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How I Teach ESL Online While I Finish My Degree and Travel the World

Have you ever dreamed of working from the comfort of your own home or travelling the world while still maintaining your income? As an online freelance ESL teacher, I’ve experienced the best of both worlds! Let me take you on my journey through the benefits and challenges of this career path, as well as the ins and outs of my experience so far.

Teaching English from my laptop

About the author: Alessa Hickman is a graduate of OnTESOL’s 120-hour Advanced TESOL Certificate.

Starting Out

My journey into online freelance ESL teaching began when I finished my TESOL certification with OnTESOL. I searched different job boards until I stumbled upon the perfect opportunity. One interview later, I found myself teaching English online. I currently earn $25 CAD per hour, juggling about 20 hours of teaching per week while I attend university and fill my travel bucket list.

Benefits of Teaching English Online as a Freelance Teacher

First and foremost, the freedom that comes with being an online freelance ESL teacher is unparalleled. With just your laptop and some headphones, you can effortlessly host a lesson from virtually anywhere in the world. As a young university student with a busy schedule, I don’t have to commute to my job. Last summer, I continued teaching ESL online while traveling in Japan.

My recent trip to Japan

Plus, being your own boss means you can set your rates and create a schedule that suits you and your lifestyle. Before starting to teach ESL online as a freelancer, I hadn’t experienced as much independence in the working world, which is a big part of why I love it so much.

One of the most amazing aspects of my work is the opportunity to connect with students from diverse backgrounds, spanning all ages and proficiency levels. Whether I’m teaching an energetic eight-year-old or an adult learner 1-on-1, each session is a chance to make a meaningful impact on their language learning journey.

When it comes to teaching materials, the possibilities are endless. While the company I freelance for provides access to Elli, an online resource with ESL lessons, I often tailor these resources with my own touch. From using online resources to self-created lesson plans, I always try to keep my lessons engaging and interactive. Whether we’re acting out real-life scenarios or dissecting the latest news article, I aim to create a dynamic learning environment that caters to each student’s unique needs and goals.

Navigating the world of taxes as a self-employed individual can be a daunting task at first, but it comes with its perks when you’re a freelance teacher. Unlike traditional employees, freelancers have the advantage of claiming expenses, such as teaching supplies, on their taxes.

Challenges Along the Way

The main challenge of working as a freelance ESL teacher is the unpredictability in student allocation. In a competitive global market, there’s no guarantee of a steady stream of learners, which can result in fluctuations in workload and income.

Depending on who your learners are and where they are from, the global nature of the profession presents a small catch: time zones. As a Canadian ESL teacher working with students in South Korea, I found myself starting lessons as early as 5:00 AM or late at night to accommodate my students’ schedules and a big time difference.

While this aligned perfectly with my love for early mornings, it’s important for prospective educators to consider this when starting this journey. Whether you’re a night owl or an early riser, creating a balance between your schedule and that of your students is key.

Advice for Aspiring Online ESL Teachers

To anyone considering embarking on the journey of online ESL teaching, my advice is simple: go for it! It’s so rewarding to be your own boss and make a positive impact on the lives of your learners, and of course, being able to travel or just be in the comfort of your own home while teaching is a great benefit too!

Another piece of advice I have is to try your best to make your teaching engaging. The online environment can be awesome, but it can also have its cons if you don’t actively try to make it fun for the student. Use things like music, videos and expressive body language so your enthusiasm translates through the screen. With some excitement and a sprinkle of creativity, you’ll not only excel in your role but leave a lasting impact on the lives of your students

Final Thoughts

Reflecting on my overall experience, I am so grateful for the OnTESOL course that laid the foundation for my success. Its curriculum and detailed assignments not only honed my skills but also equipped me with the necessary tools to dive head-first into teaching. From using the lesson plans from my course assignments with my current students to receiving invaluable feedback and tips from my tutor, OnTESOL was a crucial step in my ESL teaching career.

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