I often get messages from readers asking what I do for a living, more importantly, what I do to be able to afford to travel so much. The answer is never simple; I do many things, depending on the time of the year, and what opportunities come up. If you stalk my Instagram, it may look like all I do is travel and have fun. But most of the time, those shots were all taken in between a lot of work; one thing that I am always doing is teaching English online.
Online English education – I’d even say any online language education – is blooming. Many people who don’t have enough English education at home are choosing to enroll their kids, or themselves, into online English classes, because it’s very beneficial for business and travel.
I teach English online to kids in China. I’m writing about this because I sometimes post about this in my Instagram stories and often get asked about it. Since the online English education industry in China is blooming, I’ll focus on what it’s like to work with a China-based company, teaching kids. These companies also happen to offer some of the highest pay in the industry.
So, what does it take to teach English online, from the comforts of anywhere in the world?
Just because you speak English, doesn’t mean that you can teach it. There are many different companies you can work for and each one has their own unique set of requirements.
For example, I teach with VIPKid, headquartered in Beijing, China. The students are kids aged as young as 3 years old to around 15 years old. To work with VIPKid you need to have these requirements:
- A strong Internet connection
- A good headset with mic
- A bachelor’s degree
- A TEFL / TESOL certificate is recommended, but if you don’t have one, they offer their own training
- Eligible to work in the US or Canada (but you can still work from anywhere else in the world)
- A quiet place to work in
- Able to work during China peak hours – for me, that turns out to be from 6 to 9am EST on weekdays and 9 pm to 9 am EST on weekends. Most companies are flexible and let you choose the times you want to work; I’ll talk more about this further down.
Most other companies will have similar requirements.
The Pros of Teaching English Online
You can work from anywhere
As long as you have good lighting, a strong Internet connection and a nice background as per your company’s requirements, you can work from anywhere in the world, whether it’s from your home or from a boat that’s sailing the caribbean – and yes, there are people who live on boats and teach online!
You can make your own schedule
Some companies are more flexible than others, but you can generally choose the days and times you want to work. At VIPKid, we can just open all the slots we are available to work, and parents can just book your open slots. There is no minimum number of hours we have to work. Some other companies do require that you work a certain number of hours per week.
You can work in your PJs
The students only see you from the chest-up, so whatever you wear on the bottom is up to you. For my early morning classes, I usually just throw my teaching sweatshirt on over my PJs.
You can earn a lot of money
Online ESL teaching companies usually pay well, especially the ones based in Asia. They’ll usually offer a base rate of $16 to $24 USD per hour, plus bonuses and incentives.
Low stress factor
Many companies already do the prep work for you – all you have to do is take the material, go through it with the student and make sure they complete and understand it. Not having to prepare lessons takes a huge burden off your shoulders.
You’re basically getting paid to read and sing with cute kids and be appreciated for it.
The Cons of Teaching English Online
The time difference
Most of the highest paying online English teaching companies are based in China, so you will be working during China peak hours. If you’re teaching kids, the peak hours will be after school – 6 to 9 pm their time during weekdays, and 9 am to 9 pm on weekends. If you’re in North America on the east coast, there is a 12-hour time difference. If you’re on the west coast, there is a 15-hour time difference.
It’s not always stable
Your schedule may be fully booked at the same times every day, or may vary every week. Everything depends on the company you work for and the students you teach. Personally I’ve gone from teaching one class per week to being fully booked 7 days a week (my choice) back to only teaching about 5 to 8 hours a week. At the beginning of 2020, there was a rise in demand for online classes as the country became affected by the Coronavirus and people had more time to take classes because they stayed home. As the rest of the world started to quarantine, more teachers became available, meaning some teachers received less work. As China resumes normality, many online teachers are finding themselves with even less work, as people are eager to be outdoors and see family and friends they haven’t seen for many months.
If you get sick, you might still have to teach
Many companies including VIPKid have strict class cancellation policies. You are entitled to a certain number of class cancellations per contract (usually 6 months) but, you need to provide proof of a good reason – a doctor’s note, an official notice about a power failure, a death certificate and so on. Some companies require you to cancel classes a certain number of days or weeks in advance, and some charge you if you break the rules.
It can be hard to look happy and energetic 100% of the time
Especially if you choose to wake up at 3 am or pull an overnight-er. Teaching online is different from teaching in person – your students only see a part of you for a short time and they look forward to spending class time with you. If you teach kids, they are most likely being forced to take classes with you outside of their normal school hours, so your smile and energy is what keeps them coming back and prevents them from getting bored in class.
I’ll be writing more about teaching English online and what you can do if you’d like to try it – stay tuned! If there’s anything you’d like to read about on the subject, let me know by dropping a comment below!
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Cover and Pin image credit: ViPKid/Facebook
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