Teaching English online is a great alternative for those who want all the benefits of teaching abroad with the comforts of teaching from home. In addition to location independence, teaching online offers flexible work hours. Although many companies require a minimum of five classes per week, online English teachers are entitled to creating their own schedule and teach as many classes as they’d like.
Financially speaking, online teaching jobs offer higher hourly wages than most English teaching jobs abroad. The average online teaching job pays $20 an hour, which is two to four times the hourly wage for English teachers in East Asia and Latin America.
While accepting a teaching job abroad is usually a fairly lengthy process complete with interviews, visa procedures, flight bookings, accommodation considerations, and, of course, packing up and moving your entire life to another country, teaching English online is a far more simple process.
But exactly how does someone start their online career? First, it’s important to decide which type of position matches your goals and experience. From there, you’ll need to get connected with the appropriate people.
New teachers or those who aren’t particularly confident in their repertoire of classroom (or computer) skills are advised to begin their online teaching experience by working for an established company. Just because you don’t have to show up to a specific place every day does not mean that teaching English online is a breeze. In fact, I find it more challenging, as making yourself understood and maintaining control of the classroom is hard when you are a mere face on a screen, particularly with children.
Working for a company that specializes in online instruction will benefit you. You’ll receive job training, technical support, and feedback from people who have experience in this type of instruction. Your confidence to grow and your skills to be refined. Find online teaching jobs on the OnTESOL job board.
Online schools are especially prominent in Asia, and a simple Google search will show you hundreds of opportunities and the requirements for each individual company. I also highly recommend making a profile on Upwork so that employers searching for teachers can message you directly.
If you already have one or more years of in-classroom teaching experience under your belt or consider yourself particularly tech-savvy, you might be interested in skipping this step altogether and branching out on your own as an independent contractor.
Nail the Demo
After applying and interviewing via video chat, almost every online employer will ask you to do a demo lesson. Sometimes they will provide you with a topic and virtual materials. And other times you will be left to your own creativity and devices. I have had both experiences, although the latter has been more frequent.
If you are demoing to children, make sure you have props. Lots of colorful, vibrant props. For example, stuffed animals that act as the student’s encourager and congratulatory friend after giving correct answers are great for the little ones. While older children respond well to point-value, game-style rewards.
Adults don’t usually need positive reinforcement, as they will presumably have chosen to be there on their accord, but praising them for getting a pattern correct, using proper accent and intonation, and asking questions merit a, “Well done”, too.
In order to nail the interview, you must be enthusiastic, smiley, and seem passionate, especially for children. These qualities are great for classroom teaching but are considered crucial to successful online instruction by most employers.
Manage your time well by practicing your demo several times before giving it, and be sure to speak slowly and clearly. Most importantly of all: repeat, repeat, repeat. Don’t go through a concept once and simply move on. Approach it from a few angles, and review straight after the end of your devised lesson to ensure comprehension.
Your interviewer will be looking for this, guaranteed.
Although working for an established online school certainly has its advantages, plenty of English teachers go in alone as independent freelancers.
A great way to put yourself out on the market and attract the interest of clients is to maintain a well-kept blog of your experience. Brand new teachers might struggle in this area, as previous experience is the best way of marketing yourself.
If having a blog or personal site isn’t for you. There are several websites where online ESL teachers can list their skills, services, and availability. Freelancer, Upwork, and BuddySchool are great options in this case.
If you do have previous experience teaching, traveling, or have friends from abroad, utilize your resources and human connections. And never underestimate the power of a solid, updated LinkedIn profile.
Write a post in an expat or ESL forum, make a page on Facebook, or post a short bio and description of services on one of the previously mentioned platforms. Selling yourself, having specific examples of lesson plans, and setting competitive rates will also further your chances of success in the online solo realm.
Choose a Platform
The internet acts like an open window of opportunity for online ESL teachers, enabling us to find and create opportunities, make connections, find resources, and teach either through a company or independently. While Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts are completely viable options for independent teachers, online ESL companies have proprietary software that you will be required to use as your teaching platform.
Mac users beware! I’ve had to pass on several job opportunities because the software wasn’t compatible with my laptop. PCs are definitely preferred by a majority of online ESL schools. Sometimes, there are add-ons that you can download to make the software work with your system.
Regardless of your platform, employers (and sometimes independent adult students as well) will typically prefer that you use a headset in order to increase clarity and reduce static noise.