When taking the plunge to enter to fun and flexible field of teaching English online, you’ll find you have many options, such as working for a company or working for yourself. Another popular option somewhere in the middle, however, is to teach through a “marketplace,” which is an online platform that connects ESL students and teachers. In the marketplace model, you post your teacher profile on their website, and students can browse through teachers and select the one they want. We’ll review the pros and cons of choosing a marketplace for teaching English online and look at some of the best ones.
What are my options for teaching English online?
First, let’s take a more detailed look at your options when considering how to teach online from home. The following three types of jobs are the most common:
Work with a company
Working with an online ESL company is similar to working for an established school or language institute. You apply to teach with the company and, if selected, they will either choose your teaching hours for you or offer a set of hours for you to choose from. They’ll also determine your pay and, oftentimes, provide a pre-designed curriculum for you. The company takes care of assigning students to you as well.
Essentially, this type of online ESL teaching is similar to a more traditional employer-employee relationship, though usually you’ll actually be an independent contractor and not an employee.
Start your own business
Starting your own online ESL teaching business is on the other side of the spectrum. Instead of working for someone, you’ll be in charge of everything, from advertising and attracting students to creating lesson plans and selecting a teaching platform.
You’ll be your own boss—a huge perk—but you’ll also have to take care of scheduling, finances, marketing, curriculum development, and everything else that teaching English entails.
Use a marketplace
When using the marketplace for teaching English online, you’re somewhere in between these two types of jobs. The marketplace will take care of some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of running an online business. For example, they’ll handle marketing and attracting students to the platform. They’ll also take care of all financial transactions for both students and teachers.
On the other hand, it will be up to you to set your hours and pay rate and to advertise your services through a top-quality teacher profile that will get students to choose you to be their ESL teacher.
Read more about these options: How to Teach Online – Should I Work With a Company or for Myself?
What are the advantages of teaching online through a marketplace?
There are various advantages to each approach to online English teaching, but what are the specific advantages of this middle, marketplace option, which falls nicely between the structure of working for someone else and the freedom of working for yourself?
Enjoy independence without the hassle of running a business
Using the marketplace model allows you to have the best parts of working for a company and starting your own business. You can enjoy not having to deal with marketing and payment details while still having plenty of independence and being in charge of your own services.
Choose your working hours
The marketplace allows you to choose your own working hours, a huge convenience. This can work well for teachers who don’t want to be limited to only working only certain hours with a company that caters to students in a certain location, such as China, for example. You can work as little or as much as you want, take as much time off as you need, and decide exactly when you want to work.
Set your own pay rate
Another huge advantage, setting your own pay rate means that you can compete with other teachers by offering lower rates at the beginning and then, once your reputation is established (often through a rating system built into the website), raising your rates to earn more.
Are you already an experienced and qualified teacher? Then the marketplace works well for you, too, since you can set your pay rate to reflect your qualifications and experience, which can allow you to earn more than you would when working for a company that establishes the pay rate for you.
Are there disadvantages to teaching online through a marketplace?
As with any ESL teaching model, there are a few disadvantages to choosing the marketplace for teaching English online. Some of the most problematic are:
You’ll need to be good at self-advertising
Companies that use the ESL marketplace model are competitive places to work, so you’ll need to do a great job of promoting yourself if you want to set yourself apart and attract students. This means that you’ll need to put together an eye-catching profile, which usually includes filming a compelling introduction video, or highlighting your unique qualifications, such as Specialized Certification in Teaching English Online or ESL professional development you’ve completed. Creating all of the components of your profile can sometimes be time-consuming.
You have to know how to sell your first class
Each time you teach a new student or conduct a trial class, you’ll have to be aware of how to present the lesson in a way that will get the student to sign up for more classes with you. This means that rather than solely focusing on teaching, you’ll also have to think about marketing yourself and your class.
You are in charge of creating lesson plans
Another time-consuming aspect of the marketplace for teaching English online can be having to create your own curriculum for each student. In most cases, this also means that you’ll usually have to source your own materials for classes. While some marketplace ESL companies may create a curriculum for you, this is usually not the case.
What are some examples of marketplaces for teaching English online?
One of the most popular companies that use the marketplace for teaching English online, italki hires teachers based on the quality of their application, introduction video, and certifications. You can become either a professional teacher or a community tutor, the biggest difference being that community tutors aren’t required to have a teaching certificate and professional teachers are. Professional teachers will typically earn more and have a wider student base.
Verbling will connect you with students from all over the world who are interested in private lessons. The company has its own video technology that you’ll use, as opposed to conducting classes over Skype or another platform. This also means that all communication between you and the student will take place over Verbling’s own messaging system, which protects you from unprofessional student-teacher encounters. You’ll need prior teaching experience to apply to Verbling.
To teach for Preply, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’re capable of creating quality study materials, assessments, and tests and that you have a basic knowledge of graduation and testing requirements, as many students are learning English for business or school-related reasons. Preply offers teacher support in the form of training materials and other guidance. They’ll also supply placement and check-in tests for the students.
Cambly’s tutors “get paid to chat with people around the world.” Their platform is focused on one-on-one conversation practice rather than structured lessons, so there is no teaching experience required for Cambly tutors, and you don’t need a bachelor’s degree, either. You can tutor as much or as little as you like, and your schedule can be extremely flexible since they cater to English learners all over the world.
How can I stand out as a teacher in a marketplace for teaching online?
Make sure you’re as qualified as you can be to compete in the online ESL marketplace!
The more relevant the qualifications you have, the more you can charge students per hour on the marketplace! At a minimum, you’ll want to have general TEFL certification of 120 hours or more, but having specialized training, such as the Teaching English Online Certification can set you apart from the competition, which can be fierce in ESL marketplaces.
Additional online TEFL certifications above and beyond this will further enhance your profile and show that you stay on top of current teaching methodology. Short, targeted Bridge Micro-credential courses, such as Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (for Adults) and Teaching IELTS Exam Prep, are examples of professional development for teachers who want to keep their credentials fresh.
If you’re new to teaching, you might even choose to complete a Practicum in Teaching English Online to get experience in the virtual setting, which will raise your confidence and make you more marketable as a teacher.
Watch a demo teaching session in the Bridge Practicum in Teaching English Online
Establish credibility with your students
Working in a marketplace for teaching English online requires you to maintain good ratings and reviews from your students. The happier your students are, the better reviews they’ll give you, and these reviews are essential if you want to attract more students. Since the marketplace model is based on students reviewing teacher profiles before deciding who they want to take lessons with, you’ll need to put a lot of energy and effort into ensuring student satisfaction and establishing a solid track record of happy students.
Create a top-quality introduction video
The introduction video portion of your online teaching profile is essential to creating a positive first impression with potential students. You should showcase a professional teaching background in the video (ideally the same location where you plan to conduct all of your lessons) and highlight your qualifications that are most relevant to what students are searching for—business English skills, pronunciation work, knowledge of English exams, etc. Keep your video both engaging and professional, and remember to speak clearly, as students will be taking note of how easy it is to understand your English!