Work remotely

The whole truth and nothing but the truth about teaching online

Joanna Horanin

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I have been an English online teacher for almost 5 years. I started with a language agency, then I started my own business. My work is extremely important to me, gives me a lot of satisfaction, lets me meet interesting people. However, I do not conceal that it has many drawbacks, which I struggle with every day. Today I will tell you what it’s really like to teach online. If you think about starting a remote job as a teacher, maybe this post will give you some food for thought.

I am not one of those people who sees life in pink colours. In fact, I think that I often see reality in quite grayish shades. On my Instagram or Facebook, you will see posts, where I simply say how it is. Life in Portugal doesn’t equal palm trees, floral dresses and champagne on the beach, but very cold winter, high prices and disorganization (fortunately, all this can be forgotten with wine and with delicious cheese. Balance is evened out).

Also when it comes to teaching online and working remotely, I try not to cheat others. I do not put photos from the pool with my laptop, because I do not work like that. I’m not saying that I make millions. I’m not saying ‘you only need to want something very much to get it’ (unless you’re working hard). I do not encourage everyone to work online because I know that it is only for some.

So if you want to know the whole truth about teaching online, this and future posts will certainly be for you. See also – the reasons why you should become an online teacher.

How I started teaching online – My story

I’ve already told you the story about how I became an online teacher . For the purposes of this article, I will summarize this story quickly.

When I was teaching in Thailand, I met digital nomads and liked their lifestyle very much. Because I could neither program, design, nor do anything else that I could offer to clients, I found a job as an online teacher at an American language agency.

I worked with them for a few years. Finally, tired of the repetition of the classes and the lack of creativity at work, I decided to open OK English. My small company is already 2 years old and it’s going very well.

In retrospect, I think that teaching online is a great job for some, but not for everyone. When I talk to people who want to teach, the same clichés are constantly repeated, which I feel compelled to undermine.

This is how it truly is to teach online!

The whole truth about teaching online

At the beginning I was delighted with remote work. I set the hours so that I started work at 1pm. I went to bed late, I got up at noon. I taught in pajamas, unkempt, without a shower. For the first weeks, I thought that I was so lucky! It was only later that reality began to hit me hard.

Today I look soberly at online teaching, without my pink glasses. I see a lot of good in this profession, but also a lot of disadvantages.

You are an entrepreneur – This is your business

And that means you have to take care not only about paying taxes and registering your business, but if you’re serious about teaching online, you need to have a website, logo, unique colors of your brand, social media and a blog.

Online teaching is not only about lessons but about a lot of work that you have to do outside of them.

Your knowledge is not everything

It is said that in order for your business to succeed you should not sell your knowledge, but help people deal with problems. These days it is more real than ever.

In my opinion, the fact that you have knowledge and you know how to share it with students is not everything. Your appearance, professionalism, approach to the client and your personality are also important here.

A lot of people are looking for a good teacher, but also want to get along well with him or her. Clients who come to you for lessons want to be motivated, encouraged, want to feel good energy from you. Can you provide it to them?

The market is not overly saturated

‘There are too many teachers on the market. There is no way to stand out, “I hear very often. That’s rubbish!

Online teaching is a business like any other. If you create a good offer and a strong brand, if you have the right target group, choose a niche (see below), then you will never have problems finding a client.

Claiming that the market is oversaturated is an excuse to moan and blame your reality.

You don’t have a niche? You will disappear in the crowd

Exactly …. If I ask you what you want to teach, what will you answer? English? History? Graphic design? The problem is that teaching everything and everyone is teaching no one and nothing.

You will never be successful if you teach general subjects and all age groups. In order to have clients, you have to have a niche.

A niche also means better money. You can teach English to dentists, prepare future professors to take language exams at universities, entrepreneurs who want to acquire foreign clients, dentists, miners.

Choose a specific group and a theme and stick to it.

An online teacher doesn’t have time for pleasures

I often get messages from people who want to become an online teacher and imagine that this job will give them the opportunity to rest and spend more time with their families.

In my experience, this is only possible in two cases: either when your lessons are very expensive or when you have another source of income. If you take 10-15 Euros for a lesson, then you will have to work a lot, do a lot of lessons, and you will have less time for pleasure than you have in a normal job.

I also think that the work of an online teacher is not for example for mothers with children who imagine that thanks to online lessons they will have time to take care of their children. First of all, your lessons can not take place when kids are crying or playing nearby. Secondly, it will be difficult for you to find customers in the early-afternoon hours, that is, when the children have a nap or are in school. You must be absolutely sure that you will not often take lessons. Your client can understand this once, but after 3 such cases you can easily lose the student.

Your desk might be your prison

This is directly related to the above point.

Once your lessons are so popular that customers will come to you all the time, your desk can become a prison instead of a liberation.

In my most busy periods, i.e. September – January and March – June, I hardly ever leave the house. I rarely refuse my students and take everybody that’s interested. There are times when I have 10-15 clients, most of whom buy classes twice a week. At these moments I am extremely tired.

It is difficult, especially at the beginning, to manage the time when you do not know until the end when you have enough clients. You can have enough of them in one month and you can refuse a new one. The next month may be much calmer and then you will regret that you did not take these new customers. That is why I often take every client in these busiest periods. I become a slave to my desk. Fortunately, there are months when I can rest.

Teaching in your pyjamas? Forget about it!

It happened to me, yes, I admit. At the very beginning, I thought that teaching online did not require any preparation from me. When I worked for a foreign language agency, the students did not see me. I did not have to prepare lessons. I just logged in to the system and was done! So I sat in my pajamas, without makeup.

I currently run online English classes with my private students and I approach it extremely professionally. I believe that my appearance has the same meaning as my knowledge and approach to the lesson.

So I get up at 7, I take a shower, I dress in my most professional clothes, and then I prepare for the lesson. In this way, I’m not sleepy, and my students look at someone who looks like a professional teacher.

Want some rest? You need to scale your services

Imagine that you have your own little shop and you’re the only one who works in it. You must be in the shop from 9 to 18 almost every day, sometimes also on holidays. You leave for the holidays once a year, and if you do not work, you do not make money.

It’s the same with lessons. Any downtime in your work will result in a decrease in revenue. You have to fight for the client all the time. The more lessons you do, the more you earn. Constant teaching simply tires and is mentally and physically exhausting.

Therefore, if you want to rest, you have to think about how to scale the services. You can raise prices, hire other teachers or release educational materials or an online course.

Online teachers are not treated seriously

That’s my impression. When I discuss what I do at meetups, I meet with a shrug, maybe with a polite ‘ah, ok. That’s nice’. Nobody ever asks for details. It seems to me that online teaching is treated as something that people do to earn a few Euro and be able to stay in cheaper countries. Very rarely my work is perceived as a serious business.

This environment is not so friendly

Everything, of course, depends on your attitude. I have a group of teachers who are kind and helpful. I even send my clients to some of them when I have no availability.

However, there are also teachers out there that are very envious. This jealousy consumes them to such an extent that they spread false rumors about others and are even able to report you to the tax office without a reason, just to cause you some worry and stress. Blocking someone’s Instagram is one of the lightest manifestations of this jealousy.

You might not become a digital nomad

Do you want to learn online and travel? I will let you down. It is not so easy.

Change of time zone, constant movement, lack of good internet, lack of a quiet place to work – this is just the tip of the iceberg. These problems are not only stressful for online teachers, but also for clients who simply give up your services if you keep changing or canceling class dates.

It’s the most rewarding job in the world!

It seems to me that I focused only on the negative aspects of online teaching. Let’s not forget, however, that it is a very rewarding job. You are a witness of the progress of your pupils, you see how they learn, develop, go forward. It really gives me a very big boost of energy and motivation to work.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to share your experiences or your point of view? Don’t be shy! Leave a comment!