How to be a freelance online English teacher

If you want to be a freelance online English teacher, this article is for you.

We talk about working for a language school and then seven easy steps that show you how to set up as a freelance online English teacher.

So, what is an English language teacher, aka an EFL teacher?

The term EFL teacher means different things to different people.

There is ESP (English for Specific Purposes) when you teach Business English, such as medical English, financial English, air traffic controller English, etc.

Another area is EAP (English for Academic Purposes), when you teach people to go to an English speaking College or University.

Let’s not forget TEYL (Teaching to Young Learners), where you find yourself teaching children, such as primary school children in Cambodia.

There are other areas as well. Some are general where your students want to learn English for personal use. Others focus on English examination preparation, learning English to prove a certain level for immigration purposes, etc.

So, you can see that EFL teacher is a very generic term.

Working as an online English teacher

English language learners are starting to see the convenience of learning online, so the demand for online teachers is increasing.

If you like the idea of teaching English online, there are two possible routes for you to take:

  1. Working for a company
  2. Working as a freelance online English teacher

Both have pros and cons. Your choice depends on your situation, preferences and expectations.

Working for an online company

Depending on your circumstances, working for an online company may be what you need. So, let’s have a quick look at being an employee. First, you need to go through the usual process of finding job openings, applying, interviewing and hopefully getting a job offer that you like. Once you accept, the school will give you your class schedule, so you don’t need to spend time looking for students. You also don’t need to worry about chasing your students for payment. The school pays you a salary and may include performance bonuses. Be warned that they may also have penalties; for example, you don’t get paid for a class if you fail to show up without telling them. Finally, the school will probably give you lesson materials and plans, saving you time and effort. Creating lesson plans and coming up with material from scratch can be time-consuming and stressful. Therefore, you should always have a portfolio of lesson plans, material, and activities per class level.

Working as a freelance online English teacher

Being a freelance online English teacher means you are the boss. You set the hours and choose your students.

Effectively, you are a language school that could grow into a profitable and rewarding business.

You don’t have the security of working with a company, and you have to market yourself and find your students.

Having said that, if you like teaching English and have an entrepreneurial spirit, being a freelance online English teacher is the way to go.

You build your materials to suit the style you like teaching. You are in control of how much you charge. You are in control of your schedule. You will have to bill and collect from your students, but you won’t have to chase payments if you make them pay in advance. Of course, you must make sure you comply with taxation, but the advantage of running your school is that you can deduct legitimate business expenses.

As a freelance online English teacher, you are the boss, so you are everyone and everything initially. You are the teacher, the bookkeeper, the marketing or community manager and the debt collector. Make sure you have your accounting in order, so you get paid for all your classes.

Being a freelance online English teacher requires -confidence and the willingness to work longer hours than your counterpart working in a language school. In addition, it can be daunting to think about how you get started. For example, how do you find students? And when they do, what are you supposed to do with them?

Never fear; EBC is here.

We have done the work of putting together a list of 7 easy steps to being a successful freelance online English teacher.

1. Invest in a website

Yes, this might sound a bit overwhelming, but it’s worth the investment. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can start with a hosted site like WIX or Weebly, but you are limited to what they give you. If you feel a bit more adventurous and want to create a more personalised website, use WordPress. WordPress software is free, you can tailor it to how you want your content to look and feel, and you will have to host it. Your website must be clear, outlining your specialities and special offers. A valuable part of your website would be a blog.

2. Find your niche

This is true for any business. Decide what you will teach, how, when, and for how much. Will your online classes be 1-to-1 or group classes? Will you teach through Zoom, Skype or something else? Can you teach exam preparation classes? What is your hourly rate, and how long are your lessons? Your students need to find all of this information on your website. If they can’t, they will email or call you with questions and replying to those emails or phone calls will be time wasted.

3. Set up social media profiles

These are not the same as your personal profiles. First, you need to set up separate accounts on all the popular social media accounts linked to your business. Then you need to post to them! You can use these sites to market yourself, advertise your lessons and recruit students. Don’t get disheartened if it takes a while to gain followers. Be consistent, and your accounts will grow.

4. Work your contacts

Networking is always vital in attracting clients, so start with the network you already have. Chat to your contacts on social media sites like Instagram, Linked In and Facebook to let them know what you offer. Even if they don’t need your services, they might know someone who does, or they’ll think of you when the need arises.

5. Start and grow your email list

Email lists create customers. If a person signs up for your email list, they are interested in your services and will be a good prospect. For example, businesses usually provide a free guide or downloadable pdf of some sort if you sign up for their newsletter. Then, whenever they have special offers, you will receive their newsletter. When consumers see something on offer in an email, this is the push consumers need to buy a product.

6. Get resources

You can start building the materials I mentioned earlier. Remember those lesson plans, activities, material and backup activities? Prepare for that time when your student list starts growing. For example, imagine you post on Instagram, and ten students contact you weekly. Then you’ll be scrambling to find materials that will be suitable for these ten students. Instead, get yourself ready beforehand so you can take on students when they come knocking.

7. Test your platforms

Whatever platforms or websites you are using will take some getting used to. Be sure to test your platforms until you find the best one suited to your teaching style. It would help if you were comfortable with it before your lessons. You are the teacher, and you should be ready to give alternate ways of delivering comfortable and enjoyable lessons for your students.

Wrap up

And that’s it! The last step is a bonus step, but it’s another good one: relax and enjoy your classes. When you are engaging, knowledgeable and fun, your reputation will spread through word of mouth. Before you know it, you have more students than you can handle, and you will need nothing else to succeed as a great online English teacher.