Is Online ESL Teaching in Your Future?

Is Online ESL Teaching in Your Future?

I did some research on online English schools, the pay, the structure and the opportunity…

My question is:

Is it possible to make a livable wage teaching online. I’ve heard everything rom as low as $10 – $25 per hour (USD).

Here are my notes:

$10 per hour is less than minimum wage. You can make that at McDonald’s. But at least with online English teaching is you don’t have to put on an ugly uniform and flip burgers or serve fries for 8 hours and deal with a lousy manager.

$25 is reasonable, at 6 hours a day of teaching this is $3,000 (USD) per month

If you don’t have to do any prep work or post class work like proofreading your students essays, grade quizzes, than $10 is acceptable.

But, if you’re teaching online for $25 per hour I’d imagine there is some time of prep work required to ensure a quality lesson where the student is satisfied.

Think about it. If you’re getting $25 per hour the online school must be getting paid at least $10 more (at minimum) so the hourly rate for the student is $35 per hour.

I can’t see anybody except business people with English learning budgets paid or partly paid by their companies who would shell out $35 or more for an online English class.

Then again you could be teaching more than one student online. For example, three university students from Korea.

Provided they are all level tested and are at a similar English level then the online academy would be making $105 per hour and paying you $25. This would make sense.

A good question to ask an online school is if you’ll be teaching one to one or small groups.

Also, ask if a small group is 2 students or more than 2 and what’s the maximum number of students you’d be teaching online.

Haven’t met anybody making $25 per month yet, although some companies advertise this, if you get their teaching bonuses for performance.

What education and experience would you need to qualify for a teaching job above $20 per hour?

I guess it really comes down to where you live. If you’re living and teaching English online in a cheap country like Laos or Vietnam or some South American countries than you don’t need as much to live on.

You could probably live on $10 per hour and have a decent lifestyle there. But if you plan to live in your home country like Canada or the US, then forget it.

Some people are placing their photos and teaching profiles on various online sites in attempt to find their own students and get rid of the middle man (the online school).

This is easier “said” then done. You’re up against a lot of competition because you’ll be competing with native speakers from back home with an internet connection.

With online teaching some schools ask their English teachers to teach at minimum of 15 hours per week. Other schools will want you to teach more. You may be asked to teach very early in the morning and late at night if your teaching Asian students from back home. If you’re living in Asia, than it’s a regular schedule.

Very often schools will keep your teaching hours to only 2-5 hours per week initially until you’ve proven that you’re a good teacher.

A good online teacher is one who shows up on time, is friendly, has a good lesson prepared, corrects students’ errors. Most importantly are his/her students satisfied with his teaching style.

So, it’s a performance based business. If you’re good, you’re given lots of hours and get the best students. If you suck as a teacher, then don’t expect many hours, and you probably won’t last long at that online school.

Also, don’t expect to get paid for sick days, vacation days or any benefits other than an hourly wage. You’ll also be expected to pay your taxes to the government of wherever you live as you are an independent contractor.

Some online English schools require teachers to have at least 2 years experience teaching. Other schools will hire teachers without any experience.

But schools can be picky since there is a huge pool of native speakers to draw from globally.

If you’ve never taught ESL before, in a virtual or physical classroom, expect to apply to a lot of schools before you get a teaching gig.

Most decent schools will provide some form of training or orientation. They may also expect you to prepare student progress reports regularly.

So, expect to do some paper work with any school. Some will require more than others. It’s unavoidable.

One benefit of online teaching (if you pay your taxes) is that in the US and Canada you can write off a portion of your home or apartment as a home office. You’ll need to provide the square footage for your accountant or whoever does your tax return each year.

This would include expenses like your computer, internet connection, headphones, desk, chair and any additional tools like teaching books.

You could also write off any Skype monthly charges (if your school doesn’t have an online learning platform).

If you’re an American and living and teaching online from Thailand or anywhere BUT American, then I believe you don’t have to pay taxes on the first $80,00 you make each year.

If you’re making more than $80,000 per year US and paying taxes I’d like to hear from you, because you’re obviously doing well online teaching!

I won’t go into any more about paying taxes for your online income, because each country varies. I am NOT a tax expert.

If you’re interested in teaching English online, here’s a link to a huge list of online English teaching companies in sorted by country such as China, Japan, and North America to name a few.

Most schools will pay you online via paypal since it’s a global, secure payment platform. The downside is they take 2.9% off your pay check and can add up fast.

If you teach 80 hours per month @ $12 per hour they’re taking $278 per month from you… That’s a like an income tax!

If you’re thinking about making a career out of teaching English online, you’re better off finding your own students and teaching them.

But building a group of dedicated/paying students is a long term marketing effort. You’ll spend most of your time marketing, getting students doing introductory free trial classes and then retaining them.

If you lose one student and you’ve only got 5 students whom you teach each week you’ll lose 20% of your income.

On the flip side if you’re good at getting students and keeping them happy they’ll stick with you for a long time and refer their friends. It could get even more lucrative if you add more students per class.

If you can get $20 per hour from one student and scale it to 3 students, that means you’re making $60 per hour. Not a bad income for sitting at home in front of a computer in your slippers from any country.

You’ll also want to get students to pay you in advance for a month once they’ve had a free trial lesson and want you to teach them.

By getting a month’s pay in advance you know your student is serious and you can also have some job security. At least for a month anyway.

But you should never start marketing and asking your students for referrals.

Write a blog focused on English. Grammar, writing, speaking, pronunciation. You name it…

Spend 20% of your time writing educational blogs with your students learning needs in mind.

These could be anything from learning English tips, online lessons. Anything that will help them improve their English.

Then spend 80% of your time promoting your educational blogs on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

Some teacher have had success with LinkedIn getting adult students. But you have to develop relationship with these business people first before you pitch your online classes. And be careful, LinkedIn will ban you if you’re soliciting too much.

To get started make a video introducing yourself and your course and online English lessons and upload it to YouTube. Promote it everywhere!

You can use a free video conferencing tool like Skype  or Google Hangouts to teach from.

Then download some free scheduling software to manage your students schedules.

Set up a PayPal account so you can bill and get paid from your students. They’ll have to do the same. It’s pretty easy for them to set up because PayPal is in most countries in your students’ native language.

That’s pretty much it. Once your set up, spend the majority of your time marketing, at least until you can get enough students to earn a part-time or full-time income.

Teaching English online can be tougher than teaching face to face.

What I mean is you’ll have to be more animated because you’re on camera and your body language  and facial expressions won’t be as obvious.

Smile a lot, praise your students progress often and keep them motivated.

It’s also a good idea to keep regular communication with them even when you’re not having a scheduled class.

Send them emails to see how they’re doing with their job, at school. Become a friend as well as their teacher. They’ll keep studying with you if you have their learning goals at heart.

For more advanced students, encourage them to bring a friend to your class. Most advanced students can speak one to one with their online English teacher quite well with minimal mistakes.

However, once it becomes a group conversation they are forced to follow a conversation between three people, which means they have to listen more attentively.

This could also provide benefit to you their teacher, because the 2nd student may want to study with you and you can earn more.

I’ve heard that online teaching in Asia is growing at 14% at year, so it’s a booming business.. It might be worth trying at least on a part-time basis initially to earn some extra cash.

Having a part-time income if you’re willing to spend a couple of hours a day teaching online could allow you fund an extended vacation in Thailand, for instance.

Have you tried teaching English online through a company or are you planning to start your own online teaching business.

Would love to hear your questions or experiences…


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