As you prepare to take the leap and teach English online, earning money in your pajamas to help support your financial goals and travel dreams, you might hear a tiny voice in the back of your head wondering if it is too good to be true.
It isn’t (woot!!!!), but it’s good to enter any new job or career change as informed as possible.
With the help of teachers active in Reddit’s Online ESL Teaching community, we’ve put together this compilation of tips and advice about the realities of teaching English online (including the cons).
What is it Like to Teach English Online?
There’s only so much information you can gather over the internet. While you may find many answers that will help you anticipate something, each and every experience is unique. It gets to a point where you must try something for yourself to truly understand. No two experiences are the same for those who teach English online, and that’s why we’ve gathered the perspectives of online teachers all over the internet!
We’d love to answer what we think it’s like to teach English online (and many of the Premier TEFL staff have taught English online ourselves!), but here is what current online English teachers had to say about the gig:
How to Get the Job
“Fake it for the interview because they are looking to tick certain boxes. But once that’s done, you can teach as it suits. I’m more on the quiet and subdued end as well but I get a lot of bookings. Not every child wants a teacher with clown-on-coke enthusiasm.” – LittleXBird
Tips to Get Hired as an Online English Teacher
That’s right. Fake it until you make it. You realistically won’t be depleting your energy reserves to complete every lesson. But you should display how energetic you CAN be in the interview. You can’t play the long game here and depend on the great rapport you might be able to develop between yourself and a student, you need to be captivating and enthusiastic. Character goes a long way in the mock lesson, and can potentially even outweigh experience because you can learn skills but you can’t learn a personality. Remember to use plenty of body language and remember to smile!
Use Your Initiative
Among the checklist employers are looking to tick will be how well you’re able to tackle spontaneous obstacles and utilize your ‘on the spot’ thinking. It’s subjective how they’ll evaluate your initiative, as opposed to how they’ve already reviewed your qualifications and experience, so you’ll really have to win them over. You need to be able to find alternative ways to deliver a message if articulating it to your student isn’t enough. Try to incorporate movement and other creative ways to help your student understand new words or concepts. If you want to teach English online (or anywhere), you need to be quick on your feet!
Another thing you need to demonstrate is self-confidence. No one wants a teacher that is constantly hesitating or dithering during the lesson. Don’t be too proud to look silly for the children, you need to exude confidence in your actions, body language, and speech!
What You Do to Teach English Online
25 Minutes of Focus
“The job is really easy. The lessons are already done and involve hardly any prep other than glancing at them a couple of minutes beforehand. Classes are just 25 minutes. But for those 25 minutes, you are actively engaged. It can often be stressful to try to get the student through every slide if they are not compliant or struggling to understand. Unlike some jobs like retail where there is a lot of downtime and you can zone out, you are ‘on’ for those 25 minutes. After about 8 in a row I need a break or my brain feels like mush.” – DrippingMoon
“They provide a PowerPoint that is about 25-30 slides long, so you spend about a minute on each. It’s not bad because there’s not a ton of prep. They measure success by parent ratings. So far, I’ve got a 5/5 on 19 reviews, so I don’t think it’s too hard to do well as long as you put in a bit of effort and try to have some energy.” -fairlywittyusername
Every lesson is recorded and parents will often be right off the view of the camera or will watch the lesson later and are likely to complain if they see low energy, mistakes not being caught and corrected and the lesson finished. Both of my negative parent reviews came because I dared to yawn in class. (Apparently yawning is a big no-no). The parents often also meddle in the lessons, sometimes trying to do your job and telling the student the wrong thing. One of the worst things is that if the child makes any mistakes is that Chinese parents can sometimes be quite harsh. Seeing a kid smacked or have his ear twisted because he/she can’t say something correctly is difficult at times and having a lesson with a parent like this is very tense. The job is really easy, but not without its frustrations.” – DrippingMoon
The Benefits of Delivering Pre-Written Materials Versus Making Your Own
It’s true that it’s a case of an ‘off’ and an ‘on’ button when it comes to teaching. As soon as that button is ‘on’, your student needs your undivided attention. It can be tiring, but it doesn’t really go beyond that. Due to pre-written material, there is hardly any admin time outside of the classroom. You don’t have to prepare material in advance which saves a huge amount of time. You may have to fill in a progress or lesson report which only takes a couple of minutes (or less). But other than that, you’re instantly back in “home mode”. No commuting, no packing, no preparation for tomorrow, just switching back to your comfy self in your comfy home.
With pre-written material, there is typically a theme. Your student might be following a series with recurring themes or a particular topic for several lessons. This makes it much easier for you to come up with activities spontaneously. Meaning switching from page to page is seamless. It’s even easier if with regular students. You know how to engage them by using the material in creative ways.
“One of the best things about this job is the flexibility. Work as much or as little as you want. This job offers a great way to make money in your free time. But there are two big things to keep in mind. One is that the schedule for those in the Western Hemisphere is pretty tough. I get up at 3:00 to start classes at 3:30. I sometimes pull all-nighters if I want to earn some extra cash.” – DrippingMoon
“The popular hours [for Americans] are essentially 5-9am Eastern time, and I usually teach 4-5 classes a morning before moving on to my freelance writing and all that. But you can teach on weekends too. Basically, just teach when kids aren’t at school. So apparently the summer is great for work.” – fairlywittyusername
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The Smartest Ways To Manage Your Class Schedule
Despite how eager you might be to gain as many classes as possible, you should think rationally. Think twice before blindly clicking away at each time slot hoping it is picked up, think about the long term. You don’t want to have to consistently book classes off on particular days because you consider your personal time off. This would also leave you in a position where companies will be more reluctant to give you future classes if you set the pattern of cancelling lessons. Ease into the schedule, and open up your bookings as you progress.
“I love VIPKID! I will reach 2500 classes by the end of the month. The hardest part is making sure I don’t sign up for too many classes/have to cancel. Overall I have been very satisfied with the students and parents! Edit: Also I make 20 an hour as a 1099 IC.” – Espriteclaire
“Now that my schedule is filled, I’m easily pulling in $1500, and I’m just working morning. If I worked weekends as well, it would be very, very easy to pass $2000. Hope that helps!” – fairlywittyusername
What Can I Make Teaching English Online?
Now to the juicy stuff. You obviously didn’t come here to teach for free, why would you? It’s a job that requires skilled individuals and sustained effort. Remember that different companies will have different pay structures. Some will offer more money per hour but will require a higher level of experience or more admin work outside the classroom.
If you teach English online, you can expect to earn between $13 – $25 an hour depending on your experience and interview, maybe even much more if you decide to teach independently. With referral bonuses of around $70 and trial class conversion bonuses, there are additional opportunities to earn more than your base salary. Some companies like DaDa may even include a ‘Stability Factor’, where the number of regular students or hours you teach will lead to extra income.
To make things easier, we’ve got our own salary calculator for you to estimate your potential earnings! This will save you from plenty of headaches when considering all the variables that influence your salary when teaching English online.
Fortunately, experienced online teacher Melissa shares her experience and guides you through all the details you need to know about pay in this special webinar. From discussing the many facets of teaching English online and answering FAQ about companies and qualifications, Melissa covers every aspect that influences teacher salary.
On Living Abroad
“I live in South America and was working at an ESL school, making enough to get by, but not much else. Since I started teaching online I have been able to live a very comfortable life, increase my savings, and start investing again. This is a job you could do anywhere and if you go to countries with a lower cost of living you can leverage the salary to have a very comfortable life. After South America, I plan to go to Istanbul, Plovdiv, and Bali, and others in the next few years. There is a whole community of teachers who live this lifestyle and are very helpful and supportive. So if you are stuck in a rut and have dreamed of seeing the world, there are few better ways.” -DrippingMoon
Premier TEFL Graduates Who Teach & Travel
Arguably the most advantageous aspect of teaching online is how you can teach from almost anywhere. Some companies will require you to reside in a particular location to teach, but this a rarity. As long as you have a good enough internet connection, you can teach from wherever you want. Just take a look at teacher Vanessa’s experience, it speaks for itself!
Teacher Vanessa is the definition of a “globe trotter”. She had left America to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the UK (takes another breath), Ireland, Italy, Albania, and many more countries, and she had funded her travels by teaching online with DaDa.
As she visits each country, she makes sure she books an Airbnb to ensure she has an appropriate classroom setting, as well as choosing an ideal spot in a brand new city. Her schedule boasts freedom, flexibility, as well as enough working hours to sustain her adventure.
With such a diverse range of experience in so many countries and overcoming obstacles during the pandemic, Vanessa’s interviews offer plenty of insight to aspiring online teachers! You can read about Vanessa’s pre and post-pandemic TEFL experience here!
“Burnout is very easy to do with this job. I caution anyone who is wanting to try VIPKID to make sure you take care of yourself ( take breaks, naps, socialize).” – Rivers84
Hacks To Avoid Teacher Burnout
On the first day of every year, we see people try to become vegan powerlifters who meditate every morning. Reading one book an evening. Some studies show only around 8% of resolutions are carried out all the way through, why? Because sometimes, too much change is unsustainable, and this can be the case with online teaching.
While we’d like to preach “no pain, no gain”, it’s important to manage our time efficiently. The mind is a battery, and it needs to be recharged. Too much of anything is a bad thing. And if you teach English online all day every day, you’ll be left with little energy. It’s important to be in a “flow state”, where you are productive enough, but not to the point where it diminishes your quality time. Otherwise, what are you working for?
If you don’t manage your time efficiently, you can go from being an overzealous teacher to a resentful one very quickly. In this article, we’ve listed 10 important ways you can avoid burnout.
More Qualifications = More Money
“I was lucky to be paid on the higher end of the pay scale. Probably because I had a TEFL and ESL teaching experience when I applied. It’s great that I can set my own hours. The majority of the kids are sweet, smart, and eager to learn. As a teacher, it’s fantastic to not deal with lesson planning or commuting. And, as a “digital nomad” (though I hate the term and think it’s pretentious as fuck), I have been able to travel and live abroad on a sustainable income.” -GreenWhiskerz
Boost Your Earning Power with TEFL-Pro Courses
As The Notorious B.I.G. said, “mo TEFL qualifications, mo money.” I might be paraphrasing, but it doesn’t make the statement less true. The grind doesn’t have to end with you becoming qualified or getting hired. Why don’t you spend a little more becoming a specialist? Here are our 30-hour courses which will make you more appealing to employers:
- Teaching English Online – Refine your teaching skills by learning how to manage the virtual classroom and deliver effective lessons online with 6 enlightening modules.
- 30 Hour Teaching Young Learners – Develop the understanding of the nuances when it comes to teaching English to 3 – 16-year-olds, and create effective lesson plans and materials to maximize learning.
- Teaching IELTS Exam Preparation – Similarly, millions of students take the IELTS exam each year, which means there’s a big need for skilled IELTS teachers. Help students achieve high scores for their tests by learning effective teaching methods for English assessments.
- Business English – Learning English doesn’t stop with young learners. Diversify your skills by preparing students for the global commerce world and teaching English online for specific purposes (ESP).
- Advanced Grammar for English Teachers – Boost your earning power and be hired to know your tenses (there are 12 major verb tenses). It’s one thing to know them, it’s another thing to articulate it effectively to your students.
Teach English Online and Get Paid!
Teaching English online is a unicorn career opportunity. Though every day isn’t cooperative children and earth-shattering lesson content, the good days will certainly outweigh the bad. And your wallet will thank you!). Teach English online and get paid before the jobs that remain get nabbed! Do you have any advice or experiences to share about teaching English online? Let us know below.
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