Introduction to Teaching English Online

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There has been huge growth in opportunities for online teaching for ESL/EFL teachers over the past few years. Here's a quick overview of the current situation, exciting opportunities in the pipeline and tips on sites that are currently offering online teaching possibilities.

Online Teaching as an Independent Contractor

Most online teaching opportunities provide work as an independent contractor. What this means is that there are no set hours and you can work as much or as little as you wish. Of course, that's also the catch—often there is little work to be had. The upside is that online teaching generally allows you to set your own prices on these services. Establish a top reputation in online teaching, and you can ask for a higher rate.


In the world of online teaching, there is a lot of competition, which sometimes leads to fewer hours. However, things are changing rapidly and more and more students are finding their way to the variety of online teaching venues. Here are some of the main sites that currently offer an online teaching opportunity:

VIPKID: VIPKID focuses solely on teaching English online and handles all the lesson plans and client communications. Available to teachers from the U.S. and Canada, VIPKID has an application process that involves a mock lesson. Teachers that perform well will have a higher base salary. VIPKID offers additional bonuses and incentives.

iTalki: This site started off as a place to find speaking partners in various languages via Skype. Now, it's grown to include online teaching services in English.

Online Teaching as an Employee

There are a few companies that offer opportunities for paid online teaching positions. Of course, the competition is more intense for these positions, but the pay is steady. If you are an experienced teacher, comfortable with technology, would like to take advantage of online teaching, but desire a fixed schedule this is probably for you.

The best place to look for one of these positions is

Creating an Online Teaching Business

There are a number of teachers that have set up their own online teaching businesses over the past few years. A number of these businesses seem to be doing well. You'll need the ability to think like an entrepreneur (this includes marketing yourself, networking, developing contacts, etc.) If this appeals to you, it could also be the most lucrative online teaching arrangement - but it is hard work and can take quite a while to build up to the point where you have a steady stream of English learners.

Basic Requirements

To successfully participate in online teaching you'll need to be able to do a few things well:

  • Use technology with ease. Make sure that you don't waste students' time while you learn the technology. This sounds quite obvious, but it is often a problem.
  • Create a few lesson plans that focus on online teaching. You'll need a game plan for online teaching. It's not the same as teaching in a classroom.
  • Spend some money on good technology for your online teaching. These days gadgets are cheap. Make sure to invest in a good camera, headphones and microphone. You'll also need a computer that can handle video/audio streaming so make sure you have enough RAM!
  • Willingness to promote yourself. If you would like to compete with other teachers as an independent contractor, you'll need to promote yourself through your profile, blog, YouTube, etc. Currently, students don't just show up and they have lots of choices.

There are many preparations to make before you begin online teaching. This guide to teaching online will help you deal with the most important technological considerations.

Finally, if you have had any experience with online teaching, please share your experiences so we can all learn.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Introduction to Teaching English Online." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 28). Introduction to Teaching English Online. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Introduction to Teaching English Online." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).