Published 12th April 2019
If you’re an English as a Foreign Language teacher, you’ve probably considered teaching online at some point in your career. Teaching in your pyjamas, at home on your couch, cuddling your puppy – what’s not to love? But there is actually more than one way you can teach English online. So what are a freelance teacher’s best option? Let’s look at being an independent (freelance) online teacher versus working for an online company.
Freelance Teacher Online: Is Freelance the Best Way to Go?
In terms of payment, freelancers are able to charge whatever amount they want. Company employees charge the rate set by the company. They usually also have to pay a percentage commission. By cutting out the middleman freelance teachers receive 100% of the money students pay for their classes. On the other hand, employees don’t need to deal with billing, invoicing or payment disputes, while freelancers do. Freelancers will need an easy way for students to pay their fees, like PayPal. Please note, paypal does take a small fee to use the platform, but it’s known worldwide and is easy to use. As a freelancer you’ll need to decide how much to charge students. Online English instructors typically charge between $20-$60 per hour depending on the level of qualifications and instruction provided in the lesson.
Employees don’t need to worry about finding students. Students can find them on a database or the school will assign them students. Freelancers are essentially business owners. Freelancers will need to create a clear vision for their business model. They will need to market their new business, decide which channels to advertise on, grow their social media presence, and network to find students. As a freelancer you’ll want to have your own website where you introduce yourself, give information about your lessons, and convenience students you are the right teacher for them. Freelancers need to learn how to make your own brand stand out by finding your teaching niche. Will you focus on teaching business english? IELTS exam preparation? This takes up time and takes away from paid teaching hours. In the end these business and operational skills will help to launch a lucrative freelance English teaching business.
As a freelance teacher you’ll have complete control over your own schedule. Your schedule will be based on what works best for you. Many online companies have a minimum weekly hours you must teach and peak teaching hours. Depending on your time zone the peak hours could 4am. If you are not an early morning person you could find it difficult to work unsociable hours. As a freelancer you set your own hours and decide when to teach and when not to teach. At first you may agree to teach lessons at inconvenient times too, but as your business grows you can be strict with your time. As an employee you holiday allowances and time off are determined by the employer. Freelancers can take off time when it suits them and won’t be charged for missing a class, however, consistent cancellations can tarnish reputation and students may not book with you again if you’re not reliable. Most online companies will require employees to sign a 3-12 month contract so you’ll need to be committed to that company throughout your contract. With freelance teaching online you are in control of your time.
All this contributes to the stability of an EFL job. There are many factors which can influence the success of an online business. Employees don’t need to worry about anything business-related; they can just focus on teaching. The success of a freelancer depends largely on themselves. There is a lot more to do than teaching lessons and the workload for a freelancer can fluctuate dramatically. Marketing your skills, experience, and enthusiasm correctly can turn an online teaching side gig into a full time job. Your self-motivation will be a key to becoming a successful freelance teacher.
Employees are often given lesson materials and plans which they have to follow. This can be great as it means you don’t need to spend time planning your lessons. It is not so great, though, when you don’t like the materials or you have to do the same lesson five times a day. Freelancers can basically teach whatever they want, provided their students are happy. Freelance teachers can personalize lessons to fit students’ individual learning styles and needs. This can be time-consuming and teachers are responsible for finding their own materials that are appropriate. Thankfully there are lots of online resources for TEFL teachers. Online teaching also gives freelancers the ability to incorporate authentic visuals to create more engaging lessons and connect with students.
Even online you can have discipline problems with students. Freelancers can decide not to teach students they don’t get on with, but employees don’t have a choice who they teach. What’s more, schools may have policies and guidelines relating to discipline which teachers will have to follow, whereas freelance teachers are free to make their own rules. By becoming your own boss you choose to teach students that pay on time, come to class, and are dedicated to learning.
Online schools should have policies regarding students who don’t turn up for lessons or who cancel at the last minute. Employees shouldn’t need to worry about this, as usually they will be compensated by their school. Freelancers, even though they can have their own rules and policies, can find it difficult to enforce any cancellation fees and so can miss out on pay if students skip a lesson. Freelance teachers can avoid chasing cancellation fees by requiring students to pay for lessons upfront.
Online Classroom and Proper Equipment
Those working with an online company and freelancers will both need a quiet, well lite space away from external distractions. You’ll need to set your online classroom to keep students engaged and promote learning. The background will vary depending on the age of your students. An online classroom for young learners will look very different from adult students learning business English. For example, for young learners online classrooms will include the alphabet, colorful rewards and animal puppets. Online companies will have a platform they require teachers to use for delivering lessons. An independent freelance teacher can choose which platform they want to use. Popular platforms include, Skype, Google hangouts, or ZOOM. Online teachers should also use a headset, which will make it easier to hear students and for them to hear you. Teaching and learning English requires listening and speaking, so if you and your student can’t interact effectively it can suddenly turn into a train wreck.
Continuous Professional Development (CPD)
The field of ELT is constantly changing and freelance teachers need to keep up to date with the latest teaching methods and techniques. Reputable online companies will provide some sort of training and support for their teachers. Freelancers will need to maintain their training themselves. Implement what you’ve learnt in your level 5 TEFL course, put your business plan into action, and stay motivated. As your own boss you can shape your career path and create a working environment that you love.
Level 5 TEFL Course
Whether you’re working for an online school or freelancing you’ll need a Level 5 TEFL qualification to teach English online. If you want to learn how to teach english and create lessons for students, you’ll need a good TEFL course. A high quality course will give you a solid foundation in TEFL specific methodology and lesson planning. What’s more, our level 5 course includes one free top up course, so you can specialise in teaching online & 1:1. This course will prepare you for teaching in an online classroom by tackling the challenges of teaching online and planning courses for your students, making you confident to teach on your own.
Online teaching is becoming more and more popular. There are many good reasons to become a freelance teacher online, though it doesn’t suit everyone. Before you take the plunge, do your research and make sure you choose the right online teaching situation to suit you.