There are many advantages to teaching English online. Of course, the ability to earn an income from the comfort of one’s own home is an amazing opportunity that even qualified classroom teachers seek. But how much do online English teachers make?
While you may be interested in starting a career as an online English teacher or transitioning from the classroom to the virtual world, you need to know if this career option is worth it in terms of meeting your financial goals.
One of the issues in discerning how much money it is possible to earn with online teaching is that most companies do not pay their teachers a set salary. Instead, teachers are paid an hourly rate or are given a rate per class. As such, a teacher’s monthly income is dependent not only on their rate but also on the number of hours they teach, which further complicates the matter.
Like any profession, the amount someone earns is often a reflection of their qualifications and experience, and online ESL teaching is no different. In general, one can expect to be offered a rate between $5-$25 USD per hour with an average rate being around $10 USD per hour.
There are of course companies that will pay more and those who pay less, however, due to the pandemic forcing many teachers to earn their income online, many, if not most companies will unfortunately not offer their teachers more than $20 USD.
Many companies do, however, offer incentives in addition to the base rate they provide. In some cases, an “incentive rate” will be applied if a teacher receives positive reviews from their students or meets the deadlines and requirements of the company. Usually, this additional payment only equates to an extra dollar or two per hour but this can add up over the course of a month.
While it is useful to have an understanding of standard payment rates, another important factor to consider is the number of hours a company can provide to its teachers. As class bookings are dependent on student demand, it is often the case that a teacher’s schedule will not always be full.
This is especially the case with companies that do not allocate students to specific teachers. In other words, students are given full autonomy to choose their teacher from a range of teachers working at the company. With companies like this, there are no guarantees that a teacher will receive class bookings, however, it should be stated that there are a large proportion of companies that do not function in this way.
When it comes to calculating the number of hours one is likely to receive, it is best to focus on the “peak hours” specified by most China-based companies as they comprise a large portion of the online English industry. Typically, these times* include:
*Note that these times are based in the Beijing time zone as this is where many online English companies are situated and also where many ESL students reside. Teachers will often have to convert these times to their own time zones.
As expected, it is not always the case that one will teach all of these hours. Teachers will usually get at least one day off per week if not two (often during the week) and student demand will determine how many of these hours are filled.
To compensate for lower class allocation, some teachers will acquire a second job to fill up some of their available teaching time. This can get complicated as some companies prefer their teachers to only work for them and scheduling clashes can also become an issue.
Another option available to teachers is the opportunity to fill up their open schedules with private students whom they teach on a freelance basis, independent from any company. Some teachers actually teach private students on a full-time basis.
One of the benefits of working independently as a teacher is that typically, it is possible to charge higher hourly rates per class. This not only benefits teachers but can also benefit the students. By cutting out the “middle-man” (i.e., the English company), teachers can charge more for their lessons and students can often pay less as none of the income is received by a third party.
Teachers working directly with students can charge a rate starting from $10 USD and moving well beyond the $25 dollar mark (again, depending on qualifications and experience).
Not only can teachers make more money per hour, but the number of hours they work is not controlled by a third party and can be determined by their needs, and the convenience of their students. Teachers can choose the curriculum they believe to be the best rather than finding themselves teaching content they find boring or even unhelpful in terms of educating their students.
There are some drawbacks to working on a freelance basis, however. Firstly, teachers need to acquire their students requiring some sales and marketing skills. It can also take some time to acquire enough students to meet one’s financial goals.
Secondly, the teacher then needs to set up some form of the payment system, which is not a major issue as there are plenty of options out there (PayPal is a popular choice) but it can present difficulties such as some countries not allowing the use of certain payment platforms.
Lastly, the teachers will be entirely responsible for planning the lessons and setting up a curriculum. Most online ESL companies provide teaching materials, teaching platforms, and lesson plans to their teachers whereas freelance teachers will need to take care of the educational elements entirely on their own. This may incur some startup costs however, there are plenty of reliable materials online.
The other factor to consider here is that lesson planning can be time-consuming, especially at the onset so although one may make a higher rate per class, more time may be required to plan lessons.
Like any industry, there can be challenges along the way to earning an income that meets one’s standards. Fortunately, there are many avenues to explore and teachers do not have to limit themselves to only one income source. One of the benefits related to teaching English online is that it allows for a lot of flexibility which can be capitalized upon to increase one earnings as well as one’s job satisfaction and work-life balance.