Teach English Online

Interested in teaching English online? Find out everything you need to know – from requirements to where to find work – in our handy guide.

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Basics of Teaching English Online

Before we get into the meat of the guide, let’s first look at the basics of teaching English online. It’s quite different from traditional teaching in a classroom, so it’s good to be aware of how the format works.

What does teaching online involve?

Online teaching is the process of educating others via the internet. While some methods involve using written messages (chatting), most online teaching is conducted via video calls. Classes can range from one-on-one to multiple students at once, similar to a regular classroom setup. 

Specifically, online TEFL teaching is carrying out English lessons as a second or foreign language, where a student’s first language is something other than English. If you want to teach online, like for an online teaching company based in South Korea, you should ideally have a TEFL certificate. That’s what sets it apart from other certifications, like ESOL, which is aimed more at teaching English language learners domestically, (e.g. teaching Spanish-speaking students within the US or Canada). 

Why teach English online?

There are a lot of great reasons for teaching online. When you consider the perks, you’ll realise why a quarter of our course graduates go on to teach English online.

We’ve detailed the advantages of teaching English online in another section of this guide, but here are some of the most attractive ones:

  • Teaching English online is a location-independent job. You can work from anywhere, as long as you have a good WiFi connection, making it perfect for those who want to work from home or work while travelling.
  • Teaching English online gives you flexibility and command of your schedule. Whether you’re looking to explore a new career or to supplement your existing income, teaching English online seamlessly integrates into your life as a new income stream.
  • Teaching English online doesn’t have the real pains of working in a physical classroom. No mounds of paperwork, large unruly classes, or cleaning up after students. You won’t even have the hassle of commuting, which helps with having a better work-life balance.

If all these sound interesting, keep on reading to find out how to get started!

Who can do it?

Any fluent English speaker with a TEFL qualification, a webcam, and reliable WiFi can teach English online. Of course, some restrictions apply to certain online teaching platforms, but it's probably not as difficult as you might think. Scroll down to find out more.

Qualifications for Teaching English Online

While anybody can become an online English teacher, the role does come with some necessary qualifications. These are for you to meet the expectations of online teaching companies and clients—either the students themselves or the parents of young learners.

TEFL Qualifications

A TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language) qualification is often essential to work as an online English tutor. Almost all of the major online teaching platforms require teachers to have one.

You want to make sure you have at least a 120-hour TEFL certification from an accredited course provider. You're unlikely to find work with fewer hours or with a Groupon TEFL course that isn't properly accredited.

Moreover, because online teaching is a specific type of TEFL teaching, you'll find it beneficial to take a specialist course that focuses on teaching English online. This can be particularly advantageous if you don't have a degree, as it'll help your CV stand out and attract clients.

While the demand for TEFL teachers online is undoubtedly huge, the growth also comes with increasing applicants worldwide. In other words, you're not the only teacher in the market. So, if you're aiming for success, you'll have to equip yourself with the best qualifications to stand out from the crowd.

Necessary Equipment

Aside from a good command of the English language and a TEFL qualification to prove it, you’ll need to have a laptop or computer, a webcam, some props, and a good pair of headphones with a mic. Your students must see and hear you clearly for you to be an effective online teacher.

Nowadays, most laptops have built-in webcams, but many of them aren’t up to scratch for teaching online. Instead, our suggestion is to invest in a quality external webcam to plug into your computer. To help with the video quality, you’ll also have to invest in good lighting. You can do so by adding more lights to your set-up or moving your setup near some windows.

When it comes to headsets, it’s worth paying a bit more for quality audio communication. Just think, if a student can’t hear you clearly as they would in a regular classroom, will they come back for more lessons? They probably won’t. Do your research, read reviews carefully, and ask advice from other online teachers in our Facebook group to find the perfect headset system.

If you’re teaching children you’ll find props really important. Things like a whiteboard, toys, and flashcards all work great when working with young learners. Plus, if you plan to work for one of the big online TEFL platforms, you’ll need to ensure that your “virtual classroom” is as fun and appealing as possible.

We also have some free online tools for teaching English specifically designed for online English teachers that you may find useful. Feel free to go check them out!

Common Concerns with Teaching English Online

Do you have some questions regarding the requirements to teach English online? Not to worry, we’ve answered three of the most common concerns below!

I don’t have a degree

Yes, many major online TEFL platforms do require their teachers to hold a degree. However, the degree can be for any discipline or field, so you have nothing to worry about if your degree isn't in education or English.

However, not all opportunities will require a degree. There are companies and platforms out there that put more weight on your TEFL qualification and fluency in English. You can head over to our page about teaching English online without a degree to learn how to build an impressive CV without a degree and find companies with more lenient requirements.

I don’t have any teaching experience

As with most jobs, English teaching companies will look for applicants with relevant experience. Nevertheless, plenty of employers out there won't even ask for any previous teaching English Online experience —especially if you already have a 120-hour TEFL qualification to back you up.

Moreover, even indirect experience can also count. For example, do you conduct presentations in your current job? Have you taken care of children before? Do you have experience in training people in the workplace? All of these skills are relevant and will help you stand out.

I’m not a native English speaker

Many online teaching companies look for teachers from the “big seven” countries: the UK, USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. But it’s not always the case. There are a lot of companies that won’t care about your citizenship, as long as you meet their other requirements.

Visit our list of online English teaching companies that accept non-native speakers to get started.

Download our TEFL guide to teaching English Online!

Entering the Online English Teaching Market

There's never been a better time to teach English online. The opportunities are endless, and there is so much room for innovation and growth. If you're someone who loves teaching, practising your craft online is a great way to invest your time.

The market is welcoming to both serious and casual teachers alike. If you're driven, creative, and ambitious, you can find online English teaching jobs that make serious money. However, if you're looking to pick up a few hours a week to supplement your existing income, there's also plenty of opportunities for you to get a slice of the growing market.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers and future of teaching English online.

Demand of the Online TEFL Market

According to global predictions, the online language learning market will be worth a staggering $25.73 billion by 2027, reflecting a CAGR growth of 10.2% from 2020 to 2027. 

With more people learning English and getting online, it's not hard to understand why the online language learning market is booming. There is so much potential for growth and innovation in the industry, making it a very exciting time!

We've witnessed tremendous changes in the last decade here at The TEFL Org. The number of platforms teachers can use to find work has exploded in recent years, and online teaching jobs are frequently posted on The TEFL Org Jobs Centre.

To meet this growing demand, we launched our Teaching English Online Advanced TEFL course back in 2016. As a result, over a quarter of our course graduates now go on to work online, and this is a number we expect to see increase over the coming years.

What contributes to this major growth? Here are the driving factors:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic shifting the education sector in 2020 and beyond
  • The globalisation of the economy, increasing the need for communication across borders
  • Adoption of cost-efficient, technology-based products in the e-learning market
  • Growing spend on the education sector across the globe, making up more than 6% of the global GDP and forecasted to reach $7.3 trillion by 2025
  • Rising internet and mobile phone user base, with 4.55 billion active internet users worldwide (59.5% of the global population), where 92.6% accessed the internet on their mobile devices
  • Preference for bilingual and multilingual employees by multinational companies, pushing students to learn more languages for better job opportunities

Teaching English Online in 2024

2024 looks set to be the best year ever for the online TEFL market. The global pandemic certainly fast-tracked the necessity and desire for online learning, further fueling the rapidly-growing market. People are now more comfortable learning new things online, so we expect new teaching platforms to arise and seek out qualified EFL teachers across the globe.

Teaching English online is a job that’s fantastic for those who want to earn extra cash, work from home, have care needs, and others who prefer a remote work lifestyle. However, the rise of digital nomadism means that teaching English online doesn’t have to mean staying at home.

Instead, countries like Spain, Germany, Seychelles, Iceland and more are opening up their borders to digital nomads. These countries are offering digital nomad visas to intrepid TEFL explorers who want to work online but still want to see what’s out there. While conditions vary from nation to nation, remote workers' growing acceptance is exciting and extremely promising.

This rise of digital nomadism, combined with a growing number of excellent English teaching companies and platforms, means that 2024 is a fantastic time to start teaching English online, whether it’s full-time or more casually. 

Job Opportunities and Companies for Teaching English Online

Now you know what you need to teach English online, where do you find English teaching jobs online?

Given the booming industry, online English teaching companies are quickly popping up left and right. They range in sizes and styles, too—from huge ones that employ thousands of teachers to small ones that focus on more specialist services.

You’ll need to choose the platforms or companies to join, advertise yourself as an online English teacher, and promote the teaching niche in which you want to specialise in (e.g., teaching English Online to adults instead of students or children).

If you're unsure where to start, the table below lists 20 popular online teaching companies and platforms for you to check out. You can compare each company based on the potential earnings and requirements to find what you're looking for:

Male online English teacher posing with car"Subsequent to gaining my TEFL certificate and being accepted as a teacher on italki, I understood that I needed to slow down, perhaps creating homes away from home, integrating myself into communities and building relationships with locals, rather than jumping from place to place, cramming in a few lessons in between capturing the latest popular Insta-shot or visiting the most up-and-coming tourist trap.

Over the last 4 years I have spent a significant amount of time in countries such as Japan, Mexico and Serbia (writing this in Belgrade as we speak!). While doing so, I could take advantage of the flexibility teaching English online had afforded me, setting my own schedule, creating my own lesson material, in addition to, most crucially, determining my own pricing, rather than being restricted by rigid working hours on Beijing time or being limited by a set salary."

David, Digital Nomad teaching English on italki

Company Hourly rate Degree required Lessons provided Students Min. hours per week TEFL qualification required Accepts non-native speakers Previous teaching experience required? Additional requirements Application link
51Talk £14 - £17
($18 - $22)
Yesa tick icon Yesa tick icon Young Learners 10 Yesa tick icon Yesa tick icon Yes Apply
AmazingTalker £12.62 - £78.87
($16 - $100)
Noa cross icon Noa cross icon All ages None Noa cross icon Yesa tick icon 1 year Apply
Cafetalk £8 - £22
($10 - $28)
Noa cross icon Noa cross icon Adults None Noa cross icon Noa cross icon None None Apply
Cambly £7.65
Noa cross icon Noa cross icon All ages None Noa cross icon Noa cross icon None None Apply
English Hunt £10.50
Yesa tick icon Yesa tick icon All ages 10 Yesa tick icon Noa cross icon 4 years Must be US citizen Apply
Engoo £2 - £7.20
($2.80 - $10)
Noa cross icon Yesa tick icon All ages None Preferred Yesa tick icon None Apply
FluentBe £7.20 - £8.70
($10 - $12)
Yesa tick icon Yesa tick icon All ages None Yesa tick icon Noa cross icon 1 Year Apply
Italki* Set your own hourly rate
Noa cross icon Noa cross icon All ages None Preferred Yesa tick icon None Apply
Latin Hire £5 - £9.50
($7 - $13)
Noa cross icon Yesa tick icon All ages 5 Yesa tick icon Yesa tick icon 1 year Elementary level Spanish or Portuguese required Apply
Learnlight £9 - £10.50
($12 - $14)
Noa cross icon Noa cross icon All ages 10 Yesa tick icon Yesa tick icon 2 years Apply

Types of Teaching English Online

Just as there are different types of in-person teaching, there are a variety of online teaching jobs out there. You can work with learners of different ages and abilities, and come across some that are learning for specific purposes like business or academia. Either way, there are generally two types of teaching English online. You can stick to one of these methods or do both of them at the same time, like many teachers do. 

Working for an online teaching company or platform

Most people start by teaching with an online teaching company. These companies connect teachers with students, which makes sourcing easier and more straightforward for you.

You’ll need to apply to work on most of these companies/platforms, similar to applying for any regular job. They’ll ask you to fill out an application form, attach copies of your relevant qualifications, and may even ask you to record a demo lesson for online teaching. Should you come across the opportunity to do so, get tips from YouTube to increase your chances of getting accepted.

There are two major benefits of working on an online platform:

  • The company will source students for you. You might have to market yourself against other teachers on the same platform (depending on the structure of the company), but it can be as simple as logging on, indicating your availability, and waiting for students to come for a lesson.
  • The company will usually have a curriculum already in place. This benefit is perfect for new teachers, easing yourself into teaching and building some confidence. You also won’t have to spend extra time outside of your paid working hours creating teaching materials.

However, there are some downsides:

  • Online TEFL companies will take a commission, which can vary depending on the provider. This is usually around 10-15%, or you will receive an hourly rate with the company’s cut taken beforehand.
  • Pre-prepared lessons can be a downside for some teachers. If you’re looking to gain experience in lesson planning and bring more creativity to your lessons, then it’s best to avoid sticking only to platforms with set lessons.

Weigh these advantages and disadvantages, and try to see if working on an online TEFL company fits your needs and meets your expectations.

Working Independently

You can also work as an independent teacher. Many teachers that choose this path started out working for an online teaching company and gaining some experience before adding or jumping into independent work. 

Here are some advantages to working independently:

  • Working independently comes with more freedom, where you can determine your working hours, teaching style, and overall system. There’s a lot more work involved, but once you get over the initial stages and learning curve, you’ll be on your way to establishing a successful business.
  • With a lot more work comes higher profits. Working entirely for yourself means you keep 100% of the money students pay. You also have more control over how much you charge, meaning that you can potentially earn a lot more.

Still, these are the disadvantages or challenges:

  • You have to build your client base. Just like most freelancers, a client base is something you build up over a period of time. While teachers using online TEFL companies can quite quickly find themselves with a full schedule, this isn’t likely for most people working independently.
  • You are responsible for finding students, which means that you need to understand how the market works and position yourself to take advantage of it. You'll need the skills and patience to build a good website, social media presence, and have an awareness of all promotional channels at all times.

Working independently is essentially starting your own company. If you have the knowledge and confidence to do so, then by all means, go for it!

Teaching online tips from a pro

Experienced TEFL tutor Carl has been working online for years.In this video he shares tips and insight such as:

  • What equipment and software you need to teach English online
  • Ideas for lessons
  • How to get students
  • Where to find work
  • How much to charge for lessons

Pros and Cons of Teaching English Online

Is the life of an online tutor for you? There are certainly a lot of benefits! But here at The TEFL Org, we think it’s best to take an honest and pragmatic approach. That being said, let’s dive into the pros and cons to help you get a better picture.

The Pros of Teaching English Online

You may have a personal reason for teaching English online (like having a passion for teaching young learners or a love for the English language), but these are the 6 main advantages of doing so:

  • Flexible Working Schedule: Working online gives you a lot of control over your own schedule. You can decide when to work, where to work, and how much to work. If you want to take a holiday, no problem! Just bring your work with you and teach alongside travelling.
  • Great Work and Life Balance: For many teachers, a good work and life balance can feel elusive. But when you're teaching online, you're able to choose your hours and make work fit around your life. There are also no long commutes to work, which helps to make more of your non-working time.
  • Good Earning Potential: If you’re willing to put in the work there’s good money to be made by teaching English online. Even if you’re just starting out, it’s already possible to make a living out of it. And with more experience and specialising your skills, you’ll have the qualifications and ability to continue earning more.
  • Easy Way to Get Started in TEFL: If you’re dreaming about teaching English abroad but you don’t feel very confident just yet, then teaching online is a great way to ease yourself in. You can practice what you’ve learned in your TEFL course and build your confidence, giving you valuable experience that will be looked on favourably when applying abroad.
  • Small Start-Up Costs: Getting started as an online EFL teacher isn’t expensive. Once you have your TEFL qualification, all you need is a computer, webcam, and headset. No visa fees, flights, or relocation costs.
  • Save Money: Working from home allows you to save a lot of money. You won’t have to spend on commuting to places, and you’re much less likely to buy lunches and coffees during the day.
Female online English teacher smiling and wearing a headset

"With no prior teaching experience, I completed my TEFL course in September 2018 and immediately applied for jobs online, teaching English to Chinese children. That same weekend I was successful and booked in for an interview.

The application process was easy and having two young children allowed me to use their toys as props and posters as a good background for teaching!

I now work for two different companies, allowing me flexibility and choice and maximising my earning potential. The pay is good, between £12-£20 per hour, I work from home and the hours are perfect. Chinese lessons are popular during their evenings, so for me in France I get to work during the day whilst my kids are at school.

Both companies provide excellent pre-planned lessons with colourful and fun slides, activities and in some cases animal filters so you can pretend to be the animal they are learning about! As all the lessons are pre-planned for a busy working mum like myself life is much easier."

Laura, teaching online from France

The Cons of Teaching English Online

Teaching English online doesn’t come without disadvantages and hurdles. But knowing the challenges prepares you for the job and helps you decide if it’s the right path to pursue:

  • Variable Income: On a salaried job, you know exactly how much money you’re going to take home each month. But with online teaching, you can have a month of earning more than you’ve ever expected, only to drop the month after. All freelancers have to deal with this, so it’s important to set aside money when the times are good, and avoid living from paycheque to paycheque.
  • The Danger of Always Working: While teaching English online can offer a great work and life balance, some people do struggle to switch off. It can be easy to feel like you should always be working. You'll need to have a good routine to help avoid this and make sure that you're regularly getting outside and experiencing some fresh air.
  • Loneliness: Working by yourself can easily lead to feelings of loneliness. Some people aren't made for working from home and need the sociability of working in an office. You need to make an effort to get out of the house regularly to avoid feeling cooped up and seeing people who aren't on the screen in front of you.
  • Slow to Start: It’s unlikely (and inadvisable) to quit a full-time job and expect to instantly be able to make a full-time wage from working online. It can take a bit of time to build up a full timetable of classes. Remember, students are looking for the best teachers, so why would they all flock to someone new on the scene for lessons?
  • Unreliable Students: Different platforms and independent teachers have different ways of dealing with unreliable students. If a student cancels a lesson last-minute, you may not get a penny. Some companies might offer partial or full compensation, but it’s not always the case. Ensure that you investigate a platform’s policy on canceling students before signing up. And if you’re teaching independently, have a cancellation policy in place to avoid being out of pocket.
  • Working in Odd Hours: The biggest demand for online English lessons comes from Asia. This means that the peak times for teaching will vary depending on where in the world you are. If you're in Europe, then peak times fall around mid-morning to mid-afternoon, which can be ideal. However, if you're in North America, these hours fall in the very early hours, from around 3 am to 8 am—much less convenient!
  • Tech Issues: The bane of the lives of all online English teachers. Tech issues (whether it’s your equipment going on the blink or your WiFi failing you) will inevitably cost you money at some point or other as an online teacher.

Download our TEFL guide to teaching English Online!

Earning a Salary by Teaching English Online

Teaching English online salaries depends on a number of different factors. Education, experience, and your marketing skills are just some of them. So it’s important to be aware that not all teachers are able to charge the same. Teaching English online with a company or platform is a great way of getting started as an online teacher, but if you’re looking to maximise your earnings, you’ll want to aim towards building up your own business as an independent teacher. This way, there’s no middleman—you’re fully in control of your earnings. We’ll take a look at how much you can earn teaching freelance, as well as with an online company.

Earning as an Independent Teacher

As an independent online English teacher, you are fully responsible for sourcing your own clients and creating lesson plans. All of the money a student pays for a lesson will go directly to you and you’re the boss when it comes to setting your rates—so there’s much more potential to grow your earnings.

So, how do you set your fees? As important as this is, setting your fees can feel like a real challenge at first. If you set your rates too high then you’ll struggle to get clients, but set them too low and you can find yourself inundated and not earning as much as you could be.

Here are a few important factors to take into account when determining your fees:

  • The Type of Lesson

    Learn more

    Teachers are able to charge more depending on the type of lesson. Typically, the more expertise required and the greater the amount of preparation work involved, the higher the fee. For example, Business English lessons usually cost more than conversational classes that don’t require as much preparation.
  • Your Experience

    Learn more

    As is the case in most professions, the more experience you have, the more you earn. You can’t just jump straight in with high fees—you’ll need to build up your skills and experience first to convince clients that you're worth the premium price tag.
  • Your Qualifications

    Learn more

    You have to sell yourself as an online English teacher, which means making sure that your CV is as attractive as possible to get paid better. Unless you’re prepared to work for below minimum wage prices, you need to have at least a 120-hour TEFL qualification.
  • Your Student Base

    Learn more

    A student from Thailand isn’t going to be able to pay the same as someone from Germany. If you’re considering specialising in teaching language learners from specific countries, then you’ll need to take the average salaries into account and adjust your prices accordingly.
  • The Amount You Need to Earn

    Learn more

    Working out how much you need to cover your current outgoings can help guide you when setting your fees. It’s unlikely that you’ll immediately find yourself earning a full-time wage, as most teachers build up their hours over time.

Different Types of Lessons and Fees

There are a lot of different types of online English lessons—from typical conversational classes to niche topics like English for aviation or entrepreneurship.

Let’s take a look at how much you can earn teaching some of the more common types of lessons. But bear in mind that a number of factors (such as those listed earlier) can determine your earning potential:

  • Conversational Classes
    (£8+ or $10+ per lesson)

    Learn more

    These types of lessons involve giving students the opportunity to practice their conversational skills, so they don’t usually involve in-depth grammar study or a great deal of lesson planning. But you’re not just chatting away or sitting back and simply listening to the student speak. As the teacher, you need to guide the conversation and ensure that the student gets the most out of the lesson. Teachers who are able to master this skill can increase their earnings by a lot.
  • Business English
    (£20+ or $25+)

    Learn more

    Teachers specialising in specific niches like Business English can earn high wages. But these types of lessons generally involve quite a lot of preparation work. You don’t necessarily need business experience yourself, but you’ll still need to carry out a needs analysis and lessons have to tailor your lessons for the client.
  • Exam Preparation
    (£15+ or $19+)

    Learn more

    Students working towards specific English proficiency exams will often look for additional lessons in the run-up to the exam date. The most common of these are the IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge proficiency exams. Teachers looking to specialise in this type of lesson need to be familiar with how these exams are assessed and structured. Downloading past papers will help you understand how these exams are conducted.
  • Interview Coaching
    (£15+ or $19+)

    Learn more

    These lessons are sought after by people who have job and university interviews lined up and are looking to polish their interview skills in English. These are typically conducted using role-play scenarios to emulate the format of an interview.
  • Trial Lessons
    (£1+ or $1+)

    Learn more

    Some teachers can offer students the opportunity to sample their teaching style before paying full-price for lessons. But we advise you to charge at least a small fee for these lessons. Making them free can result in teaching students who have no intention of working with you in the first place (they’re just trying to get a free lesson!).

Take the First Step to Teach English Online Today

You may be overwhelmed by all this information. But if there’s one thing to remember, it’s that the first step to becoming an online English teacher is getting an accredited TEFL qualification.

Our 120-hour Premier Online TEFL Course

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Get in touch!

With our wealth of experience teaching across the globe, training teachers, and developing courses, you’ll be in safe hands with our team of experts. We understand what you need from your TEFL training, and will put you on the right track towards teaching success.

And if you want to know more about teaching English as a foreign language, download The TEFL Org Brochure to get started on your TEFL adventure.

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