How we got started teaching English online
It’s an interesting story about how we went from teaching English in Taiwan to teaching English online while seeing the world!
Back in the States, we were working 8 to 5 jobs. We didn’t have enough vacation time available to see the world like we wanted to so we said farewell to our employers and began our adventure with the idea of teaching English in Taiwan.
Our hopes were high until we arrived in Taiwan and realized we didn’t want to commit to a year long contract and be working six days a week because how is that any different from not being able to see the world back at our 8 to 5 jobs? It seemed like an even worse situation than what we left back home!
Back to the drawing board!
Our life got flipped turned upside down Fresh Prince of Bel-Air style and we re-evaluated what we wanted to do. Instead of living with Uncle Phil, we consulted Uncle Google and discovered teaching English online.
The absolute best part about teaching English online is that you can work from anywhere! We can travel from country to country or one day return home and still have a job. The only things we need are our computers, headphones, and a good internet connection.
We do not recommend going abroad before getting a job teaching English online. Ideally, if we had known that we wanted to pursue teaching English online before we left we would have applied while still in the States. We could have saved a lot of wasted money spent on fixing our mistakes, like shipping home two suitcases and a keyboard….
Getting a job as an online English teacher
The first things to look for when searching for online teaching jobs are the company’s requirements. Do they require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree? Is teaching experience required? Do you have a stable internet connection? Are you a native English speaker? These are just some of the many questions to answer.
There are a handful of requirements that every company has and they’re pretty similar. We’ve compiled this short list below to aid you in your search! Of course, there are so many more companies out there that offer online teaching gigs. This list is a great place to start, but find what’s right for you!
Before we share our list though, let’s talk about VIPKid.
VIPKid seems to be the most popular company in the online English teaching industry. We did not include it in the list below because for those just starting out with little or no teaching experience, VIPKid is probably not the best choice. We were offered interviews with several other newer companies, but we didn’t quite cut the mustard for VIPKid. It’s so popular and sought after that they can afford to be pickier in their application process.
It sounds like a great company though! You can read more about VIPKid in their FAQ
Update December 13, 2018: China recently passed regulation changing the requirements for online English teachers. You must have a 120 hour TEFL Certification, a bachelors degree, and a criminal background check. We’ve heard that a 120 hour TEFL could be replaced with 2 years of teaching experience. We will update again once we know more. No one really knows when this will go into effect.
* base pay is the lower number and the higher number is maximum pay with incentives
Our Teaching Tips
This is the most important tip for teaching English online. A smile makes your interview and actual classes sooooo much better. A friendly face is much easier to talk to.
2. Be Positive and Give Praise!
Don’t be afraid to give praise! If nothing else, give too much praise than not enough. A lot of students are shy on the teaching platforms and rewarding them with a high-five or some kind of reward system goes a long way in building trust with the student. It also helps them build confidence going forward!
3. Interact and Be Funny!
Especially with younger kids, being silly and using props, like a puppet, is a great way to get your students excited about class. When they’re excited they participate and learn!
4. Patience, Patience, Patience.
These kids have had a full day of school, just got home from other activities, have a lot of homework, AND they have an English lesson with you. Understand that they might have had a frustrating day or are exhausted so try your best to get them engaged! There will be many of those classes that are a struggle, but be patient and push through!
5. Be on time
There’s no better way to screw up your online teaching experience than being late or skipping a class. If an emergency comes up then most schools will hear what you have to say but sleeping in or forgetting is counted against you. Don’t ever have a TNS! (Teacher no show)
6. Have a Classroom Setting
Have a background that’s fun or school related. We mainly have plain backgrounds but we’ve printed out our name on a sheet of paper. A big plus in your interview is if you have the company’s logo on the wall behind you. Have a well-lit area and no shadows. These companies will be looking for this!
Companies love it when you have props! We have whiteboards and some cutouts, but a lot of teachers use puppets. Don’t go buy everything you can just yet. Start with a puppet or whiteboard and go from there. A lot of the time, we use whatever we have around us. For instance, if we’re teaching the letter “A” and the slides introduce apples, we grab an apple! It’s that simple. Use whatever you have in your household to your advantage. Ask them about the color, the shape, or whatever is appropriate for their level of English. It gets the kids engaged and they might grab something of their own and show you!
We applied at a handful of companies (researched a TON more), but ended up signing a contract with SayABC.
We love it!
The interview process consisted of a short 10-20 minute interview and mock class demo (we prepped for hours!), and then a real 40 minute class with students for which we were evaluated. We passed the evaluation and then signed a contract and haven’t looked back! A wave of relief washed over us as we actually had jobs. It’s pretty frightening to be in a foreign country and have no means of income.
We stayed in Taipei until mid-September, and we’re now in Ao Nang, Thailand, for a month before heading to Bali. All the while we are teaching English online to Chinese students for a few hours a day, several days a week. We love SayABC’s platform and their system, especially now that we’ve gotten the hang of it. Classes take place during 6pm to 9pm Beijing time, which is awesome for us because we’re in the same time zone in Asia.
For those in the USA, working hours are a little trickier as they’re from 5am-8am CST during spring forward time. But don’t be discouraged! We’ve met plenty of other teachers on Facebook groups and through SayABC that reside in the United States. They make great money on the side and enjoy waking up early to teach!
Most importantly, mainly for you travelers out there, is that when choosing a place to stay while teaching English online, make 100% sure the internet connection is solid! Airbnb is our go-to for every destination and we get written confirmation of the internet speed from our host before booking.
We recommend speedtest.net to determine internet speed but check with your company because they might have their own speed test site.
We haven’t had a bad experience with an Airbnb host yet (hopefully never!) but we know a fellow traveler who also teaches English online and she had a host mislead her on the internet speed while in Europe. Most importantly, Airbnb assisted her by finding alternative accommodation; she only had to pay the difference.
You MUST contact Airbnb within 24 hours of arriving at your homestay if this occurs. You may just be out of luck outside of that. So make sure to act quickly!
If you’re looking for a way to travel the world and make money while doing so, teaching English online is a great source of income as well as a flexible job that allows you to thoroughly enjoy your destination.
Teaching English online is an awesome avenue to take if you’re looking to make some great income on the side while working at home or being a full-time parent!
With so many companies out there you have A LOT of options! Many people even teach for multiple companies to completely fill their schedules up. We’ve definitely looked into doing this, but SayABC is providing us with plenty of hours at the moment. If this ever changes we’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!
We hope this has helped you in your job search or given you a good place to start with teaching English online. If you have any questions about teaching English online or traveling while working, we’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or contact us.