Anomalous Educator’s Complete Guide
As the CEO of a top online language school, I’ve received hundreds of questions about the world of online teaching.
But the one question I get more than any other is this: how the heck do I get started?
It can be an intimidating process at first — particularly for those who haven’t worked online before or even taught before.
I started Teacher Indie in 2016 to answer questions surrounding the process and build a community of online teachers to support each other. In order to distill this information down even more, we’re sending you this three-part guide to getting started teaching English online.
This line of work is exciting, as it gives you the opportunity to help others and, if you so choose, to travel the world while you do it.
You can teach English online from anywhere – as long as you have good WiFi, of course!
If teaching English online sounds like the path you want to take, this three-part series will give you everything you need to know to be successful. SIGN UP HERE to get our three-part guide emailed to you as PDFs, along with a slew of useful information and extras. (Don’t worry — we promise no spam!)
Now for the guide — here’s how to get started teaching online!
Step 1: Get your gear set up in order
To be a successful online English teacher, you’re going to have to get yourself some solid gear.
- A fast laptop (or desktop) computer
- A solid internet connection, or access to a coworking space where you can teach from
- A headset and microphone
- Any teaching props — we cover those IN THIS GUIDE
- A quiet, professional looking space to teach from
- VOIP service
We go into detail — more like a full-on nerd-out session — on online teaching gear ON OUR GEAR GUIDE PAGE.
Side note: If you plan to travel while teaching, perhaps dabble in the digital nomad lifestyle, a good VPN – or virtual Virtual Private Network — is a good tool to have. It’s not absolutely necessary in most countries, but can come in handy if you ever have difficulty accessing certain websites.
We use and recommend Buffered VPN
Their network is reliable and super affordable — often less than $5 USD per month. Buffered VPN is a fast-growing personal VPN service provider that lets you browse anonymously and safely from anywhere their servers operate — over 45 different countries, around the world. Buffered can help you unlock the internet. Check out more on Buffered VPN here:
Step 2: Get any necessary certifications
You, of course, need to be a native English speaker or have reached full fluency before you can teach English online. Many online language schools and tutoring programs will also require you to obtain a TEFL certification. If you are going to get a TEFL certification, be sure it is accredited — we recommend using BridgeTEFL, an accredited TEFL certification program based in Denver, Colorado. Their certification courses come in the following formats:
- a 40-hour basic certification
- a 60-hour Educator certificate
- a 100-hour Teaching English Online certificate
- a 100-hour Professional Certificate
- a 120-hour Master Certificate
- and the big one, a 150-hour diploma that is University-Endorsed.
In addition, they also offer training in specific areas such as:
- teaching business English
- teaching English to young learners
- teaching English grammar
- Online language schools typically require their English teachers to hold a legitimate (accredited) TEFL certificate so that they know what training and skills a prospective English teacher possess.
Click the image to learn more about BridgeTEFL and sign up:
If you don’t have an accredited TEFL certification, this is your first step.
Step 3: Find the best way to teach English online — for you
Ok. Now that you have your ducks in a row (or at least a plan to get them there), let’s talk about how exactly to go about teaching online. The most common route, and probably the easiest to do as a beginner, is to apply for a job with an online language school, tutoring company, or brand that teaches English to employees or students.
Most sites that teach English online will allow you to work from anywhere, some even on your own schedule. Others, such as VIPKid, have more of a set schedule as they teach students in China in what is an evening timeframe for them — and incredibly early in the morning for those in the Western Hemisphere. That said, there’s something to be said for the stability of a company like that.
We’ve done a deep dive into many of the most popular sites to teach English online, and detailed each one in a handy little guide:
You can also go about it on your own as a freelancer. This is tougher because you have to market your services — but fortunately, Our site is ripe with content about how to best go about doing this.
Step 4: Set your curriculum
Fortunately for you, the internet is full of pre-packaged lesson plans that you can buy/rent/download and adapt to your lessons. In most cases, each student will need a bit of customization because each will have their own specific goals. Once you work with a student for a while, you’ll have a better understanding of how they take in and retain information and how they
These sites are definitely worth checking out:
- Teachers Pay Teachers
- ESL Hip Hop — excellent for young students!
- Film English — allows you to find lessons teaching English with film, very relatable for students into pop culture
- Breaking News English — builds lessons around news and has thousands of free lessons broken into seven different learning levels
Step 5: Set your pay conditions and a cancellation policy
How are you going to get paid? This is so important!
But first, how much are you going to charge? Most teachers charge somewhere between $25 and $50 per hour for lessons, and students in most countries expect to pay somewhere in that range. Too low, and you risk looking unprofessional. Too high, and you risk people moving on.
As for getting paid, PayPal is the easiest and most common way to get paid. Your goal should be to have students sign up for recurring billing so that your invoicing is consistent. Besides PayPal, these platforms can do this for you:
- PaySimple and Cayan allow you to accept credit card payments easily and securely. This is great for recurring billing. If your student attends a lesson once per week, and you bill them once per month, they can opt to have a recurring payment setup. If not, they can pay once per month on their own.
- PayPal is a strong option as well. It allows for easy transfers of money from student to teacher. PayPal allows businesses to set up invoicing and recurring payments, and provides instant receipts for all sales transactions. The con here is that PayPal does take a cut of the sale, either from you or the customer depending on how you request or make payments.
Here is our deep dive on collecting payment from students.
You also need a strong cancellation policy, as cancellations are going to happen and there will inevitably be questions about whether or not a refund or credit should be given.
Having a policy in place gives you something to direct potential and current students to before an issue arises. It also gives you firm ground to charge a student should they cancel at the last minute. By signing up for lessons, the student agrees to your terms of service, and that includes the pre-determined cancellation policy.
Additionally, just having a policy that students are aware of and can reference will in many cases make students less likely to cancel at the last minute — they know that you take your work seriously and expect them to do the same! We do a deep dive on cancellation policy (and how to word it) here in this article.