Teaching English Online

Teaching English Online

This blog is a guide on to how to start work teaching English online, freelancing and working for yourself. We also list the best course for online 1-1 teaching.

Teaching English onlineis an exciting way to learn and teach English. It has grown dramatically as technology improves and the busy professional wakes up to the fact they can have lessons at a time to suit them, from the office or on the move.

For the teacher, this flexibility means you can choose your hours and even set up on your own.

Be aware that this market is fragmented with varying recruitment criteria and demands. You may be teaching 1-1 or leading a small group online. You may have materials provided, online ‘whiteboard’ etc. or be expected to generate your own lesson material.

The downside of teaching English online or by phone is that it does not usually pay as well as teaching face-to-face. However, you can usually set your own hours or supplement your regular in-class earnings by teaching online in those ‘in-between’ hours. With the larger, more established companies serving China, such as VIP kids, you can earn quite well as demand for online learning increased.

What are the technical requirements?

You will generally need a headset, microphone, reliable broadband and Skype or other VoIP (internet phone) capacity. Some organisations also like you to have a webcam as well, so it will help if you have an up to date PC and someone to help you with the technical side if you are not 100% comfortable with your computer. 

What will I need as a teacher?

You'll find that students like you to have a nice voice and a friendly manner. Some of the teaching is conversational in nature, so being genuinely interested in your students is important. You may find it beneficial to have a specialisation in TESOL, such as Teaching Business English, to make yourself more marketable in this arena.

What to teach

As in most areas, this will be student led but in my experience. Most students want confidence building; a chance to practice with a native speaker in safety. Your role will often be to provide a nurturing space where they will feel at ease to make mistakes -and have you correct them and gradually help them to become more fluent and confident. However, we have taught English to professionals, students of English language exams such as IELTS and also helped students gear up for a particular event such as a business presentation or job interview. If you need to find your own material for lessons, see our blog on the best free TEFL websites

You may not be able to meet every student niche request, however. When I started Phone English I had to turn down a foreign student whose job was to take down Chinese take-away orders in Birmingham; he particularly wanted a teacher with a Birmingham accent to dictate menu items down the phone. Alas, I didn’t feel any one of our excellent teachers could be asked to maintain a fake Brummie accent for any length of time.

Working for yourself

You will certainly earn more than if you work for an online English school but finding paying students can be more difficult. To start, get involved in Skype forums: try typing Skype forums learn English into Google to see how others are teaching and learning English via Skype. Many are teaching for free but not always.

Other options: Third party hosts

Myngle is a 3rd party host which brings together teachers and students and they take a percentage of what you charge. I have heard that you have to fill in your details, pass a competency check and that they may not get back to you if they have more teachers than students (and anecdotally this was the case a few months back) but it might be worth a try. Also check out italki as well. 

Already freelancing?

The other off-neglected way is to offer phone English or a blended phone and face-to-face option to students where you are locally. This might prove very interesting for learners who are busy professionals or mums at home and hopefully you’ll be offering something that’s still quite unique in the local market place. 

Are you teaching English by phone/online? Share your experiences below.


What now?

For online schools, a TESOL qualification will make you more employable. Even if working for yourself, knowing what and how to teach means you are more likely to give better lessons and keep your students coming back for more.

* Our TESOL Premier course 120 hours is perfect for getting started in teaching English quickly. It's includes the basics for teaching English online also. 
* If you want to focus on teaching business English, our
30 hour specialist teaching business English course is an excellent addition to a core TESOL. 


You might also like:

* See some Skype English teaching tips
* Global English TESOL graduate Lea shares his story here in I teach English Online
*  Teaching English Online Starter Pack comprising 20 ready-to-use lessons, teaching guide and grammar eBook
* Find out more about teaching English online for Palfish 
* Why I love teaching English online - Louisa's story


Got a question? Our Facebook page is the perfect place to comment or email us directly here. Or check out our TEO video below for more info on this. 

  • Author: Louisa Walsh
  • Date: 26/02/2019

Return back to listings

Search Blog

Blog Archive

Want the Latest TEFL jobs & information? Sign up to our e-newsletter now

Privacy Policy

Country Guides
See where your TEFL can take you - just type a country:

View all countries

Which TEFL course is best for me? Read our handy guide now.

Employers - have you got a position to advertise on our website and through our fortnightly newsletter? Click here.

Employer enquiry form

We offer online and weekend TESOL courses from 20 hour to 350 hours. If you will accept our graduates from one of these courses to fill your vacancy, (you can decide which courses you will accept) we can display your job advert for free.

Please enter your details address below and we will email you a job vacancy form to complete:


"For the past two years I have worked here in Tuscany teaching all levels. I have already recommended your courses to one of my prospective teachers..."

Alison Salmon, English World, Italy