How to get a side job teaching English online
If you’re a native English speaker, you can teach English online to people in other parts of the world. In many cases, all you need to secure these jobs is a good internet connection and the language skills you grew up with.
And because there are so many sites seeking English teachers for students in every corner of the world, your hours can be as flexible as you want them to be.
If you aim to make this a regular gig, you’d be wise to obtain an English as a second (or foreign) language certificate. These certificate programs, which typically require 120 hours of instruction, qualify you for the best-paying positions in this field.
You can get a job without it, of course. But unless you have a bachelor’s degree or another form of teaching credential, you’re likely to earn half as much as those who can work with the platforms that require credentials. Pay for online English teachers ranges from $5 to $26 per hour.
Where can you find a job? There are myriad online platforms. We’ve started with those that require the fewest credentials. If you have a college degree or a teaching credential, skip to the “credentials required” section for jobs that pay better.
Cambly is an online tutoring platform that teaches both children and adults to speak English through one-on-one conversations with English-speaking tutors. All you need to get a job here is be a native English speaker and have a stable internet connection. But you are paid by the minute — 17 to 20 cents per minute — and are paid only for minutes that you’re engaged in conversation. That makes the low ($10-$12) hourly wage even lower when you account for downtime between chats. Tutors are paid once a week.
NiceTalk operates almost the same way, paying tutors by the minute at a rate that works out to $10 an hour — if you’re engaged in a video chat for the entire hour. Also like Cambly, tutors need only be native English speakers and own the necessary technology to be hired.
Italki is a language tutoring site that provides jobs for both professional teachers and “community tutors,” who qualify with nothing more than proficiency in a language. The site teaches all major languages and posts weekly updates of the languages that require tutors. Tutors set their own pay rates and determine their schedules. The platform takes a 15% commission for providing marketing and payment processing. Teachers are paid twice a month.
Open English focuses on teaching English to students in Latin America. Unlike some of the other platforms, Open English has its part-time teachers assist a classroom full of students. Teachers say the students can be at all different levels, which can make instruction more difficult. In addition, the site uses five communication platforms, which leads to technological glitches — like believing teachers are offline when they’re in the middle of teaching a class. And pay of about $9 an hour is nothing to brag about. On the bright side, you don’t need a laundry list of qualifications to get a job here, and the hours are flexible.
Preply‘s main requirement for tutors is that you be over the age of 18. Other than that, you need to verify your ID and provide any credentials that you have. Theoretically, you set your own rate on this platform. But Preply’s commission schedule is horrendous. The site takes a commission amounting to 100% of the first lesson with each new student and 33% of the teacher’s pay for subsequent lessons with that same student. Because the site expects teachers to provide a significant amount of work for free, this is one of the few online tutoring sites that SideHusl.com does not recommend.
The better-paying English tutoring jobs require additional credentials, such as teaching experience, a bachelor’s degree or a certificate in teaching English as a second or foreign language. These sites typically promise pay ranging from $14 to $26 per hour.
If you live in California or a few other states that have restrictive freelancer laws, you may have trouble getting work with some of these companies. Some of the bigger sites, such as VIPKid, stopped taking applications from California freelancers shortly after the state passed Assembly Bill 5, which reclassified many kinds of workers — including online teachers — as employees rather than freelancers.
VIPKid enlists freelancers to teach English to Chinese children, paying $7 to $9 per half-hour (depending on your credentials). Pay also can be increased through a series of bonuses, allowing teachers to earn as much as $22 per hour. The downside: Classes are scheduled for after dinnertime in Beijing, which puts them in the middle of the night for many people in the U.S. If you live in Los Angeles, the peak weekday hours are between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. for you. The hours aren’t quite as tough if you’re on the East Coast. And this job may be just the ticket for parents who want to spend days with their own kids and don’t mind working at odd hours during the night.
Qkids also enlists freelancers to teach English language skills to Chinese children. Each lesson lasts 30 minutes and pays between $8 and $10. The $10 rate includes bonuses for performance and attendance. Experienced teachers are preferred, but anyone with a good personality and strong English language skills can apply. Lessons are prepared for you.
Magic Ears works much the same way but requires additional credentials. You must have teaching experience and complete training to teach English as a second or foreign language. The site also pays a bit more: $9 to $11 per half-hour in base pay and $1 hourly bonuses for showing up a few minutes early and for teaching at peak times. There is also a less well-defined performance bonus.
Teachers also say that Magic Ears is more hands on, providing more advice about your teaching style. (The curriculum is set. What you add is personality and props.) That’s something teachers either love or hate. The site also will pay you to refer additional qualified teachers at a rate of $10 per resume.
Teach Away serves as a matchmaker between prospective teachers and the schools and online platforms that want to hire them. The site represents international schools, such as Abu Dhabi Education and Training Institute, as well as online platforms that recruit teachers who want to teach online from home. Most jobs require a college degree; some also require teaching experience or the ability to communicate effectively in another language.
Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy.
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