So you’d like to teach business English online. Great news, teaching this type of English opens tons of doors. And offers opportunities for fulfilling work with business professionals from all over the world. English is the language of international business, after all.
But teaching English online for business people can be quite different from other types of online teaching jobs you'll come across. And you'll need a slightly different skill set to teach business English students.
So, in this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to teach business English online, including:
- what business English is
- why you might want to teach business rather than general English
- the skills you need to teach business English
- how to find work as a business English teacher
- 7 tips for teaching English to professionals
That's quite a lot so let's get into it!
6 Reasons To Teach Business English Online Rather Than General English
Here are a few reasons why teaching business English could be a good idea for you:
#1 Combine Your Skill Sets
If you already have a business background, teaching business English is a great way to combine your previous skillset with your passion for language and teaching.
An excellent example of this is teacher Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat who worked in finance for 20 years and then re-trained as an English teacher.
Another is Martin Johnston, creator of the Rock ‘n’ Roll English podcast, who coaches Italian entrepreneurs in English communication so they can succeed in international business.
He used to work in banking and lived in Italy for many years. So he’s familiar with both the British and Italian business context.
#2 It's In Demand
Business English teaching is also in high demand in a globalised world because English is the language of business. So you should always be able to find teaching work.
#3 Earn More
Also, you can expect to earn a bit more as a business English teacher given that you’re teaching a slightly different set of skills (more on that in a second).
And of course, by improving your student’s business English skills, you may be able to help them make more money by getting them a promotion or a new job for instance.
This is especially true if you decide to become an independent online teacher and seek out clients in a particular industry. You can become the go-to person for a particular type of business people, such as senior executives in Shanthi’s case or Italian entrepreneurs in Martin’s.
#4 Teach More Than Just The Language
Teaching business English is also a good option if you’re interested in teaching more than just vocabulary and grammar. As a business English teacher, you’ll be helping students with their soft skills and their communication, including cross-cultural communication.
#5 Use Interesting Materials And Activities
Also, you can use more interesting and varied materials and teaching techniques as a business English teacher. For example – industry publications, newspapers and even materials the student brings in such as the company website or brochures or actual products.
When it comes to teaching, you can use role-plays in your lessons as this will immerse students directly into the language that they need to be successful at work.
#6 Work With Motivated People
Finally, business people are also usually keen to learn as they want to get ahead in their career. Working with someone who has clear goals is motivating. This also makes it less likely that they’ll cancel lessons or not prepare work compared to hobby learners.
How Is Teaching Business English Different To General English Teaching?
This is a great question – on some levels, they’re pretty similar. All learners of English need to grasp the pronunciation and grammatical systems of English so they can express themselves.
And they all need to learn vocabulary, plus the four skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Some business English learners will have gaps in some of these basics that you may need to go over with them. But many will already be quite proficient thanks to using English on a regular basis in their jobs.
Where business English starts to differ from general English is in some of the specific skills that you need in the workplace.
For instance, the ability to:
- give presentations
- give feedback to staff in an appraisal
- answer questions at a job interview
- deal with customer complaints
- make small talk at industry events with clients and suppliers
- communicate effectively with people from different cultures
Bear in mind that even as a native speaker, nobody learned these skills growing up absorbing the language from those around them.
We all learned how to answer job interview questions by learning about common questions and expected responses. There are countless books, articles and courses about interview skills designed for native English speakers.
As for industry-specific vocabulary or technical language, as a rule, you’ll find that your students already know this type of language. And in fact, they know a lot more than you do!
They’ll be the ones teaching you about their company’s products or their industry’s jargon. You’ll find yourself learning a lot of new vocab!
What Do You Need To Know To Teach Business English Online?
You’ll need to have a combination of knowledge of:
- international business
- communication skills and business etiquette
- language teaching
One of the best things to know about is business. If you’re worked in a company before then you already have some of the skills you’ll need to teach business English thanks to your experience.
What’s more important is your ability to teach communication ability as well as soft skills and business etiquette. These are skills that you’ve probably already picked up if you have business experience.
For instance, business etiquette in English-speaking countries may be quite different to the way it operates in your student's home country. In that case, respecting the norms is just as important (if not more important) than using the right verb tense or adjective.
Business English teacher Petra Navel focuses especially on intercultural communication with the German-speaking professionals she coaches.
Without this intercultural knowledge, even someone proficient in English can have problems communicating due to not respecting the norms of business etiquette or politeness in English-speaking countries.
Not that having basic grammar and vocabulary knowledge isn’t important. In fact if you have the business skills, but not the teaching or language skills, then you’ll need to brush up on these too!
If you don’t have business experience, you can of course learn how to teach these business communication skills. You’ll find courses and textbooks and many free materials online for teaching business English.
Regarding some of the communication skills, such as CV writing or negotiating, you could even take courses or read books designed for native speakers in these areas.
Where Can You Find Online Jobs As A Business English Teacher
You have a few different options here:
- Finding online English teaching jobs with companies that work with business professionals
- Working on online teaching platforms and crafting a profile that will attract business people
- Becoming an independent online English teacher and finding your own business English students
Companies That Offer Business English Lessons
Here are some examples of companies that offer lessons to professional people. I include them as examples and haven't worked with them or vetted them. Not am I affiliated with them.
Learnship is looking for teachers that have experience teaching business English as their students are people in business. You’ll need to be self-employed to work with them. But they do pay in the region of €15-€26 per class ($17-$30), which is higher than other online English teaching jobs. The downside is that the recruitment process is extremely selective and students often cancel classes. More on Learnship here.
Business English2Go is a school based in Costa Rica that offers online lessons for business people in Latin America. To work for them, you need to speak English natively (preferably North American), have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate as well as teaching experience. The starting rate is $11-$12
Ginseng English had a post open for business online English teachers. But due to a large volume of applications, they’ve paused hiring for now.
Wall Street English is a well-known English teaching franchise that has schools all over the world. They offer business English training including online options, especially since the pandemic. If you’re already living in a country where English is not the native language, it might be worth dropping off a CV at Wall Street to see if there are any openings for teaching business English online.
If you live in a country where English is not people’s first language, you can consider applying to local language schools. Many language schools and training institutions around the world offer lessons “in-company”.
Pre-pandemic that looked like you, the business English trainer, hopping in your car to travel to different businesses to give lessons.
Nowadays, some of these schools will have pivoted to online options, often at the request of the company. So if you’re fed up with driving around and want to teach from home, consider this as an option too.
Teaching Business English Online On Platforms
You can also teach business English on online teaching platforms such as Preply. You would need to explain in your profile and intro video that you specialise in this area. And perhaps give some examples of your particular specialty.
For example, some business English teachers focus on the recruitment and hiring process, helping students prepare for job interviews in English or offering help with CV writing.
Alternatively, you may want to teach people who work in a particular industry or who are in senior positions.
Finding Your Own Business English Students
And of course, you can strike out on your own and find students independently. If you want to go down this route, you could consider contacting international companies' HR and training departments to offer your services.
You could also contact people in your network and find out if they know anyone using English in international business.
If you want to work with entrepreneurs, it could be useful to go to business networking events or connect with them on LinkedIn. You could even consider going to industry events, such as conferences. This could work well if you’re targeting a particular industry.
If you're serious about starting your own online teaching business, I recommend checking out the CeOLT (Certification of Online Language Teaching) programme.
This qualification not only helps you to become a better language teacher but also teaches you how to find paying students and build a language teaching business online.
You can find out more about the programme and its unique “business building” component here.
How Much Can You Earn Teaching Business English Online?
Bear in mind that it’s unlikely you’ll be hired as an employee, even by a company, so the earnings below are not salary. You’ll also have to take into account taxes and national insurance that you’ll have to pay as a freelancer in your country.
Also, you may need to factor in other expenses such as PayPal fees, depending on how companies or platforms send you money.
On Preply, some business English tutors are charging as much as €94 per hour lesson! But they usually have extensive business experience and have been on the platform for a while.
A general rule on the platforms is that you need to set your prices low initially to attract your first students and improve your profile by getting reviews.
Preply takes quite a hefty commission of 18%-33% of the cost of a lesson depending on how many hours you’ve done on the platform. Preply also takes 100% of the first lesson with each new student.
If you work for Learnship you could earn €15-€26. For business English to Go the starting rate is $11-$12.
And if you set your own rates then you’ll have more freedom to charge what you want without worrying about platforms taking a commission. But be sure that the rate you set reflects the value you offer.
If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to set a lower rate to get your first few clients. And then you can increase it as you get more students, gain more experience and get testimonials from students reflecting the results you get them.
Teach Business English Online: 7 Top Tips
So can you see yourself teaching business English online? Here are some tips to take the next step – giving effective online business English lessons.
#1 Find Out What Your Students Need
While coursebooks and textbooks and lesson plans for teaching business English exist, your student is your best resource. Find out from them in which situations they need English. And base the lessons on real-life situations they encounter at work.
That could be anything from walking a customer through a product demo to speaking up in meetings. Let them help you plan your ESL lessons by taking into account their needs.
#2 Your Students Are Busy People
Whether you’re working with a business bilingual customer support agent or a senior executive, your students are busy business professionals.
They might have work on their mind in the lesson. They may also need to cancel at the last minute if something important comes up. Phone calls could also interrupt the lesson. So be prepared for these things happening.
#3 Business English Students Can Be Demanding
Your students are using English in high-stakes settings and so they’ll be looking for results. Don’t waste their time if you don’t know how to get them those results.
At the same time, it’s also your responsibility as the teacher to ensure that your students have realistic expectations. Language learning is a long, slow process so they won’t get overnight results. Help them set realistic goals so that they can see their progress, even if it’s slow and gradual.
#4 Use Real-Life Materials
While you can find plenty of pedagogical materials for teaching business English, consider using real-life materials.
Your student might enjoy analysing and explaining graphs and stock market data from the Financial Times. They may also want to discuss articles from specialised magazines in their field. Let them bring these materials to the class.
Using real-life materials is a sneaky way to bring in some language teaching without pulling out a verb tense worksheet. For example, describing stock market trends will naturally lead to using the present perfect tense.
#5 Use Role Plays
Instead of bringing in exercises from a grammar book or some sort of generic listening or writing skills task, simulate real-life situations your students need to prepare for.
That way, your lesson becomes a safe space for your students to practise their business communication skills before they go out into the real world.
Setting up a role-play takes a little bit of work, but your students will enjoy using the language in a practical way.
The feedback stage after a role-play is crucial. You’ll be able to share what the student did well and where they need to improve. As this is business English, you can give them feedback not only on their business vocabulary and language ability but also on their communication and soft skills.
#6 Focus On Communication
One thing that Shanthi talks about a lot is that just because someone is a native speaker, that doesn't necessarily make them a good communicator.
If an English speaker talks too fast for an international audience, uses lots of jargon, and doesn’t listen when others speak, are they good communicators?
You can encourage your student to become a good communicator. For instance, being a good listener involves linguistic skills that learners may need time to develop. But good listening also includes body language as well as being able to reflect back to the person what they’ve said.
Bear in mind that there are whole industries dedicated to communication, such as copywriters, communication coaches, and presentation skills trainers.
Think about it – how many emails have you received that were several paragraphs too long? How many people have sent you instant messages when they could have just picked up the phone? How many times has miscommunication caused issues in a workplace?
Being a good communicator in international settings is not a given for anyone, not even if you speak a language natively. And these skills need to be taught.
#7 Consider English As A Lingua Franca
Your students might not actually be using English with native speakers but instead use it as a lingua franca with other non-native speakers.
In this case, being a good communicator is even more important as trying to use too many fancy phrasal verbs or idioms might just confuse the people they’re talking to.
If you’re a non-native speaker with a business background you have an extra advantage here. You can share the strategies you used to communicate in English in these settings. You may also have extra tips for dealing with issues like native speakers who talk too fast.
Time To Get Started Teaching English Online
So now you know what it’ll take to teach business English online.
Teaching business English online can be rewarding as you’ll be helping people achieve their work goals such as getting a promotion, managing their multicultural team effectively or giving excellent business presentations at work.
Thanks to the communication skills you’ll help them develop, they’ll be able to do business all over the world, whether it’s with native English speakers or non-natives.
As you’ve seen, you’ll need to not only have language-teaching skills but also knowledge of the international business environment, including business etiquette and intercultural communication.
If that sounds like you then maybe it's time to start teaching business English online!