English is the most widespread language in the world, with around 2 billion speakers, and 375 million ESL learners (according to the British Council), so if you want to teach it, the potential market is vast and still growing.
Regardless of the place of birth, people need to learn English to effectively use the internet, communicate with friends abroad, travel, and gain new skills.
Learning English is easy if you grew up surrounded by it – but let’s face it, it can be quite confusing if it’s not your native tongue. That’s where you can make a difference – by teaching English online.
There are millions of people who need help mastering this beautiful language. If you’re up to the task, here’s everything you need to know about getting started as an online ESL (English as a second language) teacher as well as sites where you can sign up to attract your first students.
Is Teaching English Online a Career for You?
As long as you have a laptop and the necessary communication skills, you can become a teacher.
Teaching online is a fun and rewarding work. It’s a great pick for digital nomads and remote workers looking for independence and flexibility.
It’s also a great option for stay-at-home parents and retirees who want to contribute to household income, while doing something rewarding.Don’t worry – you don’t need to be a professional teacher with an academic degree to teach English online. In fact, there are over 12 million English teachers in the world, and the demand is still growing.
So, what exactly do you need to know before signing up with one of the English teaching websites?
Requirements For Teaching English
First things first, you need to speak English fluently. Native speakers from the US, Canada, and the UK typically get the highest starting rates, but non-native speakers can also find well-paid work with persistence and determination.
But unless you want to put focus purely on the conversation skills of your students, it’s a good idea to brush up on your grammar or use online resources in your lessons.
When it comes to diplomas, you don’t necessarily need one. Some companies and websites require a bachelor’s degree, and it typically doesn’t matter if it’s in a language-related field.
TEFL or a similar certificate can help you land higher-paying gigs (and become a better teacher, so they’re definitely worth time and effort!).
You can get a certificate online, and it’s a worthwhile investment because it gives you extra credentials. If you’re determined, you can get it within one or two weeks.
Equipment you’ll need to get started
You don’t need a lot of equipment to get started, and chances are you already have everything that’s required.
- Laptop or a PC (some companies and websites accept smartphones and tablets too)
- Fast internet connection
- Webcam, microphone, and a pair of headphones
- Neat, quiet space with a clean background to work in
Work hours you can expect to keep
You can teach English part-time and treat it as a side hustle or turn it into a full-time career – it’s up to you!
Some companies want you to commit to a minimum amount of lessons each week, while others give you complete freedom when it comes to setting your schedule.
Many platforms ask you to set up your schedule upfront, but others let you connect with students whenever you have some time to spare. It won’t be hard to find a system that suits your lifestyle perfectly!
What about compensation?
As with most online work, the gap between low and highly-paid ESL teaching jobs is huge.You can find work that pays anywhere between $6 and $30 per hour. Typically, native speakers land higher-paying jobs, but non-natives with natural accents and great teaching skills can quickly reach higher pay grades too.
Most companies pay per hour, but some pay per minute too. Lessons are not the only way to earn money as an English tutor – bonuses and referrals pay well, and some platforms also give you compensation if a student cancels on short notice.
You can receive payment via online services like PayPal and Payoneer, or directly to your bank account via wire transfer.
Ready to get started? Let’s check the top platforms where you can begin your teaching journey.
Best Sites To Teach English Online
Are you ready to take your teaching skills to the online world? Here we go.
Preply is the place to go if you want to build your own teaching career and choose how much you want to charge for your lessons.
They let you teach English or any other language, and even subjects like math and programming. You don’t need a bachelor’s, a TEFL (though it surely helps!), or any experience to get started. There are no minimum hours or strict schedules.
The site caters to a wide demographic, so you can find students in all age groups and from all around the world. You can make your own lesson plans or use their pre-made materials and placement test.
Some people know their grammar rules and know lots of sophisticated words, but simply can’t get themselves to speak English.
Cambly is the perfect place for this type of students – it’s focused on conversation and building confidence while speaking.
Cambly lets you set your own hours and chit-chat with students whenever you have some free time. You can work with people from all around the world. If you like working with kids, you can join their Cambly Kids program too!
No matter what language you’re fluent in, you can teach it on Italki.
On this platform, you’re completely in charge of your teaching business: you can set your own rates, create your own materials and lesson plans, and choose the platform you want to work on (Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.).
Italki occasionally opens up spots for new language tutors, so if your language is not available at the moment, it’s worth it to check again in a week or two!
SkimaTalk is similar to the previously mentioned platforms, with one exception – they’re focused exclusively on teaching English.
Students here come from all corners of the world, but as a teacher, you need to be a native English speaker from America, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand.
Tutors can choose between making their own lesson plans and using pre-existing SkimaTalk courses with their students. The lessons only last 25 minutes, and the starting rate is about $16/hour – with the possibility to set your own rate later on.
GoGoKid is a relatively new company that connects teachers from the US or Canada with Chinese students.
They offer 1-on-1 half-hour lessons and pay up to around $25 per hour. You get all of the lesson plans and materials in advance, and you can use the site’s platform instead of external programs.
In theory, you can set your own schedule, but it’s recommended to open more than 30 lessons slots in peak hours on your first month there. To get a tutoring job at GoGoKid, you need to hold a TEFL certificate and a bachelor’s degree in any subject.
VIPKID is one of the most popular Chinese companies that work with children, and it’s geared especially for tutors from the US and Canada. Their lessons last about half an hour and every lesson is 1-on-1.
As a tutor for VIPKID, you don’t need to create any lesson plans as they’re already provided by the company. You can earn up to $22 per hour, and get neat bonuses if you work holidays.
There is no minimum quota – you can work as much or as little as you want. However, you must hold a bachelor’s degree to apply.
Qkids is another popular pick for teachers who reside in the US and Canada want to work with children.
Their pay is a bit lower than others at $20 (still quite high!), and you can get a $100 referral bonus if one of your friends becomes a tutor on the platform too.
Like similar companies, Qkids provides its own materials. You can take up to 4 students in your lessons, and you only need to work a minimum of 6 hours per week. Qkids is a perfect place for university students, since you may either have a bachelor’s degree or be currently enrolled in uni.
Pal Fish has been growing in popularity because they offer more opportunities than most other Chinese ESL sites. While they prefer native speakers from the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, they also accept non-native speakers with neutral accents.
You don’t need to hold a university degree, but a TEFL certificate is a must.
Depending on your experience and skills, you can become a ‘free talk’ or an ‘official’ teacher, choose your own hours, and even set your own rate. The pay range is quite big, anywhere between $10 and $30 per hour. You must have a Payoneer or a Chinese bank account, though.
How to Pick the Right Teaching Platform for You
There are hundreds of options out there, so there’s a place that’s perfect for your habits and lifestyle. Here are some factors you should consider when picking the ESL platform you want to teach in.
Time Zone & Availability
Teaching ESL online typically means you’ll be teaching students that live somewhere across the globe.
That’s a wonderful thing, but it also means you’ll need to stay mindful of time zone differences.
For example, East Asia is a huge market for ESL (especially China). If you’re from the East Coast of the US working with a student from Beijing, there are 13 hours of difference between you two – making scheduling complex.
Because of this, pick the time that you want to work and finding your perfect student demographic accordingly.
As a side gig, I teach ESL between 2 and 5 in the afternoon in Europe. That lets me work with students based in the Americas (when it’s morning there), all of Europe, and the western part of Asia (evening-time for them).
Materials & Teaching Style
The times when memorizing grammar rules and vocab was considered the right way to learn a language are long gone.
Today, we know that there are many functional ways to adopt a new language, and most of them are far from the good old textbook format.
That opens up a world of opportunities for different teaching styles. If you prefer to work with tested and tried materials, join one of the many platforms that give you a pre-made lesson structure and notes.
If you’re a free spirit, you can make or find your own conversation topics, writing prompts, and reading materials to use in class – why not?
Everybody needs English these days – that’s why you can also pick and choose who you want to teach.
Some people love working with children while others find adults easier to communicate with. Some tutors find it easier to connect with a specific gender. Perhaps you instantly ‘click’ with business people or artistic students.
Or maybe you just really like Japanese culture and want to understand their customs better through communication with locals. The point is – there’s a world of opportunity out there!
I hope this article helped you set your foot in the world of online ESL teaching. If you have any questions or want to share your own experiences, let’s get in touch in the comment box!