Working from home as an online ESL teacher is a legitimate career for anyone looking to earn a full-time income. I have personally been teaching ESL online for over two years now and earn a full-time income teaching part-time hours. Contrary to belief, You don’t need to have a teaching degree and this career is not limited to those with teaching experience either.
Within this post, I cover three different ways you can work from home as an online ESL teacher, along with the pros and cons of each option.
Table of Contents
There are affiliate links used on this page. If you use any of the following links to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I do not make any recommendations for products which I have not personally had a positive experience using. Read my full affiliate disclosure here.
An online ESL teacher teaches students from around the world who are wanting to learn English. The classes take place online often using either ESL companies own platform or video calling software such as Zoom or Skype.
Online teachers support their students in online classes, usually weekly, in order to become proficient in English. This includes developing speaking, reading, and writing in English.
Students include both adults and children from around the world, usually from the age of 3+.
Many teachers choose to only teach either adults or kids. You also have the option of only teaching audio classes or focusing on specific support such as teaching business English or helping students pass their IELTS tests.
Anyone who enjoys supporting and educating others can teach ESL online. The core requirement of an online ESL teacher is to be fluent in English. You can’t teach English if you don’t know basic grammar rules or how to explain the meaning of a word.
Depending on whether you are working for a company or not will depend on other requirements such as your
I’ll discuss these points later on when focusing on the different options for teaching ESL online.
In terms of being able to teach online, no matter which option you take, everyone will need:
- A device to teach online on e.g. a laptop or computer
- Headset with noise cancellation
- High-speed internet
- HD webcam
- Ethernet cable.
Related Post: Equipment Needed for Online Teaching
There are three main ways you can work from home as an online ESL teacher:
- Working for an Online ESL Company
- List your services on an online marketplace
There are numerous online companies focused on connecting ESL teachers with students. Many only offer classes to Chinese students, with this being the largest ESL market.
When you teach with these companies, you work on behalf of the company but are still classed as self-employed.
The ESL companies all have set requirements so it’s important to double-check them before applying. For example, some companies only hire individuals from the US or Canada. Compared to other companies who hire any nationality as long as they are fluent English speakers.
Usually, all ESL companies follow a similar hiring process of
- Mock class
If you are considering companies such as Whales English, Itutorgroup, or Dadaabc, you will be teaching Chinese students. The Chinese government introduced new laws stating that ESL teachers must hold a degree and TEFL/TESOL certificate. Hence, these are the minimum education requirements you would need if considering working for these companies.
If you are an experienced teacher and require a TEFL/TESOL certificate, I recommend purchasing this one via Groupon for $19. It isn’t great if I’m honest, but it ticks the box for experienced teachers needing a certificate.
If you are new to teaching ESL, I recommend investing in your career and completing a more detailed and thorough course. This course is fully accredited and comes highly recommended.
When you work for an ESL company, your teaching materials are provided for you, you don’t have to search for students, and payments are taken care of by the company.
Working for an online ESL company can be a great option for those looking to begin a teaching career but don’t want the hassle of marketing themselves.
Even if you don’t have any previous teaching experience, as long as you have a passion for helping others, can be creative thinking of new ideas on the spot, and able to adjust to each student, you can succeed as an online ESL teacher
It’s also possible to earn a full-time income working from home as an English teacher. I personally teach around 15-16hours a week and earn a minimum of $1700 a month including base pay (rate per hour) and company bonuses.
*Please note that my income is just to provide an example that it is possible to earn a decent amount when you teach ESL online. However, there are many factors that mean your income could differ from mine considerably, such as
- The company you work for, their pay rate and bonuses
- Whether you are a native or non-native English speaker (companies hiring non-natives tend to offer a vastly lower rate per hour compared to native English speakers)
- The number of hours you teach per week.
The downside to working for online ESL companies is that you are self-employed. Even though you work for a company you have limited flexibility in how you teach, adjusting the hours you work, and especially, the material and students you teach.
You don’t gain any form of employment benefits such as a pension, sick leave and pay, and holiday entitlement. Often, ESL companies actually have fines in place for when teachers take sick leave and even holidays at times.
Here’s an outline of the pros for working with an online ESL company:
- Your schedule is booked for you
- No need to deal with sales or marketing yourself
- Materials are created for you to teach from
- A platform is available for you to use
- Companies deal with parental feedback and requirements
- Can gain secondary positions such as recruiter, trainer, or curriculum creation
Cons of working with an online ESL company:
- The inflexibility of what you teach
- Must teach whichever students are placed on your schedule
- Cannot control many tech issues relating to companies platforms
- Some, not all, companies fine you for taking holiday or sick leave
- Your income is restricted to what they have offered you per hour, until your next contract.
If you want to know more about teaching ESL online with ESL companies, check out these posts:
Using online marketplaces can be a great option working from home as an online teacher if you
- Want to focus on teaching adults rather than younger students
- Are beginning your online teaching career and want to gain testimonials
- Looking for a starting point to market your services.
Generally, they are free for you to sign up, but often take a commission percentage of your lessons.
They also still require individuals to apply via their website, but their requirements are lower than that of online ESL companies.
If choosing this option, for better success with gaining your first few students, it helps to lower your fees, to begin with. Once you start gaining positive reviews and testimonials, then you can raise your fees.
If you are fluent in another language as well, you can branch out and also offer lessons in an additional language.
Students using these platforms tend to be looking for teachers who can help
- Improve their conversational English skills
- Support them with business English
- Assist them with passing their IELTS
Pros of using an online marketplace:
- In control of your own services you offer
- Can select who you want to teach
- Able to set and charge your own rate
Cons of using an online marketplace:
- Highly competitive with individuals using the marketplace from around the world, and charging different rates
- Need to create your own lesson materials to suit students needs
- Can take a long time for the companies to respond to your referral as they gain so many.
Here are a few reputable companies you can consider applying to if you’d like to start teaching from home via an online marketplace:
Freelance could be a good option for you if you are an experienced teacher and are looking for complete control with who you want to teach, how to teach them, and what material to use.
Freelance teachers are in complete control of their own schedule and workload. In essence, you are responsible for all elements of your business including
- looking after the marketing,
- curriculum development,
- and teaching.
The first thing freelance teachers should do is to create a business plan covering
- Who they are going to teach
- What they will teach e.g. specialising in a niche, IELT, business English, or beginner learners
- How many students per class
- How long will the classes be
- Where will they obtain students
- Market research into the needs of their ideal student
- How much they will charge per student
- What platform to use to teach your students
I actually recommend not creating lesson content just yet, until you have understood the needs of your ideal client and their pain points. You can then create a program which will provide a solution to these pain points and hence, offer considerable value to your clients. This way, your clients will be more likely to recommend your services to their friends and family. There is nothing stronger than a word of mouth recommendation.
In order to be successful at gaining your own students, it’s a good idea to set up a professional and consistent online presence.
Ensure to have a website to direct enquiries to, who can view your portfolio, testimonials, and the services you offer. Setting up a website involves:
- Choosing and purchasing your domain name
- Ensuring you set up a self-hosted WordPress site
- Choosing and paying for a hosting plan (I personally recommend Lyrical Host. You can pay monthly, their price is extremely reasonable, plus they offer excellent support).
- Choose a theme for your site (I recommend a combination of Astra and Elementor. It is really easy to use with pre-made blocks to help simplify the design process for your site)
- Set up essential plugins e.g. RankMath (for SEO), Cookie Consent (for compliance), Image optimizer (reduce image file size), and anti-spam (protect your site from spam).
Enter Code: CETeachFreelance for 10% off your first month’s hosting plan with Lyrical Host.
Then you are ready to start designing, writing posts, and promoting your site.
It’s also important to set up social media profiles and be active on these. Many freelance teachers find students successfully through Facebook and Instagram. They offer top tips and valuable content aimed at their ideal client, incorporating relevant hashtags to gain new views.
Another consideration is to choose a particular niche. When you choose a niche, you can offer a specialist service and be able to charge your clients more. A couple of examples could be
- Business English with interview practice and experience for jobs in the US.
- Medical English focusing on medical terminology.
- Phonics and reading for young learners.
Pros of becoming a freelance teacher from home:
- Can earn a higher amount per hour
- In full control of your schedule, students you choose to work with and material you use
- Specialise and teach lessons focused on an area you enjoy
- You aren’t limited to teaching just one market e.g. Chinese, you can market to students all over the world
Cons of becoming a freelance teacher:
- It takes a lot of hard work and effort to set up a business and grow an online presence
- You must do your research first to confirm there is a demand for the services you want to offer before marketing yourself
- It can take time to build up a full income
- Any negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business and reputation
If you are considering starting your own business as a freelance teacher, take a look at these resources below to help you:
These are the three key ways you can work from home as an online ESL teacher. I have personally been teaching ESL online for over two years now and have found it to provide a consistent, full-time income enabling me to work from home around my kids.
If you have any questions regarding teaching ESL online from home, feel free to contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org