What to expect from teaching English online in 2023

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about teaching English online. Here at The TEFL Org, we’re not in the business of making false promises – we want our students to have all the facts because we know that preparation is the key to teaching success. 

The online teaching market is full of great opportunities and, for those prepared to put in the work, it really can be incredibly rewarding. Our students who have gone on to achieve online teaching success have loved the flexibility it affords them. This can be balancing life as a working mum like Laura; having the funds to travel as a digital nomad like David; or being able to pursue a new path after being furloughed last year, like Poppy.

But we don’t want you to have unreasonable expectations about teaching English online. It would be misleading for us to let you believe earning £25 an hour as soon as you start out is likely. Or that establishing yourself as an online English teacher won’t involve some hard work and perseverance! 

This article is intended to help you understand the current state of the online teaching market and what to expect from teaching English online in 2023. We’ve written it in the hope that, equipped with all the facts, you’ll be better placed to find work teaching English online and join the ranks of our other successful teachers like Laura, David, and Poppy!

Is there still a demand for online English teachers?

You might be wondering if there is even a demand for English teachers in 2023? The answer is yes, there absolutely is! 

Over the past two years – as the world started to adjust and adapt to the “new normal” created by the pandemic – more and more people have moved their learning online. This change has driven demand for online English teachers but at the same time, there’s never been more people looking for online work. This is due to several different reasons, from rising unemployment to the desire for remote working, as well as people reevaluating the importance of their work-life balance. 

If you’re considering teaching English online in 2023 then it’s important to be aware that it’s currently a very competitive market. You’re not going to find a job as easily as you might have a few years ago, you’re not going to start off earning £20+ an hour, and you won’t go straight into earning a full-time wage. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom! If you learn everything you can about the online teaching market and what to expect, then you’ll be better placed to get started on the road to online teaching success. And while it’s important to have realistic expectations when starting out, there are still great opportunities to be had in online teaching if you are willing to put in the preparation, effort and work. 

Why should I become an online English teacher in 2023? 

Before we get started on what you can expect from teaching English online in 2023, let’s look at some of the reasons you might want to consider becoming an online teacher in the first place. 

You might be looking for a new career direction or perhaps you’re hoping to find an exciting side-hustle or part-time job. Maybe you want to supplement your full-time income so you have a little something extra at the end of every month. Or maybe you got so used to working online during lockdown in the UK that you can’t imagine ever going back to the 9-5 office life. Whatever the reason, teaching English online can be incredibly rewarding.

A woman teaching English online

The pros of teaching online

Have you ever logged onto a social media app to be greeted by a sun-soaked image posted by a digital nomad – laptop on the beach, cocktail in hand, living what seems like the dream life – and wondered, ‘how can I do that too’? Beaches aren’t known for having strong WiFi connections (essential for online teachers!) but you can certainly travel the world as a digital nomad with TEFL. 

We all know that what you see on social media isn’t necessarily the truth, but there’s no denying that the popularity of becoming a digital nomad has grown significantly over the past few years. And, while the pandemic might have put most people’s far-flung travel plans on temporary hold, it’s also been responsible for an increase in the number of remote workers: that is, people no longer tied to desk jobs.  If you’re looking for flexible work that can be done from anywhere (so long as you have access to good WiFi and a headset) teaching English online might be the perfect solution. 

Aside from the freedom to travel, teaching English online also lets you connect with students you wouldn’t otherwise be able to, sometimes on the other side of the world. Not only will you have the satisfaction of helping your students learn a new language, but you’ll also get to experience other cultures. However, like anything else, online teaching isn’t for everyone.

The cons of teaching English online

It’s important to know the reality and downsides of becoming an online English teacher too. For one, it can take longer than expected to build up your hours and students… and see a decent amount of money in your bank account. 

Another thing to consider is your schedule. Online teaching can be very flexible but, depending on where you live and where your students are based, you’ll need to consider the time difference and most popular teaching hours. 

Some teachers, especially those who have never used an online teaching platform before, might also find delivering the same lessons over and over again a little boring. Freelance teachers don’t have this problem as they’re in control of their own lessons and materials, but as a teacher for an online company, you’ll need to stick to the lesson plans provided for you. 

Finally, it’s worth considering that, as an online English teacher, you won’t receive the same benefits you might be used to in other types of work. This can include paid holidays, sick pay, pensions and insurance. There’s also very little in the way of job protection. 

What do you need to teach English online?

If all of this has left you undeterred, the next step is to find out what you need to teach English online in 2023.

The basic requirements

Unless you’re thinking of becoming a community tutor with a company like italki (you can find out more about online English marketplaces like this a little later), the minimum requirement you’ll need to teach English online is to be a native or fluent English speaker and to have completed a 120-hour TEFL qualification

However, just ticking these two boxes might not be enough to make you a successful online English teacher in 2023. Chances are, you’ll need to go the extra mile to make your CV stand out against the scores of other people applying for an online teaching position. 

How can I boost my chances of becoming an online English teacher? 

Are you a native English speaker? Do you have a degree? Do you have any previous experience teaching English? Or do you have any experience teaching any other subjects? If you answered no to any of these questions then you will need to think about how you can gain an edge over other candidates who are applying for the same role. 

A native English speaker with a degree and some experience under their belt might not find it too hard to find work online with a 120-hour TEFL qualification. But, particularly for non-native speakers and non-degree holders, finding work with a 120-hour qualification alone can be a struggle. 

In this case, one of the best ways you can boost your CV is to consider a Level 5 course instead. A Level 5 TEFL course allows students to study TEFL in more depth, making it ideal for those with no prior teaching experience. 

You can also boost your chances of becoming an online English teacher by undertaking some advanced training, such as our 40-hour Teaching English Online course. These courses are designed to give you all the information you need to teach online, including how to plan lessons, how to promote yourself online and how to set up your own teaching website. 

If you’re not sure what TEFL course is right for you take our quick quiz!

Help! I can’t find a job! What am I doing wrong? 

If you’ve been trying to find an online English teaching job for a while with no luck, there are a few things to consider:

You will find lots of online teaching groups on Facebook where people are complaining about not being able to find work because of a ‘crowded market’. This can be concerning to read! But it helps to get a bit of perspective on this.

If you have no previous teaching experience but are unwilling to work for less than £15 per hour, you’re going to struggle to find a job. If you’re a non-native speaker who cannot provide evidence of your proficiency in English then you’re going to find it hard to impress a potential employer. And if your TEFL course cost you just £20 from a budget provider that isn’t accredited then, chances are, your application will end up at the bottom of the pile! 

In our experience, the most common reason that people are unable to find work teaching English online is that they have either started out with unreasonable expectations, they do not meet the requirements, or they are unwilling to put in the work required. While this might sound harsh, it’s very often true! 

A man teaching English online

Can you earn a full-time wage teaching English online in 2023?  

If you’ve thought about becoming an online English teacher but always wondered if you can actually earn a full-time wage doing it, you’ll be happy to hear the answer is yes, you absolutely can! However, it’s important to understand that you probably won’t be able to do this immediately, especially if you have no prior teaching experience. 

Online teaching companies don’t usually hire teachers on a full-time basis. Typically, you’ll open up your schedule and students will be able to book a slot. As a new teacher, it will take a bit of time to build up a student base and fill up your schedule. It’s really important at this stage to ensure you don’t put a toe out of line.

What do we mean by this? Well, online companies will penalise teachers for missing lessons, being late, and even for not being available enough. One black mark against your name at the start can be hard to recover from, so it pays to be careful! 

As you begin to build up your reputation and get good reviews, you’ll find that you start to fill up your schedule and earn a more stable income. But this doesn’t happen overnight and we don’t recommend putting all your eggs in one basket, which leads us onto our next point…

How do I get started teaching English online?

We recommend working for an online teaching company to anyone just starting out. This is the easiest way to get your foot in the door and begin building experience. 

It’s also a good idea to work for multiple companies at the same time instead of relying on just one. This way, you’ll be able to work more hours and make more money, at the same time as figuring out what platform suits your teaching style best. It also helps to have a backup company in case anything should change with one of your employers. For example, the recent changes to regulations for teaching students from China online saw several platforms let large numbers of their teachers go. 

You may need to compromise on pay and work for less than is ideal to begin with in order to build up experience, which at this stage must be your priority. The reality is, if you’re new to teaching you’re going to start off at a lower hourly rate. This can be especially true if you’re not a native speaker, you don’t have a degree and/or any previous experience. 

The below table lists many of the most popular online teaching platforms and their requirements. If you find yourself struggling to secure a job, don’t worry! You can also look apply to platforms like Skima Talk or italki, which are essentially online marketplaces that allow teachers to set their own rates. These are a good option if you don’t have a degree or any experience. 

Should I teach with an online company or go freelance? 

Online teaching companies will pay you less than you could earn as a freelance teacher. You might compare the potential hourly rates of both and think going freelance is a no-brainer – the earning potential is so much more! But it’s important to first be aware of what online teaching companies actually offer.

As a freelance teacher, you’re entirely responsible for marketing yourself and sourcing students. You need to create your own curriculum and lessons, source your own materials and plan your schedule, as well as set up systems and tools for delivering lessons. 

On the other hand, if you work for an online company, they’ll take care of all of that for you. All you have to do is set your availability, show up on time and deliver your lessons! 

So, yes, the earning potential for freelance online English teachers can be significantly more because you keep 100% of what students pay. However, there’s also a lot more work involved! Those who are willing to go down this route can definitely reap the rewards, but it’s not for everyone. Freelance online teaching success doesn’t happen overnight, and many of the most successful freelance teachers built their experience up working for an online company first. 

A few things to keep in mind

At the end of the day, the online teaching market doesn’t operate all that differently from other industries. The more qualified you are and the more experience you have, the more you can earn. If you go into it aware of the state of the market and understand what to really expect you won’t be disappointed.

Here are a few tips to help you get off to a good start teaching English online:

  • Make sure to do your TEFL course with an accredited and established provider
  • Consider additional training to help you stand out, particularly if you aren’t a native speaker or don’t have a degree
  • Prioritise gaining experience, which may mean working for less than is ideal at the start
  • If you’re a non-native English speaker make sure you have evidence of proficiency, such as an IELTS score
  • Understand that it takes some time to build up hours and a student base
  • Persevere! It will pay off eventually! 
  • Don’t forget, if you have any questions or need some advice you can always get in touch with our knowledgeable TEFL advisers through LiveChat or by emailing advice@tefl.org.

Check out our guide to teaching English online to find out more!

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