Teaching English as a Second Language Online?

Teaching English online from the comfort of your own computer

Hey! You there! Are you proficient in English? Do you like teaching kids?

If you said yes to both, did you know there are ways you can teach English as a second language online (yes, from the comfort of your own home) and get paid for it?

Did I catch your attention there?

If so, today, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to teach English as a second language online and some of the things you will have to know before diving into this field!

DISCLAIMER: Before we go on, however, I wanted to disclose immediately that there will be affiliate links throughout this post. What this means is that if you sign up for some of the programs below or purchase a product by clicking on an affiliate ad on my post, I will get a commission.

However, I have always promised that I will never let that affect what I say in my reviews. I will speak what is on my mind no matter what, whether it is positive or not. So let’s begin!

So you want to teach English online?

Working as an ESL teacher online

I don’t think I need to talk about how prominent the English language is all over the world. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, then you already know how much of an impact English has had globally.

Because of this, there is always a demand for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. I’ve actually worked as an ESL teacher for several years, teaching senior citizens in class settings as well as Korean immigrants in private one-on-one tutoring sessions. So I know that the demand is huge.

And it hasn’t abated! If you think you have what it takes to teach folks ESL, there are plenty of opportunities on the internet for you to land a gig doing so!

Some of them don’t have many requirements, so long as you pass through their recruitment process (interviews, introductory videos, etc). Others might require more professional experience, such as a degree or a teaching certificate.

So how does one get involved in this kind of work?

Find a Program that’s Right for You

finding the best place to teach esl online

Well, as I have said before, there are all kinds of programs you can sign onto as an ESL teacher online, each with their own requirements.

Based on the skills, academic credentials and experience you have, as well as other factors (such as time, pay grade, etc), you’ll first have to pick a program to join.

Here are a few recommendations of mine. These are some of the largest companies teaching ESL out there and many people who get into this usually start here.

  1. VIPKid

There is a huge market in China for English teachers, which makes sense given China’s population size and their role in the global economy. VIPKid caters to this market.

As of November 2018 they have about 60,000 teachers teaching 500,000 students.

When you work for VIPKid, you teach Chinese kids English remotely using a webcam.

The hours vary but since you will be teaching kids in China, expect most of your gigs to be during the night or early morning (since VIPKid hires teachers from the US and Canada).

VIPKid also requires their applicants have a bachelor’s degree (in anything), eligibility to work in the US or Canada and at least one year of teaching experience. However, VIPKid is pretty lax with what they consider to be “teaching experience”. If you have tutored, homeschooled, coached or mentored someone for at least a year, that counts.

As for pay, they have a base pay of around $7-9 an hour but they tack on a bunch of bonuses for each class you teach, so the final take-home pay is around $15-20 an hour.

I will be uploading a review of VIPKid soon, so keep your eyes out for that!

2. Cambly

Cambly is another English-tutoring program online that’s looking for English-speaking tutors. It’s pretty self-explanatory. When you sign up, you will get gigs from a paying Cambly customer (or a student) and you converse with them in English so they can get better at their conversational skills.

If you can hold a conversation in English, this should be pretty easy for you!

Tutoring is done through a webcam so you can do this from the comfort of your own home.

Their pay is around $10 an hour. They pay through PayPal twice a month and require at least $20 of earnings to cash out.

3. iTalki 

I’ve reviewed iTalki previously from the standpoint of both a teacher and student. I thought it was a great platform that both teachers and students should consider. Not only was it a great way to make some extra money on the side, but if you are learning a language, I cannot recommend anything more than practicing with a native speaker.

If you don’t know what iTalki is, it’s a program where language-learners connect with teachers through webcam to practice their conversational skills.

For teaching ESL, iTalki still can be a lucrative platform to work on. There’s no shortage of people trying to study English, as I have said before, so I am sure you can find some willing customers.

Payment can range widely though depending on how many teachers and students there are in the language you are trying to teach. On average, people tend to earn about 10-20 dollars an hour, but sometimes rates can be low as $5 an hour.

If you want to dive into iTalki, I would certainly recommend it. However, I would do my research on how many people are studying ESL, how many ESL teachers there are as well as how much they charge hourly on this site. That can really make or break your experience on a site like iTalki.

So now that I have given you three of the most popular options for ESL teachers online, let’s dive into the logistics!


Get Your Equipment Ready

To start off, you don’t need too much, which makes this a pretty decent opportunity! Chances are if you are reading this and already plan on working from home online, you already have the things that you need to start teaching ESL online.

You are going to need:

      1. A computer (if you’re looking for a new computer to work-at-home from, check out my article on the best work-at-home computers of 2019)
      2. High-speed internet connection
      3. A webcam (if you are looking for a new webcam, click here to purchase my webcam of choice, the Logitech C270)
      4. A whiteboard – some platforms will require you to bring teaching aids like flashcards, a whiteboard or even puppets to help keep students engaged. A small white board with marker is pretty inexpensive, so it’s worth the investment.
  1. Once you have all of those things set up, then you’re already good to go!


  2. Many of these sites may also require experience in the teaching field. Going back to my three main examples, VIPKid requires applicants to not only have a bachelor’s degree (in anything) but also some experience in a teaching setting (they are very vague about this, as they will take private tutoring and mentoring as “teaching experience”).

    For example, iTalki has two types of teachers:

    Community tutors, which help learners brush up their conversational skills, do not need anything besides an application, the equipment and proficiency in the language they are teaching.

    Professional teachers on iTalki, however, need documentation showing that you have trained and worked as a professional educator. These teachers are usually expected to come bringing lesson plans and actually tutor students instead of just having a regular conversation with them.


  3. When applying to jobs like these, you usually will have to do some kind of interview, video or mock class so that companies can see if you are a right fit.

    Now, I know interviews can be anxiety-inducing for many of us, but no need to fret! These interviews are relatively simple.

    In some cases, like VIPKid, you will have to teach a mock class. Just imagine you’re teaching someone already! In other cases, like iTalki, you will need to upload an introductory video so prospective students can see if you are a good fit for them.

    When doing mock classes, you might have to get your whiteboard and other teaching aids ready as many of these platforms encourage teachers to bring things like whiteboards and even puppets to help keep the students engaged.

    In these mock classes, the platforms usually give you a pre-made lesson and you just have to pretend you are teaching it to a kid.

    General Logistics

  4. I already started covering this when mentioning iTalki, VIPKid and Cambly. Generally, hours and pay will be fairly consistent among platforms. Many of the people needing an English teacher will not be in the US or Canada, so you will most likely have to work on their schedule. This is something you should keep in mind, as you might have to work during late at night or early morning in order to accommodate their schedules.

    However, if you are an insomniac like me, you might really like this type of gig for the hours you can work.

    Usually you will be booked by a student for an allotted time-slot (usually lasting 30 to 45 minutes each).

    Pay is generally consistent, ranging around $10 to $20 an hour. If you can get more time-slots, the pay really starts to add up which was great for me. In some platforms like iTalki, some of the more professional and experienced teachers can charge up to $80 an hour (iTalki teachers set their own rates).

    In the case of no-shows, which will happen at times, you usually have to stick around for a certain period of time (in the case of VIPKid it is 15-25 minutes), but you will generally be compensated for no-shows.

    And remember, these are your students that you are teaching. So when you have a session with one, remember to be as outgoing and helpful as you can so that each of your students learns something that day!

    So, Pros and Cons?


    • The pay is pretty good. If you are able to get consistent bookings, the pay can really add up to some big money. My work with iTalki and other platforms like it have gotten me a decent chunk of moolah, which is what all of us dream of, right?
    • Hours can be flexible. If you are the type of person who likes to stay up late at night, then this might be the perfect job for you because many bookings tend to happen during the later hours.
    • You can wear your pajamas to work!
  5. Cons:
    • If you’re more of an introvert and don’t like engaging with kids, this might not be the right pick for you. You will be teaching people remotely, which will require you to be outgoing and proactive in making sure your students understand the content you are teaching.
    • Booking a session with students can sometimes be hard, either because there are too many teachers or too little students. Though the pay is pretty good for gigs like these, the main issue can be consistently booking sessions.


    General Thoughts

  6. I personally really liked working as an ESL teacher online. Since I already had some teaching experience under my belt, doing this online was nothing new to me. I got to make some decent money on the side through these gigs and I think you can too. Sometimes, as I have said before, you might need to invest some time and a few materials in order to be the best teacher you can be. Sometimes you might have trouble booking people consistently. However, once you get through those obstacles, this can be a really good way for someone to make money from home. The rates for online ESL teachers are pretty decent especially if you can book many classes throughout each week.

    I definitely recommend considering this as a possible way to work from home online.

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