How to Teach English Online – Ultimate Guide (2022)

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Do you want to make money from home? If you like the idea of teaching, consider becoming an online tutor.

The average online tutor earns between $10-$40 per hour, although it varies greatly. You can work from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection, and it’s probably one of the easiest ways to get started working remotely.

This job is best suited for teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of students all over the globe. The only qualification you need at this point is the ability to speak English in a fluent manner.

Teaching English Online– My Story

Not to bore you with my life story, but I have been teaching ESL online on and off for six years. The only time I needed to stop was when I studied abroad in California, and the timezone difference became too extreme for me to handle.

Teaching English online partially funded my university life, and I stuck with it after graduating as I tried to make it my full-time income. I loved teaching online, and I was always looking for the next big online teaching opportunity.

I earned $10 per hour with the first company I had ever worked with teaching online. Considering I didn’t have a degree and was nineteen years old at the time, it didn’t seem like such a bad number. I was also getting paid in full even if I had no students for the hour.

After that, I tried different companies before settling into my role at a Chinese company called Dada. When I first joined there, I earned $21 per hour, which became my main income after graduating.

I eventually took the plunge and decided to try teaching privately, and that really transformed how I taught English! I started to earn up to $60 per hour teaching online while I created my own lessons for students.

As covid loomed upon us, I decided to travel to other European countries, and it’s been quite an introspective period of my life, all while teaching online. I hope to continue my nomadic journey in the form of teaching and writing for many years to come.

Lisbon, Portugal: One of the places I had the privilege to live in.

Teaching Online is Not Like Teaching in The Classroom

Teaching online and teaching in the classroom are two very different things. I did both, and here are the main differences I encountered.

With teaching online:

  • You have a 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

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?
✔Meet people from all over the world?
✔Help others improve their communication skills?

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

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?

For English Language Teachers or Those Looking to Get Started…

Get our teacher expert tips, new teacher checklist, teacher planner, and notes that reveal some great teaching techniques and strategies.

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 begin your online teaching career successfully?

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

If you want to earn more money teaching ESL online, you could also specialize in an area of online teaching, such as teaching young learners, exam prep, creative writing, or teaching business English. You could also work as an accent coach or become a niche teacher.

You may want to consider using props or reward systems to use if you plan to teach kids.

You’ll also want to think about your teaching background and what you want to add to make it suitable for clients, or you could use a green screen.

You can make your teaching background for free, or you can buy some inexpensive things to add your own personal touch. Here are some teaching backgrounds for $5 or less.

How are you going to receive foreign currency?

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 Wise (formerly known as Transferwise). Transferwise gives you the best mid-market rates and is transparent with their fees. Read my Wise review for more information.

If your online teaching company does not accept the bank details from Wise (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 may also be interested in: Best Equipment for Online Teaching.

Overall, you don’t have to spend a lot to teach English. You may find that you have a lot of items at home.

You can also make many items or props on the props list. Download our free props.

Get Your Teaching Certificate

While a teaching certificate is not necessary for some jobs, such as Cambly, it is required to have a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate for most companies.

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 most online teaching companies.

I completed the TEFL Academy course, which is a much more in-depth course suitable if you want to teach in a school abroad or get the highest-paid teaching jobs. You can read my TEFL Academy review here.

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.

Teach Online

Start Teaching English Online

When it comes to teaching English online, there are a ton of companies out there. You need to be on the lookout for these highly coveted positions by browsing and setting alerts on sites such as Indeed, TEFL.com, The TEFL Academy, and any other job sites.

There is a lot of competition for these jobs, so I recommend building up your teaching experience first. There are a number of ways to build up experience, such as:

  • Teach in a local language school
  • Build up your experience teaching abroad
  • Teach online voluntary or for a company that requires no experience, such as Cambly
  • Provide a homestay for students

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:

  1. Work for an online ESL company
  2. Become a freelancer on a teaching marketplace
  3. 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, have the lessons planned for you 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

  • 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
  • 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 even full-time income when you get things going.

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

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.

Teaching online companies are also a popular option for stay-at-home parents. The flexibility helps them work around their kids’ needs.

Popular Teaching Companies Right Now

  1. Cambly
  2. Palfish
  3. iTalki
  4. Allschool
  5. Outschool
  6. Carrot Global
  7. Savvy Reading
  8. Purple Academy
  9. Hallo
  10. Bansho
  11. Mentorphone
  12. LingoAce
  13. Nao Now
  14. Littera Education
  15. Lingoace

See more on our jobs page.

Teach English Online

You may also be interested in: The Best English Teaching Companies in 2022.

2. Freelance on a Teaching Marketplace

You can post your profile on a website 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

  • Usually has a higher earning potential
  • 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 and set any hours they like, and if they are good teachers, they will quickly gain some regular students.

Cons of Freelance Platforms

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

Adding your profile to a freelance website is an excellent way to get new students to schedule classes and become regular students.

Teachers can use material from a range of websites to help them teach. We cover some websites in-depth in my teachers’ resources section:

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

How can teachers rise above the competition?

When teachers advertise themselves and their rates, the platforms can become saturated, and price wars begin. The key is to learn how to market yourself.

If teachers want to stand out, they must 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 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 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 will 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 realize 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 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 market your services effectively.

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

Pros

  • Fewer fees and the highest return on your teaching efforts
  • Complete control over your schedule
  • You can charge higher rates as you brand yourself
  • Work from home flexibility

Cons 

  • You have to find your own paying clients
  • You have to market yourself

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.

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 ways other than teaching English.

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

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 it can be a great part-time income and a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world.

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

I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. Please share the posts if you find them helpful!

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