Teaching English online is an excellent way to earn extra money from home. In this article, we're going to show you how teaching English online can be a lucrative and rewarding career!
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Are you fluent in the English language? Do you consider yourself a pro when it comes to verbal and written English? If you’ve answered yes to both of these questions, then you might want to consider putting your skills to good use.
There is an increasing demand for English teachers by online education companies and students worldwide looking to improve their language skills.
If you are looking for an additional source of income, working as a remote English tutor can be a good side hustle. Most companies offer flexible hours, which works well for people who already have a 9 to 5 job.
If you are already a teacher with experience in a classroom setting, online teaching can be a great way to continue doing what you love while keeping you gainfully occupied in your free time.
If we’ve caught your interest, continue reading to learn how to make money teaching English online with this comprehensive guide. We’ve compared popular educational companies and listed practical tips to help you get started.
Advantages of Teaching English Online
Getting certified is a great way to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach English to global students. For example, the TEFL certification course from the TEFL Academy prepares you to teach either a classroom-based course or an online class.
Whether you are looking for a full-time job or a side hustle, working as an online ESL tutor offers the following benefits:
Earning Potential - The usual rate is between $12 and $40 per hour, based on your qualifications and skills.
Flexibility - Most platforms allow you to pick your shifts. You can also choose if you want to teach individual students or group classes.
Location Independence - Teaching English online does not require you to report to a school or an office. You can do your job from the comfort of your home.
High Demand - English is widely used for international communication. It is also the language of the online world and on social media platforms too.
Personal Interaction - An online tutoring job involves interacting with people, most often from abroad. Such activities might be a welcome diversion, especially if your regular day job does not allow much scope for personal interactions.
Cultural Exposure- You get to learn about other cultures without having to travel abroad.
Job Satisfaction - Teaching remains one of the most satisfying jobs ever. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get when you hear your student speak fluent English.
Online English Teaching Requirements
Being a native speaker is a plus when applying for a position, but it is not the only qualification. If you want to land a job with a high-paying tutorial company, you’ll require:
1. A Bachelor’s Degree
Most companies require a bachelor’s degree for ESL (English as a Second Language) or EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers. They only accept applicants who have completed a 4-year degree in English, Education, Linguistics, Communication, or any related course.
Education majors are usually in demand because they come with the necessary training and experience. This applies to teaching at any level: preschool, elementary, high school, or college.
If you do not possess a bachelor’s degree, you do not need to be discouraged or give up on your dream of teaching English online. Some companies do not require a degree, provided you are a native English speaker. However, you may not get paid as much as those with a degree.
Some companies may require you to have any of the following professional teaching certifications.
TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL - Teaching English as a Second Language
Getting certified is a great way to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach English to global students. For example, the TEFL certification prepares you to teach either a classroom-based course or an online class.
Most courses include a practical component and also allow aspiring teachers to get constructive feedback from experienced trainers.
3. Internet Access and Equipment
Since you’ll be teaching all of your classes online, you’re required to have a stable internet connection. So, make sure to test your internet connection before committing to online teaching.
Most companies require a minimum speed of 5 Mbps. Upgrade your internet plan if your home connection is not fast enough. Otherwise, you will get disconnected in the middle of a session.
You will also need essential equipment such as:
If your home internet connection is not stable, consider working in a co-working facility. Here, you can avail of private cubicles and a reliable internet connection for a monthly fee. Plus, you won’t have to worry about noise or interruptions during your classes.
4. Optional Qualifications
Teaching experience is a must for some companies since a majority of English language students are children. Most online English education companies cater to Chinese or South Korean kids aged 4 to 12. Since English is not their native language, they have a limited vocabulary. They would therefore need someone to guide them through the basics of English.
When you apply, make sure you highlight the following in your resume:
Classroom experience (elementary, high school, college, or university)
Facilitating workshops or seminars
However, online English teachers who have no prior teaching experience can still apply for a position. Most companies accept teachers with no tutoring experience, provided that they follow guidelines and undergo training.
Adult ESL students usually need to master English for work purposes. That’s why some tutorial companies prefer to hire tutors who have experience in non-educational fields like:
Business or finance
This practice allows the teacher to discuss technical topics in English, followed by practical examples.
A Foreign Language
Some companies prioritize applicants who can communicate fluently in their students’ native language.
A teacher who can speak in a student’s mother tongue can explain concepts faster. It also makes it easier to establish rapport with students, especially younger kids who may find it difficult to interact with new people.
Now that you have an idea of the qualifications, let’s look at the best online tutoring companies.
Best English Teaching Websites
We’ve compiled a list of popular online English teaching companies. But, before you start applying, it’s essential to compare what each has to offer and go with a company that works best for you.
VIPKid is one of the largest English tutoring platforms in China. To date, they have nearly 70,000 teachers and over a million students. The company hires North American English teachers to tutor Chinese students from kindergarten to 9th grade.
One of their selling points is that VIPKid teachers do not need to create lesson plans.
VIPKid has high standards for its tutors, but the compensation and bonuses are pretty competitive.
Criteria: Bachelor’s degree
Pay: $17-$21 per hour
Bonuses: Depending on the number of classes you teach per month, bonuses can range from $15-$24 per hour
Contract Length: 6 Months
Work Hours: At least 7.5 hours of bookings per week
Class Length: 30 Minutes
2. EF Education First
EF Education First has over 32,000 teachers and 54 physical offices worldwide. The company hires native English speakers from the United States and the United Kingdom. Teachers are provided with a curriculum and assigned one-on-one classes with Chinese students.
EF Education First offers an excellent salary and bonus package. In addition, the absence of a minimum work hours policy makes the company a great fit for those looking for flexible working hours.
Criteria: Bachelor’s degree
Pay: $13-$17 per hour
Bonuses: Teachers who book 60 classes or more get a bonus on all monthly classes. Bonus for zero cancelations within the month. Bonus per class during surge hours (M-F 6 am to 8:30 am EDT and Sat-Sun 9 pm-10:30 pm EDT)
Contract Length: 6 Months
Work Hours: No minimum requirement
Class Length: 25 Minutes
Cambly accepts native English teachers from North America, Australia, and the UK. They have global students of varying ages and levels of English proficiency.
Compared to other platforms, Cambly has a more casual approach. Here, English learners can practice their speaking skills by having conversations with native English speakers. The platform charges students a per-minute fee to chat with tutors.
The best part? Cambly’s hiring requirements are not as stringent as the other platforms.
Pay: $10 per hour for adult students/$12 per hour for children
Contract Length: No contract
Work Hours: No minimum
Class Length: May vary depending on the student’s needs
Qkids hires teachers from the US and Canada to teach Chinese students aged 4 to 12.
What sets Qkids apart is their unique way of teaching students. They use narratives and gamified lesson plans that help students learn English better. With these materials, teachers can make classes enjoyable for students.
Up to four students are allowed per class, so teachers can encourage interaction among students to improve their conversation skills.
Criteria: Bachelor’s degree
Pay: $8 per lesson or approximately $17 per hour
Bonuses: Bonus based on reviews per lesson. Bonus for every 15 lessons taught in a week. Referral bonus for referring another teacher to Qkids
Contract Length: 6 Months
Work Hours: At least 6 hours per week
Class Length: 30 Minutes
5. Magic Ears
Magic Ears hires teachers from the US and Canada to teach students aged 4 to 12. They are one of the highest-paying companies in the industry, with a rate of up to $26 per hour.
The company’s payment structure gives priority to veteran teachers. Further, if you have a master’s degree or extensive teaching experience, you can expect a higher rate.
Aside from this, tutors have more control over their workload and schedule. There are no penalties for canceling classes provided teachers give more than 24 hours’ notice.
Criteria: Bachelor’s degree
Pay: $18-$26 per hour
Bonuses: Referral bonus
Contract Length: 6 Months
Work Hours: Flexible
Class Length: 25 Minutes
As you can see here, established tutorial companies have stricter requirements for hiring and deliverables. Therefore, you may need to invest in certifications and commit to a more significant workload to command a higher salary.
Should You Start Your Own English Teaching Business?
Some online English teachers prefer to set up their own tutorial businesses instead of working for existing companies. The most significant advantage of this approach is that you have more control over what you earn. However, starting out on your own also has its cons.
Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of working independently:
You can set your own schedule, curriculum, and hourly rates.
You don’t have to pay any penalties for absences or for running late.
Experienced teachers can easily attract high-paying students.
You need to handle everything: materials, accounting, technical issues, etc.
You have to look/advertise for prospective students.
Inexperienced teachers may have a hard time attracting students.
Tips for Independent Online English Tutors
Invest in the right equipment - Getting reliable equipment is a must. Remember, you won’t have access to tech support as a freelance English tutor.
Build up your credentials - Secure the needed certification and teaching experience to give yourself an edge in the online teaching market
Select the best platform for your needs - Whether you opt for Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet will depend on your class’s size, duration, and structure. Double-check if the platform is accessible in your student’s location.
Market yourself - Use social media, Google ads, or freelance platforms. You can also create a professional website to market your services.
Set an hourly rate - Determine your desired pricing per class. Offer packages and promos to encourage students to enroll.
Set up a payment platform - Set up a bank or PayPal account to facilitate easy payments.
Join Online Groups for English Teachers
A remote job can get lonely after a while. So, it is good that there are plenty of online support groups catering to specific interests or needs.
While some of these groups are on social media, others are informal forums, and a few are associated with professional organizations. You can also find virtual communities for English tutors based in your city or state. There are also groups for those teaching certain nationalities or grade levels.
What can you expect from these online groups?
You will likely benefit from the support, advice, and feedback from fellow teachers on:
Job opportunities and leads
Requirements for employment
Which companies offer fair salaries and great bonuses
Which companies have great teacher support
Pros and cons of working at a specific company
To search for a specific topic or area of concern, look for keywords such as “flexible hours,” “no degree,” “no contract,” etc.
Here’s a list of Facebook groups that you can also consider checking out:
You’ll be amazed at the wealth of information you get from the posts on a group’s wall.
We recommend joining one group at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed. Give yourself ample time to explore job openings and build connections with other teachers.
What Are the Challenges of Teaching English Online?
While teaching English online offers the convenience of remote work and a flexible schedule, it comes with its own set of challenges.
Remote Work Setup
A remote work setup is not always easy. Given the nature of the job, it is vital to work in an environment free of noise and other distractions. Some companies, for example, may require you to teach with an uncluttered wall behind you to avoid distracting students. If you don’t have this, check if you can use virtual backgrounds instead.
Working from home with little kids around can also be demanding. Make sure that other household members are available to take care of them if you do not want to get interrupted in the middle of a class.
Ensure your equipment is ready and functioning before you start your class. Test your microphone and headset for issues with static or volume.
Teaching requires a lot of time and energy, so you’ll need to iron out any scheduling conflicts beforehand. Luckily, most online platforms allow their teachers to set their own schedules, making it an excellent opportunity for people who already have full-time jobs.
Given the time zone differences, you may need to work late at night or early in the morning. You also have a shorter time limit per class compared to traditional courses. Remember to give yourself enough time to prepare for lessons and take breaks.
Lack of Structure
Flexibility may not be for everyone. If you thrive on structure, transitioning from a traditional job to a work-from-home setup can be tricky. You run the risk of either overwork or underwork.
Make sure you’re setting boundaries between work and daily life. Stick to your daily routine as much as possible. This way, you’ll keep your physical and mental health in check while enjoying the flexibility that online teaching offers.
Here are other drawbacks to consider:
Penalties for tardiness or negative reviews
Voice exhaustion if you work long hours without a break
No paid vacation or sick leaves
A sedentary lifestyle that can lead to health problems
Dealing with reluctant or rebellious learners, especially young children
Keep in mind that all jobs have their own set of challenges, so it depends on what you are willing to handle.
Top 5 Skills Required to be a Successful ESL Teachers
Apart from your mastery of the language, educational qualifications, and certifications, having the following five skills will set you apart as the best online ESL teacher.
If you’re working with kids, it’s necessary to stay calm when students struggle with lessons or throw tantrums. Some may be resistant to learning English. Others keep getting distracted because they’re learning online and not in person.
Keep in mind that your students may be taking English tutorials on top of a long school day, tons of homework, and cram school. They may already be exhausted by the time they attend your tutorial session.
As a teacher, you must not let stress get the best of you.
Communicating can be a challenge, especially during the early stages of learning when students’ English vocabularies are still severely limited. You’ll have to rely on your non-verbal communication skills. Now’s the time to maximize the teaching materials provided by your employer.
Also, try memorizing words or phrases in your student’s mother tongue to facilitate communication. However, some companies discourage this as they want students to be fully immersed in the English language.
A teacher needs to have empathy. If you’re an ESL teacher, you should understand that learning a new language can be difficult for children. So can adjusting to a new culture or country.
Try to put yourself in your student’s shoes. Being an understanding teacher can make all the difference for a kid dealing with an unfamiliar language.
4. Time Management
Teaching online can truly be a test of your time-management and organizational skills. Since the typical class duration is usually short (25-30 minutes) compared to traditional learning setups, you’ll have to plan your schedule wisely.
Even with provided materials, you’ll still have to allocate your time wisely so you can finish everything you need to discuss within the time limit.
Students have different ways of learning. You must adjust to your student’s learning style with one-on-one sessions instead of just teaching to comply with a standardized curriculum.
These adjustments become more of a challenge if you are teaching a group class. However, you don’t have to overhaul each lesson for each student. Instead, try a new strategy or two to see which works best.
If you are teaching adult learners, ask them if they have any specific topics or skills that they wish to focus on learning. They will appreciate your assistance with phrasing a work email or handling a conversation with an English-speaking colleague.
Great teachers can make all the difference for students who may otherwise have difficulty learning a new language.
Best Practices for Teaching English Online
Keep in mind that learning online is a different experience from learning in a classroom. It is more challenging because you can’t rely on non-verbal cues or physical props.
Here are some tips to make your virtual ESL class engaging and effective:
1. Establish Rapport With Your Students
Learning a foreign language can be intimidating even for adults, so try your best to establish a connection with your students early on. Research your students’ cultural background to help them apply what they learn from your classroom to real-life scenarios.
Also, don’t be afraid to show a bit of personality. You want to make your lessons more fun for your students so that the learning sticks.
2. Make Them Feel Safe
Gone are the days when learning was associated with corporal punishment or harsh criticism. Research shows that students learn a new language faster when their affective filter is low, which means they need to feel safe emotionally for teaching to be effective. Emotional safety also means that students are more willing to take risks, which is essential for learning any new skill.
Be patient when pointing out errors and correcting mistakes so that your students remain motivated to learn more. In addition, students are more receptive to feedback if they feel respected and appreciated.
3. Speak Slowly and Clearly
Make sure you enunciate your words. Speak as slowly as possible to give your students a chance to understand what you are saying. Repeating long sentences or complicated words may also help. Keep in mind that students may have a hard time understanding your accent.
4. Allow Them to Listen First
Don’t pressure your students to speak right away. International students may be hesitant to speak broken English or mispronounce words. Instead, allow them to listen to you during the first couple of sessions. Eventually, they will feel more confident about speaking in English.
It can take a while for the ear to adjust to a new language or accent. According to linguistics, some sounds in English may not even exist in your student’s native tongue.
5. Keep Instructions Simple
Be concise when assigning tasks or asking questions. Don’t try to impress your students with long-winded sentences and complicated words. You might stress them out even more if you do so. Stick to simple and unambiguous terms that beginners can understand.
6. Use Non-Verbal Cues
You’ll be relying a lot on non-verbal communication skills, especially if you don’t speak your students’ native language. Use your body language, intonation, and facial expressions to help your students understand words and basic concepts.
7. Make Lessons More Visual
Depending on your company, you may have to work only with the provided materials. However, most companies allow teachers to use visual aids and “rewards” (virtual stickers, toys, etc.) to motivate students.
Remember to support complex sentences or complicated words with photos and other visual aids to help students process new information.
8. Encourage Questions
Let your students know that they can ask questions and approach you if they have difficulty understanding something. Give the impression that there are no “trivial” questions.
Check for understanding regularly. Some students may be too shy to ask questions, so make sure to allow time to address their concerns.
9. Give Opportunities for Student Interaction
If possible, encourage interaction in group classes. These interactions will allow your students to practice their language skills with other classmates on a similar level of proficiency. You can instruct them to break out into groups where they can practice a dialogue discussed in class.
10. Be Respectful
Don’t forget to research cultural taboos or controversial topics to avoid offending your student during a class.
Be aware of your body language and facial expressions. An inexperienced teacher may find the sound of broken English funny or take it as a sign of incompetence, which may reflect in their words, expressions or gestures. Remember that your student is already fluent in another language (their native language). They are trying their best to learn English so that they can communicate effectively.
We’ve shown you how to make money teaching English online, but we hope this guide also inspires you to pursue this fulfilling career. There’s nothing like witnessing how your efforts have improved a student’s language skills. Plus, you get to enjoy perks like a flexible schedule, bonuses, and location independence.
As any teacher can tell you, this job is not always easy or enjoyable. You’ll need a high level of dedication, tons of patience, and 100% hard work to succeed. But if you persevere, you’ll experience what Confucius meant when he said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”