In our new blog series ‘Online Job of the Month’ we share the most interesting online jobs with you. You might think only web developers and graphic designers can be digital nomads. But there are actually a wide variety of interesting (and profitable) jobs out there for aspiring Digital Nomad Girls. This month we will tell you all about working as an Online English Teacher.
We talked to Emma Wolno, Laura Lee and Gery Ciftcioglu who are successfully working as Online English Teachers while travelling the world. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
What exactly is an Online English Teacher? What do they do?
Emma says that as an Online English Teacher, essentially”I teach children in China English lessons over a video conferencing platform. Because of the huge demand in China, there are lots of Online English Teaching companies.”
So what does Emma do? “My duties are teaching 25 minute lessons to 5-12 year olds. I teach them vocabulary, help them practice their speaking skills, and a little bit of grammar as well.”
Gery does similar things in her job in that, “I conduct one on one lessons over the phone or Skype. There is little lesson preparation where I have to get familiar with student’s goals and previous lessons, and after the lesson, I have to write a short report of what we’ve done and what the homework is as well as what the student is supposed to do in the next lesson.”
Laura says that DaDa (the English teaching company she works for) makes things easy for her, in that “All the lessons are prepared so I can roll out of bed twenty minutes before classes start, put on my blue t-shirt and I’m ready to go! When I first started I’d spend a little time flicking through the lessons but after a while they become so familiar even that isn’t necessary anymore…
I spend a few hours teaching then head to a cafe to write my after class assessments. This usually takes around twenty to thirty minutes (longer if I get sucked into Facebook!)”
Laura also adds that, “With DaDa you get assigned regular students, most of mine I’ve been teaching for an entire year now. I love that I get to see them progress and you really do start to feel like part of the family! I’ve been introduced to my students’ families, friends, pets and I’ve even been taken on a holiday or two (via the webcam of course).”
That sounds so lovely!
What kind of skills do I need to become an Online English Teacher?
The most important skills are:
- good command of the English language
- being able to conceptualize a lesson, break things down, and explain ideas well
- understanding what students need and want from you as a teacher
- being friendly and enthusiastic!
Laura mentions that, “Don’t worry if you don’t have any teaching experience, it obviously doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t a requirement!”
All agree that you have to be warm, enthusiastic and have high energy. “The kids are often young and maybe haven’t interacted with foreigners that much, so they expect you to be very friendly and animated for the younger children. ” Emma added.
Laura believes that, “If you enjoy working with kids, have lots of energy and are able to adapt to different situations, you can teach online.”
In terms of working online, Gery adds that “you need to be skilled in planning your time and in working well independently.”
That is a job requirement for most online or remote-based jobs! I speak from experience. 🙂 If you need help with productivity while working online, check out our blog post on that here.
Do you need any qualifications or certificates?
Laura shares that mostly it depends on the company; some have requirements that others don’t. “Most companies, including DaDa, require a Bachelor’s degree in any subject, it doesn’t have to be in teaching. DaDa also usually accepts a TEFL certificate and teaching experience as an alternative,” she adds.
Gery agrees that “Most companies require you to have a CELTA or TEFL certificate in addition to a Bachelors degree, which could be in anything.” Emma adds that, “A TEFL or TESOL course will definitely help you get hired, but wasn’t required for my VIPKID.”
All three of the interviewed mention that your Bachelor’s degree does not have to in teaching or English language – you just need to have a degree in something!
What about being a native English speaker? Gery mentions, “It also helps if you are a native speaker, but for many employers, that isn’t a necessity. Some companies are interested in hiring bilingual teachers as well.”
Laura suggests to those interested in becoming an Online English Teacher: “If you’re new to teaching it might be worth getting an online TEFL to improve your chance of being offered higher pay. You can get one on Groupon for a few dollars and they don’t usually take long to complete!”
Emma also recommends, “You could use mentoring, tutoring or even babysitting experience to show you can work with young kids. I had done a few months of teaching English in Cambodia, but I also used my two years as a Snowboarding instructor when I applied!”
Where do you find jobs as an Online English Teacher?
This is probably one of the first question you’d like answered before getting into any field, as a nomad or not. And the answers might surprise you.
The demand is apparently huge, which is great news for you!
Emma says, “You can find them online by researching the various companies and applying. The demand is so huge as more and more kids in China are learning English, so there are tons of companies that are almost always hiring. Some are better than others, so be sure to review them carefully and read a few blogs. There is also a lot of great information of YouTube!”
Laura recommends that “Social media and word of mouth are the way to go! There are plenty of Facebook groups, YouTube channels and blogs for online teachers. I recommend joining a few and seeing what people have to say about the different companies. You can find out a lot from speaking to current teachers.”
Gery echos the statements of the other two that doing your research is key, “I began by reading in the facebook group ‘Online ESL Reviews‘. Its members shared very valuable information about schools, conditions and personal experiences from the jobs. Then I went to the remote jobs websites. TEFL.com also publishes online job offers. Another one is teachaway.com but the best source of information are the people in the Facebook group.”
So in summary: do your research! Google for reviews, ask in Facebook groups, and make sure you apply to a company that you really love.
How much can I earn as an Online English Teacher?
“If you are a native speaker willing to teach kids, you may be able to earn as much as 25-30 USD an hour. If you are experienced and have a good, clear accent but you aren’t native and you don’t want to work with young children or their parents, you may be able to make up to 16 USD or euros an hour” says Gery.
Laura works with DaDa and says that there, “the maximum pay advertised is $25 per hour. Realistically though, starting rates are more likely to be between $15 and $20 depending on your qualifications, experience and performance in your demo class.”
Emma says, “If you do this job part-time or as a side-hustle such as I do, you can expect to take home an extra $400-$1000 per month. The hourly wage can be anywhere from $14-26 to USD an hour.”
So in general, the hourly rate for being an Online English Teacher seems to be around the range of $14 – $20, with the highs being at $25 – $30.
What about bonuses? Laura says, “A lot of companies also offer bonuses for various things! With DaDa, we get bonuses for converting trial students, retaining regular students and we can even collect points to exchange for Amazon vouchers.”
How do Online English Teachers price their services? Hourly, per project, per word?
“Most companies will give you a base rate determined on your experience and education. From there you can get small bonuses to increase your wage. It might be possible to charge higher rates if you worked directly with individuals to teach/tutor them English, but of course it’s harder to find clients and with a company it’s all sorted for you” Emma says.
Laura says that, “Generally companies pay by class. Some companies only pay for the classes you have scheduled, others such as DaDa, pay standby time. This means that if at any point during your contract hours a class is cancelled or a space isn’t filled you are still guaranteed to get half pay for that time.”
Gery says that for her it’s “usually per hour. This may vary from employer to employer but some companies let you negotiate your price and others are very rigid.”
Is it easy to work as an Online English Teacher while travelling?
So… what’s it actually like to work as a traveling Online English Teacher? Are you able to balance traveling and working set times?
“Absolutely! All you need is a laptop with a webcam, a headset, a decent wifi connection and maybe a puppet or two. A quiet space is definitely preferable but I know teachers who have taught in hostels, airports and even on a train through India, so anything is possible!
I’m currently travelling around Eastern Europe and this is my only job. I left the UK with zero savings and I have been able to support myself and even save a little money too! I travel slowly and stay in AirBnBs so working full time suits me.
If you want more flexibility, I’d recommend choosing just a few contract hours (four hours a week is the minimum) and adding extra hours to your schedule when you find places with great wifi” Laura suggests.
Gery agrees and says, “I’d say it is relatively easy. You need to have a good internet connection, a quiet environment, and a good set of headphones with a microphone.
Emma also agrees with the other two, saying “Definitely! The great thing about VIPKID is that they don’t mind if you take time off, and no one will really notice. It’s not like a traditional job where you ask for time off, you either open your schedule for classes or you don’t. So sometimes I’ll work a lot one week and then take some time off.
If I want to do the job while on the road, that’s possible, too. My only recommendation is to make sure you stay in an Airbnb or get a private room, hostels would not be ideal. VIPKID likes you to have props in the classroom, so I recommend buying a mini whiteboard and a few lightweight supplies to bring along. I’ve also started using a software called Manycam, which allows you to display graphics and rewards on your screen, which is perfect for traveling as you don’t need to bring anything really!”
So the consensus is yes! Being an Online English Teacher is a nomad approved job.
What would you recommend to other nomad girls who’d like to get started working as an Online English Teacher?
Laura says: “Do your research.” There are hundreds of companies out there and some will suit you better than others. Decide what is important to you and go from there.
She suggests asking yourself:
- Do you want to teach adults or children?
- Would you prefer to teach one to one or groups?
- Do you want to teach on a laptop or from your phone?
- Do you want to use pre-prepared lessons or make your own?
Laura says, “Answering these questions will help you figure out what you’re looking for in a company and help you narrow down your search! Once you’ve found a company that suits you, find a recruiter or referrer who will help you through the process. Having someone to answer all your questions and give you advice can help take a lot of stress out of the process.
If you’re interested in working with DaDa and would like me to help you through the application process, feel free to send me an email or a message on Facebook! Working online can be lonely so I recommend finding a support network. Most companies have their own Facebook groups and these can be a place to meet other teachers, share student stories and ask questions.” If you’re thinking about working with DaDa, you can find Laura’s information below!
Emma also agrees that the first step should be to research. She says, “I would recommend doing some research about the different companies and seeing what would be a good fit for you. If you are concerned about your lack of teaching experience, you could start taking an online TEFL course to boost your confidence and get yourself classroom ready.
The application for VIPKID is the hardest part (it’s quite lengthly) so I would highly recommend reaching out to an experienced teacher for tips on the interview process. If you’d like to chat with me I would be happy to refer you and give you some tips on how to get hired,” so make sure to reach out to Emma if you need tips! Her info is below as well.
There you go future Online English Teacher. If you’re a friendly, enthusiastic person who likes teaching and has great English, teaching English online might just be the perfect digital nomad job for you. I hope we answered all your questions, if you have any more, please leave them in the comments and our girls and I will try our best to answer them all.
If you’re curious about even more jobs that you can do online, check out our series on the 50+ digital nomad girl jobs to inspire you!
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To find out more about the girls you can find their author bios below: