Expat Life

Aug 17, 2020

How to Find Out if Teaching English Online is the Perfect Job for You.

Have you noticed that everyone seems to be teaching English online these days? Myself included! Teaching online has been a fantastic gig for me over the past four years. Eliminating a commute and setting my own schedule has been a major game-changer for my mental state and my pocketbook. 

It’s great if you want a job that lets you save some extra money & work remotely from anywhere. And for teachers, it’s also an excellent platform to hone your teaching skills, and lesson-planning doesn’t take a lot of prep time. If all this sounds good, then teaching English online might be a perfect option for you.

There are a ton of companies out there. Many of them focus heavily on teaching children. Some cater to adults, and a few allow you to teach other subjects in English. With so many choices, beginning the process can be overwhelming. If that sounds like your situation… don’t worry! Now is probably the best time to sit back and ask yourself a few questions to figure out if teaching English online is right for you. There are four primary considerations you should think about: your qualifications, the pay, your schedule, and your teaching style.

1. Qualifications: You Need Them!

First thing’s first.. are you qualified?! Most online teaching qualifications are relatively simple. You will need three things: a bachelor’s degree, a certificate to teach English as a foreign language, and you’ll need to be a native or native-like speaker. While there are some exceptions, this is pretty much what you can expect from the majority of companies.

A Bachelor’s Degree in any Field

Hey, a job that actually asks to see your diploma! The good news is that your major doesn’t matter. You could have a degree in underwater basket weaving or in astrophysics. As long as you have a degree in something, you will pass this step. I have heard of some companies taking a chance on really strong candidates, though. Sometimes someone with a lot of relevant life experience, an associate’s degree, or those in their last semester of undergrad could get hired. However, that’s not the norm. When it comes down to it, 90% of companies will want you to have at least a 4-year degree completed to teach English online.

A “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” Certification: TEFL, DELTA, TOEFL

Not every company will require certification, but the big names will. It’s also a strict requirement to teach students in China (mandated by the Chinese government). Luckily, getting certified isn’t difficult. There are a ton of companies that offer certification courses, both in-person and online. Depending on what kind of experience you’re looking for and what you’re willing to spend, you can find something that works for you. It doesn’t have to be a large investment in either time or money.

Premier TEFL has a ton of different certification courses, so if you want to get working and making money quickly, definitely check them out!

Be a Native or Native-Like Speaker

Most online ESL platforms are looking for native speakers. The majority hire teachers from the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, South Africa, and Ireland. Note that due to the proliferation of American TV & films, most of the Asia-based companies will want to have someone with a North American accent. However, some companies are open to applicants from other countries and non-native speakers if your qualifications are good enough. Or, if you’re like one of my friends, you can learn to fake an American accent & no one will be the wiser!!

Ok, so you’ve ticked all the boxes? Then it’s time to take a look at the great (and not so great) things about the big beautiful world of online teaching.

2. Pay: Will You Make Enough Money Teaching English Online?

Alright, here’s what you’re really interested in knowing… how much money can you make teaching English online? Well, like most things in life, that all depends. The truth is you’re never going to get rich doing this. But you can make enough to supplement other income. Or if you live a very simple lifestyle, then you could find teaching is all you need. Luckily in Spain, living costs can be pretty low depending on where you live.

If you think you can work with that, then there are some things you need to be aware of to ensure you make the money you need! Knowing how much you get paid for how much you’re going to work is an essential part of choosing your ideal company. Make sure to find out what the per-class rate is and what that comes out to per hour. You certainly don’t want any big surprises or disappointments down the road.

The biggest downside to the way payment works is that you will be an independent contractor. That means that the companies will not take taxes out of your pay, and you will be responsible for paying those taxes yourself. How much and to which country will depend on your current tax situation. Yeah, thinking about taxes isn’t any fun, but it’s not that bad as long as you remember to save enough to cover your taxes.

Bookings: Company vs Parents/Individual

If all this still sounds good and you’re starting to feel confident that teaching English online is for you, then let’s break this down a little more. Obviously, how much you get paid ultimately depends on how much you get booked. There are two ways bookings happen for lessons:

The first is the company will book your students for you.  Being with a company that handles your booking means that you are guaranteed working hours. The catch is your schedule ends up being less flexible as the company will expect you to keep the same availability for a few months at a time. 

The second way is for students (or parents of the students) to book classes with you directly.  Most companies work this way, and the great thing about this is that you can set your hours. You decide how much you work and have the flexibility to take a day off. However, the biggest drawback is that it can take a long time to build a base of regular students.  And remember, just because you have all these available openings in your schedule, doesn’t mean you’ll get a booking.

3. Scheduling: Will Teaching Online Work With Your Current Schedule?

I know I said flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of teaching English online, but that is only really true if the hours already fit your schedule. It’s rare for students to live in the same time zone as you. Europe is a GREAT place for ESL teaching because the peak class hours in Asian countries fall between 10 am and 3 pm in Central European Time.  But, if you’re in the United States or Canada, then scheduling classes becomes a little more complicated.

Also, it’s important to note that many companies have strict cancellation policies that penalize teachers for last-minute cancellations. Yes, setting your schedule means that you can decide to take that 3-day weekend trip whenever you want to. However, things happen, and sometimes we get stranded in a different country because a low-budget airline decided to push your 6 pm flight to 4 am the next day (#beenthere).

Fortunately, some companies are more flexible. Typically, you can cancel six classes per six-month contract. Note that it is not six days, but six classes. They have become more flexible in the last few years, allowing for cancellations due to emergencies or even doctor visits. Unfortunately, those based in Asia aren’t known for being especially lenient.

4. Teaching Style: Can You Adapt Yours?

This final consideration isn’t really a deal-breaker for many online teachers, but it is important to note if you’re intent on finding a job teaching English online quickly. Many companies have their own specific styles of teaching and want their teachers to follow their lesson plans and instructions to a T. So, knowing your style and being willing to adapt to specific techniques or tactics will be a key to your success.

Let me give you an example. There is a certain kind of ESL teacher that tends to be successful in teaching kids online. It’s a little hard to describe, but imagine an amped-up, overly expressive Dora the Explorer that tries a bit too hard, and you’re in the ballpark. For some people, this is great. You can have fun with the kids, be silly, joke around, and play on the job. However, this teaching style is not for everyone. If you aren’t one of those people, it can quickly feel fake and corny. The point being, research the companies you’re most interested in working for and see if your style aligns with theirs.

If you prefer a calmer teaching style, teaching adults may be more your speed; but don’t discount teaching kids. Not all kids learn the same, and some students and parents prefer a teacher who’s less over the top. Finding them may take a little bit longer. So, research before jumping in. It could save you a ton of time in the long run.

If this has all sounded good so far, then teaching English online might be the perfect remote job for you!

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