Be your own boss and teach English online - How to be a freelance success!

Prior to 2020, the ability to make money online almost seemed too good to be true. Today we know that this is not only a possibility, but in fact the way the world is going. There are lots of fun ways to do this and one that has been a fast growing option is teaching English as a foreign language.

English is an international language with over a billion learners across the world. As such, the demand for English teachers is booming. Being a speaker of English and teaching English, however, are two very different things. Being a native speaker of English does not make you a qualified teacher. So you will need to make sure you are ready for the role. Let’s look at what you need to get you started.

Getting TEFL certified

The first step to being a freelance success is to get TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified. There are many TEFL courses out there, so researching different options is important when deciding which course is right for you.

The time it will take to get TEFL certified will vary depending on your own circumstances and which course you choose. Some people can get certified in less than a month, others need more time. Due to the flexibility offered, many people lean towards online TEFL courses. When looking for online teaching jobs, most employers will require a minimum of a 120 hour TEFL course. 

Having a TEFL qualification is not necessarily compulsory to be able to teach online. However, not having a TEFL certification will typically means that you get paid much less and those who are qualified will be preferred when hiring. So, the investment in getting certified will certainly make you more employable. Having a degree in any subject alongside prior teaching experience will also be beneficial.

What equipment will you need?

Setting up as an English teacher online needn’t be difficult or expensive. All you really need to get started is a stable internet connection and a laptop with a microphone and webcam. Investing in a good-quality headset is recommended, as it often cuts out background noise and allows you to speak more clearly.

If you want to really stand out as an online English teacher, then having some sort of virtual classroom is a great idea! Props are ideal, and having an interactive background may be more exciting for students.

You might wonder how to make your virtual classroom more appealing. Often the simplest of props can significantly enhance your students’ learning experience. Some examples can include a map of the world poster, a whiteboard, and markers, flashcards or puppets. Getting your student’s attention is easy. Keeping their attention is more difficult, making props an excellent way of keeping things engaging and interactive. Especially when you are teaching young learners!

Becoming fully freelance or working with an online platform?

Teaching English online can be a full-time job, depending on how much time you are willing to invest. Some people will teach a few hours a week whilst others will build a sustainable, full-time income from it. Deciding whether to freelance independently or work with a company is important.

Most teachers starting out tend to work with an online platform. Gradually, many start to transition to becoming fully freelance. Both of these options have their positives and negatives but it really depends on the individual.

Working for a company definitely has its benefits. Being able to set your own schedule is important because a lot of teachers will work around their commitments, so flexibility is a plus. Quite a few companies also provide lesson plans which means that preparation time for lessons can be minimized. This is usually a very attractive option for teachers as they won’t have to spend too much time outside of lessons preparing for their next one. The overall stability of working with a company can be more appealing than sorting everything out yourself.

However, working with a company can provide some challenges. Some companies will take a percentage cut of your earnings in return for marketing. A lot of the time, you will have to build up a certain amount of teaching hours before commission is reduced, if at all. Not only this, a lot of the time companies will require you to commit to a contract. This can be off-putting for teachers who want to work on their own terms.

On the flip side, being a fully-fledged freelancer can be great for teachers too. They also have the ability to set their own hours and find their own students. Freelancing also allows teachers to set their own rates without having to worry about paying commission. However, this does mean that they will have to make their own lesson plans and adapt them to each student which will take up more time. So there will be less guidance from a curriculum but more creative freedom.

Being a freelance English teacher can be very lucrative, but understanding the ins and outs of it is crucial. As your own boss, you will be responsible for finding your own students, advertising your services and building relationships and networks. It’s important to understand this before diving into the deep end.

Creating your own website and building a portfolio

If you have decided to become a fully-fledged freelancer, then you will need to be able to market and sell yourself. Having some sort of website or online portfolio can help you market your services and build up a solid reputation.

The idea of building a website can seem a little overwhelming, but it’s easier than you think. There are so many hosting platforms out there that will allow you to build one for free. You may not be a designer, so you don’t need a website with over-the-top graphics. But having some sort of online portfolio will allow you to attract more students.

If you plan on having a website, you need to answer the basic questions students will have. What kind of teaching do you do? What do you charge per lesson? Where are you based? Over time, you will be able to build a client base and have public reviews online. The more experienced you become, the more students you may have and the more trust you build.

With the world embracing online learning and teaching, now is the opportunity for you to become your own boss and a successful freelancer. Getting off the ground is usually the most difficult part, but once you establish yourself, you will be able to take on the online teaching world. Don’t forget: Make sure to get TEFL certified, get your virtual classroom-ready and get those teaching hours in.

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