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Confessions of an Online English Teacher

Colby, Online ESL Teacher in China

My name is Colby, and I’ve been teaching ESL in Asia for about 2 years now.  I was spinning my tires back in my home country of Canada and decided to flip my life upside down by going to teach English in South Korea.  Since then it’s probably been my best life decision to date and has opened a world of opportunities up to me.  Including teaching English online.

I am currently teaching ESL in China during the day and making even more money teaching ESL online in the evenings and on weekends.  When I’m not slinging verbs and phonics to young children, I’m writing about personal finance, world travel & ESL over at That Charles Life. I also enjoy hiking, reading books & slowly trying to understand the Chinese language.

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

Make money from home by teaching English ESL online

I’ve written about why I love teaching English, and how great it can be for someone who values time freedom, traveling, and saving serious money. But despite these benefits, you still have to get up every day and travel to a school.  In spite of having over 2 months of holidays, you are still bound by when the school chooses to take those holidays. And if you suddenly get assigned more classes, you probably aren’t going to get paid any more.

I’m not sure I’ve written nearly enough about my secondary source of income related to teaching ESL. And that’s teaching English online. Most months I generate more money working in the evenings and on weekends than I do at my day job teaching at a public school in China.

There are some great benefits of teaching English online that surpass the benefits of teaching English in a classroom abroad. They include increased flexibility, more private classes, less prep work, and complete location independence. Allow me to outline why I love teaching English online even more than in a classroom.

Teaching English online allows for a flexible schedule

There are a whole slew of options if you want to start teaching English online.  How these companies go about creating a working schedule can differ. But the general rule is that YOU pick your own working hours.  Obviously, you are bound by hours in which the children are able to take extra lessons, but find me another job that asks you when you would like to start and end your workday.

To shed some more light on how various companies work, I’ve found there are two general practices available.  In the first option, you choose which hours you are able to work and you are required to be at work during those same hours each week for a contracted period of 3 or 6 months. This is great for people who want the consistency and reliability of being booked with the same students.

The second option, and the one which I prefer, is to work for companies that allow you to choose your hours randomly each week. If your schedule is subject to change weekly or you decide you don’t want to work a day suddenly, you don’t need to. Perfect for travelers and people that live a spontaneous lifestyle. The main company I work with operates in this fashion. I love it.

Teaching English online is generally one-on-one

In my public school, I teach classes of nearly 50 kids. While it’s never a dull moment and participation is always consistent, it can get a little crazy. Sure, there are benefits of multiple students with regards to certain games and partner work, but I believe a one-on-one approach allows for a much better education.

Also, teaching one-on-one is a lot less stressful. Sure some kids don’t care about learning at all and you need to just grin and get the class over with, but usually it’s just like hanging out with a friend and shooting the breeze.

Teaching English online is way less work 

In every classroom I’ve worked in, while in both South Korea and in China, teaching requires lots of prep work. Both for the classroom lessons, and for the school or company you work for. They usually want lesson plans ahead of time and who knows what other type of nonsense. None of this is required with online teaching.

In most companies, they are smart enough to provide material for you to teach from.  If you are just getting started, you might need to do a little preparation ahead of time, but once you get a feel for how lessons work and build up a little library or videos, games and extras, you can literally just show up to class with a smile on your face. YouTube and Google are always a click away if you need to add a little extra.

Read this article for FAQs about teaching online from home.

You can teach ESL online anywhere in the world

My favorite aspect of teaching English as a second language online is that I can do it anywhere in the world with a reliable WiFi connection.  All I need is my laptop, headset and a hot pink shirt I am required to wear in my lessons. Talk about versatility and the ideal digital nomad lifestyle!

I could live on a beach in Thailand– diving, exploring and relaxing all day while I work a few hours per evening in my condo watching the sunset.

I could spend some time in Europe– sleeping in until 10 or 11, taking a long breakfast before I teach a few hours in the afternoon then have all evening to do as I please.

I could wake up extra early on the west coast in North America to bang out some classes then have my whole day ahead of me.

Does online English teaching pay well?

Heck yes, it does. Like I said, I usually make considerably more with my online teaching gig than I do in my public school job. Granted, I clock many hours each month.

Online teaching generally pays you between $14-23 USD per hour, based on experience, class size, and some other factors. There are usually more bonuses on top of that. So yes, you could make a full-time salary teaching English online. In fact, you can make a lot of money teaching English online.

Are you interested in teaching English online from anywhere, like Colby? Check out our newly updated Specialized TEFL Certification in Teaching English Online + Practicum. It provides all the training and experience you’ll need to launch your online teaching career!

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