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Have you ever taught online? Looking for ways to start, or to improve your online teaching strategy? Now, I don’t teach exclusively online, though I know teachers who do.
That’s because I also like the variety of students that come my way through referrals from in-person students I have already. However, teaching English online is a really awesome part-time job and could even be a full-time career. So, for those of you who are thinking of starting out as an online English teacher, or those who want some online teaching tips, read on!
3 Reasons You Should Teach English Online
First, you can work from home:
Some of the benefits of this are obvious. Of course, you don’t have the travel time you would normally have if you were a one-on-one, private tutor, or if you were working at a school. This also means you can pretty much choose your hours, although I have to say that usually, the hours choose me!
If you’re working with some of the common platforms out there (like iTalki or Verbling), students can book last minute, and cancel with fairly short notice – so that is something to bear in mind. In fact, I’ve had to turn off some of the platforms for this reason exactly. If you’re fully booked, this is tricky, because you often have to reject students!
Second, you can work internationally:
This has two advantages:
- You can teach while travelling – I first started teaching online when I moved to Oxford to do my Master’s degree. Several of my Canadian students wanted to continue to have lessons from me online. This especially applied to university students and those who wanted help with essay writing. I still get referrals from students I taught seven years ago!
- You can meet students from around the world. I love having international students! At times, this may mean working strange hours, so remember to factor that in! Sometimes, I’m working at 1am here in Barcelona, or 5 am, because that’s the most convenient time for students in China, or adult students who want after-work lessons in Canada.
Third, it’s so much fun:
Teaching online is a blast! I love technology, and connecting with students around the world is exhilarating. I help Chinese students apply to Ivy league schools, Canadian ESL students perfect their essays, and sometimes help adults in various fields with their resumes and cover letters. Best of all, most of the work simply comes to me, without much searching.
Here are my top tips on how to do this:
How To Teach English Online: 5 Tips
1. Be Prepared!
So you may be thinking that teaching online is less work than teaching in person. Well, not really, I’d say! There’s less travel time, as I mentioned above, but you have to be just as prepared, if not more.
There are a few ways you can do this:
- Have your teaching resources well-organized before you accept any students
- Talk to your students (before the first class) about their goals and timelines, and be realistic. Sometimes this may mean turning down students if your schedule is full, or making them aware of unrealistic goals. For example, I recently had a potential student ask me to teach her 3 hours per week for 6 weeks to pass the TOEFL exam, without ever having studied for or looked at the exam. I suggested that her goal may not be realistic, and that we should have a trial lesson to check her level before I could agree to that. I lost that student!
- Prepare for class just as you would for an in-person class. Have a lesson plan and extra activities on hand.
2. Use An Online Sharing Platform
While there are many of these out there, some of the most popular are iTalki and Verbling. These platforms give you a space to work in, video software (where the session is often recorded), digital whiteboards, and a place to upload files to share with your students.
Of course, these platforms take a cut from your earnings. So, if you happen to already have a client base that wants to learn online, using Skype itself, or even investing in a better platform with a monthly fee like Zoom could be a good idea. On the other hand. these platforms reimburse you for no-shows and ensure you get paid.
3. Write Notes for Your Students
Wait a minute – shouldn’t students take notes? Now, as much as I believe that students should study, sometimes taking notes during a language class can distract students. This is especially true if the focus is on speaking. Of course students want to keep a record of their errors, but how can they do this and focus on speaking at the same time?
Well, I take notes for them. Whether it’s in person or online, I keep a record of vocabulary and grammar errors, pronunciation tips, and anything else we happen to cover – and email or upload it to them afterwards. This helps you provide over-the-top, extra value for your clients. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.
4. Give Homework (optional: offer to correct it)
This one is quite simple – give them homework! Just because you teach online, doesn’t mean students can’t do homework. Personally, I like to be available all the time (via email, Whatsapp, etc) to answer my student’s questions. Of course, if you teach English online you may not want to teach more than the hours you are paid for. However, in my experience, taking a few seconds to answer a text question, email, or correct a page of homework before the next lesson provides tons of value. In Canada, I advertised this as “free extra-hours service” and wow, did it get me clients!
5. Keep That Linked In Profile Updated
Just a brief word on this one – keep your Linked In Profile updated. I’ve had companies and clients find me and ask me to teach English online, even when I wasn’t even looking. They are some of my highest paying leads!
Where To Find Students
1. Apply for Online Teaching Platforms – Yes, iTalki, Verbling, Skooli and others are likely taking a cut out of your pay. However, you don’t have to worry about students not paying you (a common problem when you first start out!), arriving late, or complaining. Your sessions are recorded by the company, and you get paid by Paypal. Sometimes, these platforms are hard to get into if they have a huge demand for the subject you teach. So, be sure to make a convincing, high-quality video!
2. Facebook Groups – Yes, I’m serious! If you want to find tutoring clients, Facebook groups for teaching and learning English are a great place to find students. I’ve seen so many teachers advertise there, or even offer a free lesson to hook students and get them to try their services. I’ve also had many requests via Facebook from the groups I’m in – which I’ve had to turn down due to my many obligations this year (ahem, the eternal PhD…)
3. Word of Mouth: The Ultimate Marketing Tool
Now, I can’t emphasize this one enough. Word of mouth is your best marketing tool.
Referrals will get you more clients faster (and cheaper) than anything else. Sometimes I question my decision to travel a bit further for a student in-person, or take on a client that wants 1 am sessions for weeks in a row.
Then I realize that it always works out in the end, and I often get one or two referrals per student for my efforts! I even have a few students on a waiting list for next September when my PhD load will be lighter. So, don’t underestimate putting in a little extra effort 🙂
An Online Summit To Help You
Now, if you want more tips to teach English online, don’t forget to attend Paulino Brener‘s 2018 Online Teacher’s Summit! I’ll be speaking there, and even hosting a live session, so I can answer your questions about online teaching.
The summit runs from April 2nd to 5th, 2018 – and you can sign up for FREE here!
Well, I hope today’s post has given you a few tips and perhaps inspired you to earn some extra income online.
Do you teach online already? What do you teach, and what’s your favourite part when you teach English online? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below 🙂
Happy (Online) Teaching!
P.S. Photo fans, the main image I took for today’s post was in Lisbon, Portugal last spring.
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