Whales English is one of the highest paying online ESL companies when comparing to the rest of the market. There are 100s of ESL companies out there and Whales English definitely ranks as one of the best to work for, for numerous reasons:
- The pay is great – from $18-30 base rate PLUS bonuses on top
- Fantastic staff support
- A great teaching community
- Materials provided for you
- Schedule managed by your assigned support staff
- Able to request time off without being penalized like other companies (with notice)
This is all well and good in theory, however, but not so great if you aren’t actually getting any bookings. I personally gained a full schedule after a couple of weeks of starting with the company, actually ending up opening more slots throughout the week due to parents requesting me to teach their children.
I know not everyone is this fortunate, so here’s where I share with you some Top Tips to help you gain more bookings with Whales English.
How are Bookings Made
Firstly, let’s take a look at how your schedule is managed and bookings are made. When you are first hired by Whales English, you are asked to complete training to be able to teach trial lessons. This training does not take long. You are sent information and videos via Google Drive to go through independently. Along with this, you are given all four trial lessons produced by Whales English, to practise. Then, via zoom, you have an hour-long training session with a Whales English staff member. You will be asked to teach one of the trial lessons for 15 minutes, they will tell you which lesson to begin teaching. I highly recommend adding in your own props and reward system which are relevant to that lesson. The remaining time is spent going through how to teach a trial class and use Zoom.
You are now trained and ready to receive trial class bookings. You will be assigned a TS (teacher support) who is in charge of booking your open slots with trial classes. Do not expect a full schedule right away. Within my first two weeks, I was only given two classes each week. This was to see what kind of teacher I was, whether I was fully prepared and professional if I could use zoom correctly and had the relevant props and reward systems in place. This is quite standard and nothing to be alarmed about. Whales English is very supportive and if they feel you need more support, they will offer one to one time to help guide you.
At this stage, some teachers choose to remain just trial teachers. This has a number of perks:
- Different students every lesson
- Familiarity with teaching the same possible four lessons
- A potential bonus of $5 per student sign up
- Not tied to the same set schedule for 25 weeks like regular class teachers
If you choose to, you can then request to complete the regular class training, to be able to teach regular students who book 25-week blocks at a time. Personally, I love being a regular teacher. I still am able to ask for trial slots if I ever have students book a week off or want to open an additional day every now and again without long term commitment to being available at that time. Being a regular class teacher enables me to
- Teach the same students every week
- Build a rappor and get to know my students
- Support them further with their learning
- Witness their progression over the 25-week block
- Receive a more varied lesson timetable so I don’t teach the same class 6 times a week
- Have more income security knowing that my students have booked a full 25-week block with me
- Build a rappor with students parents over the 25 week period to ensure they rebook me as their teacher for a further course
- Know my weekly schedule in advance as I will be teaching the same time slots every week.
Related Post: How to Earn $1000-2000 per month Teaching ESL Online
As you can see, there are so many benefits to being a regular class teacher, not to mention how rewarding it is to see your students grow in confidence and increased ability over the 25-week block.
Your regular class training is very similar to your trial class training. Whales English sends you self study material accessible via Google Drive. This includes policy documents, lesson content, feedback information and of course examples of lessons taught.
Regular class training is completed in your own time at your own pace. Once finished, send a reply email to the Whales staff member who sent you the Google Drive documents. They will then confirm you are ready to teach regular classes and you will be assigned a CS (staff support).
Your CS will communicate with you to confirm your schedule and that you can teach for 25 weeks during the slots you have opened. They will then support you in gaining regular bookings by sending your introductory video to parents. Parents usually receive a couple of teacher’s videos at a time to select and choose their child’s teacher.
NOTE: When you offer a fixed time slot for regular class and have these booked, you cannot change them until your student’s course has ended. If you ask to cancel that time slot, the company may fine you as parents may either
- Cancel their child’s course and require a refund
- Complain that they have to find a new teacher
- Complain that they need to find a new time slot.
Top Tips to Increase Your Bookings
Now that you know the background of HOW bookings are made and the difference between regular and trial classes, let’s take a look at the top tips of how to increase your bookings and hence your earning potential.
Complete Your Training
As discussed above, your top priority should be to complete all training provided once hired. You can only teach each type of class – regular and trials, once you have completed them.
Remember, you can choose to just each trial classes. However, bookings are not guaranteed to be the same amount each week and you need to have a higher conversion rate in order to remain a trial teacher.
Sign Up For CPD Opportunities
Whales English is great in that they offer additional training sessions for their current teachers. This might be in how to use zoom, giving supportive feedback to students, how to teach particular class levels, time management, increasing student engagement, etc.
Participating in as many of these training sessions as possible shows Whales English management that you are eager to learn and improve, and are committed to being the best teacher you can.
Teachers who have participated in Whales English specific training are more likely to receive more bookings as they will be aware of how Whales English wants lessons taught and are more familiar with current lesson materials.
Optimize Your Profile
Your profile is the first thing parents are going to view when considering choosing a teacher for their children. Ensure to include a friendly picture, with a clear background. Provide copies of all your relevant qualifications when this is requested during the hiring process. This enables the Whales English team to add a list of your qualifications for parents to see.
Education is extremely important within Chinese culture, so ensure to not miss this step including your degree, higher level degrees such as PGCE/Masters/PhD and not forgetting your TEFL/TESOL qualification – legally required by the Chinese government if teaching their students.
Prioritise Creating Your Introductory Video
When hired, you will be asked to complete and send your introductory video. An introductory video lasts around 2-3 minutes and is for you to share your experiences, qualifications and teaching style with potential students and their parents.
An introductory video will really help parents find out more about you and your teaching style, along with hearing your accent – some parents have a preference to which accent their children will pick up e.g. American vs British accent.
Follow these tips when creating your introductory video:
Write down what you are going to say beforehand. Include your experiences, qualifications, where you are from, how you like to teach and demonstrate some of your favourite props/reward systems.
Practise Practise Practise. It can be nerve-wracking talking on camera, even if it is just to yourself. Practise what you have written down so that it sounds natural and flows.
Keep your teaching background clear and professional before hitting the record button. It doesn’t quite have the same effect if you have your dirty laundry in the background.
Have a friendly and colourful background – use some wall stickers and posters to brighten up your background to pique student’s interest
Take time to learn how to use Zoom or whichever recording material you wish to use. It may take you a few attempts before getting it right – I think I personally recorded myself 10 times before I was happy!
Do not worry if you are not a ‘techy’ person. You do not have to make your video fancy, adding in lots of effects and virtual props. However, if this is your thing, then, by all means, feel free to add in some ‘jazz’ and make your introductory video unique. Just ensure the efforts do not take away from yourself – remember the introductory video is to sell yourself and for parents to choose you over and above other teachers.
I have heard from others to wear a red T-shirt/shirt for your introductory video. Within Chinese culture, red is seen as lucky and is highly valued. Though this isn’t a priority above your video content, it might give you that slight favourable edge.
Open Peak Time Slots
Peak time within Beijing is considered 6-9pm every day. Whales English offers teaching slots from 6-10pm Monday – Friday and then 8am-10pm on weekends. They require teachers to open a minimum of 8 slots per week, which equates to 8hours teaching per week.
To increase your chances of bookings, the best time slots to offer are between 7-9pm every day. These were the times I personally found the quickest to fill. 6-7pm is still classed as a peak time slot, however, is less likely to be booked when compared to 7-9pm. Many students are returning home from other extra-curricular activities and eating their dinner before studying again.
Another great tip is to provide peak times on the weekend. Firstly, you will increase your chance of bookings and secondly, you can earn an additional bonus just for working those time slots. Currently, Whales English offers two incentives – an additional $2 per hour teaching 5-7pm and an additional $12 per hour teaching 7-9pm – both on weekends AND on top of your hourly rate.
Build Relationships with your TS and CS
Remember above we discussed that your TS is in charge of booking your trial classes and your CS books your regular classes. If you are just a trial teacher, you will not have a CS. Similarly, if all of your time slots are fully booked with regular classes, you will no longer have a TS.
The crucial point to remember here is that your CS and TS are responsible for filling your time slots and booking your classes. You cannot be successful in teaching with Whales English without the support of your TS and CS.
It goes a long way to build a professional and friendly relationship with your TS and CS. I do not mean ‘sucking up’ and I also do not mean for you to pester them daily to book classes for you. Take the time to build a relationship with them, as you would with anyone else. Treat them as your right-hand man/woman within your role as an online ESL teacher.
They have an incredibly challenging and difficult job to complete. Not only is your TS and CS in charge of managing your schedule on your behalf, but they also have to
- Deal with teacher complaints
- Deal with parent complaints
- Adhere to targets set by the company
- Manage a huge caseload of perhaps 20 different teachers and over 400 parents
- They work all week long, even during their time off they are still having to deal with cancellations, requests and parent demands.
These people work HARD! Trust me when I say us online teachers have it easy in comparison. We spend a bit of time preparing for our lessons, we teach using pre-made materials for a few hours and then we finish our day. We also earn a substantially higher than minimum wage per hour. Compared with your TS and CS who work unsociable hours every day, deal with complaints most likely on an hourly basis and are the middle person for both teachers and parents, trying to keep everyone happy whilst hitting set targets, probably working on an average income.
Not every TS and CS will have the exact same hard-working attitude, I will admit. However, if you find that,
- even after doing everything you possibly can yourself to increase your chances of bookings
- have communicated with your TS and CS
- and still find you aren’t gaining any classes, you do have the option to request a new TS and CS.
Building a great working relationship with your TS and CS doesn’t take a lot of effort on our part. You can do simple things such as:
- Messaging a hello and asking how their day is
- Thanking them for their work
- Sending them feedback not just on the negatives but also positives e.g. how a student has done really well one lesson
- Sending them a thank you card via post to their office.
I have a great relationship with my CS (I do not have a TS as I only teach regular classes presently). I have done all of the above things and she also does the same with myself. We also send each other pictures of our day, the area we live in, our families, local cuisine, etc. We are both open to learning about each other’s culture and it is quite exciting building a relationship with someone halfway across the world. My CS has even called me after my teaching day on one occasion, for a social call rather than relating to work.
It has really made a difference to my schedule. Not only am I nearly fully booked (I have two 6 pm slots, which are difficult to fill, still open on my calendar), but she also recommends me as a new teacher for any parents that have complaints about their current teacher. We have built a mutual trust and she respects my teaching style. She even refers me to her colleagues if they are in need of a teacher for urgent/complaint bookings. Hence, taking the time to build a relationship with her has led to me building a positive reputation as a highly recommended teacher within the CS team.
NOTE: this is my own personal experience and something I have witnessed with other teachers. If they have a great relationship with their CS and TS, they tend to have more bookings. I have read other reviews online, who did not have a great relationship with their CS and TS. This led to very low bookings and they eventually chose to leave the company. My view is very subjective and personal, but I think it is worth noting that in any job/career path/company, it goes a long way if you make an effort with other members of staff. Put it this way, the more bookings you have, the more income you will receive teaching ESL online. Your CS and TS are in charge of those bookings and hence can have either a positive or negative impact on your earning potential.
Involve Student’s Parents
The parents are essentially the people who are paying your wage. They choose to use Whales English above other online ESL companies. They then consider and select you to be their child’s teacher. It will go a long way if you take the time to make an impact on your student’s parents.
Even if you have been booked a regular class, parents still have the option to rebook with another teacher if they are dissatisfied with your lesson. It is important to make an effort every single class, being the best teacher you can.
Parents book classes in 25-week blocks and want their children to have the same teacher every single week. It will make a great impression if you are consistent, do not take lots of time off and their children enjoy learning with you.
Parents talk to other parents. If they hold a high opinion of you, they will recommend to and Whales English to their friends and family. Not only that, but there will be a higher chance of them rebooking a further 25-week block, which again provides you with more financial security.
Not every parent will attend the lesson with their child. However, the ones that do within my lessons, I ensure to always thank them for their support at the end of class. Some of my parents are more involved than others and for those which are
- I greet them at the same time as greeting my students
- I thank them when they participate and help to manage their child’s behaviour
- I thank them for encouraging participation or explaining instructions I give to their children
- I will speak with them if their child takes a short toilet break rather than sitting in silence.
As a trial teacher, it is important to make a good first impression. You essentially want that parent to sign up and pay for a course with Whales English. Take the time in your trial class to thank parents for their time and feedback at the end to both parents and students how the student has done.
Join the Skype Community
Within Whales English, there is a great, supportive online community for teachers. There is a Skype group just for Whales English teachers, which is best compared with that of a physical staff room in a school.
If you have any questions at all from managing behaviour through to reward system ideas, this is the place to ask. Perhaps you just want to vent about a frustrating lesson or even to discuss the last episode of GOT (a few of the teachers have indeed discussed this topic!). This Skype group is your virtual teacher’s staff room and a great community to be a part of.
In terms of increasing your bookings, teachers share ideas and resources with each other in order to help everyone improve their skills and become better teachers. Being a better teacher will inevitably improve your reputation and increase the chances of your CS and TS filling your schedule, as well as parent recommendations.
Take time to go through the lesson materials for each class on your schedule. If you don’t have lessons scheduled, keep practising the four trial lessons. Find ways to make each lesson fun and engaging for students. Incorporate relevant props from virtual to a handheld. Remember to use a reward system as well, to help motivate your students and praise positive behaviour.
All of this takes time to prepare, hence Whales English paying a higher than industry average wage to its teachers. Whales English expects it’s teachers to take the time to make classes interesting, fun and unique.
Your lessons should be a positive learning environment where your students can thrive and are eager to return. You don’t have to spend too long preparing for your lessons. Your first time teaching each lesson will take the longest to prepare as you find interesting and relevant content to add to your lesson. This can be in the form of games, videos, quizzes, reward systems and props.
Once I have prepared a new lesson for the first time, it only then takes me about 5 minutes to prepare it again the second time I teach it. This is due to saving all of the relevant additional materials I found the first time around.
Ensuring you are prepared and taking time to look through your slides helps you to come across as professional and thorough. You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of the class, not knowing what is coming up next on each slide or having an audio file at the ready to play.
The more prepared you are, the more creative you can become with your lessons too. You are able to manage your time better and hence know when you can add your own spin onto a lesson, such as an educational game, a movement break or sharing a reward such as showing a favourite nursery song video.
Though with Whales English, you are required to stick to the lesson material provided and teach the whole lesson within the set 50 minute class time. Being prepared ensures you can make your lessons unique with the ideas above and more memorable for your students – rather than reading each slide word for word.
Let’s quickly recap the top tips for you to increase your bookings with Whales English
- Complete Your Training
- Sign up for CPD Opportunities
- Optimise Your Profile
- Prioritise Creating Your Introductory Video
- Open Peak Time Slots
- Build Relationships with your TS and CS
- Involve Student’s Parents
- Join the Skype Community
- Be Prepared
I have been with Whales since January 2019 and look to working with them for a long time in the future. I joined during Chinese New Year when bookings are traditionally very low. However, after two weeks, my bookings dramatically increased and I actually opened up more slots due to take my classes.
I have followed all of these top tips shared with you above, which has led to me gaining a positive experience teaching at Whales English, a full schedule and able to earn a full time, fairly stable income (depending on if students or myself book time off).
You want to give your students and parents a reason to love your classes and want to keep rebooking and learning with you. These top tips should not only help increase your bookings but also increase your retention rates too.