Teaching English Online
- Author: Louisa Walsh
- Date: Tuesday 26th February 2013
A Guide on to how to start work teaching English online, freelancing and working for yourself. Plus the best TEFL course for online 1-1 teaching.
Teaching English online/by phone or by skype is a relatively new and exciting way to learn and teach English. It can only grow as technology improves and the busy professional wakes up to the fact they can have lessons at a time to suit them, from the office or on the move.
For the teacher, this flexibility means you can choose your hours - and even set up on your own.
Big players in online/phone English teaching:
To get started, you might want to try working for big companies that are often on the look-out for new tutors:
LOI English: http://www.skypeenglishclasses.com/
Be aware that this market is fragmented with varying recruitment criteria and demands. You may be teaching 1-1 or leading a small group online. You may have materials provided, online ‘whiteboard’ etc or be expected to generate your own lesson material.
The downside of Teaching English online or by phone is that it does not usually pay as well as teaching Face-to-face. However, you can usually set your own hours or supplement your regular in-class earnings by teaching online in those ‘in-between’ hours.
What are the technical requirements?
You will generally need a headset, microphone, reliable broadband and skype /MSN or other VoIP (internet phone) capacity. Some organisations also like you to have a webcam as well, so it will help if you have an up to date PC and someone to help you with the technical side if you are not a computer whizz.
What will I need as a teacher?
You'll find that students like you to have a nice voice and a friendly manner. Some of the teaching is conversational in nature, so being genuinely interested in your students is important. You may find it beneficial to have a specialisation in TESOL, such as Teaching Business English or teaching One-to-One to differentiate yourself and make yourself more marketable in this arena.
What to teach
As in most areas, this will be student led but in my experience (we run a small online language school called phone-english) most students want confidence building; a chance to practice with a native speaker in safety. Your role will often be to provide a nurturing space where they will feel at ease to make mistakes -and have you correct them and gradually help them to become more fluent and confident. However, we have taught English to professionals, students of English language exams such as IELTS and also helped students gear up for a particular event such as a business presentation or job interview. If you need to find your own material for lessons, see also:
You may not be able to meet every student niche request, however. When I started Phone English I had to turn down a foreign student whose job was to take down Chinese take-away orders in Birmingham; he particularly wanted a teacher with a Birmingham accent to dictate menu items down the phone. Alas, I didn’t feel any one of our excellent teachers could be asked to maintain a fake Brummie accent for any length of time.
Working for yourself
You will certainly earn more than if you work for an online English school but finding paying students can be more difficult.
To start, get involved in skype forums: Try typing skype forums learn english into google to see how others are teaching and learning English via skype. Many are teaching for free but not always.
If you decide to set up on your own you will need to market yourself, research materials, structure packages and find a way to accept payments easily. This can be a daunting at the front end so I would advise buying this inexpensive ebook: How to teach English which covers a all of this for you - saving you hours of work trying to piece all this together through your own research. (We are now offering this ebook for free with our 100 hour online TESOL course)
Other options: 3rd party hosts
Myngle is a 3rd party host which brings together teachers and students and they take a percentage of what you charge. I have heard that you have to fill in your details, pass a competency check and that they may not get back to you if they have more teachers than students (and anecdotally this was the case a few months back) but it might be worth a try:
Similarly - New in December 2012: www.GoSpeakEnglish.com
The other off-neglected way is to offer phone English or a blended phone and face-to-face option to students where you are locally. This might prove very interesting for learners who are busy professionals or mums at home - and hopefully you’ll be offering something that’s still quite unique in the local market place.
Are you teaching English by phone/online? Share your experiences below.
For online schools, a TESOL qualification will make you more employable. Even if working for yourself, knowing what and how to teach means you are more likely to give impactful lessons and keep your students coming back for more.
Our 100 hour accredited TESOL course with 1-1 is perfect for teaching English in schools and also freelancing. It now comes with a with free how to teach English online ebook. Find out more here
how the payment is done
Payment for online lessons is usually by PayPal. In some countries it is not easy to make payments/accept payments by PayPal and so there are alternatives that are similar, such as moneybookers
Ready to teach!!
I'm teaching English online with Tutor ABC and also another company; IDIY text correction service. The good thing about this company is the way you have to correct them, you have to be really careful that no one gets ashamed or embarrassed, and of course I learnt all about this with Global English.
Thought I would just give you a update. If it wasn't for you then none of this would of been possible, so thanks again. I am improving every day, there are still things I am learning but now I know a lot more than I ever have.
I'm a UK based freelance ESOL Tutor currently working face-to-face lessons but am desperate to begin online teaching- any suggestions on how to find work would be gratefully accepted!
One way is to Google search 'teach English online' and email the companies direct. Could you also offer your face-to-face students the option of a free or paid Skype top-up lesson between face-to-face lessons so you can get some experience? Lea Hook in the comment above has also mentioned a couple of companies currently recruiting - and there are some companies mentioned in the article. Hope this helps!
Andrew Robert Walsh
I have been teaching English in Brazil for 18 years. Now some of my students ask me if I can teach by skype or something... I am giving the idea some thought since it will be more frequent as time goes by.
Thanks, Andrew. I think it is a great idea; offer Skype, face-to-face or a combination. Good luck!
I use Skype to teach one student in China. My greatest problem is getting students.
Thanks for your comment, Stephen. It can be slow to start and will require some promotion. It helps if you have a simple website or Facebook page and promote yourself from that. Ask your student to refer you and offer a free lesson to your student for everyone they refer. Offer to teach 2 friends together to keep costs down for students and consider what sets you apart - have you got a particular background, speak other languages or have experience in exam, business or technical English to offer? The how to teach English ebook mentioned in the article also has some helpful advice. Good luck!
I have been teaching English online for the past 6-7 years but now I find that suddenly there is a slump in the demand for Non -Nests (Native English Speaking Teacher) I've been quite successful in the past few years, especially with students wanting to be coached in IELTS which I also do.
Why is it that teaching Engish is the priority of only NESTs and not others?
Thanks for the comments and the article. I'm in the process of trying to get started. I believe that the best way is to focus on your target markets and advertise via social media. To find students overseas, leverage any colleagues that you have taught with, look at the most popular websites (handy if you are already familiar with the host language) and know your areas of specialisation. Aim to provide a competitive rate and introductory lessons of around 20 mins which can be extended out if the student wishes to prove that you are keen.
Thanks for this. I wish I can also be with this group teachning English OnLine.
What is the highest paying company to work for when teaching online?
Louisa Walsh Global English TESOL
That's difficult to answer. The larger companies do not pay much in general but with some, like Tutor ABC, you can improve your base rate with high approval ratings from students and by teaching groups. Also, if you are able to offer something specialist, e.g. business,exam or medical English, for example. The other advantage the bigger companies have is that often you can set your times, so offer classes back-to-back. This is useful as there is a lot of 'dead' or unpaid time between classes when you teach face-to-face. Lea Hook says more about pay at the bottom of this article here:http://www.global-english.com/news/i-teach-english-online-and-by-skype/
Is IDIY legitimate
Louisa Walsh Global English TESOL
I can't vouch for them personally but I know one of our TESOL course trainees worked for them very happily.
I fell into your site while trying to verify IDIY authenticity. Very useful to find others are doing this too. I'd appreciate any feedback before I take the plunge.
I am also contemplating IDIY but have not seen any comments from anyone actually working for them. I also thought about taking the I'd like some answers from someone who has been there before I commit to anything... TESOL course. How does income tax work? You just file on your own and put away part of your payment for taxes? If I work for IDIY does the Japanese govt come after me for taxes?
Louisa @ Global English TESOL
Thanks, Gloria and Ann. One of the Global English former trainees, Lea Hook works for them and he said he was happy. I am no advocate for IDIY - just passing on what I know. In terms of income tax, you will normally work for these companies on a freelance, self-employed basis and are normally liable for tax in the country you reside in as far as I am aware - so as a freelancer you would need to keep accounts etc. However, these big companies will probably be able to advise you on the generalities of this. See Lea Hooks article on our news page entitled 'I teach English online' for more. The best TESOL course we offer for this form of teaching is our level 2 TESOL with 1-1. It comes with the free Skype teaching ebook, too. Hope this is helpful, Ann and Gloria.
i have been teaching english in pakistan for 2 years
now i want to teach english online because i m doing A levels
Louisa @ Global English TESOL
Thanks for posting. I have responded to you by email, too. Some companies will have a minimum hiring age of 18 and others may want even older. However, if you want to certify the experience you have in the meantime - and gain skills for teaching 1-1 and TESOL certification, I would recommend our 100 hour TESOL with 1-1. It comes with a free Skype teaching ebook, too:
Hope this helps. Louisa
Just to add to Louisa’s and Lea’s comments:
Make sure that you have a reliable broadband internet service. The connection must be hard wired, i.e an Ethernet cable from the router plugged into the computer.
Many language schools use their own software, so a USB headset is essential. Headsets using the analogue 3.5mm sockets are not suitable. When teaching conversation or pronunciation clarity is very important.
A recommended headset is the Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000, which costs about £20. You may also need a webcam, I use a Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000, this costs around £20.
Make sure the room you are teaching from has a clean background. I had to clear clutter from my room, including a bicycle pump, computer cables and books. In addition, ensure that your mobile phone is switched off! Plus make sure there are no other loud noise sources such as TVs.
If it is not possible to have a white or plain hanging background, then drape some sheets over the furniture.
Teaching online is very similar to real teaching. As mentioned earlier, some schools use their own software so log into the virtual classroom at least 10 minutes before the lesson begins. Check that all your equipment is working such as headset and webcam.
Ensure that any textbooks, notepaper (remember a pen!) and dictionaries are within easy reach.
It is also worth noting that if you work as a freelance teacher you may be liable to pay taxes in your country. In the UK the HMRC deal with tax enquiries.
Louisa @Global English TESOL
Thanks, Timothy for you really helpful comment above.
I am American living in the Philippines and would love to teach English this will be my first time please tell me a good company I can work for and how to do really would like a job and to get started as soon as possible thank you very much pS Just medically retired of the US Marines I'm 30 years old lived in America my whole enire life okay bye:)
I would love to teach English online as I will be studying soon and would prefer a more flexible schedule. I don't know how to get started though because I would rather work through a legitimate company or school first and maybe eventually freelance. Where can I apply apart from what is provided at the beginning of the article? I have checked e-com and isus or ispeak. Are any of those good?