How to get started teaching English online from home (or anywhere in the world!)

woman sitting on a chair teaching english online. how to get started teaching english online

So, you just got your TEFL certification (or maybe you want to!) and you are wondering about how to get started teaching English online.

Problem is, you aren’t really sure how it works.

We have put together a complete guide that will help you decide if this is the right career path for you.

The expression, “just google it,” is a common response to finding answers for your questions, and it does the trick.

That might be how you stumbled on this article!

Our goal is to help you get started on your TEFL career.

TEFL can help you land an online teaching job, opening up many exciting new opportunities in your life, as well as the freedom and flexibility that comes with being an ESL teacher.

Whether you want to stay at home with the kids or set sail and see the world, teaching online is a great way to do it.

Here is everything you need to know about how to get started teaching online:

  1. What is teaching English online?
  2. Who can teach English online?
  3. Use your TEFL to teach English online
  4. Is online teaching a good career?
  5. How much do online teachers make?
  6. How does online teaching actually work?
  7. How do I get started teaching English online?
  8. How can Teach Away help you?

1. What is teaching English online?

Maybe you’ve seen photos of people sitting on the beach with their laptops or teaching in cafes in beautiful locations around the world.

While this might look incredible, those instagrammable photos are not telling you the whole story.

So let’s talk about what it means to be an ESL teacher.

Teaching English online is, essentially, the opportunity to teach English to non-fluent speakers of English who want to learn English.

With the capabilities of the internet, time and place are no longer a barrier to learning a new language.

Teaching English online can take place in the following ways:

  • Working with a company that provides students, curriculum and pays you directly for teaching.
  • Listing your classes on a marketplace where you set up a profile, set a price, and attract students with your unique introductory video and profile.
  • Setting up your own freelance teaching business where you do your own marketing, source your curriculum, and attract your own students.

A good place to start is to work with a company that provides everything for you. It allows you to get comfortable with online teaching as well as figure out your niche and who and what you like to teach.

After some experience working with a company, you can look at finding marketplaces that already have online student traffic to list your classes and offer your own lessons.

This can lead many to venture down the freelance path and teach independently from a platform.

The freelance method gives you the most control but can be the most difficult because of the amount of work involved. Many online teachers who start out working with a company are able to hone in on their unique skills and find ways to market on their own as they gain experience and confidence.

2. Who can teach English online?

In all reality, almost anyone can teach online.

If you can speak English at a fluent or near-fluent level, then you can also teach it online.

There are billions of students around the world wanting to learn English and doing it online makes it convenient and flexible for both the teacher and the student.

Whether you are educated with a Bachelor’s degree, are a qualified teacher already, or have no online teaching experience, there is room in the industry for you.

3. Use your TEFL to teach English online

Now, if you aren’t sure what a TEFL is or you are confused by the differences between TEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA, rest assured that TEFL is the widely recognized course for teaching English.

TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language and it is a common requirement for teaching English overseas or online.

The great news about TEFL is that the course is offered online, allowing you to complete it at your own time and speed.

4. Is online teaching a good career?

We get a lot of questions from potential online teachers about whether online teaching is a viable career.

Is it something that you can do full time? How many hours can you work? How much can you make?

The idea of doing it full-time means different things to different people.

Perhaps someone living in Thailand only wants to work a few hours per day, whereas someone living in a city where cost of living is higher would need to teach more hours.

If you are wanting to transition over from another career into online teaching, then here are some tips to consider:

  1. Have enough savings to rely on while you are building your online teaching student base and the number of hours you teach each week.
  2. Diversify your online teaching income. Don’t just rely on working with one company or platform. Make sure you have several (we suggest at least 2-3) companies or platforms that you are working on in case something happens with one of them.
  3. Keep up with changes in methodology and technology. Be sure to know the best tools out there to use and how to integrate technology into your online classroom.

It’s always a good idea, as you get started, to ease into online teaching and have backups and stable income, or at least some savings before you quit your job and embark into online teaching.

woman with dark hair and glasses smiling in front of a laptop

5. How much do online teachers make?

To answer this question, you need to understand that it depends on the company, platform fees, and how much you are charging.

If you get hired with a company for your first online teaching position, you might expect to be able to make between $12 - $18USD / hour, with some of the best paying online teaching positions offering close to and over $20USD / hour.

Lots of companies have bonuses and incentives on top of your base pay so those can also increase your earning potential.

If you place yourself in a marketplace platform where you list your classes, they often take a percentage of your earnings (usually between 15% - 30% depending on the platform).

If you are moving in the direction of freelance teaching, your opportunity to earn higher increases because you are in charge of all the details related to your business.

There are, of course, expenses that should be considered. You are going to need to have a working laptop/computer, a headset, and your own materials or props that you might use while teaching.

You can keep costs low in the beginning by sticking to purchasing only what is required.

As your teaching business grows and you secure more lessons and students, you can invest more into equipment, tools, and additional teaching materials.

6. How does teaching online actually work?

Online teachers are doing just that, teaching online.

After going through the hiring process, and setting up a profile on a platform, you will be teaching and interacting with students through a video conferencing platform that might be built into the company’s platform or an external one, like Zoom.

Online teachers usually know the students they are teaching in advance and will be able to preview the lesson accordingly and prepare any additional materials if needed.

Most times, the company will provide the lesson slides and curriculum in advance.

You will use your computer’s webcam and built-in microphone to teach students who are also live on video inside the platform.

Many times there is a chatbox for additional communication and features that allow engagement between the student and the teacher.

Lessons are typically a prescribed length of time, like 25 minutes or 1 hour, and teachers are required to be in the classroom delivering the lesson during the lesson time.

7. How do I get started teaching English online?

We broke it down into four main steps.

1. You need to decide on who you want to teach and find a company that suits your needs.

Do you want to teach children or adults?
What time zone do you want to teach in?
Do you want to teach 1:1 or group classes?

There are companies that offer all of these types of classes and more.

2. You need to apply to several companies and platforms that suit your needs. Typically, when you apply, you will need to have a resume and cover letter ready to submit in your application.

Some companies might also ask you to submit an introductory video. This video might need to be specific to the company you are applying to or could be a generic video of you introducing yourself and your teaching style.

3. You might be asked to teach a demo class showcasing your teaching skills. This is typically done in two ways:

a. There might be a live adult on the other end who is pretending to be a student and you will teach a 5-10 minute demo lesson to them.

b. Or, you might be asked to submit a recorded demo using provided slides.

4. After going through the hiring process, companies and platforms will provide some training, introduction to the platform and allow you to start opening up your availability to teach students.

In addition to the above, you may need to prove the following during the contract stage of getting hired:

  • Proof of degrees and certifications
  • TEFL / TESOL certification
  • Passport and/or proof of citizenship
  • Background check (often done by the company)
  • Change of name documentation (if applicable)

Situations, requirements, and processes will vary depending on where you apply.

8. How can Teach Away help you?

Teach Away is an online platform that helps you find your dream teaching job.

Teach Away is unique because, not only do we have a job board for online teaching positions, as well as TEFL programs to help you get certified, but we also guide you along the way.

We do not place you in roles, but rather give you the tools, resources, and support to successfully find one.

You can sign up in three easy steps:

  1. Register on our website.
  2. After registering, you will be asked to create a profile (you will be asked to upload your resume and answer some questions).
  3. Teach Away will send you updates and jobs that match your profile.

You can also use Teach Away’s job board to filter for online teaching positions that suit you. You can read more details about the position in each position listing as well as apply via Teach Away’s website.

It is important to note that the applications you send on the job board page go directly to the online school.

This means that any communication about the job will take place directly between you and the school and not from Teach Away’s placement coordinators.

Finding your path as an ESL teacher

Teaching abroad or online can be an incredible experience, whether you choose to work as an ESL teacher short term or long-term.

If your intuition has been calling you down this path, we encourage you to follow your passions and see where they lead you!

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are currently in, it’s never too late to begin teaching English.