Thanks to the power of the Internet, it has never been easier to make money from home or start a side gig for extra money.
However, if you work full time or even part time, finding availability to tackle another side job can be difficult. Additionally, if you want to significantly boost your income to get out of debt or start investing, you need a side job that pays well.
Online English teaching is an accommodating and lucrative side hustle you can start from the comfort of your own home. There’s massive demand to learn English from native speakers.
A 2018 report from iResearch estimates China’s online language education market alone will reach 543.4 billion yuan ($77.39 billion) by 2022. Globally, there’s plenty of opportunities to make money teaching English online
If you’re a native English speaker and want to make money by helping students around the world learn English, here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Requirements for Teaching English Online
There are dozens of companies that hire native English speakers to teach paying students English online.
Each company is slightly different in terms of hourly pay, bonus structure, expectations, and onboarding. However, there are several industry-standard requirements to be aware of.
Degree vs. No Degree
The highest-paying online tutoring companies require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The area of study doesn’t matter.
There are exceptions to this rule, and you can still make money teaching English online without a degree. However, holding a degree broadens the range of companies you can work for.
Many online English education companies are based in China. China’s Ministry of Education has implemented policies to regulate online education.
Additionally, China’s Ministry of Education is also planning to increase online education regulations and potentially limit how long students can learn online, which could make teaching online in China more challenging in the future.
Previously, online teachers didn’t need any certification in China if they were native speakers. However, online teachers must now have teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) certification or teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) certification.
But there’s a silver lining. Certification provides you with more job opportunities and the ability to work for higher-paying companies. Additionally, you can find online TEFL and TESOL courses on sites like Groupon at significant discounts. These courses often cost less than $100.
Some tutoring companies, like VIPKid, hire teachers who aren’t certified and offer free TESOL training as part of the onboarding process. Alternatively, you also have the option to teach students outside China.
Skills & Tech Requirements
Being a native English speaker doesn’t guarantee a job teaching English online. Online tutoring is a flexible way to make money, but there are several technology- and skill-related requirements.
For technology, you must have:
Stable Internet Access. You can teach from anywhere in the world if you have a strong, stable Internet connection.
A Computer. The majority of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) tutoring companies require their teachers to use a laptop or desktop computer to connect to virtual classrooms. Smartphones are rarely allowed unless you work for app-based companies like PalFish.
A Headset Microphone. Most companies don’t allow you to teach with a built-in microphone. Fortunately, many affordable headset microphones, such as the Cyber Acoustics USB headset or the Plantronics foldable headset, work well for online tutoring.
Certain factors also increase the likelihood an online ESL company hires you:
A Bright Room. It doesn’t matter if you teach from a set location or are on the move. A well-lit area to instruct from is essential.
Educational Props. Props are not a strict requirement for many companies. However, to enhance the quality of your lessons and keep young students motivated, you can use educational props like gold stars to virtually signal correct answers to reward students.
Video Creation Software. The ability to create engaging, educational videos is a big plus for ESL companies.
Friendly Demeanor. It’s essential to be warm and welcoming since the majority of students are in elementary school. Prior experience working with kids is an asset. Plus, the interview stage for many tutoring companies involves a mock interview designed to test your teaching skills.
Making money by teaching English online takes longer than for other types of side businesses due to the requirements and onboarding process.
Starting an ESL tutoring job is also a significant decision. Many companies require their teachers to dedicate a minimum number of hours per week to their pupils or to sign a fixed contract.
According to Glassdoor, online ESL teachers earn an average salary of approximately $36,800 per year for full-time work.
Glassdoor also provides information regarding the hourly rate for popular tutoring companies. Popular companies like VIPKid pay between $17 and $21 per hour depending on your experience and bonuses, and SayABC pays between $16 and $22 per hour. Magic Ears says their teachers earn up to $26 per hour.
Hourly work requirements vary among companies. For example, VIPKid recommends their teachers be available for at least seven and a half hours per week. Depending on your hourly pay, that could result in an extra $510 to $630 per month.
Note that online teachers typically function as independent contractors and are therefore responsible for setting money aside for taxes.
Pros & Cons of Teaching English Online
While teaching English online is a terrific opportunity, it also requires a significant time investment. Before jumping in with both feet, consider all the benefits and drawbacks of the industry.
Online English teaching is a commonly sought-after job for good reason. It’s challenging to find as flexible and well-compensated a side hustle as ESL tutoring.
The primary benefits of this industry include:
Side Hustle-Friendly. The majority of students who use online ESL platforms are from China. To teach at peak times in Beijing, North American teachers schedule their classes in the early morning. While demanding, this schedule doesn’t interfere with traditional 9-to-5 work or weekend plans. It’s also an excellent summer job for teachers since they can teach English online while their own classes are out on break.
Exceptional Pay. At an average of $18 per hour, online ESL tutoring pays more than every state’s minimum wage.
Fully Remote. As long as you meet the technological requirements for the job, you can work from anywhere provided your surroundings are well-lit and inviting.
Full-Time Potential. As you improve your teaching skills and build a rapport with parents and students, working full time becomes more and more possible. It’s unlikely you can book 40 hours of work as a beginner. But most companies set no limit on how many classes you teach, providing room for growth.
There’s more to becoming an online ESL teacher than merely being a native English speaker. The job carries a variety of requirements and expectations, and the barrier to entry is high.
The primary drawbacks of this industry include:
Odd Hours. The odd hours are an asset if you want a second job or are a morning person. However, if you live in North America, you must be comfortable waking up anywhere between 3am and 6am to teach at peak times.
Lengthy Onboarding Process. Requirements such as holding a bachelor’s degree or TEFL certificate are barriers to entry. Additionally, the onboarding process for top education companies requires at least one interview and can take more than a month to complete. If you’re looking for easy ways to make extra cash, teaching ESL isn’t for you.
Rigid Contractual Obligations. Companies like VIPKid and Magic Ears require a six-month minimum contract for new hires. Additionally, teachers must provide notice if they plan to take time off during their contract.
Must Be Comfortable Working With Kids. Online ESL companies seek warm, energetic personalities who are skilled at working with children. To find steady work as an online English teacher, you must happily give your full attention to classes, even if it’s 4am.
Best Online English Teaching Companies to Work For
Working for leading ESL education companies provides higher pay and more opportunity than smaller, lesser-known educational organizations.
While each company has slightly different requirements for their teachers, the best companies offer more weekly work opportunities, higher hourly pay, and a streamlined platform to educate students.
Degree Required: Teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree. VIPKid provides TESOL certification as part of the hiring process.
Class Length: VIPKid classes are 30 minutes long. Teachers dedicate most of that time, 25 minutes, to teaching and reserve five minutes for logging into the classroom portal and leaving comments on student performance.
Pay: According to Glassdoor, teachers earn between $17 and $21 per hour. Standard pay ranges from $7 to $9 per class, for a maximum of $18 per hour before bonuses.
Bonus Potential: Bonuses range from $0.80 to $3.20 per class, making your earning potential between $15.60 and $24.40 per hour. Bonuses are based on how many monthly and lifetime VIPKid classes you teach. Most class bonuses are within the $1.20 to $1.80 range if you teach between 21 and 90 classes per month. If you teach 20 classes or fewer per month, you only earn $0.80 per class.
Work Requirements: VIPKid suggests at least seven and a half hours of bookings per week. VIPKid doesn’t penalize teachers for booking fewer classes. However, it takes time to grow a steady stream of students, and booking outside peak times can also negatively impact your booking rate.
Contract Length: Six months.
Key Difference: VIPKid is the largest online education company in China, meaning this platform has the largest pool of students and job opportunities.
The largest online language education company in China, VIPKid launched in 2014. Now, more than 70,000 teachers work for them. The company connects North American English teachers with Chinese students from kindergarten through grade 9.
VIPKid creates lesson plans for their teachers. The lessons come in a colorful slideshow format common with many online education portals. Teachers are responsible for setting their schedules and teaching effectively using the provided material.
The company has high standards for their teachers and the requisite advantages to go with them.
EF Education First
Degree Required: Teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification.
Class Length: EF Education First classes for Chinese ESL students are 25 minutes long.
Pay: EF Education First teachers earn approximately $17.50 per hour, according to more than 100,000 salary reviews on Indeed. Base pay is $13.20 per hour.
Bonus Potential: Earn a $2.30 bonus on all monthly classes if you teach 60 classes or more within the month. Earn an additional $3 per class if you don’t cancel any classes within 24 hours for that month. Finally, earn $1.50 per class for teaching during surge hours. Surge hours are weekdays from 6am to 8:30am EDT and weekends from 9pm to 10:30pm EDT.
Work Requirements: There’s no minimum work requirement.
Contract Length: Six months.
Key Difference: EF is one of the best online ESL teaching opportunities for U.K. residents.
EF Education First is a global company, with 32,000 employees and teachers around the world. EF also has physical locations in more than 54 countries.
EF Education First still has plenty of online opportunities for teachers. Native English speakers from the U.S. or U.K. are eligible. The majority of students are Chinese, so factoring in time zone is essential.
Classes are 25 minutes long and one-on-one. Additionally, EF Education First provides a curriculum for their teachers.
It’s by far one of the best options available for anyone based in the U.K. However, EF Education First is still worth it for American workers looking to maximize their weekly workload. If time zones aren’t your primary consideration, there are plenty of reasons to choose EF.
Degree Required: Teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification.
Class Length: Qkid classes are 30 minutes long. Teachers must check their equipment three minutes before start time.
Pay: Base pay is $8 for full lessons. However, bonuses heavily subsidize hourly earning potential. According to Glassdoor, teachers make approximately $17 per hour.
Bonus Potential: Teachers may receive a $1 performance bonus based on family reviews for each lesson. They’re also eligible for a $1 attendance bonus for each lesson once they’ve taught 15 lessons in a week. Additionally, teachers receive $100 for referring another teacher to Qkids.
Work Requirements: Qkids requires at least six hours (12 lessons) per week.
Contract Length: Six months.
Key Difference: Unique curriculum and a lucrative referral program.
Founded in 2015, Qkids has quickly grown into a top online education platform in China. Teachers from the U.S. and Canada instruct Chinese students between the ages of 4 and 12. But it’s the Qkids curriculum that truly makes the platform stand out.
Qkids utilizes narrative game-based lesson plans to help students learn. This experience is more dynamic than traditional online teaching portals, and Qkids doesn’t require teachers to plan lessons.
However, Qkids allows up to four students per class, so teachers must adapt to larger class sizes if they’ve previously taught one-on-one classes.
The requirements and pay (after bonuses) are similar to companies like VIPKid. But there’s one key difference that makes Qkids stand out for many online English teachers.
Degree Required: You’re not required to have a degree or TEFL certification.
Class Length: Chat times vary depending on the student’s availability and needs.
Pay: Cambly pays $0.17 per minute talked, or $10.20 per hour, for adult lessons and $0.20 per minute talked, or $12 per hour, for kid lessons.
Bonus Potential: Cambly doesn’t pay bonuses.
Work Requirements: There is no minimum work requirement.
Contract Length: No contract.
Key Difference: Cambly is more flexible than most ESL teaching jobs since there isn’t a contract.
Cambly is a more informal tutoring platform than most other online education companies, and the barrier to entry is considerably lower.
On Cambly, English learners from around the world can connect with native English speakers to have conversations to improve their rudimentary English skills. Cambly charges a fee per minute for learners to chat.
Unlike many other platforms, Cambly doesn’t restrict users to North American teachers and Chinese students. Any native English speaker from North America, Australia, and the U.K. is eligible to teach. Similarly, anyone around the world looking to improve their English skills can use Cambly.
The more relaxed nature of Cambly means a variety of differences between them and other online educational platforms.
Degree Required: A minimum of a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification is required.
Class Length: SayABC classes are 40 minutes long.
Pay: Base pay is $13 for a 40-minute class. SayABC teachers earn approximately $16 to $18 per hour, according to Glassdoor.
Bonus Potential: Teachers earn a $4 attendance bonus after teaching nine consecutive classes without no-shows. Emergency classes award a $7 bonus. Additionally, trial classes pay an $8 bonus per student who signs up for additional lessons.
Work Requirements: Trial class teachers can select class times with just 24 hours’ notice. Major class teachers commit to five-week schedules to consistently teach the same students.
Contract Length: Three months.
Key Difference: SayABC’s contract is shorter than other ESL education companies. Additionally, teaching trial classes is very flexible.
VIPKid owns SayABC, but this online education platform is an excellent option for teachers looking for additional work. SayABC uses National Geographic-themed lesson plans to educate students, and classes have a maximum of four students. But the most significant difference is the class structure.
SayABC offers three main class types: major, trial, and emergency.
Major classes are for dedicated, long-term students. Trial classes are for students who are just considering SayABC. Emergency classes are substitute arrangements teachers can opt in for in the event another teacher cancels.
Major class teachers instruct the same group of students twice per week, allowing them to build a stronger rapport with their students over time.
While VIPKid is the parent company of SayABC and they have some things in common, there are some differences in terms of structure.
Degree Required: Teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and be TEFL-certified.
Class Length: Classes are one-on-one and last 25 minutes.
Pay: According to Indeed, teachers earn an average of $23.44 per hour. GoGoKid says teachers make between $14 and $25 per hour, although the pay scale is somewhat convoluted. Base pay starts at $7 to $10 per class based on interview performance and credentials. Teachers can earn up to 125% of their base pay by earning more credits.
Bonus Potential: Earning credits is the only way to boost your hourly earnings up to a maximum of $25 per hour. Teachers begin at 100 credits and earn credits for teaching classes or receiving 5-star parent reviews. Teachers lose credits for being late, canceling classes, or missing classes entirely. Teachers need 100 credits to increase base pay to the maximum amount of 125%.
Work Requirements: Teachers set their own schedules.
Contract Length: Six months.
Key Difference: GoGoKid is a newer company in this industry, and some Reddit users report a high percentage of canceled classes or tech problems with the platform.
GoGoKid is another Chinese-based education platform that hires native English speakers from North America. GoGoKid students range from kindergarten to grade 6.
As with VIPKid, the company handles the curriculum, and teachers are only responsible for helping their students learn.
In many ways, GoGoKid is very much like VIPKid. Classes are one-on-one, and they have a similar pay range. Some teachers even work with both companies to keep their schedules full.
But at least for now, GoGoKid does come with lower transparency and higher risks.
Degree Required: Teachers must hold at minimum a bachelor’s degree and be TEFL-certified.
Class Length: Magic Ears classes are 25 minutes long.
Pay: According to Glassdoor, most Magic Ears teachers earn $18 to $25 per hour. Base pay ranges up to $26 per hour according to Magic Ears.
Bonus Potential: Magic Ears states teachers should contact them for additional information about potential bonuses. You can also earn up to $95 for referring new teachers.
Work Requirements: Teachers set their own schedules. However, Magic Ears recommends booking at least 10 slots per week and working during peak times to increase the likelihood someone books you.
Contract Length: Six months.
Key Difference: Teachers with extensive ESL teaching experience and a degree in education can take advantage of a higher base pay. With a higher base pay and bonuses, it’s possible to earn up to $26 per hour. However, that’s not the average for Magic Ears teachers.
Magic Ears hires Canadian and U.S. teachers to instruct students between the ages of 4 and 12. Magic Ears says teachers earn up to $26 per hour, which would make it one of the best-paying companies in the industry.
Classes on Magic Ears are 25 minutes long, and it has minimum work requirements. Magic Ears doesn’t financially penalize teachers if they provide more than 24 hours’ notice for a cancellation, and there is no contractual obligation to teach a certain number of hours per week.
That makes Magic Ears a suitable fit for teachers who value flexibility.
The pay structure on Magic Ears is more complicated than most tutoring platforms. Base pay factors in how many online ESL classes a teacher has instructed with any ESL tutoring company for Chinese students.
The scale also considers whether a teacher holds a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education or language.
Magic Ears is unfortunately quite vague about the requirements to land the highest base rate. In the past, over 1,000 online ESL classes with a Chinese company or a degree in language or education were requirements for getting the highest base rate.
Magic Ears is very similar to other ESL tutoring platforms like VIPKid or GoGoKid. However, teachers with significant online ESL teaching experience or a teaching language degree can likely take advantage of the payment structure.
Degree Required: Professional teachers must show proof of educational training or language expertise and be native speakers. Community teachers need only be native speakers in the language they tutor.
Class Length: Lessons last 30, 45, 60, or 90 minutes, depending on the arrangement between teacher and student.
Pay: Glassdoor salary reviews show that Italki teachers earn anywhere from $12 to $19 per hour, although data is limited. A competitive marketplace also means not every teacher can make money with Italki. Italki also deducts a 15% service fee on all payments.
Bonus Potential: Italki doesn’t have a bonus structure.
Work Requirements: Teachers set their own schedules.
Contract Length: There is no contract.
Key Difference: Top teachers can attract many students and find steady work, whereas new teachers must price themselves aggressively to build their profile slowly.
Italki is a language learning platform that covers dozens of languages alongside English. It currently has more than 10,000 teachers and offers one-on-one classes to students 18 years old or older.
Italki differs from most online education platforms in that teachers must prepare their own lesson plans and set their own rates. However, Italki deducts 15% of all payments as a service fee.
Teachers fall into two categories. Professional teachers have prior education training and experience and are responsible for teaching the lessons. Community teachers merely provide students with practice conversing.
Rates vary between professional and community teachers. The Italki marketplace is also fairly volatile. A search for English teachers shows teachers from around the world charging anywhere from $8 to $36 per hour. But pay is variable; some teachers charge $50 per hour or more.
Italki teacher profiles display a star rating and total lesson count, so it’s vital that teachers build a positive relationship with their students to grow their profile and justify higher hourly rates.
If setting your own rates and creating a curriculum appeal to you, Italki is worth considering, especially if you like their pay structure and class length variety.
Getting Hired: Tips for Becoming an Online English Teacher
It’s possible to make meaningful monthly income by teaching English online as a part-time or full-time job, although getting hired is not as simple as filling out an application. Outside requirements like having a degree or TEFL certification, there are other barriers to entry.
Specifically, the interview process makes or breaks an application. It’s vital to understand tips and best practices to increase the likelihood you get hired to teach English online.
Optimize Your Resume
Most online ESL companies don’t require extensive teaching experience because of the TEFL certification requirement.
However, tailoring your resume to mention previous teaching experience or experience working with children can improve your odds of getting hired. Plus, companies like Magic Ears adjust your initial base pay based on previous experience.
For companies that focus on educating kids, any previous experience is relevant as long as it includes working with or supervising kids. Mention babysitting jobs or any work that involves looking after or instructing youth.
For companies that cater to adult students, mention work responsibilities that involve training new staff or teaching new skills to other employees.
Prepare for the Interview
Online teaching companies want interviewees to succeed. Most ESL companies provide resources for potential hires, including interview tips and curriculum samples. Many companies include a slideshow of a mock lesson that’s representative of the lesson plans actual teachers use.
There’s usually a mock lesson as part of the interview process. During the mock lesson, the interviewee instructs the interviewer as if they were instructing a child. It’s the most critical part of the interview process.
To prepare, practice the interview and lesson with a friend or family member and watch YouTube videos from online ESL teachers.
It’s also important to prepare your environment and outfit for the interview.
Online ESL companies want teachers to instruct from a bright, inviting space. Ensure the lighting is adequate in your interview room and be sure to smile and exude an approachale, friendly energy toward students.
Additionally, wear bright clothing or clothing that matches the logo colors of the company you want to work for.
Online ESL companies also value the use of props to help encourage students who give correct answers. Popular prop recommendations include gold stars, soccer balls, or smiley-face stickers. Most companies don’t require you to have props for the interview process, but they will improve your mock interview performance.
Practice Total Physical Response (TPR)
Total physical response (TPR) involves teaching language by including physical movements in reaction to verbal stimuli. TPR is how parents usually instruct infants, and pairing movement with language is an effective way to boost learning of a new language or specific vocabulary.
For example, a teacher can point at their nose when teaching the word “nose.” Online TPR also involves responses such as clapping or giving a thumbs-up to signal to students when they’ve done something correctly.
TPR sounds simple, but it requires practice. Online teaching is also less personal than teaching in person, so practicing TPR via a webcam is essential. Interviewers look for TPR during the mock lesson, and it’s vital to correctly use TPR to get hired.
It’s best to practice TPR with a friend or family member. You can also consult online videos from actual online educators to observe how they use TPR.
Teaching English online is an incredibly lucrative way to make money from home. Becoming an online ESL teacher comes with benefits like high base pay, bonus potential, and the flexibility to work early hours before work or set your own schedule.
However, this side hustle requires dedication to succeed. Degree and certification requirements and the lengthy interview process are significant barriers to entry. Making money as an online English teacher isn’t something you can simply pick up tomorrow.
But if you’re willing to put in the effort to hone your skills as a teacher and prepare for the interview, online English teaching is a potentially profitable opportunity. Plus, teaching English to young students across the world is rewarding.