7 Downsides to Teaching English Online

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 08/22/19 •  Teach Online

Teaching English online has so many positives. You can work online anywhere, get paid a good hourly rate and it’s very efficient with regards to your time. No commute, no homework or tests, no following up with students. You just 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 7 downsides to teaching English online:

  • North Americans are preferred.
  • Self employment taxes.
  • Stuck in your room.
  • Early mornings get annoying.
  • Hiring process is involved.
  • Raises are difficult to get.
  • Getting enough hours could be hard for some.

North Americans Preferred

Here at Teach and GO a small portion of our business is referring teachers to online teaching companies. There are so many online teaching companies in the world but one thing holds true.

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

Of course you would want to learn with someone who is a native speaker of the target language you want to learn.

This holds true with English yet teachers who speak English as a second language hate this. We get emails on a regular basis from Europeans and Filipinos who feel they are not being given a chance due to the fact that 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 learning with North Americans because of the accent and also because English is the native language.

Self Employment Taxes

You’re going to have file self employment taxes as an independent contractor. This is a simple enough thing to do if you’ve been self employed before. But if this is your first time having self employment income you’re going to 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 for in taxes.

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

Stuck in your room

Unlike other types of remote work where you can relax at a co-working space or cafe and actually interact with people. As an online teacher you’re going to be working alone in your bedroom or home office at specific hours.

This not the worst thing in the world, but it is a downside. While other creative types like web designers can work at a co-working space and interact with one another. You always need a quite space, an internet connection and you need to do it a set time instead of when ever you want.

Early mornings are annoying

If you’re doing something like VIPKID part time in America you’re going to be teaching early mornings. If it’s strictly part time it’s not too much of an issue. But if you’re wanting to do 20 hours or more a week you’re going to get quite annoyed with waking up at 5 am everyday to teach English online.

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

Hiring process is involved

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

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

If you decided to apply to an online teaching company, expect a 2 or 3 week long on boarding process from start to finish. It’s involved, but it’s so worth it once you’re ready to teach.

Raises are difficult 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? Don’t forget 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 decided to do, just know that getting a raise with an online teaching company is difficult.

Each company will have a set standard for what you need to meet in order 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

A lot of online teaching companies tend to over higher which result in teachers not being able to get all the hours they want. While not a big issue for most, if you’re wanting to go full time with teaching online but are only able to get 20 hours instead of 30 hours then you may find that frustrating.

Getting enough hours is also sometimes a challenge for new teachers who simply need a bit more time to establish themselves on the platform. If you’re on a platform where the parents book the teachers then you may not get enough hours if you don’t do your best to stand out.

See our guide about the best practices for your VIPKID self introduction. for tips on how to standout on any platform where the parents do the booking instead of the company.

Disadvantages to 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 have difficulty with getting clients which could be stressful as your income fluctuates month to month.

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

The editorial Staff at Teach and GO is a team of teachers with a broad range of experience led by David Unwin. We have been creating helpful advice, guides and tutorials for teachers since 2018.