Want to become an online teacher but are weighing up pros and cons of teaching online? It can be a rewarding career that you can do from the comfort of your own home.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Like any job, there are pros and cons. So here’s an honest look at the pros and cons of teaching online.
Pros Of Teaching English Online
Let's start with the positive – the pros of becoming and online English teacher.
You can’t fault the convenience of teaching online. You just need to walk a few metres to your desk, switch on your laptop, pop in your headphones or headset and you’re good to go.
No commute, no colleagues distracting you, no piles of papers or books to drag around.
You don’t even need to take your pyjama bottoms off! Although I do recommend having a professional top half, especially if the webcam is on. But it doesn’t have to be!
And of course, unlike teaching English abroad, you don’t need to relocate, unless you want to of course. This means you can join this profession without messing up your existing routines.
The convenience of teaching English online also makes it very flexible. Are you a night owl who wants to work into the wee hours? No problem. You’ll be able to work with students whose time zone is a few hours behind. Or even ahead if they want morning lessons where they live.
You can also work early in the morning if you’re more of a lark. Or mix things up depending on what else you’ve got going on in your life. Sometimes you may want fewer hours and at other moments you may have a lot of time to dedicate to work. You can change pace as you want.
These flexible working patterns mean you can also fit in work around other activities or responsibilities in your life. Want to pick up your kids from school? It’s possible. The bottom line is: you set your schedule how you want it.
If you’re looking for a rewarding career where you can use your love of languages to do some good in the world, look no further.
Learning and improving their English skills can open all sorts of doors for your students. And it’ll be thanks to your skills, help and support.
Your lessons will help your students feel more confident in English and take on new challenges at work. Or pass exams to get into higher education in an English-speaking country.
If you want to feel that warm glow at the end of the work day, teaching English online can be a great way to get it.
If standing up in front of a classroom full of learners terrifies you, then online English teaching could be a much better option. Online classes tend to be 1:1 which may be less intense than dealing with groups.
Managing groups, whether online or offline, can be more exhausting as there’s a lot more classroom management that you’ll have to do:
- organising them into sub groups
- getting their attention
- dealing with overly talkative group members
In a 1:1 online lesson, you just have to focus on the student on the other side of the webcam. This format can also be a lot more enjoyable for more introverted students as they can focus on speaking without worrying about what others think of them.
5. Opportunities For Growth
Most online teachers will start out giving 1:1 lessons for online teaching companies or platforms. But there’s much more to online teaching than this.
You can consider branching out into other types of teaching such as group lessons, memberships as well as online courses and products.
You can also try your hand at online content marketing by creating a podcast, YouTube channel or blog for English learners. This will help you reach people who aren’t yet ready to pay for your services and build trust with them in the meantime.
Apart from word of mouth, it’s probably the best way to market your business.
So as you can see, teaching English online will allow you to build a diverse range of skills apart from teaching and tutoring.
6. Low Barrier To Entry
I’m including this in both the pros and the cons but let’s focus on the positives for now.
One of the good things about teaching English online is that you can get started quickly and easily. If you’re reading this then you already have the technical setup you need – an internet connection, a computer (with a webcam) and headphones or a headset.
You can also get started in some cases with little experience of teaching because some companies will provide the lesson content for you.
And you don’t even necessarily need a college degree, although that will depend on who you choose to work for. Or if you work independently.
Your best qualifications will be your own experience of the language learning process. And your personal qualities: listening skills, empathy etc.Your past work experience can come in handy too, especially if the students you teach work in the same field.
If you want to keep the positive vibes flowing, check out the 12 reasons to teach English online.
Cons Of Teaching English Online
And now it's time for the negatives.
1. Screen Time
After the last couple of years, you may be ready to ditch screens. Screen time can be a real disadvantage of online English teaching. As you can imagine, you’re going to be spending a lot of time using video conferencing software.
Even if you do some of your work with students asynchronously, through Google docs or chat apps, you’ll still need to be on a screen to do this.
And networking with other online teaching colleagues is mostly going to happen in online spaces, unless you find some teachers locally you can hang out with in real life.
So, if you’re burnt out due to being online all the time, this may not be the best option for you.
Some say that sitting is the new smoking. I don’t know about that.
But it’s true that teaching English online is a pretty sedentary job, whether you’re teaching lessons live, correcting your student’s work, or searching the internet for lesson plans.
Now, you can make it a little less so by scheduling breaks between classes or making time during the day to get outside for a walk or to run errands.
You can also consider giving lessons from your phone and using the opportunity to take your student on a tour of your home. They can also do the same. But that’s not going to happen every lesson.
Short of getting a standing or workout desk, be prepared to do a lot of sitting as part of the job.
3. Low Barrier To Entry
So, in the pros list you saw the reasons why the low barrier to entry could be a positive thing.
But of course, this low barrier to entry has a downside, as you can no doubt imagine. If you can start teaching English online easily then so can plenty of other people. And that includes people who can charge competitive prices and work long hours.
And given the current situation, many people are looking to change careers. That brings me nicely to my next point.
4. Lots Of Competition
There’s a lot of competition out there. If you go to a website like iTalki, you’ll see that there are over 7000 English teachers and tutors for students to choose from. And that’s just one website.
These teachers are from a variety of different countries too. So some are able to accept quite low rates for their teaching. So there’s a double whammy – lots of choice for students in terms of teachers and price.
And the bad news is that some people are shopping on price alone. Which brings us to our next downside of teaching online.
5. Low Pay
If you’ve read my post on online English teaching salaries, you’ll know that’s not the best way to describe what you’ll be earning.
Even if you work for a company, you’ll be “freelancing” so won’t have the same rights and protections as salaried staff. Also, you’ll have to register as self-employed and put aside money from your earnings to pay tax and national insurance.
And you’ll see some typical rates in that post. Lessons go for as low as 10 USD an hour (and some even lower, as little as two dollars an hour!).
If you’re in the UK or the US, those rates are going to be difficult to live on. And frankly, even in lower income countries, that’s not a lot of money to survive on.
So be prepared to either work a lot, relocate to a lower cost of living country. Or up your skills, both pedagogical plus marketing and sales so that you can attract better paying students.
6. Changing Rules And Regulations
One of the most famous online English teaching companies, VIP Kid (among others), ran into some problems after the Chinese government changed the rules about out of school tutoring.
The state of California had already cracked down on freelancers who were making money only through VIP Kid, considering that they should be treated as salaried workers.
So this is still a young industry that’s evolving very fast. A lot of people have already had to change their teaching due to the issues with VIPKid. Another Chinese teaching company GoGoKid has completely collapsed since.
But there is a way round this – teach independently and find your own students without companies acting as the middle man.
Pros And Cons, Like Any Profession
Every industry has its pros and cons – you could make an equally long list for offline English teaching. Or any profession really.
Online English teaching is still a young industry and it's evolving rapidly. The advantage for you is that it’s easy to dip a toe in the water while still teaching offline. You can pick up some hours and test it out to see if it’s for you.
If you like it and want to make a career out of it, then I’ve got something to help you do just that. It’s the Online Teaching Accelerator. And you can sign up for more information below.