Teaching English Online – The Honest Pros and Cons

Is teaching English online worth it? What are the specific pros and cons new teachers need to be aware of when it comes to securing a teaching job with an online teaching company?

Here at Teach and GO, our team of remote teachers have decided to give you a high level over view of the honest pros and cons of teaching English online. While on YouTube and within various Facebook groups you may see people raving how online teaching is the greatest thing ever, there are some issues to know.

Online teaching pros and cons

So in this pros and cons of online English teaching, we are going to cover the specific aspects of this industry as it relates to the work involved:

  • Work from home
  • Teach abroad as an independent contractor
  • Lessons and material are made for you
  • No minimum or maximum hours
  • Set your own schedule
  • Teacher pay and salary
  • Various levels of experience required
  • Technology required

Work from home

With online teaching you work from the comfort of your home. Most online teachers setup an office of some sort to double as their online classroom. By working from home, it keeps costs low as you don’t need to travel anywhere.

Pros

Online teaching is very convenient as you can simply teach from your laptop. In addition, you only have to wear a t-shirt, have some props and understand the lesson material well.

You don’t have to commute anywhere either which makes it a wonderful and flexible side gig that you can do before your job.

Cons

The cons of working from home as an online teacher are that you will typically have to wake up early if you’re based in the US and Canada as most online teaching companies serve the Chinese market.

Also, you’ll need to invest a little in props as well as develop an online teacher background and you’ll need to get some good video lighting.

Nothing too expensive, but keep in mind that though you’re working from home, their are some small associated start-up costs (that you can write off as an American) as opposed to paying to commute.

Can teach abroad as an independent contractor

We have various guides on how to go abroad and teach English, check out our guide on the best countries to teach English abroad. One great thing about online teaching is that the hours are much better abroad in countries like Spain, Thailand or Vietnam.

Pros

Instead of early mornings, you’ll be teaching afternoons or evenings online. Not only can you provide a better teaching experience for your students, you can also teach more hours than you could in the United States or Canada. Making it a more enjoyable experience for you and your students.

In addition, you can have a job as an ESL teacher while also maintaining an online teaching position with a company like VIPKID for example.

Cons

Most of our remote teachers prefer online teaching to having an ESL position at a school. The same or better pay, and no tests, quizzes, grades and homework to deal with. But long term, it’s not a viable career option. It’s a good side income and nothing more.

We also have had teachers who grew tired of the solo experience of teaching from home all the time and wanted to get a job at a school again to have that social experience.

We’ve also had teachers who were doing full time hours abroad in Spain with VIPKID for example, only to have their booking and pay decrease as competition grows. Leaving them in the situation of needing to secure a job.

Lessons and materials are made for you

Fun fact, this is how we came up with the name Teach and GO. We liked that as an online teacher you don’t have to do anything other than understand the lesson material and teach class.

Pros

No lesson planning, no grades, no homework no nothing. You just teach and go. One thing that is fantastic about online teaching is that you can teach back to back classes without any lesson prep once you understand the lesson material.

All online teaching companies employ professional instructional designers who create compelling, effective online lessons. They do the proverbial heavy lifting.

Cons

While it is nice (and easy) to have the material developed for you, long term it’s a great skill to learn how to do yourself. If you take the time and do the difficult work of preparing your own online lessons you can charge a much higher hourly rate for your time.

A next level for online teachers is to either move away or supplement their income by teaching their own lessons on Fiverr, Outschool or by creating their own courses.

No minimum or maximum hours

When VIPKID first started they required a minimum of 7.5 hours a week. You’ll still see some online teaching position require a small minimum amount of hours, but in general most companies allow you a lot of flexibility.

Pros

A lot of us are actually professional teachers. We work abroad at international schools or in the USA as teachers at elementary schools or high schools. We simply don’t have 4 hours a day, everyday to teach. Thus having no minimum is wonderful as we can teach on the side that is most convenient for us.

Cons

A lot of people look to online teaching to be their full time income. The golden age of online teaching was 2015 to 2018. That’s when demand was high for online teachers as most did not know about it and pay was high as well due to supply and demand.

As the industry as become saturated with teachers, it’s a bit harder for teachers to get fully booked like they used. Also, with the increased amount of teacher, this pushes wages down. For example, VIPKID changed their pay to better reflect the market.

Set your own schedule

Another benefit of online teaching that is often pushed is the ability to set your own schedule. While this is true if you’re teaching on iTalki or Outschool, it’s a bit misleading if you’re working with an online teaching company.

Pros

You can set what day you want to teach English online as well as the space of time you’re available to teach. You just open slots and the parents book you or your teaching company will book hours based on your availability.

Cons

The period of time to teach English online is usually 4 pm to 8 pm Beijing time as most companies are based around the needs and demands of Chinese students.

So while you can set your schedule to some degree, you’re limited in what times you can teach. Also, unlike being a freelance web designer where you work on your projects when you want, with teaching you have to teach at the time you’re booked.

Teacher pay and salary

With teaching online you can make a lot of money per hour. There are numerous teachers on Outschool, Fiverr and iTalki that are making $30 to $50 an hour.

Those who continue to work with online teaching companies can expect to make anywhere between $15 to $22 an hour depending on experience and the online teaching company.

Pros

A good hourly rate that is worth your time. Work from the convenience of your home and make a great side income to help pay off debt. Online teaching is a wonderful side gig and depending on where you teach, you could make it into a full time income.

Cons

They pay for online teaching companies has decreased as the saturation of online teachers has increased. Also, these companies usually have strict cancellation policies for class and will deduct pay if you miss class for technical reasons or because you are sick.

Various levels of experience required

You can find online teaching opportunities that require no experience and no degree. See our guide on the best companies where you can teach with no degree. This is great because talented, motivated people can start earning money and helping people.

Pros

As college cost soar in the United States, getting a degree is a costly option if there is no clear return on investment. It’s excellent that there exists opportunities to work and earn a good income that don’t involve working for minimum wage or going massively into debt.

Cons

Most online teaching companies require you to have a degree. This is because of specific legal requirements that ESL teachers have to meet. Online teaching companies are still the most easiest and lucrative way to earn money as an online teacher.

Also, most online companies that say “no experience or degree required” typically pay the same or even less than minimum wage. See our iTutor review to learn about how this conglomerate pays so little.

Technology required

For online teaching, some basic technology is required. Good internet, a modern laptop, a quality pair of headsets, maybe a microphone and a webcam.

Pros

Most of the technology required you already have. In general, most teachers simply opt to buy a new pair of headsets that have a microphone, but it’s up to you and what your needs.

If you’re setting up a home office and don’t want to use a laptop, then consider an all in one desktop for online teaching. In general, the tech side of things is easy and start-up costs are low.

Cons

Technology not working is normally the biggest stressor when teaching online. Your internet suddenly stops working and you have class in 5 minutes or one of your pieces of technology suddenly has an issue and so forth.

As you have to teach when you are booked, this makes it imperative that your technology and internet work when it has to or you’ll have to face the consequences of a missed class like reduced pay, penalties and potentially being fired.

We had an online teacher who’s power plug for their laptop broke last minute, requiring them to drop everything and rush to the store so their laptop would not die in the middle of class.

Online teaching pros and cons conclusion

So that is it for Teach and GO’s honest overview on the pros and cons of online teaching. Obviously the pros outweigh the cons, but we wanted to create a straight forward, no nonsense guide to the positives and negatives associated with teaching English online.