Jobs Online Teaching for English Online Teachers and On Line English TeachingJan 28, 2022
Getting a job teaching English online seems simple enough. You do a quick Google search. You find a few websites that claim to have openings and to be looking to hire. You complete a few applications. You wait. Half of those websites just don't write you back. The other half ask you to send additional documents or to submit a sample video of yourself. They might also want you to teach a trial lesson. You are still far from finding a stable job that pays a decent hourly wage.
That's the struggle for anyone entering the sphere of teaching English online. And you'll hear these woes echoed daily if you check out ESL teacher forums. So, why do so many people still pursue this short-lived career path? In this short article I'm going to share the pitfalls you should watch out for and the alternatives that might change your mind about looking for English online tutoring jobs.
ESL Jobs, TEFL Jobs, TESOL Jobs
If you're looking to get a job with a company that offers online English teaching, there are a few things you should understand. First and foremost, supply is high. Although many people in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have absolutely no ambition of becoming an online English teacher, there are thousands of people who have attended four-year universities and other institutes of higher education in every country around the world who believe that teaching the English language is going to be their lifelong career. It's easy to forget just how large this industry is and the important fact that so-called "native speakers" are the minority.
ESL companies have a wide selection of candidates to choose from and they tend to have a low budget allocated towards paying teachers. The reality is that the teacher's pay will most likely be less than 50% of the amount the student actually pays. Many teachers are offended by this notion, but they conveniently omit from their conscience the amount of time, effort, and money that goes into setting up a platform that attracts students, managing teachers and students, and keeping up with all of the other organizational and business requirements. Most online teaching companies can't survive on 50% of the revenue generated by students' purchases.
If you are looking to teach English online, getting a job with one of the big companies will most likely end with you feeling like you got the short end of the stick. Here are some of the main problems that ESL online teachers report having with English teacher jobs:
- Low pay - While some ESL teacher jobs offer $25 per hour or more, the average pay is around $10 per hour and some offer as low as $2 per hour.
- Unpredictable work hours - Students want as much teacher availability as possible, so companies also want that. After all, if you're not available to teach, then you aren't making them money. This can lead to teachers blocking off their days with no guarantee that they will be filled with income-generating activities.
- No opportunities for advancement or pay increases - Most careers have a fairly obvious career ladder. Human resource managers will demonstrate the ladder to new hires as a way to motivate them to aspire to a higher position. But online ESL companies don't have much room for advancement. If you excel as a teacher, which typically takes more than 12 months of working in the same company, you might be eligible to become a teacher trainer or manager of teachers. But very few teachers take this leap and the change of title rarely comes with an appropriate raise in pay.
- Company greed - Let's face it - online teaching companies are businesses and they are looking to make a profit. If they don't profit, they'll shut down because it's not worth the time they spend. But some companies go over the top by cutting every little expense possible and leaving teachers and students wondering why.
- Poor or outdated curricula or teaching materials - Developing new teaching materials costs money and for many companies that is an expense they can do without. Teachers acutely feel this pain because they are tasked with bringing the materials to life and getting students results by way of the company-issued curriculum.
- Unfair judgments by administrative staff or by students' parents - Cultural differences play a huge role in who gets hired, who gets lessons, and who get canned. The ESL industry is infamously rampant with racism, sexism, ageism, and nativespeakerism.
Online Teaching English Companies
Most jobs online teaching are offered by large companies with hundreds of staff. Teachers and students come and go by the hundreds every day. These companies tend to be located in China or to target the Chinese market because it's the largest market for English language lessons and services. English teacher China is a good search term to use if you are interested in those types of positions.
But finding a smaller, less well-known company that has an opening for English as a second language teacher is probably a better option. Due to the fact that the company is small and less developed, English online teachers are valued more. These small companies usually have more difficulty marketing both the position of ESL online teacher and their lessons or teaching services. They are still faced with many of the problems mentioned above, but they can't afford to be as picky as the big companies.
Another advantage of targeting small companies in your job search is that each of these companies tends to have a very specific niche. They target a certain segment of the market because that's where they find a competitive advantage. Whereas searches for English teacher China will likely lead you to huge companies with thousands of staff where you'll be teaching small children, you could instead find an online English teaching job where you instruct adults from many countries around the globe.
The work hours are likely to vary depending on which market the company you find a position with is targeting. If they target China and you live in the United States, you'll probably be waking up in the middle of the night to teach 20 or 30-minute lessons to children. If they target France or Brazil, your work hours will most likely be more manageable and your students will likely be older.
The important thing to remember when looking for English online tutoring jobs is that each company is different and has different standards. You could be an amazing teacher of children in an offline, brick-and-mortar school and at the same time completely fail as an online English teacher to children in China. They require different skills. Likewise, teaching online to adults in Brazil requires different skills from teaching children in China.
Online English Teaching Business
Another options that has gained popularity in recent years is creating your own online English teaching job. Many people have decided to give up on companies that don't offer them prospects for the future and to invest their time, energy, and money into themselves. Let's face it - when you work for a company, you are helping that company grow in exchange for a few hours and a few dollars. Instead, you could help yourself grow and spend less hours while earning more dollars.
But if it's so easy, why don't more people do it? Well, it's definitely not for everyone. Those who decide to go out on their own quickly learn that they will need to develop new skills, in addition to their teacher skills, if they want to succeed as an independent online teacher. They need to set up a website, market themselves, find clients, close deals, manage payments, manage scheduling, and maybe even manage a small team. It's a lot of work and not everyone is cut out for that or in a good place in their life and career to be able to spend the time necessary to acquire those new skills.
Some teachers are ready to take the leap from selling their time to a company to selling their own lessons, courses, and products. They see the opportunity to quickly learn a few more skills and to tap into the humungous market of students looking for high-quality language teachers on the Internet. The barriers to entry are the lowest they've ever been and a few smart teachers are making the shift from $10 or $20-per-hour jobs in companies to $10,000 or $20,000-per-month independent teaching businesses.
The two biggest things that hold teachers back from going solo in the online teaching world are:
- The Digital Pivot - Moving from offline to online is tough. It takes longer for some than for others and the online skills that are required come easier to some. Still, making the transition from delivering your product or service in person to delivering them through a computer or other Internet-enabled device is important in today's world.
- The Marketing Shift - Being a product delivery mechanism, a.k.a. a teacher that teaches, and being a client attraction mechanism, a.k.a. a brand that markets itself, are completely different manifestations of you. Most teachers are stuck delivering when they should be marketing and selling.
Start an Online Teaching Business
The option to start your own business is a good alternative to the dead-end ESL jobs online that we've discussed. There have never been more resources available for you to get started. You can do it for free or use very affordable paid options. And you can be up and running in no time!
Not sure where to start? Check this out:
Teaching Business Website
Setting up a website holds a lot of teachers back. They think it has to be a big, complicated process, but, in actuality, it can be done in under an hour. It's important to turn off any perfectionist tendencies you may be prone to if creating a website has been a problem for you in the past. My article about how to create a website in 15 minutes could be the push you need to get started now.
Start with one webpage only. You don't have to write your life story or your resume. Include something relevant to the potential customer, so that you are answering their most asked questions in advance. Your one-page website should serve as a filter so that only the right people book calls with you.
Legal Entity Teaching Business LLC
Another thing that holds a lot of teachers back is fear of doing the wrong thing. If you've never opened an LLC or another legal entity, then you might be worried about getting in trouble with taxes or not understanding how to pay taxes at the end of the year and needing to hire an expensive accountant. But there's an important phrase to remember: the best way to start a business is to start a business.
Nowadays you can start a business in 10 minutes without leaving your sofa. There are online services that will register a legal entity for you and provide you with all of the documents necessary to open a bank account and do business. My article about how to register a business and pay taxes as an independent teacher might help you if you've been struggling with this step of the process.
We've all seen Facebook ads, YouTube ads, Instagram ads, and thousands of other ads all over the Internet. We see them. We don't like them. And we don't want to be associated with them. But the irony is that those ads are the most effective way for us to tell people about our products or services. This is one reason why so many teachers are hesitant about advertising themselves.
But the other, more obvious reason is that advertising is expensive. At one point I was spending $5,000 per day on advertising alone. That might be a doable budget for a large, multinational brand, but not for a newly independent online English teacher. The truth is that it doesn't have to be outrageously expensive. You can start with a much smaller advertising budget, but the budget isn't what we should focus on. Before we spend any amount of money we need to understand how to advertise teaching services.
Some teachers think the only way they could find students as a private English teacher would be post on social media constantly. That looks like a lot of work. Most teachers don't know the first thing about video editing, audio recording, lighting, or search engine optimization and keyword planning. They don't know how to advertise their tutoring services online with social media.
Don't let any of these things hold you back! There are simple solutions to get around each of these and other barriers that pop up in your journey to teaching English online independently.