majority of your students are new to online learning and may have some anxiety. The easier, the better. Keep in mind as well that your students might have a preference, with many of them already on Skype. Personally, I think that Skype is rather bloated and sucks up too much bandwidth compared to other platforms. This is especially the case when you start to share your screen. You might want to hold the first few lessons with the new student on Skype and then switch them to a better platform.
What Are Some Of The Tools Available
When you begin teaching online courses, your students choose you because they like what you offer and want to learn from you. The clearer your video and audio are, the better your students will be able to connect with you, the happier they are, and the more likely they will recommend you to their friends. The top options for communicating with your students are listed below:
- Wiz IQ: a paid service that offers video, audio chat, a curriculum builder, and more. This platform can be a little more expensive than others but it has a lot of functionality. If you are planning on running your own lessons and courses you should look into this as a solution.
- Zoom: another option that offers both free and paid versions. I like this better than Skype due to it being so reliable and having a built-in function for recording the lessons.
- Skype: You have probably already used this one, but in case you haven’t, Skype is an extremely popular app for video conferencing and instant messaging. There are both free or paid models depending on where you want to call, but it is always affordable. With Skype you can also have your own Skype in number which is useful for those of you who are digital nomads.
- Appear.in: this is a newer and lesser know system, but is extremely reliable and does not require any downloading of software. Hopefully, more people start to use this so that it continues to be better known. The only drawback is that some students are hesitant at first to use it since they have not heard of it in the past.
These are only some of the top choices for helping you succeed as a teacher. There are so many other options if you wish to look into them and I am sure that someone is coding away at yet another new system to help teachers and students to better communicate with each other. So many online communication tools are starting up that it is impossible to keep track of them all.
You can spend a lot of your time downloading new programs and testing them out only to decide that they don’t work for you for one reason or another. Instead of doing this, you could be spending your time doing something more productive like teaching or finding new students.
Platforms For Online Language Courses
If you are working as a freelancer, you have to find students on your own. You will need to make your own website, market yourself, and promote your courses. This is doable but it takes time and takes a lot of dedication. Furthermore, there is no getting around the fact that it helps if you are technically savvy or willing to make the effort to become that way.
When you are just starting out and don’t have much experience, there is an easier way you can get started rather than freelancing. This can be done through getting a job with one of the many online ESL schools. Another option is to work on many of the create your own profile platforms.
The way it works is you will get a portion of the money that your students pay for your lessons and courses. You and your courses will be on high-traffic sites where your courses are put in front of the eyes of thousands of students. You won’t have to worry about processing your payments because the platform will do it for you.
Like online communication tools, there are so many different platforms to teach English online that it is impossible to cover them all. We will cover some of the most popular ones such as Cambly, iTutor, CafeTalk, and Italki.
Cambly gets mixed reviews from teachers since a number of students flowing into the platform fluctuates. This used to be the go-to company for many of the teachers first starting out. One tip is to follow up with them after you have filled in your information and have created your introduction video. You need to differentiate yourself as well by having a well-written profile that explains why a student should take a class with you instead of with the many other teachers you are competing against. This is a create your own profile platform.
Another popular company for teachers just starting out is iTutor. It is a company that is based in Taiwan and focuses on teaching English to speakers where Mandarin is their native language. This is an extremely mature company and if you get hired there is a good amount of classes that will be available for you to teach. They provide training, have the lessons pre-planned for you, and have a good support network.
TutorABC’s base pay is only about $8 an hour. It is possible to make more than this with different bonuses that the company offers, but don’t expect to make much more than $10 an hour through this platform. If you are a non-native teacher the pay can be lower and the pay fluctuates based on where you live.
Because this company is popular for Chinese speakers, you will be required to be available when it is considered “peak time” in China. This time frame is normally during the weekends and evenings.
If you want to look for students who are Japanese adults then Cafetalk is a good platform to try out. A good thing about this platform is you can create as many different courses that you want. With these courses, you have the option of being able to have a paid trial lesson so that the students can become familiar with you and your technique.
The nice thing about Cafetalk is that the majority of the students are Japanese adults. They tend to take learning more seriously and are typically taking lessons for work-related reasons. This is a great platform for those of you who like to teach business lessons to adults.
Italki is a massive platform that boasts over 1000+ teachers and 2000+ tutors. There is a language exchange portion of the platform as well. This is another create your own profile platform so you will be in competition with many other teachers and tutors. Like with Cambly, you will need to make sure that your profile stands out. With Italki you create three types of courses that you will offer to students. Make sure that these are in popular niches such a test preparation, pronunciation, and business English.
You will hear many different strategies when it comes to pricing your lessons. Most people will start out with lower prices for the lessons, build up a reputation, and slowly raise their prices. Just keep in mind that you are in competition with a massive amount of other teachers and tutors. Similar to Cafetalk, you are able to offer trial lessons to help onboard your students. Do not rely on this being a fulltime position when you first start out.
Creating Your Own Website
This is a bit harder to do and I will explain this in more detail in other posts. The main thing that you need to know about going this route is that you will have to be good at creating your own lessons and content. Another important item to consider is that you will either need to become tech-savvy when dealing with building your own site, creating a sales funnel, setting up e-commerce, and other functions, or be willing to hire someone to do these things for you. There is a lot more to it than you think!