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How to launch a career or supplement your income teaching English online

teach English onlineCorinne was born in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. She moved to Barcelona in 2015 to complete a degree in Spanish and later did her Trinity CertTESOL at Oxford TEFL and completed a master’s degree in coaching and leadership in Barcelona. In this blog post, Corinne outlines how you can start a career or supplement your income by teaching English online.

The world of teaching has seen vast changes over the last 50 years. Technology has allowed us to incorporate new styles of teaching and learning into our classrooms. There are countless resources to help students build their vocabulary, practice their grammar and improve their listening skills. We’ve learned to incorporate technology into the classroom, but how can we incorporate the classroom into technology?

Nowadays there are more and more platforms popping up every day that give teachers a whole new opportunity in the world of ELT: teaching online. These new platforms mark some important changes in our developing world. For one, the importance of time. Any teacher knows that his or her workday doesn’t start or end based on the time spent in the actual classroom. You have to factor in planning time and, quite often, commuting time, whether you just have to go to one academy or if you work in various locations (with business English or private classes).

Our students often face similar obstacles; maybe they have a particular work schedule that makes it difficult to take regular classes or perhaps they live in an area that makes it hard for teachers to get to. Whatever the reasoning, taking classes online provides a whole new network of options for them, with time slots that can be easily adapted to both the students’ and the teachers’ schedules. I have found that most classes available are for young learners, but there are also classes for adults too.

What are some general reasons to do online classes?

  • Compliment your current schedule
  • Work anywhere in the world
  • Work legally but avoid work visas*
  • Flexible time schedule (you choose!)
  • Less planning** & commuting time
  • Receive additional training

* Platforms will often have you send any tax forms to your home country

** Depending on the materials provided

What is the interview process like?

In general, this is the application process for teaching English online via a reputable company:

  1. Submit a general application
  2. Receive general information about the platform/some training videos
  3. Go through a brief interview about your experience (if you don’t have any, that’s also OK!)
  4. Have a mock class (this could be anything from a recording of you pretending to speak to a student, having to ‘do a class’ with an adult pretending to be a student, or a real student!)
  5. You might have a second mock class depending on the platform or how the first one went
  6. Sending in a contract/documentation (some potential documents are listed below)
    1. Teaching certificate
    2. University degree
    3. Passport/Identification card
    4. Possibly a background check
  7. Making a video of yourself for the platform (approx. 30 seconds- just to say hello to potential students)
  8. Setting up actual classes (you might start off with primarily monitored “trial classes” until you’ve had a certain amount of experience with the website)

What are the platforms like?

Just like any school, not all teaching platforms are the same. There are more and more platforms being created especially for students in Asia (and in China in particular). These platforms are quite often targeted for children. The resources available for each platform will also vary, but they generally include the following:

  • Training modules
  • Practice videos
  • Slideshow presentations for the classes (this often means very little lesson planning time needed)
  • Printables to use for activities/reward systems

For an idea of what to expect, watch this youtube video with some demo lessons from VIPKids.

If you’ve never worked with children or perhaps have been a bit nervous to, this is a great way to test it out! The platforms generally have lots of different videos to give you lots of tips of what to expect while teaching children and also what you should try to do to have the most successful class. Some of their general main times are:

  • Use TPR (Total Physical Response) aka lots of gesturing (cupping your ear to show you want to hear the student speak, pointing to your mouth while speaking to show the student will have to repeat what you’ve said, etc.)
  • Use props (they often recommend at least 3 per class- you’d be surprised what you already have lying around the house!)
  • Be really animated (use your face and your tone to help guide the student- don’t be afraid to be silly!)
  • Give lots of positive feedback (most of these platforms have a reward system)

Websites such as ClassGap.com let you create your classes on your own. This means a bit of self-advertisement. It’s important to really complete your profile on these different websites (What are all of your qualifications? What are you interests? Why should someone pick you? What are all of the English classes you’ve done?) to help entice future students.

How much am I likely to get paid?

teach english onlineThe pay and requirements for these platforms can vary quite a bit. Some will pay you for the entire time block that you have signed up for (such as with DaDaABC) whereas other platforms will pay you for just the actual class time (VIPKid). There are pros and cons to both of these options. If you’re being paid for the whole time block, regardless of whether students have signed up, you still have to be there and ready to work at any given second. If you’re just being paid for each class, you have a bit more flexibility to use the time as you want but, of course, aren’t guaranteed a certain number of hours. 

The pay will also vary based on your experience and how well you did in your interview, so make sure you are prepared! Generally speaking, you can expect somewhere between €11-18/hour.

How many hours can I teach?

The way you sign up for hours will probably change. Some platforms will make you sign up for block hours that you will have every month unless you change your schedule. You can request time off or add additional hours, but the initial time block will always be the same. Other platforms will let you decide your hours week to week, so you have much more flexibility. 

Important things to keep in mind (regardless of the type of class):

  • Background Is it clean looking? Interesting? For children’s classes, have some relevant decorations. If you’re working for a certain company, it’s not a bad idea to printout their logo and put it on the wall. Try to avoid having personal decorations such as photographs or busy, messy backgrounds behind you. The little space that the students can see is very important to keep in mind! This also goes for lighting- you don’t want to be in a dark space. Make sure you’re well lit, without any shadows, so that the student can really see your different expressions.
  • Internet Connection If you have the option, plug your computer into the Ethernet rather than relying on WiFi. If your WiFi is very reliable (and I mean VERY reliable), go for it. But I’d really recommend investing in some kind of Hotspot connection. This is something you can get from your phone/internet provider and is a good backup option. Most platforms will not let you use 3G or 4G connection!
  • Get a headset Headphones are great for calling your family while you’re traveling, but they don’t always have the best sound quality or necessarily look the most professional. A good headset will ensure that you and the student are hearing the right phonetic sounds so that his or her pronunciation can improve.
  • Props You will find that you might need some different objects to help your students understanding. A small whiteboard can really help when introducing new words and sounds (you can just simply erase parts of words and add new letters on to practice pronunciation and vocabulary), flash cards (alphabet, phonetics, vocabulary). A lot of other props can be found by simply looking around the house.

So if you’re looking to complement your teaching schedule with some extra hours or are even considering making online teaching your main source of income, I highly recommend trying out some of these platforms and see what you think of them yourself! Teaching online provides you with a whole new type of flexibility in terms of your classes and balancing your time in general, but it is definitely a bit different than a “regular class” in an academy. Make sure you’re well prepared, both with the materials, equipment and for the class itself. And of course, have some fun with it!

If you are a graduate of our Trinity CertTESOL or Trinity DipTESOL course, we can also help you find work, on or offline. Find out more about our careers service here or get in touch to find out more about how we can help you.

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