How to Teach English Online – Ultimate Guide (2021)

Interested in learning how to teach English online? Whether you have experience or not, we will show you how you can start teaching ESL online.

The only qualification you need at this point, is the ability to speak English in a fluent manner.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my disclaimer.

Teaching online is nothing like teaching in a classroom. You know why?

  • Flexible schedule. Set your own hours.
  • You can work as little or as much as you want
  • You can have more time with your family
  • You can travel the world with your laptop
  • You are in charge

If you teach in a classroom, you will have much less room for flexibility and you may even receive less compensation.

Even if you enjoy teaching in a brick and mortar school, it is nice to have a little extra side income teaching English online.

If you are interested in teaching online, here is how to start your teaching journey.

Make Things Happen

Set a Date

Have you decided when you are going to start teaching English online? You know what they say, there’s no time like the present.

Take small, actionable steps each day to attain your goal. If you really don’t have time right now, mark it on the calendar for later. Remind yourself the reasons WHY you want to do this.

Do you want…

✔More time with your family and friends?
✔A new and exciting venture with extra income?
✔More time to travel and enjoy life?
✔Help others improve their communication skills?

Write down the reasons. It will help you stay motivated and on track with your goals.

Save Money

Budgeting

After deciding a date to get started you will want to move on to your budget. Do you have the equipment needed to get started?

Make a list of what is required and your expected expenditure.

How much do you need to invest in equipment?

  • Fast Laptop (preferably an i5 core processor with 8GB of ram)
  • Stable and secure internet connection or backup internet connection
  • An ESL certificate
  • A headset with a microphone

After deciding a date to get started you will want to move on to your budget. Do you have the equipment needed to get started? Make a list of what is required and your expected expenditure.

You may be asking at this point: how much will you need to invest to successfully begin my online teaching career?

You don’t have to invest much. Make sure you have a working laptop, a stable internet connection, and a teaching certificate.

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You will need to print and cut out props and reward systems to use if you plan to teach kids. You will also need to invest in a headset if you haven’t one already. 

You can build up your props over time and do not have to rely on these things now.

You’ll also want to think about your teaching background and what you want to add to make it suitable for clients.

You can make your teaching background for free or you can buy some inexpensive things to add your own personal touch.

How are you going to receive money?

For years, I received my income directly from my bank account and it was a big mistake. I was losing money.

If you are receiving money from a foreign company and exchange rates are an issue, I strongly recommend Transferwise. Read my Transferwise review for more information.

Transferwise gives you the best mid-market rates and is transparent with their fees.

Sign up to Transferwise for free here.

If your online teaching company does not accept the bank details from Transferwise (rare but can happen), see our other options for receiving payments from online ESL companies here.

Next Step for Your Budget

Task:

Write a list of the things you need to add to your shopping cart. Here are some of the things that I consider as other teaching essentials. You can also use these props to teach English to kids. These are just some ideas that you might like to use or take inspiration from. You may already have some things you can use In your home.

Overall, you don’t have to spend a huge amount to get started teaching English. You may find that you have a lot of items at home.

You can also make a lot of the items or props on the props list.

If you sign up for an ESL company with TPR teaching, we will give you guidance and provide you with digital downloadable props that you can use to teach English online. It will make your teaching experience much easier. 

Teaching Certificate

Get Your Teaching Certificate

I write an article about popular ESL teaching certificates here. I discuss two options.

You can complete a short course within a weekend or you can complete a typically longer course.

If you just want to teach English online as a part-time career, the International Open Academy Certificate will cover your teaching needs.

This will help you get a job with whatever online teaching company you choose.

I completed the TEFL Academy course, which is a much more in-depth course suitable if you want to teach in a school abroad. You can read my TEFL Academy Review here.

Whichever teaching course you choose is entirely up to you, as both will potentially get you a teaching job online.

How to Write a CV

Resume Writing

Updating your resume is not a fun task. However, it is a must.

Hundreds of people apply to online teaching companies every day. You must take it seriously and write a presentable resume like you would for any other job.

Important Information to Include:

  • Your teaching certificate and educational background.
  • Show that you have an interest in learning
  • Include teaching experience or relevant work experience.
  • Write about times you worked with people in the past (volunteering, mentoring, coaching, babysitting, homeschooling, customer service etc.)

Clearly display your teaching certificate so that any company browsing over your resume will be able to see it.

Show you have an interest in learning by talking about your qualifications and experience, even if it doesn’t relate to teaching.

If you have online teaching experience or experience teaching in a classroom, you should write it down! Otherwise, include other teaching-related experiences, such as volunteering and mentoring.

Keep your resume short to 2 pages. Only include relevant experience!

If you sign up for an online teaching company with TPR Teaching, we will provide instruction to help you pass the interview.

Start Teaching English Online

TPR Teaching’s mission is to help you start teaching English online.

It is now time to start your online teaching career. If you decide to teach English online with a company, I highly recommend checking out the careers we have listed on our website.

You will find some of the highest paying ESL online jobs. Most online ESL company headquarters are in China.

Teaching English to young learners and kids from Asia can be a very rewarding experience and a great start to your online ESL career. 

How Can I Teach English Online?

There are several ways to teach English online. Let’s look at the following options and list the pros and cons for each:

  • Work for an online ESL company
  • Set your own freelance schedule hosted by a third party site
  • Find your own paying clients

1. Work for an ESL Company

Many online teachers start out by working at an online ESL company and spend many years working for them. 

Online ESL companies find students for you, plan your lessons, and pay you on a weekly or monthly basis.

You can set your schedule as you please and some online ESL companies offer more flexibility than others.

Pros

  • Decent pay up to $25 per hour
  • Less work upfront
  • The online companies find you students and fill your schedule
  • You can enjoy the flexibility of working at home
  • You don’t have to plan lessons

Cons

  • Some companies have limited working hours available
  • Isn’t completely flexible- you may have to stick to a weekly or monthly schedule
  • No guarantee you will have a full schedule, so it’s best not to rely on just one company for your full-time income 

A lot of teachers like to start off teaching English for online teaching companies. Teachers can teach adults and kids from all over the world.

Teaching English for online teaching companies can be a great side income or full-time income. Check out our resource pack for online teachers.

As this is a relatively new space and many companies are relatively young companies (5-10 years old), you should consider signing up for multiple companies if you are considering making this your full-time income.

This means that you can always add more hours to another company, so you are never short of hours.

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Many digital nomads or those who want to go traveling sign up with online teaching companies and move to a country with a lower cost of living. This is also a popular option for stay-at-home parents.

2. Freelance on a Teaching Website

You can post your profile on a website like this one and advertise your own rates.

The freelancing website may take a cut of your earnings in return for you using their platform.

You are in more control of the rates you charge but you will most likely have to find your own lesson plans.

Some online freelance platforms provide some lesson plans for you to use; however, clients may ask you to cater to them with a special learning plan.

Pros of Freelance Platforms

  • Higher earning potential than teaching English online with ESL companies
  • Complete control over your schedule
  • Working from home flexibility
  • You don’t have to find clients as they are already using these websites to learn English 
  • You don’t have to worry about marketing

The main benefit of these websites is that they give the teachers total freedom to decide their schedule, set any hours they like and if they are a good teacher, they will quickly gain some regular students.

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Cons of Freelance Platforms

  • You may need to build up your profile credibility before charging higher rates
  • You may have to lesson plan 
  • You are depending on students to choose you as their teacher

Adding your profile to a third-party website is a good way to get new students scheduling classes with you and becoming a regular student.

Teachers can use material from websites like Off2Class, Linguahouse, and ESL Library.

Luckily, there are lots of teaching materials readily available online, which makes it easy for experienced teachers to plan lessons and advertise themselves on a new platform.

Teachers can find more lesson material ideas here.

How can teachers rise above the competition?

When teaching on these freelance platforms where teachers advertise themselves and their rate, they can become saturated and price wars begin.

If teachers want to stand out, they need to learn how to brand themselves.

Follow these tips:

  • Offer to teach a particular niche or subset of people
  • Talk about what you can offer the student
  • Talk about what makes you stand out
  • Provide examples of your past work, reviews or what you will work on together

Teach a Particular Niche

Let’s say you are at the train station and you see people getting off a train. You could call everyone and nobody would listen to you.

But if you called them by their name, or if you had a sign with their name, for example, the right people would pay attention.

It’s the same with teaching English. You could offer all the services, and be able to do everything, but you don’t get the customers and offers you deserve.

You can help them with general English, conversational English, IELTS, business English. The list goes on…

You will see that most teachers fall into this trap! Don’t do this!

It would help if you become an expert in one particular thing, so others can see your expertise and be willing to pay more for your service.

It will be like calling them by name, and you will attract a better clientele.

Talk about what you can offer the student

The basics of copyrighting… It’s all about THEM, not you.

People want to know what’s in it for them, so you should open with a sentence on your profile containing the word YOU.

“YOU will learn how to write a composition in English from start to finish.”

“YOU will be able to negotiate with clients in an international business setting.”

Get specific about what you can offer your student and make them realise you can give them what they need.

This is how you can stand out from 99% of other online teachers out there.

Talk about how you stand out

Ok, ok… I just said talk about THEM. And that’s true, you should.

BUT you should talk about yourself in the paragraph after you’ve talked about them.

From here, you can talk about what makes you stand out.

Maybe you like to learn through singing or games.

Maybe you have lived in multiple countries or know another language.

Maybe you graduated from Harvard.

The point is, think about something interesting that is personal to you.

This is something that will shoot your profile ahead of the rest, and give the student a reason to remember you and book classes with you.

Show Previous Work Examples

You can even show examples of the type of lessons you plan to teach and provide a sample or even some testimonials.

You could develop a portfolio and link to it within your profile or you can make videos or even blog around the particular teaching subject.

This shows you as a thought leader in the online teaching space, and students will be dying to work with you.

3. Find your own paying clients 

You could also set up your own website, brand yourself, and reach out to clients on LinkedIn Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

By doing this you will receive requests from students interested in signing up for your teaching course or lessons.

No commission cuts, very few startup costs, and an even higher income are possible. I know teachers that are charging $100 or more per hour (I am not even kidding, but they have a business trainer to help them with their mindset and the challenges of scaling such a business).

The mid-range rate is $30 per hour but this can also change if you decide to teach group lessons. It varies according to your expertise, the location you are targeting, and your ability to effectively market your services.

While this seems like a lot of work, just know it is, but there are courses out there to get you started and which I hope to share on this blog soon.

For now, take a look at Off2Class and the videos they have on their platform. They show teachers how to move to freelance teaching with their curriculum.

You can determine a niche or a group of people that you would be interested in teaching and develop lessons around this area. 

Pros

  • Highest earning potential 
  • Complete control over your schedule
  • No fee from third party website
  • You can charge higher rates as you brand yourself
  • Work from home flexibility

Cons 

  • You have to find your own paying clients
  • You may have to market yourself on social media platforms

If you learn keyword research, you can rank yourself organically on Google, but this can take months to implement. You would more likely receive success by reaching out to professionals on Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, or Youtube. See our teaching business ideas for more information.

While finding your own paying clients can be the hardest task, it can be the most rewarding part of your teaching career. And you will find students that refer to others by word-of-mouth, so you will no longer have to rely on your own marketing techniques to get students.

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Other ways teachers earn

Some online teachers take up other roles in companies such as teacher trainers or recruiters, and they have a chance to earn in other ways than teaching English.

Teachers who sign up to the online ESL companies often receive a referral bonus of up to $200 for referring their teacher friends to teach at the company, and a lot of teachers make a happy salary each month by doing this.

Some teachers make props and sell them on Etsy, or create and sell courses for teachers and learners. Here are other ways teachers can make money when teaching English online.

Independent Contractor Status

When you decide to teach English online, you are often employed as an independent contractor.

This means that while you work for these foreign companies, online, you are responsible for your own taxes.

Independent contractor laws and taxes vary depending on state law and jurisdiction. I am not a financial advisor, so I cannot give you advice on this one, but it’s something you may want to consider talking to your accountant about.

Summary

Deciding to teach English online is a fun venture for anyone who wants to stay at home, travel, or needs more flexibility in their life.

It is also a way of making a great income with ample opportunities for you to make your mark.

Teachers can choose to teach at online ESL companies, on freelance platforms, or find their own paying clients.

When a teacher decides that they want to teach English online, they may like to get involved in other money-making opportunities within the companies, such as content creation.

When teachers decide to teach English online, they have to pay their own taxes, which will vary from one jurisdiction to the next.

Conclusion

When you sign up to teach at any online teaching company through our website, we will provide further instructions to help you on your journey!

As a reminder, if you haven’t already, sign up to an online teaching company and we will be in touch shortly. 

Check out our jobs list. Click apply when you see a job you like… We will help you with the rest!

Did your current job ever cause you to stop and think about things you’re missing out on? Teaching English online is not for everyone, but if you are a motivated individual, and like the idea of teaching others… Chances are you will succeed!

What are your reasons for wanting to teach English online? Comment below!

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I am a 24-year old online ESL teacher from rural Ireland. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK and Europe. This blog aims to help educate you on the existing possibilities of becoming an online teacher. Please show some love and support by sharing this article with others. Thank you!

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