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How to become an online English teacher?

Joanna Horanin

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Hi there! 👋 I’m Joanna, author of The Blond Travels. If you find my articles helpful, I’d be happy if you could follow me on Instagram, or . Support from readers like you means a lot to me and helps to keep this website alive. Thank you! 🙏Joanna Horanin

We live in a world where you don’t need to leave your house to be able to go to school. Thanks to the internet and developed technology we can learn whatever we want and wherever we are. We can also teach anywhere, whether it’s a hostel in Thailand or a nice Airbnb apartment in Italy. Teaching online has become very popular as it gives an immense amount of freedom and allows to travel while working and earning money. If you would like to become an online English teacher, read on. Here you will find out how to make it possible even if you’re not a native speaker.

What qualifications do you need to become an online English teacher?

  • Certificates. You don’t need to have a teaching degree, but you need to know how to teach. Therefore it’s a good idea to have a TEFL certificate. TEFL course will show you how to teach grammar and vocabulary and how to establish rapport with your students. You should also have a university degree (bachelor will be enough).
  • Experience. Your CV will look more appealing if you have some kind of experience. If you’ve been working for big corporations your whole life, then you might want to start giving private lessons. In some bigger cities, like London, there are a lot of non-government organisations willing to hire a volunteer teacher. You can teach English to immigrants and refugees during weekends and evenings.
  • Good knowledge of English. If you’re not a native speaker then your English needs to be fluent. Living in countries like Australia, or UK, is always an advantage as you can practise your English and have a real insight into the living language. The fact that you had to study English and you were once a student, too is your strong point as well. You are able to understand the struggles your students go through even more than a native speaker. Regardless whether you’re a native speaker o not your grammar and vocabulary need to be excellent.

Other requirements

  • Internet. A great advantage of teaching English online is the possibility of travelling while working (or working while travelling). However, you need to be aware that some countries are not as developed and finding good wi-fi might be a challenge. You always need to choose places depending on their access to the internet.
  • Time and flexibility. You need to have time for your students. Be ready to work late evenings and weekends. If English classes are your only source of income, you will have to be very flexible with your schedule.
  • A quiet place to work. Organise a small office where you can work without anyone disturbing you. Cafes and bars are not good places to do lessons. If you travel, you need to make sure that your hotel room is quiet enough and no one will interrupt you during working hours.
  • An ability to establish rapport. Your students need to feel at ease when talking to you. I always spend first 10 minutes just having a conversation about everything and nothing. Quite often it’s their first lesson and they are nervous, or they need a bit of time to get into the right mindset.
  • Check the tax law in your country. Remember that it’s better to have a legal business, if you’re planning to teach long term. Registering as self-employed is always a good idea.

Types of online teaching jobs

In general there are two types of online teaching jobs: you can work for an agency, or an online school, or you can open your own business and give private lessons.

How to get a job at one of the online schools, or agencies?

Working for an online school, or an agency, is a good start. You can practice your teaching skills and get used to a new lifestyle. There are plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to spend some time looking for them.

If you are not a native speaker, then finding a job as a freelance teacher at a school, or an agency, might be a bit more challenging. Despite the fact that I have qualifications and a British passport, I had trouble with finding work because of my accent. Unfortunately, companies don’t want to hire non-native speakers as they are afraid that their students will start complaining. As I said earlier, the fact that you had to learn English from the very beginning, is an advantage and you should mark on that during your application process.

How to find a job?

  • Do a TEFL course. This way you can prove that you have a good knowledge of English and you know how to teach. If you have any other certificates that can be useful, put them on your CV, too.
  • Write your CV. It needs to be short and well written, maximum 2 pages A4. If you worked as an IT specialist, or a secretary your whole life and only gave some private lessons on the side, put the latter to the front of your work experience and don’t emphasise non-relevant jobs.
  • Write a cover email. State why you want to work for this company and why you will be a good addition to the team. Treat your application as any other one that you’ve done in the past.
  • Send your applications. Send as many of them as possible to every single company that you like. During your interviews always look smart and friendly. Everything will be online, but that doesn’t mean that you can wear shorts and a stained t-shirt during your conversation with potential employers.
  • Don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a while before you find work.

Additional information for non-native speakers

  • If you have any English language diplomas and certificates that can only be obtained by those, whose English is a second language (for example Cambridge Advanced) do not mention them on your resumé – this might discourage your employer from hiring you and is an additional reminder that you’re not a native speaker.
  • Make a list of reasons why you might be a better teacher than a native speaker. This can be anything, from understanding the problems students face to being able to teach those students from your home country that don’t know any English at all.
  • Improve your accent. It’s always a good idea to practice your accent a bit. You will find plenty of free videos on YouTube.
  • Your CV and cover letter need to be perfect. Avoid any mistakes. Triple check everything before you send them off.

You can find some job opportunities here:

What to expect?

  • Your lessons will be conducted over Skype, but the company might have their own virtual platform and you will need to use that. Sometimes you will need to prepare your own lessons, sometimes they will be provided by your employer. During your interview ask for more details.
  • You might have to work a minimum number of hours per month, this includes working evenings and weekends.
  • Depending on where your students are based, you will need to do your lessons early in the morning, or late at night and you won’t have much to say about it. Some companies serve students all around the world and you can choose which time zone you prefer. However, some agencies and schools teach people from certain regions, like Asia or South America – in this case you will need to adjust your schedule to your students.
  • A huge advantage of being employed by a third party is the fact that they provide you with students, so you don’t need to worry about not being able to earn money.
  • A disadvantage is money – at the moment there are a lot of companies that tend to pay teachers very little. In my opinion a minimum rate for a teaching hour is $10. Refuse anything less.

Private lessons

You don’t need to work for a company to become an online English teacher. You can give private lessons and be your own boss. In order to do that you don’t need much. Invest work and money in good marketing and remember to treat your lessons like a product and your students like customers.

How to start your own online English classes?

  • What platform will you use? Most of the time teachers use Skype, but sometimes it’s not enough. At the moment you can rent a virtual classroom from companies such as WizQ, which provide you with some additional features, like whiteboards.
  • How will you arrange payments? PayPal is usually the best for this and it’s worth registering. Your payment should be easy for students to make.
  • Create a contract that your students will sign before you commence your lessons. Think of what you can do if your student cancels or doesn’t show up to their class.
  • Think of materials you will use. Every student is different and will need different books and exercises, but it’s a good idea to create a base of different quizzes and exercises.
  • Create a website and be active on social media. Your website should look professional and have your photo on the homepage. This is the first impression the students get when they look for online English lessons. You can write a blog about your methods and about teaching. Don’t use your private Facebook account for doing business and communicating with students. Instead create a Facebook page and update it every day.
  • Remember about your personal brand. Come up with friendly colour scheme, a logo and how you’re going to present yourself and what will be so different about you.
  • Meet other teachers. Facebook groups are great for that. Try Digital Nomad Teachers and Tutors – it’s a brand new group, which is quite active and helpful.
  • Advertise in local newspapers, on advertising boards and websites for freelancers, such as Upwork and Freelancer. Think about sites and places that your potential students might hang out or work. If you want to teach businessmen then maybe calling a few international companies with headquarters in China, Japan or Brazil might be a good idea? Be active on Facebook, write your blog, answer emails promptly. Also, remember that your students are also your advertisements – they might recommend you to their friends.

Where to look for work?

What to expect?

  • More money. Considering the fact that you put a lot of work into marketing and preparing your lessons, you can ask for a bit more. Start from $15-$20 per hour and then you can lift the prices a little.
  • Teaching English online is your business. Be ready to work all the time, even during your holiday.
  • Especially at the beginning you might not earn much and you need to prepare yourself for periods of time when it will be a bit quieter and students will take time off, like Christmas or Easter. You need to put money aside for such circumstances.

In the next article I will tell you about disadvantages of teaching online. 

Other interesting articles:

Get to know my story and become an online English teacher!
8 reasons why you should become an online English teacher

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