Teaching English Online?

Interested in teaching English online? Find out everything you need to know – from requirements to where to find work – in our handy guide below.

Teach English Online: The Basics

What does teaching online involve?
Online TEFL involves teaching English language learners over a video connection. This is often on a one-to-one basis but it’s also possible to teach several students at once.

Teaching English online is a location independent job. It means that you can work from anywhere – as long as you have a good WiFi connection! So it’s possible to work from home or while you travel the world.

Why teach English online?
There are a lot of great reasons for teaching online. When you consider the perks it’s no wonder that around a quarter of our course graduates go on to teach English online.

Online teaching allows you to work from anywhere in the world and take command of your own schedule. So, whether you’re looking for a career change or to supplement your existing income with a flexible job, it might just be for you!

It doesn’t come with some of the real pains of working in a classroom. No mounds of paperwork, unruly large classes, or cleaning up after students. And no commute really helps with the work/life balance.

If all this is sounding appealing then keep reading to find out how you can get started!

Who can do it?
Anyone with a TEFL qualification, a webcam, and reliable WiFi can find work online. Some restrictions can apply for certain online teaching platforms, but we’ll get into those later.

Where can you work?
Anywhere! As long as you have a WiFi connection it’s possible to teach English online both from the comfort of your own home and while you’re travelling.

Do I need to be a native speaker?
No, it’s possible to teach English online as a non-native English speaker. But if we’re completely honest with you it is more difficult.

Don’t let that put you off, though – just be prepared for it! Some online platforms simply won’t accept non-native speakers and others will but you may find that it takes longer than native speakers to build up business.

What do you need to teach English online?

TEFL qualifications
A TEFL qualification is essential to find work as an online English tutor. Almost all of the major online teaching platforms require teachers to have one.

You want to make sure you have at least a 120-hour TEFL qualification from an accredited course provider. You’re unlikely to find work with a course with fewer hours or a budget course that isn’t properly accredited.

Because online teaching is a specific type of TEFL teaching, it’s can be very beneficial to take a specialist course that focuses on how to teach English online. This can be particularly advantageous if you don’t have a degree as it’ll help your CV stand out and you’ll have an easier job attracting clients.

There’s a huge demand for TEFL teachers online. But if you’re aiming for success then you want to make sure you stand out from the crowd. The better your qualifications the easier that will be.

Equipment
A laptop/computer, a webcam, and a good headset are absolute musts. Your students need to be able to both see and hear you clearly.

Most laptops have in-built webcams, but many won’t be up to scratch for teaching online. This means you’ll need to invest in a good external webcam that can simply be plugged in. You also need to make sure the lighting is good, so sit somewhere well-lit or move around some lamps!

When it comes to headsets it’s really worth paying a little more for a good one. Just think, if a student can’t hear you clearly are they likely to come back to you for more lessons? Make sure to read reviews carefully and ask advice from other online teachers, which you can do over on our Facebook group.

If you’re teaching children then having props is really important. A whiteboard, toys, and flashcards all work great when working with young learners. If you’re aiming to work on one of the big online TEFL platforms teaching young learners then you’ll need to make your ‘virtual classroom’ as fun and appealing as possible.

Other qualifications
Many online teaching platforms require teachers to have a degree. Typically, a degree in any discipline will be accepted, so don’t worry if you don’t have an English or teaching degree.

If you don’t have a degree then you will be shut out of most of the major online TEFL platforms – but don’t despair! There are still options for teaching, you just need to make sure you thoroughly research requirements at the start.

The Online TEFL Market
If you ask us, there’s never been a better time to teach English online. There are so many opportunities out there and with so much room for innovation and growth it’s a very exciting area of work to be in right now.

We also love the fact that there’s room in this market for serious and casual teachers alike. If you’re driven, creative, and ambitious then there’s the potential to make some serious money teaching online. But if you’re simply looking to pick up a few hours a week to supplement your existing income then there’s plenty of work for you as well!

Demand
The online language learning market is predicted to be worth a staggering $10.5 billion by 2025. There are two major factors driving this.

Firstly, the British Council estimates that in 2020 the combined total of English speakers and learners will hit 2 billion. The number of English language learners has been increasing rapidly every single year.

And secondly, last year saw a steep spike in the number of people worldwide who are now online. As of 2019, there were 4.5 billion active internet users – 60% of the world’s population.

With more people learning English and more people getting online, it’s not hard to understand why the online language learning market is booming. There is so much potential for growth and innovation in the industry, which makes it a very exciting time to get started!

Here at The TEFL Org we’ve witnessed huge changes in the last decade. The number of platforms teachers can use to find work has positively exploded in recent years and online teaching jobs are frequently posted over on The TEFL Org Jobs Centre.

It’s why we launched our Teaching English Online Advanced TEFL course back in 2016. Over a quarter of our course graduates now go on to work online and this is a number we expect to see increase over the coming years.

Teaching online in 2020
2020 looks set to be the best year ever for the online TEFL market. New teaching platforms and opportunities are likely to arise and the demand for qualified EFL teachers will be at a record high.

But as the market evolves changes can take place that don’t benefit everyone.

In early 2019 new legislation brought in by China’s Ministry of Education had serious implications for some EFL teachers. New legislation required companies based in the country to ensure that all their teachers had both a TEFL qualification and a BA degree.

Why did this have such an impact? Well, if you take a look at the online teaching platforms out there you’ll find that most of the major players are based in China. This change has meant that it’s now a lot more difficult for teachers who don’t have a degree to teach English online.

Types of online teaching
Just as there are different types of in-person teaching, there are a variety of online teaching jobs out there. With online teaching you can work with learners of a range of ages and abilities. Some will be learning English for specific purposes, such as business or academia, and others will be more general.

In terms of how teachers work online, there are two main forms and many will do a bit of both.

Working on an online TEFL platform
This is how most people get started teaching English online. Online teaching platforms connect students and teachers, which makes sourcing work simple and straightforward for the teacher.

You need to apply to work on most platforms. This will usually involve filling out an application form and attaching copies of relevant qualifications.

Many will also encourage applicants to upload a video of themselves conducting a mock lesson. Doing this will greatly increase your chances of being successful and there are a lot of examples on YouTube for the major platforms to help you with ideas.

The obvious benefit of working on an online platform is that it does most of the work for you regarding sourcing students. It can be as simple as logging on, indicating that you’re available, and waiting for students to come to you for a lesson.

Another major benefit, particularly for new teachers, is that many of these platforms already have a curriculum and teaching materials in place. This means teachers don’t need to spend time lesson planning outside of the actual lessons they’re getting paid for. It can be a great way to ease yourself into teaching and build up some confidence.

Now onto some of the downsides. Online TEFL platforms will take a commission, which can vary depending on the provider. This is usually around 10-15%, but some will charge more or have different systems in place.

Pre-prepared lessons can be a negative for some teachers. If you’re looking to gain experience lesson planning and bringing more creativity to your lessons then it’s best to avoid sticking only to platforms with set lessons.

Independent teaching
Independent online English teachers source students themselves. Many will have started by using online TEFL platforms and some will continue to do so alongside independent work.

Independent online English teachers will typically have their own website advertising their services. It’s also a good idea to have social media profiles doing the same.

Just like most freelancers, a client base is something you build up over a period of time. While teachers using online TEFL platforms can quite quickly find themselves in a position where they have a full schedule, this isn’t likely for most people working independently.

It’s certainly a lot more work but the benefits can be worth it. Working entirely for yourself means you keep 100% of the money students pay. You also have more control over how much you charge, meaning that you can potentially earn a lot more.

Working independently can be more lucrative and gives online teachers even more freedom when it comes to their working hours. But it’s important to be aware that there’s a lot more work involved – at least in the initial stages.

Teachers are responsible for finding students, which means they need to understand how to market themselves. A good website, social media profiles, and an awareness of channels for promotion are essential.

The pros and cons of teaching English online
Is the life of an online tutor for you? There are a lot of benefits but here at The TEFL Org we think it’s always best to take an honest and pragmatic approach. With that being said, let’s dive into the pros and cons to help you get a better picture.

The pros

Flexible working
Working online gives you a lot of control over your own schedule. You can decide when to work, where to work, and how much to work.

A great work/life balance
For many teachers a good work/life balance can feel elusive. But when you’re teaching online you’re able to choose your hours and make work fit around your life. There’s also no long commutes to work, which helps to make more of your non-working time your own!

Good earning potential
If you’re willing to put in the work there’s good money to be made if you teach English online. Even if you’re just starting out it’s possible to make a living teaching online, but with more experience you’ll be able to earn more. Consider specializing and continually building your skills and qualifications in order to increase your earning potential.

It’s a great way to get started in TEFL
If you’re dreaming about teaching English abroad but you don’t feel very confident about your teaching abilities just yet, then teaching online is a great way to ease yourself in. It gives you the opportunity to put into practice what you’ve learned during your TEFL course and build your confidence. It’s also valuable experience that will be looked on favourably when applying for jobs abroad.

The start-up costs are small
Getting started as an online EFL teacher isn’t expensive. Once you have your TEFL qualification, all you need is a computer, webcam, and headset – that’s it! No visa fees, flights, or relocation costs.

You save money
If you’re working from home there are a lot of easy savings to be made. There are no commuting costs and you’re much less likely to be buying lunches and coffees during the day, which all add up!

Take holidays when you want
When you work for yourself you decide when to take a holiday. You can also easily bring work with you and teach alongside travelling!

The cons

Variable income
When you’re in a salaried job you know exactly how much money you’re going to take home each month. But with online teaching it can vary. One month you could be earning more than you’ve ever earned in your life, the other could be slow. All freelancers have to deal with this, which is why it’s so important to put aside money when the times are good rather than living from pay check to pay check.

Loneliness
Working by yourself every day can easily lead to feelings of loneliness. Some people aren’t made for working from home and need the sociability that comes with working in an office. You need to make the effort to get out of the house regularly to avoid feeling cooped up and see people who aren’t on the screen in front of you.

Staying healthy
Working from home usually means you’re moving a lot less than if you were commuting to and from a workplace everyday. It can be so easy to complete a full work week without moving much at all, so you need to be careful of this. Build exercise into your daily routine and make sure you’re getting outside and experiencing some fresh air regularly!

The danger of always working
While teaching English online can offer a great work/life balance some people struggle to switch off. It can be easy to get into the habit of feeling like you should always be working and have it hang over you during your time off. Having a good routine helps avoid this, clearly separating work time and you time.

Slow to start
It’s unlikely (and inadvisable) to quit a full-time job and expect to instantly be able to make a full-time wage from working online. It can take a bit of time to build up a full timetable of classes. Remember, students are looking for the best teachers, so why would they all flock to someone new on the scene for lessons?

Tech issues
The bane of the lives of all online English teachers. The fact is tech issues – whether it’s your equipment going on the blink or your WiFi failing you – will inevitably cost you money at some point or other as an online teacher. All you can do is minimize the risk of this happening.

Unreliable students
Different platforms have different ways of dealing with this – as do independent teachers. If a student cancels a lesson last-minute you may not get a penny on some platforms, on others you might be partially compensated, and some will still pay the full cost. It’s worth investigating a platform’s policy on this before signing up and reading reviews. Independent teachers need to make sure they have a cancellation policy in place to avoid being out of pocket.

Working late/early
The biggest demand for online English lessons comes from China. This means that the peak times for teaching will vary depending on where in the world you are. If you’re based in Europe then peak times fall around mid-morning to mid-afternoon, which can be ideal. However, if you’re in North America these hours fall in the very early hours, from around 3am to 8am – less convenient!

How much can you earn when you teach English online?
How much you can earn when you teach English online can depend on a number of different factors. Education, experience, and your marketing skills are just some of them, so it’s important to be aware that not all teachers are able to charge the same.

Teaching English online with a company/platform is a great way of getting started as an online teacher, but if you’re looking to maximise your earnings you’ll want to aim towards building up your own business as an independent/freelance teacher. This way there’s no middle-man and you’re fully in control of how much you charge.

We’ll take a look at how much you can earn teaching freelance as well as with an online company.

How much you can earn as an independent online teacher
As an independent online English teacher you are fully responsible for sourcing your own clients and creating lesson plans. All of the money a student pays for a lesson will go directly to you and you’re the boss when it comes to setting your rates, meaning there’s much more potential to grow your earnings compared to working for someone else.

Working this way comes with a lot more responsibility, but for teachers prepared to work hard at developing both their skills and their brand, serious money can be made.

How do you set your fees?
Getting your fees right is so important but it can feel like a real challenge at first. If you set your rates too high then you’ll struggle to get clients, but set them too low and you can find yourself inundated and not earning as much as you could be.

When you’re starting out there are a few important factors to take into account in order to help you determine how much to charge.

The type of lesson
Teachers are able to charge more depending on the type of lesson. Typically, the more expertise required and the greater the amount of preparation work involved, the higher the fee.

This means that Business English lessons usually cost more than conversational classes, which don’t tend to require as much preparation for teachers.

Your experience
As is the case in most professions, the more experience you have the more you earn. You can’t just jump straight in with high fees, you’ll need to build up your skills and experience first in order to be able to convince clients your worth a higher rate.

Your qualifications
If you try to find work teaching online without any qualifications whatsoever you’re going to be in for a real challenge.

As an online English teacher you have to sell yourself, so you want to make sure your CV is attractive and the better it looks the better you can get paid. Unless you’re prepared to work for rock-bottom, below minimum wage prices, you need to make sure you have at least a 120-hour TEFL qualification.

Where are your students from?
A student from Thailand isn’t going to be able to pay the same as someone from Germany. If you’re considering specialising in teaching language learners from specific countries then you’ll need to take into account the average salaries and adjust your prices accordingly.

How much do you need to earn?
Working out how much you need to cover your current outgoings can help guide you when setting your fees. It’s unlikely you’ll immediately find yourself earning a full-time wage when you first start to teach English online, instead most teachers build up their hours over a period of time.

If you know how much you need to earn each month you can divide that by the number of lessons a you’d ideally be teaching in a month (usually between 20 to 30 a week) to get your rate.

How much you can earn teaching different types of online lessons
There are a lot of different types of online English lessons, from typical conversational classes, to much more niche topics, such as English for aviation, for example. Let’s take a look at how much you can earn teaching some of the more common types of lessons, but bear in mind a number of factors (such as those listed above) can determine your earning potential, so the figures listed are just a guide.

Conversational classes
£8+ / $10+ per lesson

These types of lessons involve giving students the opportunity to practice their conversational skills, which means they don’t usually involve in-depth grammar study or a great deal of lesson planning.

You’re not just chatting away or sitting back and simply listening to the student speak, as the teacher you’re there to guide the conversation and ensure the student gets the most out of the lesson as possible. There’s a skill to this type of English lesson and teachers who are able to master it can increase their earnings by a lot.

Business English
£20+ / $25+

Teachers specializing in Business English, particularly specific niches, can earn high wages. While it can be helpful to have business experience yourself, it isn’t completely necessary.

These types of lessons generally involve quite a lot of preparation work. You’ll need to carry out a needs analysis and lessons have to be tailored specifically to the client, so there can be a lot of time spent outside of just the lesson slot.

Exam preparation
£15+ / $19+

Students working towards specific English proficiency exams will often look for additional lessons in the run-up to the exam date. The most common of these are the IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge proficiency exams.

Teachers looking to specialize in this type of lesson will need to become familiar with how these exams are assessed and structured. Downloading past papers will help you understand how these exams are conducted.

Interview coaching
£15+ / $19+

These lessons are sought after by people who have job and university interviews lined up and are looking to polish their interview skills in English. These are typically conducted using role-play scenarios to emulate the format of an interview.

Trial lessons
£1+ / $1+

Some teachers will offer students the opportunity to sample their teaching style in a trial lesson before paying full-price for lessons. It’s advisable to charge something for these lessons, as making them free can mean you end up dealing with a lot of timewasters and students who have no intention of paying you, they’re just trying to get a free lesson.

Now you know what you need to teach English online, where do you find jobs?

Are already teaching online or if you are planning to teach English online? Let us know in the comments!