7 Downsides to Teaching English Online

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 04/22/23 •  Teach Online

Teaching English online has so many positives. You can work online anywhere, get paid an excellent hourly rate, and it’s very efficient concerning your time. No commute, no homework or tests, no following up with students. You teach and go.

But with that said, there are some downsides to teaching English online, and we’re realistic here at Teach and GO. We don’t want to make this online teaching business thing out to be the perfect job. It’s not. So with that said, here are our seven downsides to teaching English online:

North Americans Preferred

At Teach and GO, a small portion of our business refers teachers to online teaching companies. There are so many online teaching companies worldwide, but one thing holds.

Nonnative speakers want to learn with native speakers. If you were trying to learn Spanish, would you like to study with someone from Poland who speaks Spanish as a second language, or would you instead learn from someone from Spain?

Of course, you would want to learn with someone native speaker of the target language you want to know.

This holds with English, yet teachers who speak English as a second language hate this. We get emails regularly from Europeans and Filipinos who feel they are not being given a chance because they don’t speak English as a native language.

There is no easy solution to this. The biggest online teaching companies in the world are based in China, and Chinese parents want their students to learn with North Americans because of their accents and because English is their native language.

Self Employment Taxes

You’re going to have to file self-employment taxes as an independent contractor. This is simple enough to do if you’ve been self-employed before. But if this is your first time having self-employment income, you will be surprised by how confusing and difficult taxes are.

If you’re going to be earning thousands of dollars a month from teaching online, you need to get yourself an accountant, and you will need to set aside 15% of your online teaching income to pay taxes.

You may even need to start paying quarterly if you earn enough monthly. Again, this is why you need an accountant. Your best bet would be to take care of this before you start making a lot of money from online teaching so you’re not blindsided by a $1000+ tax bill in April.

Stuck in your room

Unlike other types of remote work, you can relax at a co-working space or cafe and interact with people. As an online teacher, you will work alone in your bedroom or home office at specific hours.

This is not the worst thing in the world but a downside. While other creative types, like web designers, can work in a co-working space and interact with one another. It would help if you always had a quiet room and an internet connection, and you need to do it at a set time instead of whenever you want.

Early mornings are annoying.

If you’re doing something like VIPKID part-time in America, you will teach early mornings. It’s not too much of an issue if it’s strictly part-time. But if you want to do 20 hours or more a week, you’ll get annoyed with waking up at 5 am every day to teach English online.

To teach online full-time, we suggest you live abroad, where instead of early mornings, you teach in the evening and at night. This is an enjoyable setup as you’ll have the morning and afternoon free, and you’ll be alert and awake for your evening class.

The hiring process is involved.

It’s interesting how some people view a $ 25-a-hour job as some “silly online thing,” yet we have encountered teachers who never took the hiring process seriously. This is not a job at McDonalds. You’re teaching children and must be qualified to do so.

As such, most teachers fail to complete the online teaching pipeline as it is designed to separate professional teachers from those who want a quick way to make money online.

If you apply to an online teaching company, expect a two or 3-week-long onboarding process from start to finish. It’s involved but worth it once you’re ready to teach.

Raises are challenging to get

Pay is always a sensitive issue. Teachers regularly gripe about how much they feel they should be making. With VIPKID, for example, your starting pay will be between $7-9 an hour, depending on a few different things:

Do you have a TEFL certificate? What about a degree in education? Any experience teaching? Remember your overall performance in the interview has implications as well.

Once you get offered a pay rate, you can either accept it, reject it or try to negotiate it to something higher. Whatever you decide to do, know that getting a raise with an online teaching company is challenging.

Each company will have a standard for what you need to meet to qualify for a raise. This typically involves teaching more than 20 hours a week, not missing classes, and maintaining a higher teacher rating. Here is how you get a raise with VIPKID.

Getting enough hours is challenging for new teachers.

Many online teaching companies tend to over higher, which results in teachers needing help to get all the hours they want. While not a big issue for most, if you want to go full-time with teaching online but can only get 20 hours instead of 30, you may find that frustrating.

Getting enough hours is also sometimes a challenge for new teachers who need more time to establish themselves on the platform. If you’re on a platform where the parents book the teachers, you may only get enough hours if you do your best to stand out.

See our guide about the best practices for your VIPKID self-introduction. For tips on how to stand out on any platform where the parents book instead of the company.

Disadvantages of Teaching English Online – Conclusion

So those are the main disadvantage of teaching English online. Again, every opportunity has pros and cons. If you’re a web designer, for example, you’ll need help getting clients, which could be stressful as your income fluctuates monthly.

With online teaching, however, having enough students week to week is never an issue for established teachers.

In general, though, the pros far outweigh the cons. So if you’re qualified to teach English online, I would get started today.

Ready to take that first step? Read our How to Teach English online guide as starting point.

Editorial Staff

I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.