Want to know how you can increase your earnings as an online English teacher? You don’t have to settle for your current rate – with a bit of experience and hard work, you can easily see your salary grow.
Types of Online Teaching
There is potential to earn more depending on how you deliver your online TEFL lessons. Pay varies between different platforms, and although there isn’t one option that always pays more than others, the distinction comes down to how many students you can get. Here are the pros and cons of each different way to teach English online.
Hired on a Platform. This is usually the most popular way to become a TEFL teacher because it needs less organisation than going it alone. A professional platform will find students for you, often offering you a busy timetable. During peak days/times, platforms are desperate for good teachers and so there is usually a lot of work on offer. The platform will arrange the lesson topic and provide you with materials and content – all you have to do is turn up and teach. The downside to platforms is that the middle man takes a cut, and so pay is usually much lower than if you organise your own classes. Having said that, there are professional platforms that only hire the best teachers with great qualifications and years of experience, and you can work your way up to decent pay. A warning: newbie platforms might promise mountains of work and then fail to provide the goods, or even make teachers redundant if there is a drop in student numbers.
Student/Tutor Matching Platform. These platforms are a great place to meet potential students who are actively looking for a teacher. You can set up a profile and give example videos to show off your skills. Students will choose you based on your experience, the lesson content you offer and your price. Usually, you can set your own price on these platforms which is a double-edged sword. In theory, it means you can charge as much as you want, and even if the platform takes a cut, you can set your rate so that you still get the fee you desire. However, on many platforms you’ll find you’re easily undercut by other teachers desperate for business who are happy to receive a smaller fee. But remember that price isn’t everything – some discerning students will appreciate that they have to pay more for good quality. On this sort of platform, you’ll have to organise your own lessons and provide your own materials.
Freelance Online Teaching. If you don’t want to pay a fee to anyone and are happy to use Skype rather than another platform, the best way to keep all of your own earnings is to go freelance. However, finding students in this way can be immensely difficult. You can set up a website, Facebook or Twitter page to promote yourself, or advertise your skills on websites and forums, but ultimately, you’ll be lucky to get students until you have a great profile and students are found through word of mouth. To find out where to list your services as an online TEFL teacher, TEFL.org has put together a list of places to check out.
Look at Your Availability
Some online TEFL teachers are dissatisfied with the amount of teaching work they get offered, especially when they teach students who are living on the other side of the world. The peak times of day when students are looking for classes might not be convenient for you. The time difference between, for example, the UK and China, is either seven or eight hours (depending on the time of year). So when we’re getting ready for work in the UK, that’s when the Chinese are finishing up for the day. As such, UK-based teachers can often find work at a reasonable time of day with students who choose to learn in the evening. However, US-based teachers have a different time difference and peak time to find classes are between 3am and 8am.
To increase your earnings, make sure you’re available at peak times in the country where your students live. Your students are likely to live in Asia where there’s a bigger time difference, and so you have to be prepared to be flexible with your schedule. In a survey we conducted, we found that the vast majority of teachers wake up early to be available for lessons with foreign students. If you want more classes but can’t face teaching lessons at obscure times of day, find platforms that cater to students in Europe or places with closer time differences to your own.
A great way to earn more money as an online English teacher is by specialising and teaching certain topics. This is something that many TEFL teachers get into once they have a few years of experience under their belt, and particularly those who have degrees, qualifications or experience in other subjects. While there are often platforms these days teaching subject specialisations in English, there are other speciality lesson types that have been around for years. You can even do specialist courses on how to teach specific types of TEFL, like the ones offered on TEFL.org. Here are a few topics that already have a large student base:
- Business English
- Medical English
- English for Pilots
- Test Preparation English
- English for Young Learners
Increase Your Fee
This can feel like a risky one, but it’s part of a long game. If you work on a matching platform or are freelance, your fee is up to you. If you go in with all guns blazing and charge high from the start, you’re likely to put students off and never get any lessons. The best advice is to start modestly, so that you can gain students who will leave good reviews on your profile and so that others can see you have a track record of teaching. Once you’ve gained experience, raise your prices – it’s best to do this primarily for new customers, as your old students might quit if you ask them to pay more, but that’s not always the case. Many students, when you explain that a small increase of salary is usual in any field of work when more experience has been gained, will understand the need to pay for quality. Working up to an enviable fee can take years, but it’s best to progress slowly rather than rushing a higher fee and putting people off.
Promote Your Profile
Whether you’re going freelance or using a platform to connect with students, you’re likely to find more success if you have a great online presence and a good profile. If students can find you online and your profile crops up easily in search engines, they’ll know you’re a genuine and experienced teacher.
Your website doesn’t have to be anything flashy, just an info page and a topical blog is enough to show your interest in the subject. You could keep a blog about anything to do with the TEFL world – your life as an online TEFL teacher, sharing top tips or best activities for online classes, providing mini lesson tips for English-learning students… the options are endless.
Another way to gain followers and create a great profile is to provide free materials. These days everyone wants something for free, but if you provide something useful you could end up making a profit off the back of it. Posting free materials (or links to them) on your website will increase traffic and raise your profile. Use websites like iSLCOLLECTIVE and BusyTeacher to share worksheets and materials you’ve made for your TEFL classes. These websites are great resources if you’re planning your own classes, and if your materials are good it could connect you with a recruiter. Posting materials that students can use at home will show them the quality of your teaching capabilities and could prompt a request for lessons – make sure you have contact details on your website and list availability for your TEFL classes.
There are numerous ways to increase your earnings when you’re an online English teacher, it just takes a bit of work to decide which method is best for you. Whether it’s choosing a different platform to work on or building your online profile, if you dedicate time to it then you can soon be increasing your salary as an online TEFL teacher.
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