There is a wealth of information available regarding teaching online, different job opportunities and companies. But for someone coming across this career for the first time and wondering if it is for them, it can be incredibly overwhelming.

  • What equipment do you need to teach online?
  • Can anyone teach online?
  • How do I apply?
  • What company should I work with?
  • How much can I earn?


I have had a number of people kind enough to reach out personally via this blogs associated Facebook Page and email, asking me how to start teaching online. I am only too aware that if a few people have reached out to ask the same question, there must be many more potential readers wondering the same.


It is a complete minefield for someone coming across teaching online for the first time but I hope through this blog, to address the who, what, why, where, when and how questions.


I’d just like to say a huge thanks as well for those who have contacted me personally and shared that they have gained value from my posts. It really means a lot that the information I am offering and time spent dedicated to this blog is helping my readers in one way or another. Thanks for being here!

Large flower in the background with text saying teach english online your complete guide to getting started

Teaching online for me has completely changed my life. Going from working 50+ hour weeks during my teacher training to 15/16hour weeks, earning way above minimum wage. I am home every day with my kids, I only work 4hours a day at most and I personally choose to have 2 days off every week (one of those set aside to help answer your questions on here!).


If teaching online has been able to do all that for me, it can certainly change your life too.


So, let’s get straight to it and hopefully, this post can help you know where to begin in your search to whether teaching online is for you.

Some of the links used below I may be affiliated with. This just means that if you apply through one of the companies I teach with, I may earn a referral bonus if you are hired and successfully start teaching with that company.

What is Teaching Online?

white keyboard and microphone with rose gold headset

Teaching online basically means when someone gives their time to educate another person via the internet in an area of their expertise. This can come in the form of:

  • Online courses
  • Webinars
  • Private one to one tuition
  • Working for a company, using their platform to teach either one to one, one to two, small groups or whole classes


This blog specifically focuses on the later, working for a company. I also only talk about teaching English as a Second Language to students from another country, all online. Hence, you may have come across the shortened version – Teaching ESL Online or ESL.


The most common way of teaching ESL online is via a company. There are numerous benefits to doing so, especially if you are new and looking for your first job:

  • They find the students
  • Deal with parent communications
  • Most manage your schedule
  • They deal with all payments
  • Pay you for the lessons you have taught via bank transfer/PayPal/Payoneer/Transferwise
  • Many even have additional bonuses you can earn
  • Provide lesson materials
  • Interactive platform to teach your students on
  • IT and tech support.


Who Can Teach Online?

Lady sat down using her laptop

Personal Characteristics

If you are someone who is willing to learn, is patient and has a passion to help others, then you have the capability to teach.

Teaching online isn’t the ideal career choice for everyone. It takes time, patience, commitment, energy, enthusiasm, creativity and above all else perseverance for every single class you teach.

There are challenges, just like any career. You gain students who

  • just don’t want to learn
  • Fall asleep in class
  • Cry
  • Refuse to be on camera
  • Are everywhere BUT sat in front of your lesson
  • Don’t say a word

But the rewards outweigh all of the challenges I promise you.

When you gain a shy student in their first lesson who refuses to say a word. You have done everything you possibly can, using puppets, flashcards, games, smiling, acting and not one word. Until you decide to sing a song, and all of a sudden the student starts to join in.

Week after week the same student who hates learning English and sits on their phone whilst in class to you. Till one week the topic is all about football, their face lights up and all of a sudden you can’t get them to stop talking! From now on, you know that their favourite subject is football and can incorporate it into all lessons as conversation starters, reward systems and educational games to encourage that same student to join in.

Your student meets you for the first time and is scared of this stranger on the screen so won’t sit in front of the camera. You put on your happiest and friendliest face, singing songs and talking softly, but they still won’t join in. You then choose to use your puppet and place it in front of the camera, talking in a character voice as if the puppet was leading the lesson, not you. Your student finds this so funny and runs off to find their favourite toy. They then continue the lesson pretending their toy is the student, repeating what your puppet, the teacher, is teaching them.

These are just a few examples to show you that you don’t have to have a teaching background to be an online teacher. If you can be creative and think on your feet, you can teach online.

Professional Requirements

Online teaching companies are pretty good in that they all outline clearly what they require from their teachers.

Most companies do want native English speakers, so these being from the US, Canada, UK (these three most preferred), Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa. Companies will ask you to upload a copy of your passport to ensure you are a native English speaker.

There are companies hiring non-native English speakers as well, however, they all ask for high proficiency in English and with a neutral accent.

On top of this, many companies want their candidates to have a BA degree or above. This doesn’t have to be related to teaching, but you do need to send in a copy of your certificate as proof.

If applying to teach with a company based in China or teaching Chinese students, the Chinese government has announced online teachers are required to hold a TEFL or TESOL certificate. Even if you aren’t teaching within this particular market, I highly recommend gaining this certificate anyway as it can open more opportunities for you and gives you a bit of background to teaching ESL online. Again, you are required to upload a copy of your certificate as proof.


Where Can I Find These Companies to Work For?

Lady on her phone writing notes

There are a number of ways you can easily search for teaching companies online. You can easily search via Google using key terms such as teaching English online, teach ESL, apply and teach online and teach online.

From this Google search, a number of different online companies websites will come up, as well as some excellent blog posts full of information to help you. I highly recommend reading through the blogs first, to gain an insight into what companies are looking for, which company has a good reputation with happy, satisfied teachers and you can find out details such as pay and hours available to work.

After that, then you could either apply via a link in the blog post itself or carry out more research and Google the company itself you have been reading about.

For example, if you complete a Google search with the keywords ‘teach English online’ the post: ‘Teach English Online: Get Paid with These Top 5 Companies’ would come up on page one.

From there, you might find incredible value (because their site is fantastic and FULL of brilliant tips). You would read about a couple of companies and one company such as VIPKID might stand out to you. So, you click on to continue reading more about their review on VIPKID. Within that post, there is a link where you can apply directly to the company to become a VIPKID online teacher.

Another way to find online teaching jobs is via Facebook. There are 100s of groups dedicated to either teaching online jobs or remote jobs, which teaching online comes under. Each day, 10s of posts are published in each group sharing new positions and companies that are currently hiring online teachers.

Read more here to find out which Facebook groups I am a member of and highly recommend for finding your first online teaching job.


Which Company Should I Apply To?

With the online teaching industry being as large as it is, there are new companies forming all the time. So it can be challenging knowing which company may be the best fit for you. I have been teaching online for over 1.5years now and in that time I, myself, have worked for 5 companies and turned down another 3 offers.

The great news is, that even if you start working for one company and find it isn’t quite the right fit for you, you have the option to apply and work elsewhere. You can also work for a number of companies at once (which I highly recommend) to find out your personal preferences, whether you enjoy teaching 121 or in groups, whether you want a basic slide show lesson or to use an interactive platform with embedded sounds, games and tools.

The first thing to do when considering which company to apply for is to check their requirements. Most companies want

  1. A native English speaker – the most popular being individuals from the US, Canada and the UK. Other native nationalities are considered, however, applicants from these three countries are favoured.
  2. A TEFL/TESOL qualification – if teaching Chinese students, the Chinese government has released a new policy where all online teachers teaching their students are required to hold one of these qualifications.
  3. Many prefer you to have a BA degree or above
  4. A set minimum number of hours commitment from you each week – most of the time these are the same hours each week

Once you have established which companies you can apply for depending on which boxes you tick, this will help you to then select which companies are best depending upon your personal preferences:

  • Do you want to teach adults or kids?
  • Audio only or with video?
  • How many hours do you want to teach each week?

As you know, I personally work for 3 companies. I mentioned above I highly recommend working for more than one at a time, to ensure

a) you have more opportunity for bookings

b) you have a backup option in case something happens to company number 1 or they do not require you anymore

c) enables you to gain a variety of experience and work out which style of teaching you prefer

The main company I work for is Whales English. You can find out more about their requirements and how to apply here: Become an online English teacher with Whales English.

Alternatively, I also work for three other companies. Two of which allow me complete control over my schedule and the ability to open and close time slots. SayABC is an interactive platform, teaching 4 students at the same time for 40minutes. Whereas PalFish classes are only for 25minutes and with one student, whom you teach via a tablet of phone NOT your computer. The last company, UUabc, is similar to Whales English, in that you need to provide fixed time slots. However, you do not teach regular students, so if you do not have a booking within 12hours before your shift, you are not required to stay at your computer.



How Do I Apply?

There are 2 ways you can apply to teach online:

  1. Find the companies website you wish to teach with and apply directly through them.
  2. Reach out to the person who wrote about the company you wish to apply for e.g. via a blog post, Instagram or Facebook Group. Ask them if they will support you during your application if you apply via their referral code. If they answer yes, apply to the company using their referral code. This way, you gain support throughout your application whilst helping someone else receive a referral commission.

Personally, I always recommend option 2. Though each company has a pretty similar set up in terms of application and hiring process, some companies look for different aspects in a candidate. Someone already working for the company you want to apply to, can provide you with an insight into the companies expectations and preferences to teaching style. Their tips might just help you receive a higher pay offer than if you applied independently.

Keyboard with flower, purple candle and pink tray. Overlaid text - looking to teach English online


How Much Can I Earn?

purple wallet full of 20 dollar bills

With teaching online, there really isn’t a limit to your earning potential. Depending upon the company you work for, will depend on what your base rate per hour is. As a native English speaker, this can range from $14-30 per hour. It is lower if you are working for companies teaching adults conversational English and again can be much lower if you are a non-native English speaker.

On top of your hourly rate, your company may also offer bonuses depending upon the hours you work, the number of hours completed a month and any students you have converted from a trial class (a taster lesson to see if they like the company/materials/teacher) to purchasing a lesson package.

In addition, most companies also offer a teacher referral commission. This is similar to how affiliates work. Whereby, if you recommend the company you work for to someone else and they are successfully hired, you earn a commission. The amount can vary, I have seen some that offer $10 and other companies offering $100 per successful referral.

For more information including examples, check out this post on how you can earn $1000-2000 per month.

This post should help address your initial queries about

  • What is teaching online
  • Who can teach
  • Where to find online teaching jobs
  • Which company to choose
  • How to apply
  • How much you can earn

If you still have some questions about Teaching online, check out this blog post covering Teaching Online FAQs.

Once you have chosen the company you wish to apply to, check out these posts to help you through your application process:

Online ESL Interview Tips with Q and A Examples.

10 Top Tips for Passing your Online ESL Interview

Top Tips for Passing your Online ESL Demo Lesson (part 1)

Top Tips for Passing your Online ESL Demo Lesson (part 2)

Top Tips for Passing your Online ESL Demo Lesson (part 3)


Related Posts

Equipment Needed for Online Teaching

Become an Online ESL Teacher: Apply and Teach with Whales English

How to Apply and Teach ESL Online with UUabc

Success Stories featuring Kitty

14 Reasons Why You SHOULD Consider Teaching Online