Beginner's Guide to Teaching English Online

by Diego Navarro | LAST UPDATED June 3, 2021

Teaching English online
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Any professional teacher will testify that finding a job opening is the first big hurdle you’ll face if you plan to get into this career path.

Don’t get us wrong, there will be plenty of public and private schools that might be hiring, but there will likely be other difficulties that you’ll be faced with before you can get the job.

There might not be a position for a language teacher; the school might be looking for someone with more teaching experience, you might lack specific qualifications, and so on.

And all of this isn’t even mentioning the fact that the location of the school itself might be a bit too far to justify a daily commute, and the pay might not be high enough for you to be able to afford to move to secure the job.

Luckily, there are plenty of positions that allow you to teach English online and circumvent most of our mentioned issues.

Teaching English Online

Firstly, the location issue is entirely taken out of the equation. This means that you can apply to any opening you find online without having to worry about commute times and costs.

It also means that you can live wherever you want, without being forced to pay outrageous rent rates, and still be able to do your job without issue.

Without a doubt, this is already an appealing offer for both stay-at-home parents and world-traveling digital nomads alike.

The jobs themselves have hourly rates of anything between $10 and $25. This means that working as a part-timer isn’t going to be very viable, but taking up a full-time position will allow you to live a bit more carefree in terms of financial security.

However, we should mention that these are just the average rates, and certain positions might pay more than what we stipulated while others might pay less.

The pay rate might not be too great initially, but very few companies have a maximum hour policy. So, essentially, if the money seems to be running thin each month, most online teaching companies will offer you the option to increase your work hours.

Requirements

Teaching a class of kids

We covered two issues in our opening that we neglected to mention in the previous section - the certifications and experience.

When it comes to teaching experience, there really isn’t anything you can do if the company wants someone that’s had at least a few years of practical knowledge under their belt.

In general, there aren’t many online platforms that will have that sort of limitation in place. However, if you’re in a situation where you’re competing for a position with someone that’s worked as a teacher longer, you’ll likely not get the job in question.

In regards to the qualifications, they are going to vary from platform to platform.

Certain companies want to see at least a bachelor’s degree in languages, while others will be happy to accept pretty much any native English speaker. Naturally, you’re still going to need to have a firm grasp of the English language, and you’ll need to go through a vetting process before you can start teaching.

In general, most companies need you to have taken something like a TESOL or TEFL course to prove that you’re qualified.

There’s no set standard, so we’ll go into more detail on which certificate level is needed for each position as we cover each online teaching platform.

Gear

Online teaching gear

There are a few pieces of mandatory equipment that you’ll need if you intend to pursue a career in teaching English online. The basics would be a decent microphone, a good pair of earphones, a semi-decent laptop with a webcam, and a reliable internet connection.

You can choose to integrate the microphone and the earphones into one item and simply buy a full headset with a built-in mic instead, but we’ll leave that up to you.

There are going to be companies that would want you to get additional items as well, but this is the basic level of equipment that you’re going to need to get started.

The best choices for both quality and price are probably the blue yeti or the blue snowball when it comes to microphones. These are relatively inexpensive USB microphones that are the preferred choice for most online personalities and influencers because they are easy to set up and use.

When it comes to earphones, pretty much anything will do, including the ones that came with your phone or any pair you can find for $5. Those will most likely break in a month but will be easy to replace due to the price.

If you’re looking for something with a bit more quality, or a headset with an integrated mic, then we’d suggest looking through the gaming section of any online shop. Items like the Razer BlackShark or the JBL Quantum 200 can provide you with a good mic and listening experience for a pretty decent price overall.

When it comes to laptops, you won’t need a monster of a machine to take care of your lesson planning, so you can go for something that’s reasonably priced but still has a lot of perks.

Unfortunately, we can’t give you any advice on which internet providers you should choose since they’re all location-based services. What we can say is that you won’t be able to get away with just any caliber of wifi, and you’ll need to be able to prove that you can hold online classes without too much lag or crashes.

Not many companies will mandate an ultra turbocharged service, but you won’t be able to get away with a connection that’s so slow that it can’t hold a Skype call either.

Platforms

Before we go into the platforms and the companies that provide online English teaching jobs, there’s something that we need to make clear.

This list is organized in no particular order, and it’s not a definitive rundown by any means. While we believe that these are the best platforms for both online language learners and language teachers, there are other companies available.

The only reason why we’re mentioning this is to point out that if you don’t like any of our choices or the facilities that they provide, you can easily find alternative platforms that are geared towards teaching English online.

GoGoKid

GoGoKid's home page

Hiring

After you apply on the site, you’ll be asked to schedule an interview, after which you’ll need to attend a virtual orientation program and a live training session.

You’ll also be asked to participate in several mock class training sessions.

Gear Requirements

A stable internet connection that can reach a minimum download speed of 20 Mbps.

A laptop with an integrated webcam, an i3 CPU or above, and at least 4GB of RAM so that it can reliably run the animated lesson plans.

You’ll also need earphones and a mic or a headset that has a built-in microphone.

General Info

You’ll be holding 25-minute one-on-one online language classes for children in China.

The curriculum is prepared ahead of time, but you’re expected to provide props to help you with the lessons. Additionally, you’ll also be expected to interact with the parents of the children and prepare a progress report after each lesson.

This essentially means that you’ll be taking the position of a highly involved online ESL teacher.

You can also take vacation days at any time, but this will reduce your score when the possible bonuses that you might receive are calculated.

Pay

You’ll be paid between $14 and $25 an hour, with the classes coming in at $7 - $10 apiece.

While reaching a $25 hourly rate is technically possible, it mostly relies on favorable reviews from parents, the number of classes that you teach per day, and the aforementioned vacation days calculations.

Realistically, your hourly pay is going to mostly gravitate just under the $20 mark.

Hours

You’ll be allowed to create your own schedule, but peak hours are considered to be 7:00–9:00 p.m. Mon–Fri, and 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. Sat/Sun, Beijing time.

There are also no minimum daily lesson requirements, which allows you to set your own hours and choose how many classes you’ll take on in any given week.

Cambly

Camby's home page

Hiring

The only requirement for this job is for the potential employee to be fluent in English.

You don’t need any college degrees or teaching certificates, and it doesn’t matter if you live in New Zealand or Ireland, as long as you have a firm grasp on your mother tongue.

All you need to do to apply for the job is send in a 2-minute introduction video and get approval before creating your account on the platform.

Gear Requirements

Any laptop, mobile, or tablet with a built-in webcam capable of downloading and running the Camby app.

You’ll also need a stable internet connection and a headset with a microphone (if your device doesn’t already have it as standard equipment.)

General Info

This platform encourages teaching English online through conversation.

The classes are one-on-one conversations between people that are interested in learning a foreign language by way of practical experience and having a chat with a native English speaker.

The classes are divided into 15-minute, 30-minute, and 1-hour sessions, depending on the selected package.

Additionally, the sessions are also recorded so that the students can learn on their own time as well.

Pay

You earn $0.17/min ($10.20/hour) on Cambly and $0.20/min ($12.00/hour) on Cambly Kids, paid through PayPal.

Hours

There is no minimum daily or weekly lesson requirement, and you don’t even need to set a schedule for your sessions. All you need to do is log into the app and check to see if there are students available that would like to have a session at the moment.

However, you’re also free to set a certain schedule with select students as well.

VIPKid

VipKid's home page

Hiring

This site exclusively hires native English speakers from either Canada or the US and offers 6-month contracts.

The minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of previous experience as a teacher, a teaching assistant, an ESL teacher, or any position of a similar capacity.

Gear Requirements

The standard combo of headset, mic, and laptop with a built-in webcam. They also require that you have a stable internet connection, but there is no restriction on internet speeds or minimal download and upload speeds.

You’ll also be required to use the VIPKid app that you can download from their site, which won’t be a problem for any semi-decent laptop.

General Info

Your students are going to be 5-10-year-old Chinese children.

The classes are held on a one-on-one online English tutoring basis, and they last for 25-minutes.

The curriculum is already created, so there’s no reason to worry about organizing any lesson plans ahead of time.

Pay

$7 - $9 per class, based on your credentials and performance during the demo lesson.

Bonuses are available for holding a class on short notice and also depend on the number of classes that you hold in a month and the number of classes you’ve held with VIPKid in total.

This means that the average hourly pay in this company ranges from between $14 - $27.

Hours

The platform doesn’t require a minimum number of hours that you need to put in each day. Similarly, there is no maximum either, and you’re responsible for scheduling your classes by entering your name in the desired time slot.

Peak hours for holding the lessons are considered to be 2 a.m.–5 a.m. Monday–Friday, and 5 PM–6 AM Sat/Sun, pacific standard time.

You’re allowed to cancel up to 6 classes without penalty during your 6-month contract. If you cancel within 24 hours before the class, you’ll need to pay a $2 penalty, and if you cancel within 2 hours before the class, you’ll need to pay a $10 penalty.

Qkids

QKids' home page

Hiring

This platform offers a 6-month contract to Canadians and anyone living in the US.

The contract in question stipulates that employees must stay within the US or Canada for the duration of 6 months. You’re also required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in any subject as well as an ESL, CELTA, or TEFL certification.

You’ll be asked to submit all of the required materials, as well as a short one to two-minute introduction video for the application process. Afterward, you’ll receive an initial screening, and you’ll be asked to hold a few trial classes. If everything checks out, you’ll receive the contract.

Gear Requirements

A laptop with a webcam, a headset with a microphone, and a reliable internet connection that has a 2Mbps upload speed and a 4Mbps download speed at minimum.

General Info

You’ll be teaching children in China between the ages of 4 and 12.

The classes will last for 30-minutes, and the class will only contain up to 4 students at a time.

There are animated lesson plans that are used as teaching materials, so there’s no prep time required on your part, aside from memorizing the contents of the lessons ahead of time, that is.

Pay

You’ll earn roughly $16 - $20 an hour with an option for an additional $1 performance fee based on reviews and a $1 attendance bonus for each lesson after you hold more than 15 lessons in a week.

This means that you’ll be paid an average of $8 per lesson.

Hours

The site has a minimum weekly requirement of 6 hours or at least 12 standard-length lessons.

The lessons are held seven days a week, 6:30–9:00 a.m. EST, while additional hours are available 8:30 to–11:40 p.m. EST on Fridays and Saturdays.

The company sets your schedule, and there’s a 24-hour class cancelation policy. There is no penalty for sick days or vacation time. 

Italki

Italki's home page

Hiring

The community tutor positions don’t require any sort of qualifications, while the professional teacher positions will only be available for people that have at least a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certification.

After you apply online, you’ll need to complete a teacher success quiz and get on a video call with Italki’s teacher services.

Once all of that is done, you’ll be notified via pre-approval email within a week.

Gear Requirements

An internet connection that exceeds 2 MB per second and a laptop with a webcam that has one of the following VOIP software options: Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime, or QQ

General Info

Italki offers classes in pretty much every language, including Spanish and Japanese.

This means that the lessons on the site aren’t exclusively English and you can actually offer your services in other languages as well, provided that you’re qualified, of course.

The classes are held one-on-one in a video chat using one of the aforementioned software options.

Pay

There is no set pay scheme on Italki – you set the price tag in your lessons.

The exact amount that you’ll ask for should reflect your skill and teaching abilities.

Most tutors seem to ask for somewhere between $12 - $15 per class, while professional teachers ask for $20 - $25.

Again, this will depend solely on you, but we recommend not overvaluing your skills too much, as you won’t be getting many teaching requests otherwise.

Hours

You don’t set a schedule on Italki; you simply use the calendar function to mark the days and hours you’re free.

The students then send a request to have a lesson in one of those available time slots. You then respond to the request, which will expire if ignored for more than 48 hours.

PalFish

Palfish's home page

Hiring

There are two different courses you can apply to teach and both have similar requirements.

Both the kids’ course and the Philippines course position will ask you to present a teaching certificate and prove that you have sufficient mastery of the English language.

The kids’ course position is open for anyone from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Ireland, while the Philippines course is only open for people from the Philippines.

There is also a live stream tutoring through conversation position that only requires the employee to be fluent in English.

Both positions will require you to download the PalFish app, create a profile, and set up an account on Payoneer for payment purposes.

You’ll need to record an introduction clip and wait around two days for an in-app reply to your submission. 

The kids’ and Philippines courses will require you to send your teaching credentials and the short introduction clip.

You’ll be asked to complete a demo lesson and a quiz and then wait two days for an in-app reply that will inform you if you got the job or not.

Gear Requirements

You’ll need a laptop that’s good enough to run the PalFish app reliably and able to hold a Skype call without crashing, so nothing too powerful or expensive.

There aren’t any internet requirements past “reliable connection,” but the company does require you to present your class in a blue t-shirt.

They also ask that you organize your background to “look like a standard classroom,” though the meaning of this is a bit unclear. This point might be clarified in the interview process, or it might be ignored entirely, so it isn’t worth worrying about too much.

General Info

The kids’ program will be held in a one-on-one tutoring format in class durations of 25 minutes, and you’ll present the pre-prepared PalFish course material. So, not much preparation is required, although you are encouraged to use props to hold the attention of the 3-12-year-old Chinese children that you’ll be teaching.

The class duration and program of the live stream courses are entirely dictated by you,, and you’re even offered the freedom to include multiple students in your online classroom.

The Philippines course is identical to the kids’ program.

Pay

You’ll be allowed to set your own prices for each live stream session that are calculated on a minute basis.

The other courses pay up to $30 an hour, with the base pay being 50 ¥ (or roughly $8), with a 5 ¥ bonus for logging into the lesson on time.

You’ll also be presented with the option to enter a better pay rate by accumulating points with every lesson that you teach.

Hours

The kids’ course and the Philippines course require you to log in a minimum of 3.5 hours per week, while the live streams have no such requirement.

Peak hours for the live streams are between 6 a.m. and 12 a.m. Beijing time, while peak teaching hours for the other courses are from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mon–Fri, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sat/Sun.

You’ll be able to set your own schedule by marking available days and hours on the app calendar.

Preply

Preply's home page

Hiring

There are no teaching credentials needed to apply in Preply, aside from being a native English speaker and having a good understanding of the language that you’ll be teaching.

You’ll be required to log into the site, create an account, send a headshot photo, and provide a short 2-minute self-introduction video.

You’ll be allowed to choose whichever language you want to teach by listing your strengths as a tutor in your video.

Gear Requirements

You’ll need a laptop with a webcam, a stable internet connection, and a headset with a microphone.

General Info

The platform offers classes in English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, and many other languages as well.

There is no average age range when it comes to students, and pretty much anyone can use the site to get in contact with native English speakers or tutors in other languages.

The classes themselves are more of a free-range conversation format where you’ll be asked to help your student improve by giving them tips, correcting their pronunciations and mistakes, telling them what they need to know or study, and just having conversations with them.

Pay

You’ll be allowed to set your own hourly rate, but most English tutors tend to charge somewhere between $15 - $25, which is pretty much the industry standard.

The platform offers payment through Paypal, Payoneer, Skrill, or Transferwise.

Preply takes a 100% commission fee of your first lesson payment with every new student, with commissions varying between 33% and 18% for subsequent lessons.

The commission value is dictated by the total number of completed lessons.

Anything below 20 hours will incur a 33% commission from your fees, while 400+ hours will drop you down to the 18% group (there are also other commission value groups displayed on the site).

Hours

The platform allows you to set your own hours and doesn’t have any minimum weekly hour quota that you need to fulfill.

You can also choose the length of your own lessons, which you’ll naturally need to run by your students first.

After you set up a calendar detailing your free time slots, potential students are going to send you a lesson request that you either accept or reject.

The platform also requires that you give your students at least a 4-hour notice before you decide to cancel your class. There are no penalties, but the teacher might have their profile rating drop and ultimately get kicked off of the site if enough complaints pile up.

SkimaTalk

SkimaTalk's home page

Hiring

SkimaTalk looks for native English speakers and doesn’t require you to provide any sort of teaching certification or degree to apply to be a teacher on the site.

However, any prior experience in the field is definitely welcome and any assurance that you can keep a professional attitude at all times.

All you have to do to apply is to sign up to the site, create an account, and then complete a series of quizzes to prove that you have the necessary level of knowledge that the company is looking for.

If you pass the application process, your profile will be added to the site, and you’ll be asked to upload an introduction video on the profile page where potential students will be able to contact you.

Gear Requirements

You’re going to need a laptop with a webcam, a headset with a built-in mic, and a reliable internet connection.

General Info

You’ll primarily be teaching adults, though children are also a possibility, and you’ll be given a choice to either use the pre-prepared teaching course from SkimaTalk or prepare your own lesson plans.

The classes are one-on-one and the runtime of the lessons is around 25 minutes each.

Pay

You’ll be able to set your own hourly rate, though most teachers tend to stick to prices along the lines of $15 - $25.

Hours

You can set the time frame of your lessons however you want, and there is no minimum hour quota that needs to be fulfilled each week.

The students will be able to check the schedule displayed on your profile page and send a request for a specific free slot.

Cancelations aren’t prohibited, but canceling within 24 hours will net you an 11 coin penalty while canceling more than a day in advance will only incur a nine coin penalty.

The coins are a teacher grading system that the platform uses, which we won’t get into here, but you can find more information on them on the site.

Additionally, it’s also worth mentioning that the number of cancellations will also be displayed on your profile page, and sure, students may decide not to engage in your services if the number is too high for their liking.

DaDa

Dada's home page

Hiring

The company hires native English speakers from any nationality, as long as they have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate.

You’ll be able to apply online through the site, and you’ll be asked to submit the necessary documents and complete an online interview.

After the documents are verified, and your network and devices pass the necessary minimum requirements, you’ll be asked to complete a few probation classes.

Once all of this is done, you’ll be offered either a 6-month or a 12-month contract, depending on your qualifications and the evaluation of your abilities.

Gear Requirements

There’s a 10 Mbps download speed minimum and a headset with a microphone and a computer with a webcam.

You’ll also be asked to provide your props to keep the children interested in the lessons and make your background look “presentable.”

General Info

Your students are going to be children from China that are between the ages of 4 and 16.

The classes will be held in one-on-one sessions and will last for 30 minutes in the standard program or 15 minutes in the trial program.

You won’t need to interact with the parents, and the lesson curriculum will be prepared ahead of time.

You might also get special cases where the classes will last for 60 minutes, but those are few and far between.

Pay

The standard pay varies between $15 and $25 per hour, based on your qualifications and abilities.

However, while a 10% raise is usually offered to capable teachers upon contract renewal, the standard pay during the first contract will likely remain within the $15 - $19 margin.

You’ll also receive a $15 bonus for the use of props and $7 for each student from the trial courses that you manage to convert to use the standard courses.

Hours

The company sets the schedule, and you’ll be asked to put in a minimum of 4 hours per week, with the maximum being 20 hours per week.

Peak hours are 6:00–9:00 p.m. Mon–Fri, and 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. Sat/Sun, Beijing time.

You’ll be allowed two days off per month, and you’ll need to give at least 20 days’ notice before you take them.

Additionally, taking any more than two days off per month (for sick days or the like) may result in DaDa docking you 10% off your monthly payments.

This is undoubtedly the biggest issue that people have when it comes to the employment contracts that this platform offers.

Conclusion

teaching english online conclusion

Each platform has its own faults and benefits, as well as certain restrictions, payment and commission fees, and so on.

We hope that we managed to provide you with a suitable amount of information to at least have gotten a good initial feel for each company's strengths and weaknesses. However, there is simply too much information for us to cover every detail when it comes to the job and all of the nuances associated with it.

So, we recommend that you visit the site of any company that might have caught your eye and either look through their available information or simply contact them to get a direct answer to all of your questions. Good luck!

Diego Navarro
Diego became interested in a nomadic lifestyle during a semester abroad during college. He spends most of his time in central Europe and the American southwest (where his family is from). He loves exotic food and playing video games on his Nintendo Switch.

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