Being an English teacher online is a wonderful job. In fact, it has changed my life and allowed me to work from anywhere in the world. I have been able to build my own virtual classroom from home, and more importantly, make money online. But getting started was a little tricky for me. So to help you out, here’s 10 things I wish I had known before becoming an online English teacher. 

Where to get your TEFL certificate?

There are so many companies out there who offer TEFL certification for people who want to become online English teachers. At the beginning, I was so unsure of which company to choose and how to choose the right course for me. My advice to others would be to choose a company who is legitimate and able to provide accredited courses. There are so many companies who are not accredited out there, meaning your TEFL certificate from them would be useless. Choosing the right company is crucial.

When I was searching for the right course for me, the first thing I looked for was a company who was accredited. Secondly, I wanted to make sure they were able to support me throughout the process. Lastly, I wanted to make sure the company had excellent reviews. Premier TEFL’s courses stood out as the best option for me. They not only gave me support throughout my TEFL course, but through my travels to Thailand as well. If only I knew about them sooner, I would have started my journey earlier.

Online English Teacher Melissa with prop

You have to NAIL your introduction video

In my opinion, the introduction video is the most important part of the whole process of becoming an online English teacher. It is your time to shine and show them your teaching style. The first ten seconds of your video is vital to grab the attention of the watcher, whether that is the learners themselves or even their parents. You want to excite them about coming to your virtual classroom.

I recorded my video so many times until I felt it was good enough to send to companies. If your video is not good, then it probably won’t be very successful. Try to be different from all the other teachers and show them what is unique about you. If I had been more creative on my introduction video then I could have possibly started with more classes. Don’t forget that teaching English online is becoming more popular, so you have to stand out and sell yourself. Be yourself, be creative, speak clearly and grab your watchers attention.

Consider teaching students of all age

At the beginning of my journey of teaching English online, I found myself to be very specific in the age groups I wanted to teach. This included mainly younger learners. This meant that it limited the amount of potential students I could have had. The fewer lessons you have, the less teaching time you will have and the lower your earning potential.

However, I made the decision early on that the more confident I became and the more lessons I taught, the more I would open myself up for different types of learners. I decided that eventually I would start to teach adult classes also. The more open you are as a teacher in terms of class types (one-on-one classes, group classes, children and adults), the better your chance of getting more bookings. My advice to you would be to be open to teaching everyone. You can also study specialist courses that will help you become a better teacher. For example, the Teaching Young Learners short course or the Teaching Business English short course which has a focus on adult learners.

Patience is one of the most important skills when teaching English online

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of patience. It is the key to success, especially in the realm of online English teaching. I found out very quickly that it takes time for your students and their parents to notice you and get comfortable with you, but in time it does get better if you show that you are well prepped and organized for your lesson.

You need to have patience in the classroom as well because you are likely to come across students who actively choose not to listen to you. You will need the patience and energy to keep going even if they don’t want to listen. I have a few students like this but I also have even more students who are engaged and want to learn. I feel so appreciated by parents and students which makes it so rewarding for me.

Online English Teacher Melissa teaching a lesson

Expect to earn less in the beginning as an online English teacher

Everyone thinks that once you start teaching English online that you will automatically earn a good salary. This is not always the case. There are so many different companies out there, and they all work differently. Some companies will have set schedules with regular students, others will allow you to work a more flexible schedule and set your own hours. By having a set schedule, I can have a consistent salary. Choosing to have restricted hours each month can backfire as students will only book teaching slots when teachers are available, so if you block out too many hours then you might miss out on lessons.

In the beginning, I joined a company that had set hours. They wanted me to start off slowly in my first month which means I did not have many students. In my second month it started to pick up and by the third month I started to see more consistency in my salary. The first two months I did not make a huge amount of money. You need to make a good impression in all your lessons to get noticed and to get booked.

Which online TEFL employer is a match for you?

There are so many opportunities for being an online English teacher

When you apply to work with a teaching company, do not wait for their response. Apply to as many companies as possible. You want to keep your options open and see what everyone has to offer. Some companies may only respond to you in two weeks or even a month. Try to find other online English teachers to help get referred to a company as well. This process will also be a lot easier as well to get an interview.

Because there are so many companies out there, it is important to research which one is right for you. Premier TEFL has a useful teaching platform guide that has all the information you need to read before choosing a company. This guide breaks everything down for you and lists the top companies for native speakers, non-native speakers and teachers without a degree amongst other things.

You will have absent students

Just like classroom teachers, online English teachers will have absent students. And there really is nothing you can do about it. Some companies will still pay you if students don’t show up. However, some students will cancel a lesson in advance and then you may not get paid. This can limit your salary. A way to combat this is to keep your options open by working for more than one company. This means you can keep a consistent salary for yourself each month.

My advice as an online English teacher is also to avoid unnecessary absences yourself. Take your leave only when you need to. Students want to see you in class regularly and often book classes in blocks. So if you don’t show up, they will choose another teacher. Also keep your hours of work each week flexible and similar to make sure you have the best chance of keeping your regular students.

Melissa teaching during a lesson

It’s easy to get attached to your learners

Throughout my time as an online English teacher, I have grown so fond of so many of the students in my classroom. You will quickly get to know what they enjoy and don’t like in the classroom. You will be able to create a bond with them and this makes the virtual classroom more enjoyable and comfortable. One of the main benefits of having a good relationship with your students is that they are more likely to stay with you for a long time, because they have been able to build up that trust with you.

I often receive five star reviews from students. The only negative of getting attached to your learners is that sometimes they may not renew their package with you, despite excellent reviews. The worst part of this is not knowing why they didn’t renew, and wondering if they continued elsewhere.

Don’t spend forever writing reports

For many companies, you will often have to write a report on a student after the lesson. I didn’t realise the amount of work that needed to go into the reports themselves, and they have to be accurate and precise. This can include things such as performance of the student in the following areas; pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, fluency and coherence.

I try my best to take notes during the class as it makes the report a lot easier to write at the end. I often make a simple template to write the report, and this saves me so much time. Remember though, try not to spend too much time writing the report after your classes. You certainly won’t get paid extra for spending more time writing reports. So write what you need to, and don’t spend too much time doing it.

Screenshot ALL of your lessons

If there is one thing you take out of this, it’s to make sure you screenshot and record everything. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. You need to have a visual record of the times you clock in to a lesson, when students are misbehaving, when there is any type of technical difficulty, when classroom time is up or when reports are done. This is to make sure you have evidence to prove you were on time to class, didn’t leave early from the classroom, had no technical issues and completed all your reports.

With many companies there are attendance bonuses which will top up your salary. I have heard many horror stories of teachers who have lost their bonuses because of these types of errors. Most of those teachers had no proof to show they were on time. And to make it worse, they didn’t have anything to prove that they didn’t leave the classroom early. This does vary with each online teaching platform of course. But it is a good idea to get yourself into the habit of screenshotting and recording everything to stay organized.

Animated Melissa teaching a n English lesson online

These are just a few of the tips I would give you if you are just starting out as an online English teacher. Teaching English online truly is one of the most flexible and exciting online jobs out there. And it is becoming more and more popular. So if you are just starting out, make sure to set your expectations before you get going. Doing this will allow you to become a better teacher, help increase your earning potential and give you more freedom and flexibility than you could ever have imagined.