Looking for a flexible, high-demand job? Consider teaching online. With traditional schools closed amidst the coronavirus outbreak, and parents looking for ways to keep kids constructively busy, online schools are looking for thousands of new teachers.
Although public school teachers and some online tutors need credentials, most online teachers do not. What you do need are knowledge and enthusiasm.
Among the best sites to get started, particularly if you’re an imaginative soul, is Outschool. It has a fairly distinctive approach to learning. Instead of teaching to make kids proficient enough to pass tests, it is all about experimentation and engagement.
Lindsey Nelson, for example, teaches engineering concepts with Legos. She explains physics with paper airplanes, mechanical engineering by taking things apart.
“I wanted hands-on-learning but with something that would cost less than $5 in supplies,” she says. “But if you’d told me three years ago that I’d be making thousands of dollars a month playing Legos with kids online, I would have thought you were mad.”
Other classes offered on Outschool include learning Spanish through Taylor Swift songs; chemistry through Harry Potter-styled “Potions” classes; civics through Minecraft; or exploring how Disney “Imagineers” create rides with STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math.
To be sure, the site offers plenty of traditional courses, as well. Because Outschool is geared to children ages 3 to 18, there are classes on everything from beginning multiplication to algebra; reading basics to advanced writing. However, tests and drills are not the platform’s focus.
“I don’t want to see classes on Outschool that are only about jumping through hoops — that are designed for kids who are told to be there, rather than who want to be there,” says Amir Nathoo, the site’s founder. “We want teachers to be creative.”
What’s the difference between teaching online and tutoring online? Mainly who provides the curriculum. With more than a dozen online tutoring platforms, which are also seeking workers in this school-at-home era, the platforms or the state decide what you teach. The tutors simply help explain the existing curriculum so that students can get better grades.
With online teaching platforms, the teacher creates the curriculum. It may or may not conform to scholastic goals set by state or federal education requirements. Indeed, you can teach anything, from academics to yoga. And, unlike tutoring platforms that often require tutors to have specific credentials, online teaching platforms generally just require that you are older than 18 and, in some cases, that you can pass a background check.
However, all that freedom comes with a catch. There are few guarantees on how much you might earn. With online teaching sites, you are truly your own boss. You may make a fortune, or you may put in a ton of effort and fail to sell a single class.
If you do sell classes, you’ll also have to pay the teaching platform a fee for doing your marketing and collecting payment from parents, which also eats into your net pay.
Notably, the bulk of online teaching platforms, including Udemy, Thinkific and Teachable, have you film your lessons, rather than teach them live. This can work well if you already have a viable class curriculum and, ideally, a social media presence to help you market and sell your course.
With this model, you do all of the work upfront: designing the class; creating graphics and video; and loading it all onto an online platform for sale. After that, you can sell your class into perpetuity, collecting additional revenue without much additional effort.
Successful teachers on these platforms, such as John Michaloudis, who has multiple courses about learning to use Microsoft Excel, praise this model for allowing them to essentially create ongoing passive income. While Michaloudis doesn’t say precisely how much he earns, it’s well into the six figures.
However, the initial effort to create a class is often substantial. And, if you have neither a following nor a set curriculum, there’s no guarantee that your class will prove popular enough to make it worth your while.
Outschool, on the other hand, is set up more like a traditional classroom. Teachers set up and schedule their classes and then teach them via a live Zoom connection. This model doesn’t allow you to create a passive income stream, but it could have benefits for new teachers because it can help you develop your curriculum.
Sabrina Hosmer, for instance, wanted to teach Spanish through song. Because she was teaching young learners, she started a class that taught the language through kids’ music. Few children signed up. An 8-year-old student explained why: They wanted to sing songs that they heard on the radio. Now Hosmer teaches Spanish through Taylor Swift songs. And her once-empty classrooms are far more popular.
Most teaching platforms allow teachers to set the price of their own classes. The only exception is with Udemy, which is the only one of four teaching platforms that SideHusl.com does not recommend. (You can read our SideHusl review to see the many reasons why.)
Your hourly pay is then determined based on the number of people who buy your classes compared with the number of hours it took you to develop and teach them.
Hosmer estimates that she makes $30 to $40 an hour. Nelson says her pay averages out to nearly $60 an hour, largely because her Lego-based engineering workshops have proved so popular that they often hit the 14-student limit she’s set for these workshops.
Still, Nelson says she’s taught classes with only one student. And when that happens, your hourly pay falls into the basement.
Teachers typically charge $12 to $15 per student, per class on Outschool, Nathoo says. Thus, if you booked just one student and your class required three hours to design and teach, you’d earn $2 to $4 an hour, after deducting Outschool’s 30% commission.
You should be prepared for that possibility, but not discouraged by it, Nelson says.
“Sometimes that one-kid class helps you sell out four other classes,” she says. “And if you have one class with just one student, but another with nine and another with 12, your average hourly wage is still pretty good.”
But she advises designing classes that feed your own passions, which makes it easier to accept the income uncertainty.
“Think about what you would teach at a bus stop to a stranger for free just because you love it,” she advises. “The more you can stay excited about what you do, the more fun you have and the more likely you are to be successful at it.”
Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy.