How to become an Online English Tutor: Tips & Career Guide

Earning money while online has such a strong appeal to anyone who wants to make an income without stepping out from the comforts of their home. With everyone pretty much glued to their phones or their computer screens, a lot of people took advantage of that possibility to earn an income.

One of the proven lucrative business right now is becoming an online English teacher. This online platform is continuously growing and the demand remains high since there are a lot of people who want to learn English. In the past, it usually requires an individual to enroll in a school that specializes in the English language or even hire a tutor that is provided by a company or an institution. But now, with the convenience the internet has brought us, online teaching has become possible and accessible to anyone around the world.

Native English speakers are usually at the forefront of this business, but people who are bilingual or fluent English speakers are also on the rise. Even the ability to teach is no longer limited to those who hold a degree in teaching or language. Nowadays, people can obtain TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification through various institutions that offer to certify teaching English.

So, how do you start to become an online English teacher?

1. Be TEFL certified

You may want to have yourself TEFL certified first from accredited institutions. Keep in mind that teaching English doesn’t just mean teaching conversational English. It can get more in-depth especially if you’re going to teach high school students or even adults. Through TEFL certification, it gives you a thorough understanding of the teaching set up, and particular skills or techniques that you’ll be using. It also helps you how to create and manage your lesson plans, as well as a refresher on English grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

Plus getting a TEFL certificate can give you that edge and will help you earn more or get a higher salary.

2. The right equipment to teach English online

Since you’ll be working remotely or at your home, it’s important to have the right equipment.

  • Starting with a stable internet connection. Of course, you want to communicate clearly with your student and you want to prevent any misunderstanding on their part. This can hurt your job if your connection is lagging because this could lead to your students opting to choose another teacher. So, ensure that your internet connection meets the required speed so that the teaching will go smoothly.
  • Get yourself a quiet room or a quiet space. You do not want any distractions while you’re teaching. It is important to have space far from anything that could produce noise or anything that might distract you while in the middle of your work. Make sure that you also have a comfortable workspace since you’ll be sitting for a long time.
  • If you opted to work outside, you will need to get away from crowds or anything that is a potential distraction for you. You will also need to make sure that your student will not hear any background noise. This may cause misunderstanding on both of you and may result in losing your student. So, create an ambiance conducive to learning.
  • Invest also in a good quality webcam, microphone, and headset. As communication is one of the important tools as an online English teacher, your student must hear you very clear. It’ll be difficult to learn English if your voice is muffled or too soft for the student to hear. So, make sure your microphone works well. This goes for your headset too. If you want to ensure that your student understands you well, you will need to hear him as clearly as possible. And lastly, your webcam must give a clear view of yourself to your student.

4. Platform

If you are hired as an online English teacher for a company, they usually have their platforms or software to host the classroom for you. But if you are a freelancer, you will need to find software to accommodate your needs. The usual go-to platforms are either Skype or Zoom. Both programs have a screen-sharing feature and this will allow you to share your visual aids with your student.

Now you may ask yourself, to work as an online English teacher, should you be a freelancer or be hired by a company?

  • Both have their benefits and it all depends on you how you want the set up to be. If you choose to be a freelancer, convenience will be on your side. This is where you usually picture yourself as someone who’s working at home. You have more freedom since you have full control of your working hours, your teaching method, and the lesson plans. You also have control over the income it’ll generate. But since all the work will be yours, you may opt to promote your service either through a freelance website or you may develop your own and advertise it.
  • On the other hand, if you choose to work with a company, there a lot of organizations that offer jobs as an online English teacher. Most of them also offer to work remotely. Once you’re employed, you don’t need to do your own setup. It’ll be the company’s responsibility to find students for you, provide you the lesson plans, and the collection of the payment. But since online teaching has been a demanding business, you will need to exercise caution when looking for an employer. Make sure that there are accredited by an external body, reputable, and can communicate well with you as their employee.

Pros of being an online English teacher:

If you want to be an online English teacher, here are some of its advantages.

  • The advantage of being an online English teacher is that you are not constrained to teach English the same way as a traditional classroom set up. Whether you are within the comforts of your home or you are someone who prefers the outdoors, you can do the teaching as long as you have the requirements that are required from you.
  • Another good thing is that as an online English teacher you’ll be able to focus more on your student since it’s just a one-on-one set up. It’s an opportunity to get creative with your teaching methods which you think will be helpful or more beneficial for your students. Especially when teaching children, it’s your chance to have game time or have visual aids to make the learning experience more fun for them.
  • As mentioned above, you can control your working hours and some companies even allow you to fill in your own schedules.

Cons of being an online English teacher:

There are some drawbacks, though, on online teaching:

  • You don’t get the same benefit as a regular salaryman would. Especially if you’re doing this on your own. You will have to take care of your healthcare, insurance, taxes, etc. If you are employed with a company, most of them offer benefits but keep in mind that some don’t.
  • Time zones will pose a challenge especially if there is a great difference. If your time difference has just a small gap from your student, that won’t be much of a problem since you can easily adjust. But if there’s a huge difference for example eight to twelve hours, you will need to adjust as you try to adapt your body clock to match your students.
  • In some cases, you will encounter canceled classes or no-show. This is something beyond your control but can affect how much you are going to get paid.
  • There are also technical issues. On some days, you will encounter some problems with your internet connection. Especially when you work outdoors, the internet connection can be erratic. You want to make sure that you have a backup connection otherwise you will lose that hour or class ending up not getting paid.

You Need to Know:

As you have set yourself up for this endeavor, what do you need to know in this online job?

  • You may need to do an introductory video. This is your chance to sell yourself and your service. Whether you are a freelancer or applying for a company, know how to sell yourself. You’d want to capture as much as clients as you want. With so much competition on this platform, you’d want to stand out so you’ll need to be creative and show them why you’re the person for the job.
  • Like any other journey or process, beginnings are always hard. For freelancers or anyone operating on their own, it can get frustrating. Sometimes you start to question yourself whether this is something that you really like to do or if it’s even worth it. It may take a while for anyone to book you or acquire your services but don’t give up too soon. You may opt to search for different companies while waiting for some. This will also allow you to search for other best options especially if you want to be hired as an employee.
  • Your students will be of different ages. And most of them will be children and can go as young as five years old. Most parents wanted to expose their young children to the English language. There are also adult students who are either college students or working professionals.
  • As an online English teacher, it is already expected that you’ll be teaching students from a diverse set of nationalities most of which from non-English speaking countries. So it’ll be up to you to bridge that language barrier and you are expected to put an extra effort to be understanding. Learn more about their behaviors and their culture. Because you might encounter students who may be a bit sensitive on how you approach them. Once you have a full understanding of how they behave, assess what should be assessed so that you can gauge and adjust what could be an effective teaching method for them.
  • Patience is a virtue. And it will be tested once you get into this profession. Remember that you’ll be teaching students who are starting to learn. It’s part of the job as not everyone can get comfortable with you as their online English teacher. Be patient and keep the energy up especially when dealing with children so that you can keep them engaged. Bear in mind that the learning process on the student’s end can also take time. So, you will need to guide them throughout until they get the hang of it. Some students can learn as fast and some will need extra attention from you.
  • Once you have settled yourself as an online English teacher, your teaching method and lesson plan will vary on the need of the students. If you are dealing with children, the lesson usually comprises of basic grammar or how to start speaking in English. There are also adult students, who are in business or the corporate world. If you’re dealing with them, the lesson plan is usually on honing their skills in conversational English or business English.
  • The income you’ll generate for this online job will depend on whether you are a freelancer or someone who works for a company. As a freelancer, you set your range for the duration you will teach. If you’re going to check freelancing websites, all of them have a minimum amount set for whatever platform they are serving. So you may want to base your rate on that. As an employed online teacher, your rate may vary on your experience and credentials. The rate is also usually set depending on the time range of the lessons.

Starting in this endeavor can be daunting especially if you’re new in the teaching business. Sometimes it can even get nerve-wracking just thinking of what could your student or client possibly think of you. Of course, you want to do your best and you want clients and students to keep returning to you. You want to build that trust so that you can expand your service or business as an online English teacher.

Remember to approach every class with a smile😊. It can get challenging sometimes to start a class on a light note especially if you’re going through something or you’re just having a bad day. But from the other side of that screen, their purpose in meeting you is to learn something from you. You want to make the student’s learning experience a positive one and something that they will remember.

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