Working with a private tutor is one of the most popular methods to learn English, and the ability to get language lessons online makes it even easier - neither the teacher nor the student needs to leave the comfort of their homes and waste time commuting.
For this reason, teaching English online is one of the most attractive options to earn money online for those who can speak English at a high level. You may think that a reliable internet connection is the only vital thing for this job, but you will need much more than just that.
If you're interested in teaching English online but don't know where to start, this article is for you. Below, you will find the essential information about qualifications and personal qualities you need to have, resources you can use, and organizational tips. Let's dive in!
Pros and Cons to Consider
If you want to know how to be an online English teacher, you should get an idea of the process itself. Like any other job position, online teaching has its own advantages and drawbacks, and you should be aware of them to see if this profession suits you.
Below, you will find the pros and cons of teaching English online you should get familiar with. Let's start with the good side first:
People who have chosen to teach English online usually highlight the following advantages:
- Flexible working hours and the ability to manage your workload independently.
- The opportunity to teach English online without a degree, even for ESL teachers.
- The ability to choose students on your own, as well as an opportunity to refuse to work with someone who doesn't take the studying process seriously.
- Complete freedom in lesson planning and choosing teaching methods and resources, as well as the opportunity to change them in the process if they turn out to be ineffective for a particular student.
- The ability to work not only from home but virtually from any corner of the world.
- Manageable work-life balance.
- High income. An online English tutor usually makes anywhere between $10-40 per hour, depending on their teaching experience, qualification level, and whether or not they work with online teaching companies.
However, it's important to be realistic - online teaching can have its own challenges and negative aspects, including:
- It can be difficult to get regular students, especially for novice online English teachers.
- Most students only have time for lessons in the evenings and on weekends.
- Demand for online English teachers shifts seasonally, especially if you teach school students. Most of them are on vacation during the summer months, making it more challenging to get a sufficient number of working hours.
- Because you need to look for students independently, most beginners face income instability.
- Most online English teaching positions do not offer paid leave or other benefits.
You may think that a career as an online English tutor is within the power of anyone who understands popular songs in English. This is a mistake. Even if you know English grammar thoroughly and speak the language so fluently that people cannot distinguish you from a native English speaker, you may still need a few more skills.
Every beginner tutor needs to know how to teach people. You need to know teaching methods and you need the ability to find a personalized approach to each student. These are the basics for successful online teaching.
As a rule, parents and adult students want their tutor to have prior teaching experience or at least a bachelor's degree. But there is another way to confirm your qualifications and start teaching online without a degree.
In order to avoid complications at the beginning of work, we recommend starting by obtaining a TEFL certificate or an equivalent certification confirming your knowledge of the language. For example, the course for obtaining a TEFL certification provides the professional-level training needed for teaching English abroad and online.
Obtaining a TEFL certification will contribute to your overall professional development and provide you with lifelong benefits, including teaching skills for all levels, pedagogy (practice and methods behind the teaching), and worldwide recognition. Moreover, such a certificate doesn't expire, requires no renewal, and can also be obtained online!
Essential Personal Qualities
Apart from professional skills, you also need to have a set of personal traits to become an online teacher. Empathy and patience for the students are essential, as you will repeat the same rules and go through the same units over and over again. You also need to be able to organize the learning process.
Here are the essential personal qualities you need to develop if you want to start teaching English online:
Outstanding Communication Skills
Teaching English online or in person requires strong communication and conversational skills, as the whole learning process is based on communicating your knowledge to your students. As such, you need not only to be able to explain English grammar in a way for your students to understand, but also establish good teaching relationships with them.
This way, you will be able to find a personalized approach to each particular student not only in terms of teaching materials, but also in ways to encourage them and keep them motivated enough to continue learning.
Organizational Skills and Self-Discipline
If you decide to teach online on your own instead of working with online English teaching companies, you will have to manage your own schedule independently. You need to have strong organizational skills and build self-discipline - these will allow you to create a realistic workload and keep yourself motivated in the long run.
In addition, effective time management will help you make the most out of your teaching experience, keeping yourself productive but less tired and stressed overall.
Ongoing Personal Growth
It is essential to understand that your personal learning process shouldn't stop even if you're already a fluent English speaker who successfully teaches other language learners. Studying a foreign language is a lifelong process, so it is important to constantly improve your skills and find new ways to expand your knowledge.
For example, you can consider participating in language volunteer programs, obtaining a new teaching license, or developing new lesson plans based on your previous teaching experience.
In addition, many online teaching companies require their teachers to have Spanish or other language skills to teach international students. If you eventually want to teach abroad after teaching via an online tutoring platform, it might be worth your attention.
Besides, it is your enthusiasm and desire to learn that will be the main source of motivation and encouragement for other English language learners to continue studying.
How to Organize Your Work as an Online English Teacher
The way you organize the educational process depends on many factors - students' age, the lesson's purpose, and your current workload affects your organization. However, there are several conditions you should meet to ensure that your teaching process is organized most efficiently:
- Proper time allocation. For teaching young learners, you should choose the morning time for classes. If you teach students or schoolchildren, choose a time after school. And for adults, the optimal time is in the evening and on weekends. Be aware of time zones.
- Precise schedule. Knowing your exact schedule provides you with the opportunity to take additional students. It would also be beneficial to specify to your students how long in advance they can cancel your lesson.
- Several sources for teaching materials. For convenience, it is better to group all textbooks, exercises, and additional literature by English levels and store them in several places: in a cloud service, on a flash drive, on your smartphone, in printed form, as well as sent copies to a student.
- Regularity. Try to organize your workload in a way so that the breaks between lessons will be no longer than four days. This way, you will be able to stay more concentrated and engaged in teaching.
- Scheduled time for rest. It is very easy to overlook your own needs when trying to manage a busy schedule, which often results in burnout. As such, ensure that your workload is realistic, plan breaks between different students to prepare for the next lesson, and don't forget your lunch break!
- Personalized approach. Find your own approach to each student. For example, while you might be teaching children in a playful way, it is important to maintain a balance between strictness and encouragement when working with adults.
- Established terms of cooperation. Apart from the cancellation period, you should also specify additional terms of cooperation, which include payment methods, your working hours, preferred communication channels, as well as possible software tools needed for teaching English online.
Also, you may consider offering new students to start working with trial lessons. This will allow you to test each new student, determine their English level, and discuss all the important points - teaching methods, materials, price, discipline issues (for example, what will happen if they don't do homework).
Besides, during such a demo lesson, you can usually see how interested a potential student is in learning overall and then decide if teaching them will be worth your time.
Another thing you might be worried about as a beginning online teacher is not having teaching resources and materials, as well as a need to create lesson plans. Fortunately, numerous online sources of educational content are available online, which is especially handy if you teach online.
Here are some of the sources you should pay attention to:
- tefl.net - it has ready-made lesson plans, methodological articles, FAQs, worksheets, virtual classroom ideas, and forums to communicate with colleagues from around the world.
- BusyTeacher - there are worksheets and exercises for students of all levels.
- Thoughtco - has articles, lesson plans, exercises, general and business English materials.
- Perfect-English-grammar, Englisch-hilfen, and English Grammar Online - these are three online sources with a huge collection of interactive exercises for teaching grammar.
- Learnenglishfeelgood - this has vocabulary training on very different topics, listening comprehension, and grammar tests.
Also, check our article on the best English online dictionaries to always have one at hand!
Best Online Teaching Companies
An alternative to teaching English online on a freelance basis using platforms like Zoom or Google Meet is the opportunity to work through an online language learning platform.
And perhaps the most significant advantage of working with an online teaching platform is that many of them provide their new teachers with students, meaning you won't have to look for students to start working.
While most of them require new teachers to be native English speakers and have a TEFL certification or an equivalent, there are exceptions - online ESL jobs for those with a university degree in English or a related field.
Perhaps you’ve already aware of popular online teaching companies like VIPKid or DaDaABC. However, as China has banned online ESL platforms back in August 2021, you might be looking for alternative, non-Chinese platforms. Here are some of the best online teaching platforms you should look into:
- Preply. As one of the Preply teachers, you get to choose your hourly rate and change it anytime. You can also attend training webinars and get tips to upgrade your teaching skills to grow professionally.
- Lingoda. This online teaching platform provides you with expert-designed materials to have at your disposal and there are classes available 24/7, so you get the maximum flexibility when it comes to creating your working schedule.
- Cambly. An online teaching platform that requires no prior teaching experience or lesson plans to get started.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, becoming an online English teacher takes a lot of preparation and self-development, but it isn't impossible. Indeed, as in any other endeavor, the first step is the most challenging, but challenges are a component of any profession.
So, with so many online resources available for free and platforms where you can start teaching English online, you can start to teach English online on your own terms.
If you're interested in diversifying your teaching materials, you can include our Langster app in your lesson plans. It is full of short stories with audio from native speakers and grammar explanations. Good luck!