Teaching English online | your questions answered

January 2nd, 2020 / Teaching

how to teach esl online

I’ve been teaching English online since 2014. I work for a decent company who pay me $25+ per hour and most weeks I am almost completely booked out.

I feel lucky, but it took a long time to get here. The online teaching industry has exploded these past few years, hiring thousands of English teachers. However, for every good company there are many others who pay badly and take punitive action against tutors such as fines and instant firing if you don’t make a class.

It’s a minefield in the online teaching world, but your best weapon in this new and unregulated industry is information.

Below you’ll find answers to common questions of new online tutors.

If you still have doubts after reading this post, leave a comment below and I’ll answer you. Let’s get started…

Your Teaching English online questions answered

How do you get started teaching English online?

First, take a TEFL course which will qualify you to teach English. But beware, not all TEFL qualifications are of the same quality.

Most employers look for teachers with a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). This is a 40 hour teaching course, usually completed over four weeks full time. In order to qualify for a CELTA course, you usually have to be a college graduate, although exceptions are sometimes made.

Next, you should get some experience as a classroom teacher as most online companies require at least two years’ teaching experience. If you live in a city, you could get a job at your local language school, otherwise, there are lots of opportunities abroad.

Finally, once you have your teaching experience, you should apply to your chosen online English tutoring companies directly. For this you usually need to submit and introduction video, telling the company and their students about yourself and your teaching style. I’ve covered best practices for introduction videos in depth in the first chapter of my online teaching guide, The Ultimate Online Teaching Manual.

What’s the difference between a online teaching company and an online teaching marketplace?

Instead of applying to a company, you might want to start selling your services on an online teaching marketplace such as Verbing, Italki or Verbal Planet.

With an online market place you don’t work for the site, you sell your services through the sites to people shopping for language tutors, much like sellers sell their goods to shoppers on Amazon.

Can you teach English without a degree?

Yes you can, although it’s harder to get a job with a good company. The qualification that employers want the most is a CELTA (see above).

How much does it pay to teach ESL online?

Pay is usually between $10-28 per hour. Pay fluctuates depending on the company and so it’s important to do your research before applying.

In some cases companies offer a base rate of pay and then bonuses for teaching a certain amount of classes every month or being punctual. This can add up to a decent wage at the end of the month, if the targets are feasible.

What are the best paying online companies for teaching adults?

The best paying companies for teaching adults are Speexx and Fluentify which both pay a $28 an hour at the top rate. Both these companies teach business English to a European clientele. Speexx reportedly requires its tutors to speak German as a second language. Other companies which pay good rates for teaching adults include Tutor Supply ($22-32 per hour) and eTalking ($12-16 per hour).

What are the best paying online companies for teaching kids?

Most of the highest paying online language teaching jobs are teaching English to Chinese kids. These include VIPKID ($14-22 per hour) Magic Ears ($18-26 per hour) and Panda ABC ($20-25 per hour).

Can I work for multiple companies at once?

Normally, yes. In almost all cases tutors are independent contractors hiring their services to companies and not working directly for them. Therefore the company cannot usually demand that you work exclusively for them. However, check your contract before you sign to make sure that this is the case. In my experience, working for several companies at once is the norm in this industry.

What will help me get hired as an online tutor?

Four things:
1. Your qualifications.
2. Your experience.
3. A well presented and persuasive introduction video which students will see on your tutor profile.
4. An engaging personality.

Once you’re hired the best way to get and keep students is to a) be skilful at teaching English and b) be someone that students want to hang out with.

In most cases students pick their tutors and so you’ve got to project a friendly, engaging persona or no one will stick around to take multiple lessons with you.

What do online companies expect from me?

1. A fast and stable internet connection. During your interview for the job, the company will measure the speed of your internet. In most cases if a class was disrupted due to your internet connection you will not be paid.
2. A commitment to work a certain amount of hours a week or certain blocks of time such as a morning, an afternoon, or an evening.
3. You must be well-presented. You may be working from home but that doesn’t mean you can do lessons in your pyjamas!

What are the best and worst online teaching companies to work for?

What should I look for in a good online teaching company?

Hourly pay is not the only factor when choosing an online tutoring company. Other things to watch our for are:

1. Any fines that a tutor has to pay for missing a class or being unable to complete a class due to tech problems. Good companies don’t fine you in these circumstances, you just won’t get paid.

2. The hours you have to work. Are you contracted to work unsociable hours or at the weekend? Is this something that you’re prepared to do?

3. How often can you request a pay out? Online tutoring companies come and go. There have been cases when companies have gone bust, leaving both tutors and students out of pocket. You should be able to request a payout on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. If you have to wait until the end of the month before you’re paid, the tutor is vulnerable to losing their entire month’s pay if the company goes under in that time.

4. Extra time you have to spend filling out student feedback forms or other paperwork. Any paperwork after a class should take less than 5 minutes to complete or it will impact on your hourly wage.

How can I find more about which are good and bad online companies to work for?

The best place to find information about any online company is from other online teachers. There are several Facebook groups where tutors share valuable information about which companies to work for and which to avoid. Before committing to any company ask your fellow tutors in these groups.


Learn how to teach TEFL/ESL English

Buy now for $8.80-17.99

The Ultimate Teaching ESL Online Manual ESL TEFL classes

Buy now for $4.99-11.49

The ultimate teaching ESL/tefl book of speaking activities

Buy now for $2.99

Buy now for $3.99-12.99

Subscribe to the news letter

Get monthly tips, tricks and free worksheets for no textbook EFL English teaching.

The Ultimate ESL Teaching Manual

New to TEFL? Earn your living teaching great ESL classes

Get started today and discover a skill that will serve you for the rest of your life.

Learn more