Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work from the comfort of your own home?
Although more and more ESL teachers are becoming less reluctant to use technology in the classroom, going completely online is a big step, one that most have never even considered. Some can’t even imagine what it would be like to teach a class and not have your students sitting in front of you. Still, teaching English online is a very attractive possibility for many these days, and it's a choice that is gaining popularity fast among ESL teachers and students, mostly because of the advantages.
Firstly, you have all of the benefits that come with working from home. You save money on commuting costs; mothers can stay home with their kids; you set your own schedule, hours, etc…; you work within the comfort and privacy of your home, in your pajamas or sweats; you have greater freedom and independence...among others.
Thanks to the advances in telecommunications technology and devices, you have the possibility to reach students from across the globe, students who may not have the time to take a regular course, or don’t usually have native English speakers to talk to.
Working at home while you care for your children can be both an advantage and a complete nightmare. It’s great for a mother who has recently had a baby to be able to work from home, but you must be professional and reliable at all times. This means that if you have a student who is paying good money to talk to you for one hour, you’d better be prepared to give your student his or her full hour; you can’t run off to see to a crying baby in the middle of your lesson. Nor can you have kids running around with noisy pets in the background.
Dealing with time zone differences can be a little tricky, particularly if you have Asian students.
Some online payment systems are not available in some countries, so you’ll have to offer students other alternatives.
Although it may be great to get up from bed and get to teach English online without having to shave or change, there’s the inherent risk of spending far too many hours at home and not enough outside socializing; it’s important to go out once in a while, maybe at least once a day, to do some shopping, go to gym, have lunch with friends, play some tennis, etc…
While the pitfalls may seem numerous, if you’re able to handle the issues that may arise when you work from home, you’ll find that the benefits of teaching English online far outweigh the disadvantages.
Things to consider
Online school or on your own?
The very first decision you’ll have to make is whether you will work for an online school, tutoring service, or run your own website. If you want to teach at an online school, you’ll have to go through the application process just as you would for any other school. You'll most likely be required to have TEFL certification and experience. There are websites where all you have to do is sign up and create a profile to attract students, which is very easy to do, but you must realize that your profile may compete with hundreds of others. If you want to have more freedom and ultimately higher profits, then running your own website is clearly the best choice, but you must be prepared to work hard to promote your services and find students.
What are you prepared to offer?
Will you help students build vocabulary, answer grammar questions and clarify doubts, or merely offer students the chance to speak to a native English speaker? Whatever you choose to do, you must be absolutely clear on what it is you will offer, and provide some form of structure, like lessons plans or at the very least some guidelines in reference to what you will help your students accomplish. Although you may come across students who only want to talk (and have you just sit there and listen), this may not be what the majority wants. It is important that you offer what you know best. Are you great with idioms, slang, or specific vocabulary? It’s important to identify your niche.
What technologies will you use?
Online schools usually have their own online platform, usually in some form of chat room. But if you work on your own, you'll need to have an instant messaging service, like MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, or Skype, but also Internet VoIP service for the calls you’ll need to make to practice listening and speaking. Don’t forget that there are video conferencing platforms that are very easy to use like MSN Messenger’s where all you need is a Web cam and a microphone to deliver lessons that are just as real as face-to-face classes. You may also choose to record podcasts or audio files in MP3 format. Explore the possibilities and make use of all of the technological resources available on the Internet.
How much will you charge and how will you receive payment?
Online schools usually transfer payments to your bank account, PayPal account, or use some sort of payment processor. Some may even send you a check. For those who run their own online business, PayPal offers some very useful services, but you may also choose to accept payments through other means like credit cards. As for rates, online English teachers charge anywhere between $15 and $50. Do a bit of research and find out what your competitors are charging. The lowest rates are usually for conversation, with no grammar teaching or lessons.
How will you promote your services?
If you decide to start your own online business teaching English, you won’t find any students unless you promote it. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to do this online:
Advertise on websites with a lot of English learners.
Find online tutor databases, like TutorAgent, sign up, and create an engaging profile to attract students.
Actively participate in ESL forums and always leave your signature.
Promote your business on several social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…
Drive traffic to your website with SEO strategies, PayPerClick campaigns, and other forms of Internet marketing; add a blog to your site and provide useful tips and advice for students.
There has never been a better time to teach English online.
You can set up your own online business teaching English online with a minimum investment and watch it grow. Or work for an established online school. The choice is yours, but the important thing here is that teaching online is no longer the future. It is a reality.
Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for BusyTeacher.org. When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses. Google +.
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I've recently joined an online TEFL platform and I enjoy working for them. Everything is wonderfully organised, created in order to make the teachers' work easier. I usually have 25-minute sessions and, as I'm also teaching "face-to-face" in a private language school, I must say that psychologically it's easier to have shorter lessons. It's also a big pleasure to know each student (and there are many!) really well, and it's like making friends - that's amazing.
Hi Claudia. I just wanted to say, many thanks for mentioning Tutor Agent. As the owner, I wanted to create a site that tutors could use to easily advertise themselves on for free, as tutors are too busy spending time preparing for their students to have enough time to create their own websites. I hope Tutor Agent will be able to help tutors around the world attract more students. I'm overjoyed that it's been mentioned here. I'd just like to add that online tutors must never rely on one source of traffic and should always try and get their ads on as many sites as possible in as many languages as possible. My personal habit was, if a private student couldn't make a lesson at the last minute, I suddenly had a spare two hours that I quickly put to use promoting myself. Tutors could include that as one of their habits too. If they do that, they'll quickly be overrun with students! Thanks again.