The Truth About Teaching English Online | TEFL Institute of Ireland

The Truth About Teaching English Online

You can teach english online from almost anywhere in the world, but only if you plan ahead.

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Earn 2000 euro a month teaching English online!

Work from the comfort of your own home!

Work anywhere!

Finance your travels one English lesson at a time!

Too good to be true?

No, actually.  

The market is way past saturated. If you search for anything remotely related to a TEFL career; teach English abroad, language exchange, English tutor; you will get a plague of predictive advertising. The same goes for anything related to remote work.

With so much overkill it is easy to assume that it is all bull. But, it isn’t. There are some really great online teaching opportunities–career opportunities. However, in order to successfully launch a career teaching English online you have to be methodical, almost entrepreneurial in your approach.

Work from the Comfort of Your Own Home!

You’ve got your perfect day all mapped out; a light breakfast, teach English online for a few hours, take the afternoon to do whatever, then teach one more lesson to round out the day. You giddily research the best online English teaching programs only to discover that nearly everything is based out of China and they need teachers to be available from 6pm – 9pm, Beijing time. That is 2am – 5am your time. Dream. Needle. Pop.

There are online English teaching jobs available in multiple time zones, but the low-hanging, high-paying fruit is in China. Before you start idealising your schedule, do the timezone math. Europe and Australia match up pretty well. North America, not so much. You don’t have to leave the house. You can wear a nice shirt and underpants if you want. But, teaching English online isn’t a job that you can do anytime inspiration strikes. As always you have to work around your student’s schedules.

Work Anywhere!

This is sort of true. You can work anywhere if you plan ahead. What you can’t do is hop on a bus and teach English wherever you wake up. Chances are if you are pursuing the digital nomad life you are trying to live cheaply. The live cheap places pretty much all have terrible internet. And, if you take that bus outside of the big city, forget about it. Also, have you ever tried to find a quiet space in a hostel?

A former student of ours teaches exclusively online. She breaks her work/travel year into two-month segments. Last year she spent the entire year in South America. She lived in Medellin for two months, Lima for two months, Santiago, Buenos Aires and then back to Medellin because she missed the people and the place. For each stint she rented a room in advance, making sure to double and triple check the wifi service. She set up a comfortable, professional work environment and when she wasn’t teaching, she took that bus to far off places. If you want to “work anywhere” follow her lead.

Find a Job Under All the Hyperbole.

Every online English teaching program is the most, the best, the greatest. Except for the part where they’re not. Some of the big names out there are VipKid (China), VerbalPlanet (Global), TutorABC (Taiwan/China), GoFluent (Business English) and even the old vets Berlitz are getting into the new game. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Do they require an hourly commitment, i.e., 15 hours a week? AND, do they guarantee to fill those hours?
  • How much of your hourly wage is based on student response? Some programs place a hefty percentage on “Teacher Ratings.” That is fine if you are teaching little kids who always give you 10/10 because you’re the teacher and they love you! On the other hand, if you are teaching analytical adults who have good days and bad days…
  • What materials if any do they provide? You will hear online English teachers say, “I don’t even lesson plan!” Umm, if you don’t lesson plan, you suck at your job. You owe it to your students to be prepared. But, if you aren’t given any resources, the prep work is going to take a lot of the shine off that hourly wage.

Ignore the hyperbole. Demand real hours, fair compensation, and pedagogical structure.

Speaking of Being Prepared.

Teaching English Online is a unique skill. A lot of veteran TEFL instructors struggle initially; they are used to the space and pace of a classroom, they can’t use their “presence” as a behaviour management tool. If you are considering teaching English online, talk to current online English instructors and consider taking a class to augment your skill set.

At the TEFL Institute of Ireland, we offer a 30 Hour Home Tutor Course Online TEFL coursesthat includes specialised training and lesson planning for online instruction. It is an inexpensive way to ensure that your new career path doesn’t start with trial and error.

Best of luck! Maybe we’ll see you somewhere in the world. Anywhere in the world!


  • Hi,

    I teach online and find it pretty tough with the time differences. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Frankie Kiely /

      Hi Mary,
      Teaching online can be hard with the different time zones. Maybe you could try just looking at students that fit into your timezone and limit lessons to 30 minutes.

  • if peak demand from China is “6pm – 9pm, Beijing time”, doesn’t that translate to 10am – 1pm Dublin/GMT?

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