Online English teachers’ experiences
Becoming an online English teacher is really taking off as an employment path both for TEFL teachers looking for a more flexible and/or mobile lifestyle, and travelers wanting a way to fund their adventures.
We published a blog post last month on how to become an online English teacher, which included requirements and types of jobs (Spoiler alert – Yes, you can teach online without a degree, and you can teach online as a non-native speaker. Read the post for details!).
We also mentioned several online companies you can work for. In this post, teachers working online for various companies spill the beans on their experiences, the good and the bad about the online teaching companies they are with.
So this is straight from the horses’ mouths. Online English teachers’ experiences from real teachers working online.
Melanie and Andrew are online English teachers for VIPKid
Melanie and Andrew from Life’s Sweet Journey, teach English for VIPKID while exploring the USA in their RV.
Who do you work for?
I work for a company called VIPKID (as does my husband), which is a company based in Beijing that hires English speakers in the states to teach English online to students in China. We are technically contractors for the company. We set our own schedule and are paid per class taught.
What is the age range that you teach for VIP Kid?
We teach kids as young as 4 and as old as 12, sometimes 13. Due to the schedule we choose to work most of our kids are between 7 and 10. We work early morning classes (which is night for them), so we don’t get as many of the younger students.
How do the VIP Kid classes Work?
The classes are all done via the computer, in a video chat style class set-up. All of this is hosted through VIPKIDs website. The teacher then runs through an established set of slides, depending on the current level of the student, teaching the target material for that lesson. All curriculum is created by VIPKID and as the teacher you facilitate by engaging with the student and teaching the material.
Each class block is 30 minutes, but teaching time is supposed to range from 25-28 minutes to give the teacher time to get to their next class. Instruction is one-on-one and we will usually see 8 students in a morning (more or less by a few depending on how many of our classes get picked up).
What is the pay range?
Our pay is $20 an hour, but its more of an average. You are actually paid a base pay per completed class and then have the chance to make an extra $2 incentive depending on how many classes we complete each month and if we get our class notes submitted on time. A starting rate could be anywhere from $15-22 an hour depending on your teaching background.
You do not need a teaching degree to work with VIPKID (though you do need a Bachelors degree), but it does help when setting your pay.
How many hours do you work per week?
We set our own schedule, but due to the time difference between where we are in the US and China we can only work between 9pm and 10am each day. We tend to work early mornings (4am-10am) and then will do weekend night classes (9pm-11pm). We could work more if we were willing to take classes overnight. You basically open as many time slots as you prefer and then parents will select you to teach their child. We could work as little as 30 minutes a day or as much as 13 hours.
Our slots fill pretty consistently now, the only times we typically have classes not get picked up is our 9:30 am slots, which for them is 9:30pm. It did take a little while to build a consistent schedule, but after about a month we both had fairly full schedules.
We enjoy the flexibility of being online English teachers, which allows us to have our days open for hiking, adventuring, and exploring wherever we may happen to be. The early mornings can get a little tiring and we do go to bed pretty early these days, but it’s worth it!
VIP Kid has largely closed down now due to changes in the online teaching rules for China. Many teachers are moving freelance now. Read more of how this works in Valentina’s post
Eddie teaches English online for Fluentbe
Hi, I’m Eddie and since August 2018 I have worked for Fluentbe, an online English school for Polish adults. It is a great job that allows me to work from the road as I travel. My partner Kelli and I travel overland in a converted van (most recently in Mexico) so flexibility is key to our jobs.
Why do you like about teaching English online for Fluentbe?
One reason I love working for Fluentbe is because the students are very motivated to learn. In a country where access to native level speakers hasn’t always been readily available, a new generation is clearly excited to take advantage of the increased affordability and access to learning that technology offers. Most of my students are driven professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Classes are either one-on-one or in small groups of no more than four which is ideal from a teaching perspective. Teachers are able to set their own availability and accept or decline regular offers to take on new students or groups. One-on-one classes are organized directly between student and teacher providing flexibility. Group classes are on a regular program providing a stable schedule of classes.
The support provided by the school for teachers is very good. The school supplies a full curriculum and teaching materials for every class. It is at the discretion of the teachers and students however to adjust the curriculum to suit the needs and goals of the individual. Additionally, they provide an online learning environment where students can review class materials, complete homework tasks and receive feedback from their teachers. The team at Fluentbe is extremely responsive and helpful, and I feel supported as a teacher.
Personally, volunteering as a tutor in Poland is how I first began teaching English. I am fond of the culture and people, so I am enjoying working with Polish students again.
Read our post to find out more about teaching English in Poland.
What are the downsides of working for Fluentbe?
The only downside of Fluentbe is that the pay is lower than many online English schools. My starting pay was $10 USD an hour, which is lower than minimum wage in my home country of Australia. After a year of working for Fluentbe, the company was receptive to negotiating a higher rate and my pay has increased to $13 USD an hour. While the pay is still not as high as some other entry level teaching positions, it shows that the company is interested in retaining and supporting good teachers as best it can.
What are the requirements to work for Fluentbe?
Fluentbe is quite flexible with regard to requirements for teacher’s hardware, qualifications and experience. There is no nationality requirement. Their ideal candidate has a university degree, a teaching qualification (from university or a qualification like TEFL or TESOL) and at least one year of experience with teaching, in particular online teaching. However, they are really interested in finding passionate teachers that will engage well with students and can make learning a rewarding and enjoyable activity.
Read on our advice on the range of online courses you can take and what to look for in a TEFL course.
Courney was an online English teacher for Q Kids for 6 months
Why did you like working for Q Kids?
One of my favorite things about QKids is how flexible they are. I set my own schedule and could drop a class within 24 hours if necessary. There are no repercussions for taking time off. Another bonus, QKids schedules your classes. You don’t have to worry about finding students, they do the work for you. The lesson plans are easy, fun, and do not take much preparation. Lastly, the staff is amazing. I received prompt responses to questions and concerns. I always felt supported in my teaching role.
What are the disadvantages of teaching for QKids?
Some disadvantages of QKids are that you must live in the US or Canada which is not great if you are a nomad or plan to travel. Also, the morning hours are painful. I did not enjoy waking up at 4am and 5am. If you’re a morning person, this might not be an issue for you. Lastly, I did not like the rating system. The parents or students may rate you low on things that you have no control over. For example, if their internet connection is bad or if QKids is having a technical issue. Bad reviews affect your pay. But, QKids is constantly changing the platform to adapt to teacher’s comments and concerns.
How do you become an online English teacher for QKids?
In order to work for QKids you must; be eligible to work in the US or Canada, have a Bachelor’s degree or above (in any subject), have prior teaching experience (doesn’t have to be direct teaching experience), able to teach 6+ hours a week, and have stable internet. A teaching certificate (TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA) is preferred, but not required. If you are interested, here are my tips for getting hired by QKids
One reason for teaching online can be so non-EU citizens can live in the EU. Read our stories of non-EU teachers working in various European countries.
Stephen Schreck worked for Wonder Kids English
Who are Wonder Kids English?
Wonder Kids English is a company that allows teachers to work remotely teaching English to Chinese kids over Zoom. The kids and teachers are paid based on skill, and how well they get on with the teacher. This is handled through a trial lesson that lets the parents assess the teacher’s skill and personality. However, since the company vets teachers, this usually isn’t a problem. As for the curriculum Wonder Kids using a mixture of their own curriculum that they have developed and vocabulary Wonder book series. All teaching materials are provided. And no lesson plan is required. However, if you show up unprepared the parents might complain.
What are the good things about teaching online for Wonderkids?
One advantage I think about WonderKids is that you don’t have to have a TEFL to teach. All you need is a reliable work ethic, decent internet, a positive attitude, and a passion to teach. All the lessons are done remotely, which means you can work anywhere in the world. Bear in mind though, that the students are in China so teaching in some parts of the world might mean early mornings. However, you have the advantage of choosing how many hours you want to work each week.
Once hired you are required to sign a contract, however, the contracts are only six months. I worked for Wonderkids for over a year. It was a great way to earn some extra cash while working from home.
Stephen Schreck is the writer behind Copenhagen Rocks.
Not sure if you want to teach English online? Find out more about different types of TEFL jobs.
Jocelyn is an online English teacher for Cambly
Intrigued by the idea of teaching English on Cambly? This online platform allows students from all over the world to access affordable English lessons and conversation opportunities with native and fluent English speakers. Below are the requirements to become a tutor, some advantages and disadvantages of teaching on this platform, and a bit about what to expect!
If you have additional questions please contact me directly on Instagram @Teaching_Nomad24 or through my website https://www.teachingeflnomad.com/
- To teach on Cambly you must be a native or fluent English speaker. No degree or teaching certificate is required, however, additional certifications may increase your bookings.
- Teachers create their own schedule and have the freedom to work any hour of the day. Since the student’s on Cambly live in every time zone no hour is too late or too early!
- Working on Cambly allows you to meet people from all over the world. I have had the pleasure to teach students from Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Turkey! It is a great way to connect with people from diverse backgrounds.
- You have the opportunity to teach both children and adults on Cambly. I love the variety this offers.
- If you feel uncomfortable teaching a student you can contact Cambly support and block the student. This will make it so they cannot book future classes with you.
- Cambly pays weekly via Paypal.
- Cambly pays considerably less than many other online ESL companies. While this may not be an issue if you live in an area of the world where the cost of living is low it may be difficult to live off of the $10.20-12 an hour pay in other areas.
- You are hired as an independent contractor. This means you do not receive health benefits and are responsible for keeping track of your earnings and the amount you owe in taxes each year.
- Bookings are not guaranteed. You are responsible for creating an attractive profile to entice students.
- You are not paid for lesson planning.
What to Expect:
When you sign up to be a tutor on Cambly you can indicate your teaching style and the type of instruction you are qualified to give. This can be anything from conversational practice to grammar instruction. Cambly has resources for tutors as well as lessons that students can choose to complete with a tutor.
In my experience, I have found the majority of students wish to increase their fluency and focus on conversational skills. Asking your student about their goals and what they hope to get out of your time together will help you decide how to best offer corrections and instruction.
In addition to Cambly’s regular platform, they also offer a children’s course. After teaching on the regular platform you may be invited to apply for this Kids program. Unlike the regular platform, the curriculum is provided so you do not have to create your own lesson plans.
How about teaching English in China? Several teachers tell us the advantages and disadvantages of their schools in our post.
Hannah teaches English online for Italki
I have been working as an online English teacher on Italki for the last nine months. Italki is, in my opinion, one of the best companies to teach English for. They offer freedom and flexibility that is second to none.
Italki allow you to set your own schedule completely and it does not have to be the same each week. You can choose to work Monday and Tuesday one week, Saturday and Sunday the next. You can also choose to work a different number of hours each week and choose to take holiday from Italki whenever you like. You don’t have a set holiday allowance, you are completely flexible. This freedom is the main reason I work for Italki.
The main disadvantage of Italki is the competition. There are many other teachers listed on Italki and so standing out from the crowd can be difficult. This also means pricing is competitive. Although you’ll find some teachers charging $20 plus per hour, most are in the region of $10-15 per hour.
The commission on Italki is 15%, meaning 15% of your earnings per lesson goes to Italki. You do receive 100% of the money for trial lessons, which is significantly better than other companies which often don’t pay for trial lessons at all.
There are no requirements to teach on Italki, you do not need to be a native speaker or hold a degree or TEFL certificate. However, they have two types of teacher: a community tutor (no qualifications) and professional teacher (must have a TEFL or degree).
Read more about Hannah on her blog Hannah’s Happy Adventures
Are you an online English teacher? Tell us your experience in the comments
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I’ve been thinking about branching into online teaching for a while now but not quite managed to take the plunge due to being unsure about how to transfer my normal classes and teaching style into an online class. A couple of companies here I hadn’t heard of before so something else to look into. It’s just annoying that a lot of companies ask for only US citizens.
Hi, i was wondering which is the best online school for starting off my career?
Any of those that do not require experience.