Have you ever wondered how to break into the digital nomad game? For years, people have asked me how to make money online without technical computer skills, crypto trading, blogging, or free-lance work. Now, one of my go-to answers is, have you ever thought about teaching English online?
Teaching English online is a consistent, accessible way for backpackers and nomads to earn an online income. You don’t need special coding, writing, or photography skills to become a digital nomad these days. Thanks to the power of the internet, teaching English online has opened new doors to native English speakers wanting to work from—well— anywhere with a solid internet connection.
The best part? Depending on the company you work for, you can choose a schedule and commitment level that aligns with your own needs.
Point being, teaching English online is a bloody dream job for native English speakers—and in some cases, non-native speakers too— looking to make extra cash, whether they are on the road or not.
Below I cover everything you need to know in order to find a good job earning money by teaching English online.
I’ll cover where to look for a job, highlight the 7 top companies currently offering online English teaching jobs, what I like and don’t about each company, qualifications needed to become an English teacher, and everything else you need to know to teach English online!
This is the ultimate guide to teaching English online for backpackers, nomads, and anyone who might be looking for a new opportunity to earn some cash whilst also making a positive impact on the world!
Let’s dive right in…
How to Become an Online English Teacher
The first question you should ask yourself is not “how can I teach English online?” But rather, “how can I become an English teacher online and make a decent online income?”
I’ll be honest with you. If you want to start teaching English as soon as tonight with no experience, it’s possible, though the quality of work and pay will reflect your effort.
To land a decent job teaching English online you will need to have some or all of the following qualities:
- Be a native English speaker (top companies seem to prefer native North American speakers).
- Have a bachelor degree in any field (not always obligatory)
- Have a TEFL Certificate (again, not always obligatory)
- Have some experience as a tutor, mentor, or teacher.
- A fast internet connection
- Patience, flexibility, and the ability to roll with the ups and downs and realities of teaching English online. (I will expand upon what those are later.)
These are just some of the basic requirements some of the top companies on my list may require. I have found is that the more qualified you are, the better your pay will be, and the more options you will have.
So many people in our generation (age 20/30 somethings) have a Bachelors degree and aren’t able (or no longer want to) do anything with said degree. Teaching English online is your chance to make that degree useful (even if it is in a field completely unrelated to teaching English)! If you have a degree, don’t hesitate to include that fact in your application!
Be sure, you can get a job teaching English online without a degree, zero experience, and no TEFL certificate. If you are a native English speaker, the odds are already in your favor. For the best jobs though, you are going to at least a TEFL certificate.
By now you might be wondering what in the world a TEFL certificate even is. Let’s take a look at the TEFL certification and what it can do for your aspiring online English teaching career…
What the Hell is TEFL?
TEFL is an acronym that stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. There are dozens of online TEFL courses available, so you need to make sure you choose a reputable (and affordable) company.
Obtaining your TEFL cert requires a small investment. That said, a TEFL course will provide you will the crucial skills you need to actually run an English class online. Plus, the money you put into getting certified will certainly pay dividends the day you start working for a good company.
There are several types of TEFL courses available, some involve face-to-face teaching time and others are completely online. If you’re already traveling then I recommend choosing an online TEFL course over a classroom course; it’s easier to work on your qualification online in your spare time.
One of the best ways to obtain your online TEFL certificate is with MyTefl. It’s fast, easy, and one of the cheapest options. MyTefl offers a whole range of online TEFL courses ranging from basic certifications to business, and even courses for non-native English speakers – perfect if you’re from The Philippines, for example, and you want to teach English.
Plus, The Broke Backpacker readers receive a 35% discount for online TEFL courses through MyTefl by using the code BACKPKR.
In my opinion, if you are serious about becoming an online English teacher, then you should obtain a TEFL certification.
Teaching English Online: How Much Money Can You Make?
Here is a reality check: you will never get rich teaching English online. Being an English teacher is a hustle that you will need to work hard at in order to make a decent online income. Every company that hires English teachers online offers different compensation rates.
Like any other job, pay is determined by your own teaching experience and qualifications. Moreover, another determining factor will be the company’s location, and which country the students you teach are based in.
Hourly Pay vs By-the-Minute Pay
In some cases, you will be paid per minute. By-the-minute-rates, for example, could look something like 10-20¢/minute. That’s not great, but it’s not awful either.
Hourly rates are the next compensation tier. Depending on your experience, the company, and your tenure, your hourly rate can be between $10-$25/hour. If you are a good teacher with experience, good references/reputation, certifications, etc, then you can really earn decent pay!
If you can be consistently making $20-25/hour working 20-30 hours a week, well, you can live very well indeed,whilst keeping yourself happy and your adventure budget well padded.
I think hourly pay is best, as by-the-minute pay is usually for non-serious, informal “teaching” gigs that are more conversational in nature than they are professional and educational.
If you are new to teaching English online, it is realistic to give yourself a full year to work hard, develop skills, test the waters, and so on before you can expect high hourly wages.
Remember, $20/hr+ is the GOLDEN wage for teaching English online. Only experienced, dedicated teachers can command such an hourly rate, at least that’s what my experience has found. I’d say the average pay for most new (or newish) teachers is around $10-15/hour.
Some companies will opt to pay you via direct bank transfer once or twice a month, whilst others will pay you via a service like PayPal.
Where to Look for a Job Teaching English Online
There are a ton of companies offering jobs to online English teachers. Several excellent companies offer competitive pay and a variety of other benefits. On the other hand, many companies are shit and not worth your time.
One company that stands tall above most of the competition is VIPKID. VIPKID is a company offering language learning services to kids in China. They are a serious company committed to both their students’ learning as well as to fair pay/treatment to foreign teachers. You must be from the United States or Canada to work for VIPKID.
Sorry lads, I guess the Chinese don’t want their children learning through the filter of a Brittish accent 😉 Check out our guide on how to land a gig with VIPKID here.
Another reputable company worth noting is SayABC. SayABC provides international learning experiences for children age 5-12 in China. I like SayABC because you can earn up to $21 for just a 40-minute class!
If you haven’t noticed, kids’ attention spans these days are almost non-existent, so the shorter the class, the better the outcome for everyone involved.
Below I explore what I like and what I don’t like about working for the two companies highlighted above, plus five others that should be on your radar…
Best Companies for Teaching English Online
In order to teach English online, you’re going to have to find a good company that meets your own needs. Let’s take a look at a few of the best companies so you can make an informed decision about which companies to pursue.
If you are just starting out teaching English online, I recommend applying to several of the top companies listed. The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to land a sweet gig.
As of now, VIPKID is probably the best company to work for as an online English teacher in many respects. If you are serious about teaching English online, landing a job with VIPKID could certainly set you on the right path.
They operate on 6-month contracts, giving you some stability in a digital nomad world fraught with instability. You have the opportunity to make decent money if you stay with the company, gain experience, and produce good results with your students.
As an independent contractor, your payment or “service fee” is calculated on a per-class basis (scheduled in 30-minute slots). Minimum pay is between $7-$9 + incentives (per 30 minutes).
Your pay rate will be determined by your demo class performance. Often, you have the opportunity to earn more money through incentives like monthly class participation and class completion.
Don’t like the thought of having to plan your own class? No worries. VIPKID plans all of your lessons, PLUS they deal with the students’ parents’ comments/questions/concerns on the other end.
If you have ever taught English as a foreign language anywhere in the world, you know how awesome the prospect of not having to interact with students’ parents is.
What I like about VIPKID:
- Potential to earn $22/hour!
- VIPKID staff plans your lessons.
- Can work from anywhere.
- 6-month contract.
- Teachers are re-evaluated for a raise at the point of contract renewal.
- One-on-one classes.
- Bonuses and referral pay.
- You don’t have to interact with the students’ parents.
- VIPKID is professional, organized, and generally seems to have their shit together.
What I don’t like about VIPKID
- You must have a Bachelors degree.
- VIPKID accepts teachers from North America only.
- 6-month contracts can be a bit intimidating for backpackers on the move.
- They charge you if you cancel a class or if your internet connection goes out.
- You have almost zero creativity in terms of teaching material.
- You are constantly changing students.
SayABC closely follows VIPKID in terms of reputation, professionalism, and overall teacher experience.
SayABC is another online language learning platform for kids based in China. They have a great track record in terms of providing consistent employment to their teachers. 90% of SayABC teachers teach four classes per day, which equates to an average income of USD $84 per day.
Not bad, not bad. $84/day will definitely get you far in a place like Thailand!
As I have mentioned before, a shorter class length is an asset. SayABC runs classes for 40 minutes, which means if you can hold your students’ focus for that long and they learn, they will keep coming back, meaning you get 1. satisfaction 2. potential bonuses 3. more potential students. It’s a win-win.
What I like about SayABC
- Competitive pay (base pay starts at $15/hr).
- Incentives and bonus potential.
- SayABC accepts applicants from all over the world.
- 3-month contracts.
- SayABC supplies all teaching materials.
- You teach the same students two times a week at the same time for a minimum of three months.
- Teaching methods and materials were developed with help from National Geographic.
- Teachers can take time off during their contract period with 2-weeks notice.
What I don’t like about SayABC
- For long-term work with SayABC you’ll need a Bachelors degree (even though they offer short internships for non-grads).
- Little to no creativity with teaching curriculum.
- Standard, though time-consuming process to get hired (4 steps including interviews, a demo class, etc).
- Payment only once a month.
- If you are living in North America, the time differences can get a bit tricky.
Qkids is another big player on the online English teaching block. It is a general program, somewhat similar to the two companies above.
With Qkids, you will be teaching Chinese children in a fixed curriculum style. However, the style can be quite fun for both the student and teacher. The teaching curriculum is an interactive gaming-based learning platform.
Each class is 30 minutes long and can include 1-4 students per class. Another bonus? Qkids tries to keep you paired with the same students. You will have new students from time to time but at least they try to keep student and teacher together (as it should be).
What I like about Qkids
- 30-minute classes!
- No lesson planning necessary.
- Qkids staff is very supportive, helpful, and keen for you to succeed.
- The teaching platform is unique.
- High pay! Rates for teachers: $16-20/hr.
- Full bonuses.
- Speaking Chinese is not required.
- Paid training.
What I don’t like about Qkids
- Contract term is flexible (no long-term guarantees).
- Strict cancellation policy if you need to cancel a class.
- You must live and be from USA or Canada to be a teacher with Qkids.
- Must commit to a certain number of hours per week (6).
- No bonuses or holiday pay.
If the above-mentioned companies are a wee bit too formal for you, there are alternatives.
Cambly is pretty much as informal as it gets. You log into your account and simply make yourself available for online chit-chat sessions. Simple as that. You are getting paid just to shoot the shit with people from all over the world keen to learn English.
You can be logged into the Cambly platform from anywhere in the world. All you need is a steady internet connection and you are good to go.
If you are a social person who loves to chat it up with people from different cultures, then this could be an ideal gig for you.
Top Tip: Don’t use your real name in your profile to avoid unwanted attention from creepy dudes in random countries!
What I like about Cambly
- You get to choose your own schedule 100%.
- No Bachelors degree or teaching certificate (or experience teaching English at all) required.
- Cambly allows you to work anywhere.
- Easy to get started (no lengthy application process).
- A good place to gain experience as an English teacher (or an English conversationalist).
- Perfect for Nomads afraid of long-term commitments.
- Safe to use and generally respected.
- Fun and engaging.
- Teachers have to opportunity to have calls with repeat students.
- Paid every week (Monday) via PayPal.
What I don’t like about Cambly
- Low Pay: ¢17/min=$10.20/hr
- Not a stable income.
- Can be prone to attracting creepers (not common, but it has been reported).
- Inconsistent work schedule.
- Working at Cambly does not properly prepare you for a formal job teaching English Online.
Looking for a formal online English teaching job that works primarily with adults—abroad? Yes online, but also abroad in China where your students are. EF English First is just that. If you are interested in teaching kids online, EF English First offers that too.
This US-based company claims to use cutting-edge technology combined with custom-made materials for online learning to help students and teachers get the most out of each session.
EF English First will actually relocate you to their headquarters in Shanghai where you can choose to work online from there. Sounds like a lot of effort on their part as they could easily have you teach from home. Go figure. Sounds like there is a great experience to be had here…
What I like about EF English First
- Competitive pay.
- Many perks including annual flight allowances, advanced salary, and even health insurance!
- Course materials provided.
- An excellent opportunity to advance your online English teaching career.
- People from most English-speaking countries can apply.
- Meet students (online) from all across China.
What I don’t like about EF English First
- You have to commit to one year living abroad (which I like also).
- Bachelor degree required.
- TEFL certificate required (sponsorship available).
- Online work in an office (though it seems nice enough).
- Doesn’t work for the casual Nomad looking for a part-time online English teaching job.
The UK-based TwoSigmas company allows you to work from anywhere, teaching to international students (kids age 5-12) from all over the world.
They work directly with schools to ensure that all of your lesson plans are sorted and prepared. The pay depends upon which school you will be working with.
Generally, the pay is between $15-23/hr. If you have more experience teaching then you will likely be able to command a higher hourly rate.
What I like about TwoSigmas
- Comprehensive training.
- Room for career advancement (if that’s your thing).
- Great pay (especially if you have experience).
- A large community of teachers.
- No need to create your own lesson plans
- Can work from anywhere as long as your schedule aligns with required teaching hours (North America mornings and evenings).
What I don’t like about TwoSigmas
- Bachelor degree required.
- Probably won’t hire you without experience.
- TEFL certificate required.
- Must have a “neutral” North American accent (even though the company is based in the UK! Ha!)
- Lengthy hiring process
Englishhunt is another reputable learning platform connecting English teachers online with students (of all age groups).
All live video class instructors must hold a four-year degree and may require a teaching or substitute teaching certificate (current or expired).
Classes are short, like really short. Classes/lectures range from 10-20 minutes! Depending on your flexibility, Englishhunt offers shifts of varying length from 1 to six hours in duration.
While you will be teaching kids occasionally, a large percentage of the students are Korean (or other nationality) business students.
What I like about Englishhunt
- Not location specific (you can work from anywhere).
- Pay is by direct deposit (need an American bank account, which I don’t like).
- Opportunity for advancement/better pay.
- Applicants don’t need to speak a foreign language.
- Somewhat flexible schedule
- Instructor training provided
- Decent Pay
What I don’t like about Englishhunt
- See bank account comment above.
- Teachers need to be from USA
- If you have a Mac computer you can’t run Englishhunt’s software!
- The hours can be weird depending on where you live.
- Bachelors degree required to be a video class teacher (paid better than a phone class teacher).
How to Choose the Right Company: Teach English Online
Choosing the right company to work for comes down to your preferences, so you’ll need to ask yourself some questions.
What is your English teaching experience? What motivates you to gain experience teaching English online? Will teaching English online be a casual gig to supplement beer money, a long-term career you want to develop, or something in-between?
For newbies looking to snag a gig teaching English online, my advice is to apply to some, if not all, of the companies on my list and see what comes of it. I realize that you are limited if 1. you don’t have a Bachelors degree and 2. if you are not from the USA (as many of the top companies featured in this article require one or both).
In any case, it never hurts to try. Put yourself out there. Give teaching English online an honest go and see what comes of it. You never know where an opportunity may lead unless you try.
Final Thoughts on Teaching English Online
Well amigos, there you have it. You are now in possession of 7 awesome companies that offer up excellent opportunities to those wanting to teach English online.
Becoming an online English teacher isn’t easy. But is it rewarding? Hell yes it is. Furthermore, teaching English online is a great way to make a living (or at least a partial living) while you fully embrace the digital nomad/backpacker lifestyle in some far-flung corner of our beautiful planet.
The internet has truly opened up a world of possibilities to backpackers looking to make money online. Teaching English over the internet might just be one of the most rewarding opportunities of them all.
Connect with people from different cultures. Make a positive impact on the lives of your students. Learn something new about yourself. Discover the teaching skills you never knew you had!
When done right, teaching English online might just be the perfect job for anyone looking to live a digital nomad lifestyle, receive a relatively consistent monthly income, and make an impact on the world around them.
Remember, be sure to check out VIPKID, my top pick for the best company to work for teaching English online!
I wish you the best of luck on your journey. Happy travels and even happier teaching!
Are you interested in teaching English abroad? Check out our in-depth article about teaching English as a foreign language abroad!
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