I stumbled into teaching English online two years ago, just as summer in my hometown was turning unbearably hot.
I was a traditional classroom teacher at the time, and while I loved teaching and watching my students grow, I knew I wanted more work-life balance.
I also wanted to travel more, and even though teachers get more time off than most, I still had trouble traveling as much as I wanted in those short few weeks of summer holiday.
A colleague introduced me to teaching English online on the last day of school. She had been teaching online in addition to her regular teaching job to pay off her house, and she was surprised by how much money she was able to make just by teaching a few hours here and there on the weekends.
When she found out that I was interested in traveling, she thought this remote teaching job could be a good fit for me too.
She was right.
Now, I teach English online to students in China as my main source of income. My job is 100% remote, meaning I can work anywhere with a good internet connection. I make my own schedule and have been able to live quite comfortably (with lots of traveling) while working about 20-25 hours/week.
Work-life balance was what I was after. By teaching English online, I found it.
How to start teaching English online
The awesome thing about teaching English online is that it has one of the lowest barriers to entry of all remote work jobs.
You don’t have to know how to program a computer, or write code, or design stunning graphics. You don’t even have to have teaching experience. And with some companies, you don’t need a degree either.
As long as you’re a native English speaker, teaching English online could be possible for you. And if you’re looking for a super flexible way to make money online (aren’t we all), it might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Who should teach English online?
Teaching English online is ideal for self-motivated people who want a flexible remote income.
Teaching online is perfect for
- Stay at home parents and people who want to work from home
- Teachers who want to make extra money on the weekends
- People who want to travel and work remotely
- People with a regular job who want to make more money on the side
- People looking to diversify their online income streams
- Anyone who enjoys talking to people and learning about other cultures
- Anyone who enjoys helping children
You’ll probably need to be a morning person to teach English online.
The vast majority of online English companies offer lessons to students in China.
The highest demand for classes in China is between 6:00pm and 8:00pm on the weekdays and all day on the weekends.
Since China has a 12 hour time difference with the East Coast USA, this means that the highest demand for classes is between 6:00 am and 8:00 am East Coast Time during the week and pretty much overnight on the weekends.
If you’re a morning person or a night person, this is awesome news! But just be aware that you won’t be able to teach traditional daytime hours if you’re teaching from the North America Time zones.
You’ll also need reliable internet
It kind of goes without saying, but you have to have access to reliable internet as an online English teacher. Once your classes are booked, you’re expected to show up.
Too many IT issues with a company could result in you losing your contract so make sure you’re in a location where the internet is consistent.
As a rule of thumb, you want to have at least 10mbps speed. If you can teach with an Ethernet cord or wired connection, that’s even better.
How do I start teaching English online?
To start teaching English online, you’ll need to follow these steps
- Pick the best company for your lifestyle and credentials
- Apply to the company
- Go through their interview and teacher training process
- Upload your paperwork to be hired
- Pick your schedule
- Set up your classroom
- Start teaching online from the comfort of home or anywhere with good WiFi
Best Companies for teaching English online
VIPKID is one of the oldest and most established online English companies out there.
VIPKID teachers have one-on-one classes with students in China. All the lessons are done for you and the pay is $14-22USD/hour. You get to make your own schedule completely and there are no minimum or maximum hours you can work each week.
The VIPKID Requirements are native English speaker, eligible to work in USA or Canada, BA degree (any subject), and 1-year experience teaching, tutoring, counseling, or working with kids in some way.
Click here to read my full VIPKID Review!
For those living outside the USA and Canada (yes that means Aussies, Kiwis and Brits!), DaDa is an amazing option! DaDa runs similarly to VIPKID.
You don’t have any lesson planning and lessons are one-on-one with students in China.
With DaDa, teachers have to work at least 4 hours per week and the schedule is set in advance. DaDa pays $15-$25/hour and the DaDa requirements are native English speaker and BA degree (any subject).
Cambly is an awesome option for people who want to teach English online without a bachelors degree.
Cambly is a conversation-based platform so you won’t be following set lessons.
Instead, you’ll chat with people all over the world.
Cambly pays $0.17 per minute or $10.20 USD/hour. Cambly requires teachers to be native English speakers with reliable internet.
Apply to teach English online
After you’ve found a company that fits with your credentials, it’s time to apply!
Applying to most of these companies is as easy as filling out some basic information and your email address. If you qualify, you’ll be notified of the next steps you need to take via email.
Overview of the Application Process
The exact interview and application process varies depending on the company you choose, but most follow a similar pattern.
You fill out the written application, complete an interview with an employee of the company where you teach a short sample class, then you do training and practice classes with the company. Once you’re ready to start teaching, you’ll fill out your paperwork and sign your contract.
For example, here’s a rundown of the VIPKID application process:
- Fill out the written application
- Complete an interview and demo class
- Choose which levels you want to certify for and prepare materials (intermediate or beginner)
- Teach mock classes in the level you want to certify for until you pass
- Complete in-house TEFL training if you aren’t already certified
- Upload documents
- Start teaching
You can read more about the VIPKID hiring process here!
What are the hours like? Picking your schedule
For the companies based in China, the prime teaching hours are early morning or overnight in the North American time zones.
With all these companies, you get to choose your own hours. You can work as much or as little as you like at times that fit your schedule, making this an awesome source of side income!
I’ve had weeks where I’ve worked 30 hours and weeks where I haven’t worked at all.
Having the flexibility to work more when I need more money and take time off when I need a break is amazing. With VIPKID, your schedule can change week to week as needed.
Setting up your online English Classroom
You definitely don’t need to get too fancy when setting up your online English classroom. You can get your little online classroom ready to go with just a few simple elements:
- Background – If you teach adults, a blank wall behind you will work just fine. But if you teach children, having a few academic posters or images to hang on the wall behind you will make your classroom more welcoming and fun. Head to the dollar store to find awesome ABC posters and world maps to hang behind you for cheap!
- Props – There are a few props every online English teacher can’t live without. Make sure you grab a small dry erase board and markers, a set of ABC flashcards and a few stuffed animals or puppets. You can get more elaborate props as you go, but these basics will be plenty to get you started.
- Classroom Ambiance – Set up your classroom in a quiet, well-lit area with minimal distractions. For good lighting, I usually put a lamp behind my laptop to illuminate my face. You also want to make sure that you have good internet signal wherever you set up your classroom.
- Headset with microphone – To prevent echo and weird static feedback, most online English companies require you to teach with earphones and a microphone. Some will allow little earbuds while others require an overhead get-up (think early Britney Spears music video style)
- A big mug of coffee or tea – Because classes are early and it’s probably not the best idea to fall asleep on the job.
Start teaching online
You’re hired and you have your classroom all set up, that means you’re ready to go!
When you start teaching online, it can take a few weeks to build up regular clients. Be patient and open as many classes as you can at the beginning to start building up good reviews and happy students.
Is teaching online a reasonable way to make money online?
Teaching English online is an awesome way to make money online. It’s one of the most flexible online jobs out there.
Depending on what’s going on in my life, I’ve used teaching English online as a nice little side hustle and as a full-time income.
It gives me a sense of security knowing that if money gets tight, I can always open up a few hours of online English classes and make money fast.
On top of that, teaching English online is one of the most genuinely enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had. If I go a few days without a class, I miss it.
And more often than not, I walk away from a morning of teaching happier and more energized than I was before.
That combined with the competitive pay rate makes teaching English online a great option for those looking to make money online and find that delicious work-life balance.
Nicola Rae is an online English teacher, house sitter, and travel blogger. She’s known for getting lost in new cities, befriending big lizards, and eating impressive quantities of guacamole. Read more about teaching online, house sitting, and practical long-term travel on her blog www.seenicwander.com
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