I was sitting in a cafe a few years ago when a friend showed me a payment he received from something called “VIPKID.” It was for $800 USD. Not bad I thought! That was almost on par with what we were both making as English Teachers in Thailand.
My friend was able to almost double his income from the comfort of his apartment without having to run around finding extra classes and negotiating payment and appropriate times to meet students.
Instead, VIPKID setup the hours a week before hand and it was all strictly online. Apparently, this VIPKID website was a new platform for teaching English online. At the time they had around 500 teachers (now they have 50,000!) so I decided then to join because my close friend told me he was making over $20 an hour from simply teaching English from his laptop.
No running off to school, no homework, no quizzes, no following up for payment with side classes and you can teach on your own schedule.
You just teach and go.
So I went through the process myself a few month later to get situated as an online English teacher. Fast forward 2 years, I’ve now been an online English teacher with VIPKID ever since then and comfortably make $2,000 a month without having to work that hard.
This in combination with other income sources allows me to live a nice life abroad without needing a job if I don’t want one.
If you’ve been considering teaching English online I’m here to help. This free content will answer your questions with regards to how you teach English online as well as the best companies to teach English online with. Ready? Let’s get started.
What are the requirements to teach English online?
The requirements vary depending on the country but since China is the biggest player at this moment here is what is needed for ESL teachers:
Be a native English speaker from America or Canada ideally.
Now, VIPKID is famous for having this stipulation and it does seem to be a strictly VIPKID requirement. This is good and bad. It’s good because it helps position VIPKID as the market leader, it also allows them to charge a premium and pay their teachers well simply because they have the teachers that Chinese parents in particular want: Americans with an American accent.
If you’re not from the US or Canada don’t fret because there are plenty of other online teaching companies. But regardless, being a native English speaker is the first step to becoming an online English teacher and most online companies are geared towards teaching Chinese children; and simply put they just prefer an American accent.
You have a University Degree from an accredited institution.
To teach English abroad requires you to have a degree. This is no different for being an online ESL teacher. It’s a basic requirement that companies need to legally meet in order to take you on as an online ESL teacher.
This is a new development but for teachers working with the likes of VIPKID, Magic Ears or Palfish you’re going to start needing to obtain a TEFL certificate. Your best option would be to go through the online teaching company if they offer one or to get your TEFL certificate through TEFL International.
Online teaching gear – The essentials
You don’t need that many things to teach English online. There are a few essentials but you should checkout our guides on the various items that are very helpful for an online teacher
This guide covers the best headphones for teachers who conduct online class.
Teachers have specific needs to laptops and computers in general. If you’re looking to the best laptops for teachers, we have you covered.
Whiteboards are simple, cheap items that can come in really handy when teaching online. We cover all your options in your whiteboards for teachers guide.
Teaching online you’re usually dealing with kids. It’s really helpful to have some simple props ready to demonstrate various concepts like colors, prepositions and what not.
You’ll need a simple clean background. That is distraction free. But a lot of teachers opt to making room in their home into a classroom. Here are some teacher background ideas.
Lighting – Important
Lighting is quite important as an online teacher. Your laptop or an overhead light may not be enough. You’re in luck though, there are a lot of very affordable, cheap video lighting ideas for an online class.
You have positive, fun attitude and good energy with good TPR
You’re teaching children. You need to be happy, smiling and fun. Honestly it comes a lot easier once you’re in class with a student as kids are naturally silly. But being able to have fun and be a bit silly is a pretty big requirement, particularly when you’re going through the application process so the companies can trust that you’re a good fit for their students.
TPR which stands for total physical response is absolutely essential as an online English teacher. You need to use your body to convey information. Like, “what do you see” and put your hand over above your eyebrows like you’re looking out into the distance. It may seem silly, but it helps convey information and makes online teaching way more effective.
For more, checkout our guide on what is TPR.
You have some sort of teaching experience
While I was an ESL teacher for a few years, you don’t necessarily need to have experience as a teacher in a classroom. Why? Because it’s advantageous to take people with varied experiences. So if you’re a coach or a school teacher or an after school tutor go right ahead and apply.
The main thing is that you’re able to convey that you have some sort of relevant experience which would make you a good fit for teaching online.
How Much Money Can You Make?
You can expect to make 20$ an hour roughly plus any bonus pay depending on the platform. So to get to around $2,000 USD you would need to be teaching about 22 hours a week. This actually quite doable, particularly abroad in Asia because the teaching hours are in the evening.
Also, while 22 hours may seem like a lot, particularly if you’re coming from the ESL world, it’s not that demanding when online because you’re not going to be tired out from teaching and there is no homework to grade no “extra” work you need to be doing that you would normally do as an ESL teacher.
When you actually get paid most companies do a wire transfer to your bank account or they will pay you by PayPal.
Ruby From VIPKID make $3,000 – $4,000 a Month
Ruby Steph La Cruz is an online English teacher based in Spain. Ruby actually got started online teaching while she was studying for her masters degree in Spain. But instead of following the traditional career path, she decided to go all in to teaching online.
Ruby is able to make $3,000 a month with ease for a few reasons:
First is she lives in Spain instead of the United States or Canada. This is a critical advantage for an online English teacher because Ruby is able to teach during the day instead of early morning as teachers do in the U.S. and Canada. As such, she can teach 6 hours a day Monday to Friday and 8 hours on Saturday. Students start being available at 4 pm Bejing Time. It’s outside of peak time of course, but if you’re a highly rated teacher you can get booked.
Second, when I was asked her directly for any advice on how other teachers could replicate her success, she said that she does 60% short notice classes for VIPKID. What a short notice class is exactly, is that if you open a class and it gets booked within 24 hours, VIPKID will give you a $2 bonus for the class. This ends up being a $4 an hour bonus which adds up quickly.
Another fun fact about short notice classes is that they are usually trial classes. If you teach a short notice class and the student signs up, VIPKID will give you a $5 bonus for that student signing up. It’s not unusual to have a short notice class booked, then canceled and then rebooked for the same time slot.
So a short notice class can end up being $13 for the class + $4 for the previous short notice class canceled + $5 for the student signing up. $22 for a 25 minute period. Do this twice and you just made $44 for one hour.
Last, she got a raise. VIPKID pays up to $9 per hour base pay excluding bonus. The only way you can get a raise is to maintain a high rating and to teach a minimum of 25 hours per week for a whole contract. So it’s difficult to get a raise, but not impossible if you’re teaching 6-8 hours Monday to Friday.
Ruby is an example of working harder and smarter. But there are other teachers who work to build assets that can be sold. Teacher Jack got his start as an ESL teacher. He then transitioned to running his own language school for about 2 years before transitioning to being a full time YouTuber who sells a language course to non native speakers.
His YouTube channel is very popular with non-native speakers and he is one of many online English teachers who use YouTube, a website, an email list and a product in order to make more money online as a teacher.
There are numerous big YouTube channels that all follow the same business format. If you’re looking to get away from just relying on online teaching companies as a way to make an income, look into doing something a bit more creative.
You could do something like VIPKID or any online teaching company of your choice and then build out a YouTube for non native speakers which you can then sell your time for 1 on 1 classes.
Nancy Taylor is a popular YouTuber who creates tutorials and how-to content for online English teachers as well as prospective online English teachers.
Her primary income source is VIPKID. But in order for her to scale her income up, she does not ONLY teach with VIPKID. Her strategy has been to be an active member of the VIPKID community. Constantly taking on new roles and be apart of new initiatives VIPKID roles out.
For example, she is an official ambassador for VIPKID and gets paid money by VIPKID for creating videos and reaching specific milestones with those videos.
She also makes money from referrals and ad revenue for her YouTube channel. As such, shes been able to effectively diversify her income with VIPKID and YouTube.
VIPKID and numerous other platforms have special opportunities for you to get involved with as a way to increase your income. Be aware of these opportunities and be pro-active in applying for them.
Make Money Teaching With These 5 Companies
Alright if you made it this far and you think meet the qualifications, let’s get into the 5 best companies to teach English with online. There are plenty of options to teach English online mind you.
You don’t have to strictly limit yourself to these companies, BUT these companies are the best overall from my online teaching experience as well as from various surveys of current online English teachers.
*Please note, things change and while we do our best to keep teachandgo.co updated and relevant you should always refer to the website in question for pay rates and various other company specific policies
Learn more here
VIPKID is the top option for North Americans looking to teach online. The pay is structured a bit differently depending on your qualifications and the amount of classes you teach.
Class is for 25 minutes, so in one hour you can teach 2 classes. All teachers start with a base pay plus a completion bonus and a bonus for teaching more that a specific amount of classes per month. The way the platform works is that it pairs you up with a student and in the actual classroom you’ll be given teaching slides which you’ll have an opportunity to review in advanced as soon you’re booked.
To get booked you simply open hours week to week and parents book you.
|PAY RATE||PER 30 MIN||NOTES|
|Minimum||$7-9 per class||This is decided on your interview and qualifications|
|Participation||Up to $1||You get a bonus for simply teaching class on time.|
|Finished Class||Up to $1||If you teach more than 45 classes per month, you get $1 bonus per every class|
As you can see while the base pay may be something like $8 per class. If you simply teach 8 hours per week you’ll be getting $20 an hour.
The positives of teaching with VIPKID:
There are quite a few things I like:
Week to week schedule. This is great because work online, if I want not teach as much a following week for whatever reason. Maybe I have trip to go on or some last minute thing came up, I can change my schedule as needed.
Great pay and always on time. This was a small concern I had when starting. Would they actually pay me? The answer is yes. I’ve always been paid on time with NO issue.
Fantastic community! VIPKID is not just a company, it’s a fun community to be apart of with a helpful forum and staff that cares about your success.
The lessons plans are made for you. This is huge. Lesson planning is tedious and time consuming. To simply have this already taken care of makes teaching with VIPKID an easy option.
Seasonal bonus pay. During various holidays they run incentives to get teachers to open hours.
Cons of teaching with VIPKID:
The hours are after school for Chinese students. That means early morning if you’re in America which is simply tough to do depending on your situation.
Fines if you miss class or if you cancel a class in under 24 hours. You’re allowed 6 cancellations per 6 month contract.
Qkids is big platform that has over 100,000 Chinese learners aged between 5 and 12 years old. The company and not the parents book you. Class is about 33 minutes long in all with a scheduled 10 minute break in between back to back classes.
Some teachers complain about this as it makes it impossible to teach 2 classes in 1 hour. BUT if you’re looking for something flexible and part time QKids is an excellent choice as they’re very flexible with needing time off and having to cancel classes and what not.
Learn more with our Qkids review.
Magic Ears is yet another excellent platform that pairs you with a student in a 1 on 1 setting. The starting pay is $18 to $24 an hour including bonus (which are easy to get just by doing a good job). They have different ranks for teachers, so teachers who have moved beyond the entry level of “freshman” and are ranked as Juniors will above receive a raise with each new contract!
Next the company books the teachers so if you’re worried about not getting enough hours you don’t have to worry as much with Magic Ears. Your guaranteed hours will increase as your rank increase. The rank increase is based on a percentage of supervisor & parent feedback. All new teachers start out as Freshmen rank and have limited slots open.
After you teach your first 10 classes, you will rank up to a level known as Benchmark. The advantage of this is that you can open a full schedule, but your actual booking rates will be low. After that rank is the rank of Junior where you’re booked 50-60% of the time.
After 100 classes you can rank to senior if you’re in the top 20% of teacher feedback, and you’ll be guaranteed 80% of your open slots to be booked. The last and most coveted rank is Magic Master and it is reserved for those in the top 5% of feedback and has 100% of opened slots guaranteed.
What is the cancellation policy? This is the main selling point of Magic Ears. You’re able to cancel penalty free in cases of illness or emergency.
Learn more with our Magic Ears review.
Palfish – The fastest growing company
Apply to Palfish here
Palfish is a phone app. They have two programs, the free talk program where you have conversations with adults or the more competitive kids course where you teach children.
The kids course pays a lot more and is a more traditional setup comparable to other online teaching companies. You open hours, get booked and then teach kids a curriculum based lesson.
The free talk is simply conversations on demand with adults. It’s a great way to supplement your income part time.
Learn more with our Palfish review.
Cambly – Casual conversations
Apply to Cambly here
Cambly is another online teaching company favorite. If you’re not interested in teaching kids are want something where you can earn a few hundred dollars extra a month having conversations then take a look at Cambly.
Cambly is also ideal because they are simple a platform that connects language learners with native speakers for conversation. As such, you’re not considered a teacher and you don’t have to have a degree or any experience to get started.
Is China the only game in town?
China is the main country for teaching online at the moment. There are opportunities to teach online in different time zones and for different countries. I know for Americans on the West Coast teaching online is a bit too early where as those on the East Coast find the hours perfect. You simply need to become an early riser.
If you want to find companies that have better time zones, checkout our online teaching companies page where we list out different countries and potential opportunities.
Do I Need to Speak a Second Language?
No. Anyone who has taught ESL knows that this is not a requirement. In fact it’s better if you don’t speak the local language as the students have no choice but to speak to you in English. The main requirement is that you’re a native English speaker. How do they verify this? It’s based on your passport! If you’re from a majority English country, you’re considered a native speaker.
Do I Have to Create the Teaching Material?
No. There is minimal prep time and the material is prepared for you in advanced. Your job is to review the teaching material and prepare for class by understanding the lesson objectives. When starting out this takes time, but as you do class after class it gets much easier.
So while you do not have to prepare any teaching material, you are expected to have relevant props and items to help you teach effectively.
What’s the Interview and Overall Application Process Like?
This depends on the platform obviously. But the first step is to submit your resume. If the company is interested they will contact your for a quick interview about your background and qualifications. If you get pass the interview most quality platforms have some sort of demo or mock class you’ll need to do in order to become a teacher.
Again, not all the platforms are the same but they do tend to follow the same process. For the demo class what a lot of platforms will do is that you’ll have to submit a quick video of you teaching a class or they will have you teach a class with an actual teacher who will pretend to be a student. Again, checkout the websites listed for more information.
Make Money Teaching English Online
Teaching English online is a wonderful opportunity to make a side income and to also make a small difference in the world and in the lives of other people. If you’re an American or Canadian I highly suggest you check out VIPKID first. Also consider getting a TEFL certificate.