Teaching English online is convenient, inexpensive, and easy. Teaching English online independently as a freelance online English teacher is even more liberating. It’s no wonder that when schools closed, teachers, among people of other professions, turned to online English teaching to supplement their income.
Why get out of bed an hour earlier to commute in a sleep-deprived state to your workplace? Why adhere to a rigid, unbending work schedule? Would you rather deliver lessons from tedious curriculums or personalized and engaging ones? A freelance online English teacher will be able to boast that they have all of the freedom in the world as a teacher.
However, freelance English teaching isn’t just about the act of teaching. Regardless of your teaching quality, you need to employ a number of hacks in order to maximize your salary, and student acquisition, and to fully reap the fruits of your own labor.
1. Treat Freelance Online English Teaching Like a Business
As an independent freelance online English teacher, you’ll have more freedom. However, you’ll also have your work cut out for you. It is a job which relies heavily on self-motivation because unlike working for an online ESL platform where they provide you the students, the curriculum, and the classroom, you will have to acquire and facilitate these yourself.
Whether you’re the best teacher in the world, it won’t matter if you don’t treat it like a business. You will have to employ structure, marketing and sales skills as well as teaching skills, in order for your business to function optimally. Here is more insight into the three essential skills as a freelance English teacher.
2. Employ Your Marketing & Sales Skills
Your marketing and sales skills will be essential in order to maximize your student acquisition. What good are your teaching skills if you can’t actually get any students? Whether you are using organic marketing or paid marketing tools, you can always do more to reach more students.
Teachers can make their website a multi-regional one and then begin to advertise their services on a number of platforms. Or, you can use your positive reviews, qualifications and expertise in order to entice potential students.
The most important thing is that you highlight not only what you offer (English lessons, obviously), but what your lessons can help your students achieve. Whether they want to pass an IELTS exam, work in a foreign country, or learn conversational English, there should be a desired result rather than just aimless learning. Entice students by saying “if you choose to learn with me, you will be able to …”.
As for sales skills, you can offer free “taster” sessions in order to allow students to understand your teaching philosophy. It’s a win-win situation for your students which may entice them to book more lessons.
Additionally, you can offer lesson packages instead of a pay-per-lesson plan. For example, by booking 10 lessons for $150, instead of paying $20 for 10 lessons, one at a time, students can save money. This offers the online English teacher guaranteed working hours, while simultaneously saving the student money. Any other marketing strategies are highly encouraged!
3. Entrepreneur First, Online English Teacher Second
When managing your business, think of yourself as an entrepreneur as well as an online English teacher. Charge your own rates, adjust your own schedule, and deliver your own lessons, the choice is all yours.
You’ll have to essentially create your own policy. How much will you charge? Is it negotiable? Will you teach group lessons or one-to-one lessons? Children or adults? What if a student wants to learn a subject that you don’t already offer?
A structure is necessary so you can take care of the logistics without it being a hassle. You may be laid back, but once you’ve got a high number of students and a packed schedule you’ll be happy to have a structure in place.
Set Yourself Boundaries
Another important thing to do is to set yourself boundaries. Not everyone can work with a packed schedule. One online English teacher may be a workaholic, another may enjoy the flexible aspect of online teaching. On top of all the teaching you have, you might struggle to keep up with administrative tasks.
Teaching English online can also be a very tiring job. Whereas in a classroom you can allocate bookwork for ten minutes, you must dedicate your undivided attention to the student from start to finish during online lessons. Be sure not to burn out, because this will not only make teaching less enjoyable, but it will have an impact on your student’s progress.
4. Become TEFL Certified
This seems to be an obvious one. However, not all online ESL companies require that teachers be TEFL-qualified. And if you are working for yourself, maybe you think that you don’t need to be TEFL certified to thrive.
However, it is still advisable that the ambitious freelance online English teacher has a TEFL certificate to show for his expertise. Online ESL teaching is a competitive market, and you need to do all you can to stand out. This can also be a way to entice potential students and assure them that they are learning with someone who is qualified.
If you are already TEFL certified, there is always room to diversify and upskill. Whether you upskill by taking an Ofqual Level 5 TEFL course or you want to gain live teaching experience led by DELTA-qualified tutors, there is a range of options courtesy of Premier TEFL.
5. Define Your Niche
One of the most effective things you can do as a freelance online English teacher is define your niche. The market is undoubtedly a competitive one, especially since a large market in China has closed down. Online English teachers have been compressed into an even smaller market. So, the need to stand out is higher than ever. This is why you need to define your niche.
While other teachers will be offering General English training, you’ll be offering English for Specific Purposes. However, by utilizing your qualifications, experience, or upskilling in a new area, you can teach something more specific. Because this skill is rare, it will make you more valuable as a teacher.
For example, students searching for teachers who teach English within the context of law, or medicine, will become frustrated if they only see general English teachers. But once they find a teacher who is qualified and knowledgeable enough to teach English for their specific purpose, they will be willing to pay more for your services. Whether you have experience in retail, literature, business, music, and so on, you can combine this with English proficiency to cater towards specific needs.
6. Spice Up Your Background
It’s important not to overlook the importance of your online teaching background. While you don’t need to spend a lot of money, leaving the blank wallpaper as your background might be too boring. Regardless of learning styles, we are very visual creatures. If the student enters the class only to be greeted by an underwhelming-looking classroom, you get off to a bad start.
However, this blank canvas also signifies potential. You can do whatever you want to your background to give it some personalization and some pizzazz. Whether you incorporate flags, maps, a green screen, a star system, or your own logo, something is better than nothing. Here is our list of the best online teaching backgrounds.
7. … But Cater to Your Students
Are you teaching overly excited children, lethargic teenagers or adults who genuinely want to learn English? Maybe you’re teaching all of them. Whoever you teach, it is important that you remember to cater to your students.
If you’re teaching all age groups, it’s important that you’re flexible in your teaching approach. Of course, some teaching skills are transferable from one demographic to another. However, adult students are unlikely to need to sing along or make elephant noises with a stuffed animal. They may feel downright embarrassed and never enter your classroom again (fair enough).
If you’re teaching young students, it is a good idea to make your classroom environment an exciting one. Not too exciting, though, otherwise they may be constantly distracted. However, whiteboards, engaging props, and colourful backgrounds will make the classroom environment a fun one for your young students.
If you’re teaching older students or adults, however, it is a good idea to be more modest in your classroom environment. That doesn’t mean that you need to have a bland background. You could incorporate maps, flags, and other objects in order to maintain the learning atmosphere without overdoing it.
Aside from the teaching background, you can personalize the lesson according to your students. Personalization is an effective method to increase your student’s engagement in the lesson. By incorporating aspects which have personal value to your students, they will be more invested in the topic. For example, if your student loves Batman, maybe you can incorporate Batman into some of the target language practices. Otherwise, if they love netball or football, you can incorporate the target language into a sports-based lesson.
8. Choose the Right Tools to Facilitate Your Classroom
Teaching English online is a cost-effective profession. Most of the things that you’ll need are things that you already have. However, you should always make sure that your tools are up to standard. That is not to say that you should spend hundreds and hundreds in order on equipment or tools. But, having a low-quality webcam or a headphone which sounds like you’re gurgling sea water will deter potential students. When you’re thinking about using the right equipment, you need to consider;
- Your noise-cancelling headset or microphone (if separate from your webcam)
- Your webcam
- Which platforms you will use to facilitate lessons (Skype, Zoom, PowerPoint, Google Meet, etc.)
- Which props you will use during lessons (star system, whiteboard, objects, etc..)
If you want more information to help choose the correct platforms and software, you’re in luck. We have previously discussed this topic with eager freelance online teachers. There are a range of free platforms and software which you can use. However, if you want to invest more in your services, you can spend a small amount of money in order to optimize the quality of your virtual classroom.
It’s true that a good teacher will be able to make the most of what props and equipment they have. Sometimes, less is more. However, there is a fine line. Teachers should make sure that their equipment and tools are optimizing the quality of the lesson rather than just spending for the sake of it.
Invest Time and Energy Into Your Business to Become a Successful Freelance Online English Teacher!
As a freelance online English teacher, you will have to invest more time and energy into your business. Work doesn’t come to you, instead, you’ve got to work to find work! You’re not relying on a platform to provide you with students or a curriculum. You’ll need to assess your students yourself using your own criteria and templates.
No longer are you just a teacher? To be a successful freelance online English teacher, you need to think of yourself as a businessman or an entrepreneur. This involves employing marketing and sales tactics, structuring your time, and admin work, and perhaps even expanding and investing more money into your business once it is wise to do so.
It is truly a self-motivated profession. The more motivated you are, the more your business will thrive. By taking into account these tips and other variables, you are increasing your chances of becoming a successful independent and freelance online English teacher.
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