Teach English online to Chinese students: Secrets to success.

With ≈400 million Chinese ESL learners, it seems natural to teach English online to Chinese students. Here is what you need to consider to be successful, including the 2021 law that could land you in hot water. What was the 720/double reduction policy and can you still be successful teaching English online despite it?

This post is written for Australians and New Zealanders but all of our information can be used by teachers worldwide. We use affiliate links, which earn us a small commission (at no cost to you, see our Disclaimer) but always give you the best impartial advice based on first-hand experience.

teach english online to chinese students
In my experience, Chinese students are generally respectful and dedicated. Photo by 绵 绵

Why teach English online to Chinese students?

With a population of 1.4 billion (and growing), China has been home to the largest number of ESL (English as a Second Language) students for the last two decades. Chinese students made up the largest section of the International Student cohort in Australia in 2019, with over 250,000 enrolments. Demand for online English lessons grew exponentially at the start of the pandemic, as Chinese students faced school closures and travel restrictions.

From my experience, Chinese students are highly dedicated and diligent, with a respectful attitude towards teachers. Parents are willing to spend large amounts of money to help their children succeed in a very competitive domestic education system and place great value on international education, especially that provided by “Western” “native English speakers”. Adult professionals from China often reap large professional (and therefore financial) benefits from becoming proficient in English and pay well for quality tuition.

“So how do I sign up?”, you might be asking…

An important consideration before you teach English online to Chinese students...

A few years ago, the Chinese online ESL market was booming. Between 2013 -2017, the ‘Online Youth English Training Market‘ grew from 7.1 to an estimated 50.7 billion dollars annually. Hundreds of Chinese ed-tech companies jumped on board, in turn hiring thousands of online English teachers to supply the growing demand. 

That was, until mid 2021. In a complex set of legislation referred to as the “double reduction/720 policy” [Chinese], the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) banned the hiring of foreign teachers located outside China to teach English online to Chinese youth under the age of 18 (among many other reforms). The idea was to reduce the financial burden of educational tuition on parents in order to encourage them to add more children to an ageing population.

I won’t go into the details of this legislation here (read more about the impact on the industry in my post “Without China, how big is the global online ESL market in 2022“), but the big takeaway message is this: At the time of writing, it is illegal for a Chinese company to hire non-Chinese teachers to teach English online to children in China.

Almost all of the companies in the Chinese Youth ESL Market closed or moved to markets in other countries during the second half of 2021. You can still theoretically teach freelance or on a marketplace to Chinese children but it’s worth remembering that if you choose to teach English to children in China online you (and your students) are operating in a legal grey area.

I do still see ads occasionally popping up from Chinese companies hiring for online English teachers for children in a covert fashion (i.e not disclosing where the students are located), as there is profit to be made in this grey market, but I don’t personally include these in the job list or weekly newsletter due to the legal ambiguity. I’m not a lawyer so can’t advise on the consequences (if any) of going against this policy but it’s definitely worth considering as it could potentially land you in hot water.

If you’ve read a blog post written before 2022 that lists Chinese companies that hire children, they were likely written before the CCP policy change. I see this regularly as these posts were hastily written at the height of the industry. Companies that stopped operating:
 

GOGOKID – “As of Aug 5th 2021, GOGOKID will suspend the curriculum offered to all Chinese students”. https://www.rappler.com/…/bytedance-close-some-tutoring…

VIPKID – “Starting August 7, 2021, students in China will be unable to purchase new class packages with foreign VIPKid teachers outside of China.” https://www.vipkid.com/…/455ca889d3e3a96b734544b77093d52e

DADAABC – “We regret to inform you that students in the Chinese mainland will not be able to take courses after 31st December”. https://www.reddit.com/…/its_on_the_homepage…/
 
ZEBRA ENGLISH – “We are really sorry to inform you that, being influenced by recent policies, our business will not be developed in the future. Currently, we are not able to recruit any new teachers, and your recruiting process has been terminated.”
 
WHALES ENGLISH – On August 19th, 2021, Whales issued a statement apologising for the fact that teachers had woken up to find their classes removed without warning. https://teachersxchange.com/esl-china-update-the-story…/
 

FIRST FUTURE – Hiring freeze until further notice. Likely no classes for foreign tutors outside China.

QKIDS – “has pledged to continue teaching its existing courses, but from August 10th will not be selling any more classes with teachers outside China”.

LANDI ENGLISH/ABC360 – From August 11th, Landi English suspended recruitment “due to the risks related to the new rules and regulations issued by the Chinese State Council”. On Sep 10, all part-time teacher contracts were suspended.
 
BLINGABC – “Due to recent government policies in China, online classes must be capped at a duration of 30 minutes starting from September 1st.” Likely no classes for foreign tutors outside China.
Shanghai, China. Photo by Nuno Alberto.

How to teach English online to China

The main alternative to teaching English to Chinese children is to teach adults instead. Research by J’son and Partners (2021) indicated that adult online ESL makes up 68% of the total market, potentially worth $1.21 billion or more.

Yet there are relatively few companies in China that offer ‘jobs’ teaching classes to adults online to those located overseas, with only two companies on our complete job list. Whereas parents are willing to invest heavily in years of tutoring, only 14% of adults stick with English learning products for more than one year, with a majority learning for ≈1-3 months, making them a less attractive basis for a business model than the youth market in China.

If you really want to teach teaching English to Chinese adults, you may want to consider either applying for roles with companies in neighbouring countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and to a lessor extent South Korea and Japan. There are, anecdotally, many Chinese students taking classes with these operators. 

You can also consider the profile/marketplace platforms in the region where you advertise your teaching profile and students choose to take lessons with you. If you speak Mandarin, Cantonese or have some experience with Chinese culture and language, this will assist you to attract students very quickly on these platforms. If you have an understanding of (or are willing to do some research into) the major Chinese exams (like the gaokao (高考) and/or overseas university entrance exams like SAT, TOEFL and IELTS, this can also be a huge drawcard.

You can offer freelance teaching to students located in China but it is worth considering the Great Firewall of China, which blocks access to many sites to Chinese citizens, including “Western” social media such as Facebook (a traditional method to finding students).

The final option is to market your teaching services to Chinese students located in Australia. There are many International students studying in Australian universities who are looking for ESL tuition as well as students in Primary and Secondary who require additional assistance. Parents located in Australia will pay much higher rates for tuition, with a constant demand. Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese) speaking tutors in Australia are paid a premium ($100 AUD/hr or more), but tutoring roles are available for “native” English speakers as well.

Teaching English online in China

If you are a little more adventurous, you could always consider moving to China itself and teaching English online from inside the country. This circumvents many of the restrictions of the 720/double reduction policy. This could also be done in combination with in-person teaching (being sure to follow any work visa/immigration policies carefully, of course).

Teach English online to Chinese students FAQ

How much can you make teaching English to Chinese students online?

While highly variable, the average hourly rate offered by Chinese online ESL companies is ≈$25 AUD/hr, profile/marketplace platforms (≈$40 AUD/hr) or freelance (Up to $100 AUD/hr). Tutoring Chinese students in Australia will likely net you ≈$40 – $100 AUD/hr.

This depends on multiple factors, such as your TESOL qualifications, experience and sales and marketing skills. Qualified Primary and Secondary teachers usually earn higher rates.

Do you need to know Chinese to teach English online?

No, you do not need to know Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) to teach English online to Chinese students, but even basic Chinese language skills will dramatically increase your ability to attract students and charge a higher rate. 

If you want to attract Chinese students (especially beginners), having your profile professionally translated from English will help a lot, as well as including Chinese subtitles on your introduction video. Just make sure you state that you don’t actually speak Chinese or you will start receiving messages from students that you can’t understand!

Where can I find Chinese students who want to learn English?

The Chinese Firewall makes contacting students challenging, so consider English teaching marketplace platforms or Chinese apps like WeChat. LinkedIn is accessible on the Chinese mainland or you can build your own website. Have a look at our job list for tutoring companies that cater to Chinese students located in Australia.

Despite challenges, teaching English to Chinese students online may be perfect for you. Photo by Javier Quiroga.

Summary

There are millions of Chinese online ESL students, but as you’ve read, teachers encounter challenges to entering the market. If you navigate the policies limiting the teaching of children, CCP Firewall and understand the benefits of basic Chinese language skills and/or translation – you could be very successful teaching English online to Chinese students. It’s not the most straightforward path to teaching online but the rewards can be great for those who try. If you’re looking for well-paying and dedicated students, this might just be for you. 

Freelance teacher 101: BASICS TO BREAKTHROUGH

I receive emails every day from dedicated educators who:

  • Are being underpaid or under-compensated for their time;
  • Aren’t sure how (or if) to become freelance teachers;
  • Are freelance teachers but struggle to find and/or retain students or charge a rate that leads to thriving, not just surviving. 

Does that sound like you?

Read on while I show you the basic business skills that successful freelance teachers from Australia and New Zealand need to earn up to $100AUD/hr (or maybe, even more) from someone who learned them the hard way!

Independent online English teacher
Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

This post is written for Australians and New Zealanders but all of our information can be used by teachers worldwide. We use affiliate links, which earn us a small commission (at no cost to you, see our Disclaimer) but always give you the best impartial advice based on first-hand experience.

Table of Contents

Note: In this article (and others that I’ve written), the focus is on young adult/adult TESOL students as this is my personal experience, but these concepts are universal to teachers from all fields.

If you’re new to online ESL teaching, read my “How to Teach English Online” guide. 

What are my online teaching options?

Employed teacher

You can apply for a job with an international (and much less often, a domestic) company (or school) who pays you an hourly or class rate. This is where I (and many other teachers) started. It is good for those who are lacking experience and/or time …but usually pays the lowest of all your options.

 In this situation, they do all the student acquisition and you simply have to be ready and waiting to teach at the allocated time. Some provide the lesson plans and curriculum, while others require you to prepare this. Classes are given to all age groups and from every country in which there is the internet infrastructure and demand.

As there are literally hundreds of companies, we cannot cover all aspects of this but I have found that the average rate internationally is ≈$29-42 AUD/hr and teachers are offered an average of 10 hours per week (but varies VERY WIDELY as is just a general guide). 100% online roles domestically are rare but attract salaries of ≈$50-$75AUD/hr (or more) for those with postgraduate qualifications and/or many years of experience. Tutoring falls somewhere in between for those without these higher qualifications.

If you’re interested in a job, I’ve compiled the most comprehensive list of online English teaching jobs for Australasians available anywhere!

Freelance teacher on a marketplace platform

A marketplace is exactly as it sounds – an online platform where teachers can market their services to students who are looking for a teacher.  Preply is one the largest international marketplace platforms, with more than 100,000 students. Outschool is a US based platform for young learners (K-12) with an increasing presence in Australia. 

Unlike doing it yourself (where you make 100% of the profit), the marketplace platforms take ≈10-30% of your profit. You pay for the convenience of easy access to students/parents but must often abide by strict rules around contacting students directly (so as not to ‘poach’ them) and cancellation/refund/admin policies vary greatly.

You can make more money than if you were to work for a company as you set your own, higher, rate. You only pay a portion of your income for the facilitation of a connection between yourself and your student. They are essentially providing the shopping centre and you are setting up your store in hopes that someone will stop and buy. If you want to dip your toes in and ‘give it a go’, marketplaces can be a good place to start – but for the most freedom and maximum hourly rate, you’ll need to go out independently.

Independent freelance teacher

Advertising your teaching services to students directly without a third party platform or marketplace is my definition of an independent freelance teacher. Not only will you be free to teach what you want to who you want (while charging up to $100 AUD/hr or more), you will build the skill-set to run a sustainable and successful business.

The main difference between independent freelance teachers and those employed by someone else is that in order to succeed, freelance teachers need to don a new ‘hat’ – that of a small business owner. It can look different for each teacher but will likely involve a website and/or a social media presence that attracts students to your classes online. You’ll then need to convert them to paying students, or as I want you to now consider them, clients. 

Many teachers find this a strange and uncomfortable change, but I want to assure you that by keeping an open mind and embracing these ideas, you can build a teaching business that is both profitable and allows you to give fully to your students. It has been by far the best decision that I made in my career.

There are three main business skills that I have helped me succeed as a freelance teacher during the past decade. Let me share these with you now.

freelance teacher
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

What skills do I need to be a successful freelance teacher?

A business mindset

I used to cringe a little every time I read something that started with discussions around mindset. “My mindset is fine, I want to find students!” is what I’d think to myself. Yet, when I reflect on what has lead to my greatest breakthroughs as a freelance teacher, they were almost all related to the way I perceived myself, money and business. 

I’ve also found it helpful to consider even one freelance class a business and to see it needing a seperate mindset entirely, but for you it may be more naturally complementary, depending on your personality.

If you’ve been a teacher for a while, you are likely to identify strongly with ‘being a teacher’ and a teacher mindset, which may (or may not) include:

  • Strong principals for teaching as a selfless, noble, and financially inclusive;
  • Teaching that centres on helping underprivileged or disadvantaged students;
  • Teaching as a not-for-profit profession, unspoilt by business and/or capitalism.

If so, you may struggle with the idea that you need to increase your prices and say “No” to students and parents that cannot afford to pay. Consider:

  • Acknowledging and embracing your altruism by volunteering to teach English online casually or offering a weekly group class for free or at a reduced rate, but also having a seperate, profitable business as well. It doesn’t need to be an either/or proposition. You can do both and still make enough money to thrive.
  • Asking yourself how much MORE time and energy you would have to give to your students if you were financially secure in your freelance business by charging students who are happy to pay a high maximum rate?
  • With ≈40–50% of teachers burning out within the first five years of teaching, consider if the currently accepted teaching mindset is sustainable?
Or, you may embracing of business but perceive yourself as..
 
  • Someone who lacks business skills such as sales and marketing or finds the idea of selling themselves or their services terrifying/overwhelming;
  • Someone who is afraid to ‘put themselves out there’, to use social media or to build a web presence;
  • Lacking confidence or feeling like you don’t deserve $100+ AUD/hr because of ideas from your previous experiences and/or upbringing. 

I’ve written about my own freelance challenges over the years (including chronically undercharging due to my low-income upbringing and a healthy does of insecurity) and this process can take time plus some trial and error. Sales is a skill that you learn by doing. You can build a business from a small roster of private students, slowly and without dancing around on TikTok.

It’s completely possible BUT you have to have the mindset that: 1) You will commit to starting a freelance business; and 2) You believe that you will make it succeed.

If you identify any of these potential obstacles in yourself, it’s definitely worth taking an hour (why not right now?) to sit down in a quiet place and write down what your current mindset around teaching and business is and any fears or concerns before moving on to the next step. Challenge yourself to clearly identify what in your mindset is holding you back. Once you know this, you can begin to work on it and to seek out others to help. Reach out for coaching if you need a hand. I’ve overcome these challenges myself and worked with many teachers in the past two years to overcome them too.

With or without a coach, if you are wondering if you can start your own freelance business, the answer is YES YOU CAN. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

"Student as client" sales approach

I’ve briefly mentioned sales and of all the skills that lead to freelance success, this is #1.

Instead of benefiting from a team of people (including salespeople) who are connecting the student to the school/company/institute and to you directly, you’re going to have to go out there and find a way to connect with potential learners and sell them your services. You’ll need to start looking at your students and/or their parents as your business clients

The issue is that many teachers have a perception of sales as an ‘icky’ practice that is best to be avoided – yet it really doesn’t have to be. That’s why I mentioned mindset first. If you have the mindset that sales is bad, you’re going to struggle to sell your very valuable and important services.

Let me re-iterate that. You are offering an AMAZING service that potentially:

  • helps minds to grow, expand and foster life-long learning habits;
  • helps promote feelings of personal achievement and fulfilment;
  • offers lucrative future career promotion with a tangible increase in salary for each year of their working life;
  • offers opportunity for immigration or emigration and a better quality of life for themselves and their family;
  • leads to studying at the university of their dreams;
  • …plus much, much more!

Some of the value that your teaching offers is tangible, while some is more abstract.

In my experience, the more that you consider value for your clients rather than simply learning outcomes for your students, the easier that the sales process will become. It’s a simple equation: the more value that you can provide, the more that you can charge. 

There is a lot of dubious advice out there about sales and much of your success will depend on your personality and style, plus a huge dose of persistence and learning from your mistakes. In my experience, the only way to become a good salesperson is through practice, but spending time to highlight specific and measurable value for your clients beforehand means that when the time comes to speak with them on a Zoom call, you can more easily justify your rates. Take some time to consider your value.

Maintain accurate documentation

Finally, while admin may not be your favourite activity, you need to be “on top” of the admin of your business, especially as it grows. If you really hate this part, consider hiring a freelance admin or virtual assistant from a site like Airtasker to do it for you. 

Here are a few main documents that are crucial for me:

A profit and loss spreadsheet
It doesn’t have to be too complicated and can be a simple Excel spreadsheet that records:

  • How much students have paid and when (and who owes what);
  • All income that comes in (minus any fees/charges);
  • Every expense that you’ve made for the business (I record this monthly).

You’ll be particularly grateful for this one at tax time. This guide from business.gov.au includes a free profit and loss template and some good general advice.

An invoice template

A free template from Office is all that you need. Make sure it clearly gives your banking or other payment details. This guide from business.gov.au is a good starting point too.

A cancellation/no-show and payment policy
Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated but needs to state the terms of which your students agree to give you notice of cancellations and when payment is due.
 
This article from the WA Government on how to write a cancellation policy is a helpful place to start. I’ve always allowed free cancellations up to 24 hours in advance but they forfeit the class fee for anything under 24 hours, unless it is a genuine and one-off emergency. 
 

Life happens and the longer that I work with a student, the more relaxed I am with cancellations. For other students (and parents), I find that if I am not strict about this early on, they will try and push the boundaries. I suggest making this 100% clear from the beginning and saving yourself major headaches later on.

The same applies for your payment policy. I’ve always made sure my students either pay up-front for class packages (preferred) or pay for all classes by the final day of each month. I am very strict about these rules up front and relax only once we have built a reliable and trusting relationship over time. Having these documents will both protect you and make the expectations clear for everyone. Just as we often set these expectations on the first day of term, so should we in our business.

Note: I am not a financial advisor and therefore this post should NOT be taken as financial advice.  If you need professional assistance, please contact your accountant or lawyer. I accept no liability or responsibility to any person for actions taken as a consequence of information provided on teachenglishonline.com.au. [Disclaimer]

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Am I ready to become a highly paid freelance teacher?

As you can see, there are a number of skills involved in running a successful freelance teaching business. Although they might seem overwhelming, let me assure you that they really aren’t. 

Before you start, take some time to appraise your current mindset and identify any obstacles or limiting beliefs that may stand in your way of running a business. Just writing them down and acknowledging them diminishes their power. You can then begin to replace them with a new concept of yourself as both a teacher AND a high value professional business owner.

This doesn’t need to involve changing your existing values at all. That’s one of the best things about running a business. You can run it any way that you want and to lead with the values that are important to you. Just know that you’ll build a successful and sustainable freelance business faster if you’re charging what you’re worth.

This concept can be repeated as a written brainstorm regarding your value and the corresponding hourly rate. Once you perceive your students as business clients who benefit from the value that you contribute, you’ll see that you’re not just selling them something they don’t need (like this season’s latest sneakers) but you’re offering them something of real and tangible value and benefit that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. You’ll need to find your ‘sales style’ but it doesn’t have to been icky at all.

Finally, having a few pieces of clear administrative documentation ready to go from the beginning will make the whole process easier, smoother and more profitable. Hire someone to help you and/or seek out professional advice to get you started on the best foot if you want to get going quickly but free templates and time spent on websites like business.gov.au are invaluable. 

Ask around your networks for teachers who are currently successful freelancers and ask for their advice and support. Or have a look at my coaching page and express your interest in a coaching Power Hour. I’ve been where you are and work with teachers regularly to make their freelance teaching business dreams a reality. It might take a bit of trail and error (and a dash of patience) but there is a savvy business person waiting to emerge once you’ve got the right mindset, approach and tools.

When are you going to start?

If you’re an experienced freelance teacher, do you have any advice for others?

Comment below!

10 honest pros and cons of platforms like Superprof, Preply and Outschool Australia (for teachers)

Do you want to find students for your online English teaching lessons without the hassle of running your own business and the accompanying administration? What about finding students without a website or large social media audience? A teaching platform might be a good choice for you.

The online English teaching platform is a relatively recent phenomenon. When I began teaching in 2010, teaching online was still relatively uncommon. Teachers used craigslist-esque sites to advertise their services locally but the connection between the two concepts had not been made on a large scale. Fast forward to 2022, and there are seemingly new platforms appearing every day. Yet, are these platforms worth your time?

I’ve researched over 20 online English teaching platforms for you, including three of the largest (Preply, Superprof and Outschool), to see what the major pros and cons are. Then, practical tips to how you can overcome these cons and start finding regular private students.

This post may use considered affiliate links (at no cost to you). Please see our Disclaimer.

online teaching platforms

What is an online teaching platform?

Let’s begin with what a teaching platform is. A platform (also known as a marketplace or post-a-profile site) is a way to connect students and teachers with each other via the internet. It is often free for both parties to join and use the site, although there is sometimes a joining or subscription fee. Teachers usually pay a portion of their earnings from lessons to the platform for the connection with students, with fees varying widely.

preply
The biggest pro to platforms is in finding students more easily. Photo by Pixabay.

Pros of platforms like Preply, Superprof and Outschool

Save time finding students and the associated administration

The companies that create these platforms build the website including the search infrastructure, advertise to attract students (Preply platform boasts over 10 million lessons booked), and process payments. This saves you a lot of effort in the running of your own business to advertise to, attract and retain students; manage a referral system; send invoices and chase up payments; keep records of attendance and assessment; etc.

Each platform will be different, offering anything from a simple connection to a comprehensive set of administrative supports. Yet, the first pro of platforms is the removal of some or all of these additional non-teaching tasks.

No need for a website

A website can be a more complex (and costly) operation than many teachers consider. While it is relatively easy to set up a basic website, it is more tricky to build one that processes payments from multiple currencies and acts as a global marketing funnel. 

Using a platform, you do not have to learn the tech skills to build, maintain and advertise a website, nor the costs of paying someone else to do so. The same goes for social media management and promotion.

Again, while platforms may only offer some of these features, they are often designed for profitability and with an emphasis on ease of use and payment. You receive the fruits of a large sales and marketing staff whose sole job is to bring students to the platform and IT/design staff with the skills to make it user-friendly and appealing. 

If you are considering a website, BabelTEQ is run by Paul Sallaway, an former Australian ESL teacher.

Set your own hourly rate

On a platform, you are able to see what other teachers are charging and to set an hourly rate accordingly, as opposed to an often arbitrary number set by those who go out independently. You receive immediate feedback on your pricing and can adjust accordingly. You can choose your own rates, with highly qualified and experienced teachers able to demand higher compensation. 

Help establish a teaching niche

You can see what other teachers are offering and respond in real-time to growth in student demand. On platforms that allow students to post requests (like Outschool), you can respond to students looking for your specific skills. You can see and respond to gaps in the market and test the demand for your teaching niche without much risk.

Learn self promotion, marketing and sales

Having a ready audience means that learning how to promote, market and sell your services on platforms is much easier than if you are starting alone. 

You are able to observe and replicate what other successful teachers are doing and many platforms come with some training on the fundamentals of these skills. They often provide prompts on what you should put in your profile to attract students and examples to follow. 

A quick search on YouTube may also bring up videos of teachers who can provide tips and tricks to succeed within that platform’s landscape. Each platform has individual quirks and best practice, so with so many other teachers, there is a perfect opportunity to share knowledge and info.

One the biggest cons to platforms is fees. Photo by Erik Maclean

Cons of platforms like Preply, Superprof and Outschool

Fees and charges

The major con of teaching platforms is that you will have to pay fees for the pros that you’ve seen above. This can be the entire first class to a percentage of each class booked and paid for and occasionally a subscription model. The average amount is ≈20-30% of your income. 

You need to compete with many other teachers

While there are many benefits to having other teachers to learn from and compare strategies, there is also competition. With limited methods of filtering teachers, you can end up getting lost in the shuffle of those with the most reviews or lowest prices. 

You need to deal with other teachers undercutting your prices

A common complaint that I hear on forums is a perceived “race to the bottom”, where teachers (often from lower income countries) undercut each other until the hourly rate being charged is no longer tenable. On platforms where there is little filtering available to students except by price, teachers often think that lowering their prices is the only way to attract students, leading to the “race downwards” concept. 

You still need to do all the lesson planning and preparation

Unlike a salaried ‘job’, you may still need to do all of the teaching administration and assessment. This can be time consuming. 

You still need to self promote, market and sell

Even though there are students who are on the teaching platform, you need to find a way to stand out and to attract students to study with you. These sales, marketing and sales skills are foreign to many teachers and can pose a steep learning curve. 

Overcome cons to succeed with platforms

General advice

  • Compare platforms and be 100% clear on the fees and charges involved before signing up. My complete job list has transparent information on the 3 platforms mentioned here and 10 other popular lesser-known platforms from around the world. You can save up to 25% in fees on every lesson this way.

  • Don’t make your profile all about you! Instead, describe exactly how you help students and what you can help them achieve. Many teachers simply list their qualifications and experience like it’s a resume. Boring!

    Students have goals and usually want English to help them reach them. If you can help them study at that prestigious university, or get them a highly paid job, they’ll pay you a lot more. If you’re teaching kids, talk directly to the parents about their goals for their children’s future.

  • Have a professional (or professional looking) profile photo and make a short video, if possible. Check out my post “How to make the ultimate online English teaching video” for more details on how to make it great.

  • Think about a teaching niche that you can offer that will make you stand out among other teachers. When there are 100s of profiles with teachers who offer General English, why would a student pick you? If you’d like tailored advice about what niche to select, book in a 1:1 session. Having a niche offer also allows you to charge a higher rate.

  • Consider how you can use filters to stand out. If students can filter by price, why try and appear on the lowest price filter? Why not the highest priced? In my research, the teachers that charged the highest amount on a popular platform earned more than the lowest – and in fewer lessons!
A major platform's teachers listed as 'Australian' with their prices in AUD. Image (c) Kate Zarb
  • Can students filter by subject, location, reviews, popularity etc? How can you use these filters to your advantage?

  • Don’t hesitate to use pre-made lesson materials that you can adjust and customise, especially for beginners. Save yourself hours of lesson planning and preparation with over 50 lesson planning resources with 10k+ lesson plans. See the free list here.

  • Search for and join online groups with teachers from your chosen platform. While these groups can be terribly negative at times, they are also a good place to share tips and workshop issues.

  • Spend a few hours reading all that you can on how to market and promote your services. In addition to the info in this post, lots of teachers have great videos and blogs with tips and tricks for specific platforms that can be really helpful, as well as the following links:

Conclusion

For those who want the freedom of teaching private students in a freelance capacity without the hassle of starting their own business, a teaching platform might be right for you. There are significant cons worth considering, but many of these can be minimised by taking a few hours to plan and research the best platform for you and strategies for using it to your advantage. 

So, do you teach on a platform? Do you have any advice for others how to succeed there?

About the Author:

Kate (GradCertEd (TESOL)) studied a TESOL certificate in 2010 and has been teaching English ever since, tutoring ‘freelance’ for many years before starting an independent teaching business. She began Teach English Online to support Australians and New Zealanders to, well… succeed teaching English online. Whether you are just starting out, want to apply to one of the 300+ global companies or build your own small independent teaching business, she can help.

Considering your own freelance teaching business? Express interest in a coaching session. 

50 life-saving ESL TESOL lesson plan resources

What if you could halve the time that you spend on planning lessons!?

Here are 50+ online teaching resources (lesson plans, curricula and textbooks) for freelance online English teachers and those needing pre-made materials. I’ve put together the biggest list of lesson plan resources for online English teachers out there with access to an estimated 10,000+ lesson plans! I’ll discuss the different types of resources on the list and which ones might be best for you, no matter your experience or planning style. 

lesson plan
Leson planning from scratch can be overwhelming [Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels].

My lesson planning experiences

When I first started teaching English overseas (more than a decade ago!), I didn’t have much experience beyond what I’d learned during my TESOL certification.

Being so inexperienced, for the first year I barely deviated from the Cambridge ‘Interchange’ textbooks that my company in Mexico provided me. While I always tried to make things fun and engaging with additional warm-ups and games, the classroom content in my lesson plan came directly from the page.

Five years later, working as a private tutor, I had swung heavily in the other direction. I was writing a lesson plan for every class and creating all my own curriculum. Now, while my teaching confidence and quality had improved exponentially, I was also spending hours a week on preparation time!

When I realised that there were many quality lesson planning resources out there that would make my classes quicker and easier to plan, it was a life saver!

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What lesson plan resources do I need?

Wherever you are on your online English teaching journey, you likely lie somewhere in between my two stages above. I’ll refer to these stages generally as “from scratch”, “inspiring” and “pre-made/done for you”.

Lesson plans 'from scratch'

Freelance online English teachers and private tutors might need to write their own plans “from scratch”. Occasionally, companies ask you to provide your own lesson plans, but this is less common. If you have the confidence and you want to create your own, see my post with 10 Free online English lesson plans and ideas that includes links to lesson planning templates and videos on the basics of how to do this. 

'Inspiring' lesson plans

If you are interested in having the ‘inspiration’ provided for you (in terms of theme etc.) and using this as a shortcut to creating your own lesson plan, you are most likely to have luck with the free lesson plans on the list. I’ve enjoyed using British Council and BusyTeacher resources in the past ‘in a pinch’ but they didn’t work for me long-term. Some are able to be taught ‘as is’, but more often than not I find that free resources require adjustment both to the level and age of my students and the larger learning goals.

While there are some great free lesson plans out there, they tend to be part of a short series or based on some of the most common English challenges. They usually do not have worksheets or activities aligned with the curriculum and may or not be based on common language levels like CEFR or age-appropriate. You may need additional sources for this. 

'Done for you' lesson plans/curriculum

If you’re looking to save the most time, you might need to pay for ‘pre-made’ lesson plans or curriculum. I was reluctant to pay for resources for many years but they can save you many, many hours of time and energy. Your time is valuable!

They tend to work best for General English classes or teachers with students that are approximately the same age and level, although some resources on the list apply to multiple demographics. The main speciality areas that you’ll find resources for older learners are test preparation (IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC etc) and Business English. For children, phonics and reading are common areas of focus. 

Have a good look at their website and exactly what you’ll receive for your money. If they have a free plan or trial, sign up and see if the materials work for you. Email the publisher or site and ask any questions. 

Alongside being a huge time saver, they help you map your classes onto a pre-made curriculum. This means that you are able to assure your students that they are working towards clear language goals. If there is built-in assessment, activities and homework – even better – this will save you even more time. 

You may prefer to purchase a curriculum/lesson plan series that is designed specifically for online teachers or to purchase a textbook from one of the major ELT publishers and adapt it to your needs. Each publisher has multiple areas of focus and I couldn’t cover them all in the list, so you might need to go online and ask in teacher groups for suggestions or recommendations if you have a few to choose from. 

Your lesson planning is a highly individual choice

It took me many years of trying a number of different lesson plan resources before settling on something that worked. Using pre-made lesson plans can be a great place to start for new teachers or those short on time. You may use lesson plans or textbooks as inspiration or decide to tailor a curriculum for a specific learning outcome. 

I eventually returned to creating my own plans for my private tutoring business and the second time around (using elements of those I’d paid for) spent much less than planning than I had before. I hope this list helps you save time – whatever your planning style!

There are 100s of options and the best lesson plan resources for you will be highly individual – based on the ages, levels, demographics and needs of your students.

Enter your email for the FREE list of 50+ lesson plans, curricula, textbooks, graded readers and reference books (to help you save precious time, energy and importantly, your sanity).

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If you’re an Australasian online English (TESOL) teacher, come and join our facebook group to network and discuss teaching resources and lesson planning.

Now, over to you: do you have any lesson planning resources to share? Comment below!

Teacher vs tutor job online? What’s the perfect online English position for me?

Imagine that you could make up to $100/hr (or more) working from the comfort of your own home, helping students to improve their English…

Do you read this and want to become an online teacher or online tutor, but think “Teacher, tutor; are they the same? Can anyone become an online tutor and which is the best for me?”

Many people are confused by the terms, and rightly so, as they often overlap. Before applying for a teacher or online tutor job, this post will clarify the difference and which might be the best (and most lucrative) for you. I’ll even talk about a third role, which is rarely advertised, and which can be even better paid! 

Keep reading to find out what it is and how you can become one.

tutor job online
A teacher or tutor job online can be a great work from home role (Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels).

Note: I most commonly use the verb ‘teach’ and noun ‘teacher’ on this site, as it is broader and more accurately captures the nature of most roles, but may resemble your notion of the role of a tutor. As I’ll explain later, these terms can overlap. 

Face-to-face teacher and tutor (Australia)

When I studied for my Bachelor of Education to become a qualified teacher, I would work in a classroom with around 30 local students as part of my degree. School teachers in Australia (and New Zealand) teach a similar number of students in each class and follow a set curriculum directed by the Government that outlines the content that students will be assessed on.

ACARA has developed the Australian Curriculum. It gives teachers, parents, students and the community a clear understanding of what students should learn, regardless of where in Australia they live or which school they attend”.

After university finished, I would visit the homes of students in my local area in the afternoon and work 1:1 as an English tutor. I would help students who needed extra assistance to complete the work assigned to them by their teachers. What the student learned was based on their individual needs and the relative ease or difficulty they had with certain aspects of the curriculum. ‘Succeeding/excelling’ at their schoolwork was usually the main goal.

When most people think about the roles of teachers and tutors, that is the typical idea that they have. Traditionally, that has been the division between the two. While many tutors in Australia are also qualified teachers (current or retired), there have also been those who have recently graduated from high school (or current university students, especially those studying Education or a related field) and know the subjects well from recent experience.

Those who received very high ATAR scores, or simply enjoy the role, may continue to tutor students for many years after graduation. Many teachers tutor in the afternoons to supplement their income. 

An online tutor job is a common part-time role for teachers (Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash).

Yet, in a global world with potentially 1.7 billion English learners or more, these traditional definitions of teacher and tutor have blurred. 

Internet-facilitated lessons with students from all over the world mean that one single worldwide curriculum doesn’t exist. In (TESOL/TEFL/ESL) there are measurement standards (CEFR, for example, among others) that rank students based on their ‘competency’ in English (a beginner being an A1 and a near-fluent speaker being a C2, for example) but no single universal guide to what the role of the teacher entails. 

For simplicity, I’ll explain the general definitions that you are most likely to find on this site and the jobs that I frequently discuss. 

Read my complete guide to online TESOL and TEFL certification here.

Online English teacher / online tutor (Australia)

To become a teacher (offline or online) in a private company or school located in Australia, you will need an accredited Education degree and registration with your state teaching authority.

To become a tutor (offline or online) in a private company (or freelance) located in Australia, you will need curriculum knowledge of the subject area that you want to tutor in. You do not necessarily need to be a qualified teacher with an Education degree.

≈20% of “English online teaching” jobs that I discuss on this site comprise tutor roles for tutoring students in Australia, usually 1:1 but sometimes in small groups. Just like above, you will be supporting a student in aspects of the Australian curriculum. The only difference is doing it online instead of face-to-face in the student’s home. Your company may provide the curriculum/materials to follow. To become an online tutor Australia – based, you will need to have curriculum knowledge in English / EAL (or be prepared to learn).

If you’re looking for the top 25 highest paying ONLINE English tutoring companies in Australasia, see my regularly updated list here

Online English teacher / online tutor (International company)

The ‘Teach’ in Teach English Online usually refers to a role that can look more akin to a teacher in some contexts and like a tutor in others, which leads to confusion. As 99% of the jobs with overseas on our site are with private companies and not schools, how many students you’ll have and what you’ll be teaching them comes down to the individual learning model that the company applies.

To become an online teacher and tutor with a private company overseas, you do not need to be a qualified teacher with an Education degree, but you should complete a TESOL/TEFL course in order to have a fundamental understanding of English language teaching. To tutor online with students overseas, you do not need curriculum knowledge per se (as each student will likely be following a different curriculum from their home country at school), but you need to be able to help your student with particular issues or challenges that they face with English in general. This might be related to grammar or vocabulary, speaking confidently or a number of other things. 

≈40% of online English teaching roles are with one student from overseas. While you may follow a set curriculum as specified by the company, you may equally be asked to bring or design your own. The student themselves (if an adult) may request that the classes follow an individualised plan be designed for their needs, and therefore more closely resemble a tutoring role. Parents may request that you help their child in a specific area, just as a traditional tutor would do, although this may or may not be directly linked to their school curriculum. They might instead request that you assist with an English language test or goal such as being to study or work abroad in the future.

≈30% of the online English teaching jobs are with small groups of students, commonly between 2-6 per class. As you have less time to focus on each individual, a class more resembles a traditional classroom, although it is important to give each student equal time to participate. Again, you will likely follow a curriculum given to you by the company, but you may be asked to bring or design your own. 

≈10% of online English teaching jobs are with large groups of children or adults of 10 or more who are located overseas. This is the least common of all the roles and frequently occurs when students are from lower-income countries and must share the cost among a greater number to justify paying a foreign teacher.

Sometimes there are roles in schools and universities located overseas. You may be  required to be a qualified (Education degree holding) teacher to teach here, but it is not always required. It should be clearly stated in the job advertisement or application page what qualifications that you require.

If you’re looking for the top 50 highest paying ONLINE English teaching and tutoring, roles for Australasians (with clear qualification requirements) see my regularly updated list here

Online English tutor / teacher (Freelance)

If you decide to ‘teach’ on a marketplace or post-a-profile site (such as Outschool; read my ‘How to Teach English Online’ guide for more information), you will be working for yourself and therefore have complete control over the content that you and the students cover. Students do frequently ask for specific topics or areas, as these roles more resemble tutoring. 

So, the answer to “How do I become an online tutor or teacher?” changes if you choose to market your services directly to students without a company. In this situation, you may actually be able to help a student with a more general issue in English like public speaking, job interview preparation or sitting a test. 

If you’re interested in starting your own online freelance teaching business, click here

In this online tutor/’teacher’ scenario, it is not your curriculum knowledge or teaching qualification that will always attract a student. Students may want to work with a fluent English speaker, not to help them overcome a particular problem that they are facing with an aspect of English specifically, but with an issue of how to use English correctly in a particular situation. 

This brings us back to that third role that I mentioned that can make you more money than that of either teacher or tutor (although it often combines elements of both): that’s being an online English coach.

online english coach
An online English coach has many of the traditional teacher and tutor duties, plus more (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels).

Online English coach (Freelance)

With so many English language learners globally, many people forget that a significant portion speak a high level of near-fluent English. While they are more than competent in the language, they will find themselves in situations in which they need to work with someone that has an in-depth knowledge of a particular professional field or situation (passing an immigration language exam), for example. 

They will be looking for an English coach. Someone to help them work through a particular issue – not related to English, but simply in English. They might be more interested in your own professional or academic background than your teaching and tutoring one. Your classes may only be a percentage about polishing and practising their English, with a large portion also comprising support, encouragement and mentorship. 

While this role is best suited to those with a significant amount of non-teaching career experience or for qualified teachers or coaches in another field, TESOL teachers can also consider what other ‘non teaching’ value that they can contribute to their students beyond the study of English. If you can stand out and offer a unique selling point, your business may quickly spread via word-of-mouth.

If that’s something that you might consider, you can command the highest rates of all three roles ($100AUD?hr+ is common). If you’re interested in starting your own online freelance coaching business, click here.

FAQ

How much money does an online tutor make?

The average online tutor in Australia makes between $40-$60/hr but up to $100/hr for experienced teachers. The average online teacher with an overseas company earns $25-$40/hr but freelance teachers can make double that or more. The same applies to New Zealanders, noting current exchange rates. Online coaches can make $100/hr or more. 

Where can I work as a tutor online?

You can work for online tutoring company in Australia or overseas

Can anyone be an online tutor?

In Australia (or New Zealand) you will need curriculum knowledge (or be willing to learn) to be a tutor but may not for overseas positions, where the definition of a tutor  encompasses a broader skillset and there are 100s of different school curricula around the globe. You also need to be supportive, encouraging and address learners’ needs in order to help your students succeed.

Which coach / teacher / tutor job online will you choose?

As you can see the answer to the question: “What’s the difference between an English teaching vs an English tutor job online?” can be a little complex. A traditional teacher vs tutor definition is blurred in the online English space. A third option, coaching, is a new and growing sector of online ESL.

Not just anyone can become an online tutor or teacher, but the job might be more inclusive than you imagined. You could earn $25-$100/hr from home, helping people around the world to improve their career and study opportunities, to move or to travel. If you’ve got a bank of professional skills, you might even be able to coach someone to new levels of success. 

Be sure to check out my post on TESOL and TEFL certification here, my regularly updated list of online English teaching jobs here and tutoring jobs here. If you’re interested in freelance teaching or starting your own business, express your interest in 1:1 support here.

So over to you, have YOU worked as an online teacher, tutor or coach?

What do you think the main differences are?

Volunteer to teach English online

Are you looking for online English teaching experience? Want to use your teaching skills for a good cause? Find out how you can volunteer to teach English online with Australian, New Zealand and International organisations in order to break into the field …or just to give back.

 
Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Not all of these organisations offer strictly ONLINE English tutoring and may require some form of in-person contact. Please follow COVID-19 guidelines and visit their websites for more information about the details of how to volunteer.

If you see the code [NFP] this indicates that this organisation is 100% not-for-profit.

How to volunteer

Each organisation below has their own particular criteria  for volunteers so it is best to check with them directly. A few good rules of thumb:

  • Many organisations (especially those who work with children) will require you to pass a Background/Police check and/or have a WWC (Working With Children Check). Each state has a different application for a WWC, so search for the one in your resident state.
  • Make sure that you read the requirements and time commitment/s for the position carefully before applying. 
  • If you don’t find anything on this list that suits, you can also find positions on https://www.volunteer.com.au/ – many that are short-term/event based. This might be better than a long-term commitment for some. 
  • Finally, have fun and congratulate yourself for your contribution. Thank you. 

Volunteering in Australia

Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is a free service to help eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants with low English levels to improve their English language skills and settle into Australia.

https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/settling-in-australia/amep/volunteer-tutor-resources

AMEP (via TAFE NSW)

https://www.tafensw.edu.au/student-services/adult-migrant-english-program-amep/amep-volunteer-tutor-program

AMEP (via TAFE SA)

https://www.tafesa.edu.au/courses/education-languages/volunteer-tutor-scheme

AMEP (via TAFE QLD)

https://tafeqld.edu.au/courses/tells/adult-migrant-english-program.html

AMEP (via North Metropolitan TAFE, Perth)

https://www.northmetrotafe.wa.edu.au/employment-and-work-readiness-programs/adult-migrant-english-program-amep

AMEP (Melbourne)

https://www.melbourneamep.com.au/volunteer/

AMEP (Tasmania)

https://www.multicultural.tas.gov.au/latest_news/adult-migrant-education-program-amep

Navitas (SW Sydney and Canberra)
The Volunteer Tutor Scheme encourages people to join us in supporting adult migrants and humanitarian entrants who complete our Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), helping them develop their English skills and settle into life in Australia.

https://www.navitas-english.com.au/careers-and-volunteering/volunteering/

AMES (Victoria)
You will work alongside our newly arrived refugee and migrant clients and our committed and passionate staff, joining over 500 AMES Australia volunteers

https://www.ames.net.au/volunteering

Djerriwarrh Community and Education Services (Melbourne West, Ballarat)
Volunteering for Learning for Employment’s AMEP Volunteer Tutor Scheme involves meeting newly arrived migrants and refugees to help them learn English. [NFP]

https://djerriwarrh.org.au/

https://www.volunteer.com.au/volunteering-organisations/6025/djerriwarrh-community-and-education-services-learning-for-employment-

St Vincent De Paul Society
Refugee English Tutor (QLD)

https://www.volunteer.com.au/volunteering/118659/refugee-english-tutor-townsville

Libraries Tasmania
To provide voluntary adult and family literacy learning support, appropriate to the learning needs of individuals and groups.

https://www.volunteer.com.au/volunteering/13760/adult-and-family-literacy-tutors-burnie

Read Write Now! (WA)
1 to 1 help for adults who want to improve their reading, writing, maths, study or basic computer skills. [NFP]

https://www.read-write-now.org/

Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre (WA)
MMRC endeavors to bridge gaps that refugees and new migrants encounter during their settlement in Australia.

https://www.mmrcwa.org.au/services/become-a-volunteer/

SisterWorks Inc. (Nation-wide)
SisterWorks is a partner of UN Women to deliver UN Women’ Second Chance Education pilot project in Australia. SisterWorks provides training programs to the most vulnerable women with little English of Refugee and migrant backgrounds. As an English Teacher Volunteer, you will be providing a training programme online, empowering migrant and refugee women by teaching them conversational English. [NFP]

https://www.volunteer.com.au/volunteering/169740/EnglishTeacher-Volunteer
https://sisterworks.org.au/volunteering/

STEPS (Darwin)
“We offer a number of flexible, part-time volunteer roles for anyone who wishes to get involved and help our students to gain English skills so they are more confident in accomplishing their future goals in Australia.”

https://www.stepsgroup.com.au/giving-back-by-teaching-migrants-and-refugees/

Volunteering in New Zealand

English Language Partners
Help former refugees and migrants learn English and join New Zealand society. Deliver language support in the learners’ own homes. [NFP]

https://www.englishlanguage.org.nz/volunteer

Help Tank
Volunteer with English Language Partners and help us provide free English lessons to former refugees and migrants.

https://helptank.nz/project/detail/2705

Let’s Talk Language Learning Groups (Auckland)
Did you grow up in New Zealand and did you use English in your home? University of Auckland students who use English as an additional language (EAL) would love to talk to you.

https://www.library.auckland.ac.nz/services/student-learning/ele/language-learning-groups

International Organisations

Language Linkers
We empower refugees with 1:1, digital language courses volunteered by professional language teachers. [NFP]

https://www.facebook.com/languagelinkers/

Stepping Stones China
With a mission to improve the education and general welfare of disadvantaged children in China, Stepping Stones has hosted numerous programs focused on children’s education and well-being since 2006. [NFP]

https://steppingstoneschina.net/volunteer/volunteer-individuals/

Do you know of any other organisations where you can volunteer to teach/tutor English online? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author:

Kate (GradCertEd (TESOL)) studied a TESOL certificate in 2010 and has been teaching English ever since, tutoring ‘freelance’ for many years before starting an independent teaching business. She began Teach English Online to support Australians and New Zealanders to, well… succeed teaching English online. Whether you are just starting out, want to apply to one of the 300+ global companies or build your own small independent teaching business, she can help.

Without China, how big is the global online ESL market in 2022?

Reading Time: 7 minutes
  • The global online English-as-a-second language learning market in 2022 is worth up to $10 billion USD (22% of the total ESL market).
  • The online ESL market has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the global education market set to reach $10 trillion USD or more by 2030.
  • 2021 changes in CCP policy banning private English tuition will impact the industry significantly but by exactly how much is still unknown. This is a potential reduction of the global online ESL market from its peak by ≈20%.
  • Adults comprise ≈68% of the global online ESL market, so there remains a large Chinese adult online ESL segment despite recent events, in addition to both growing European and additional emerging markets of all ages.
global online ESL market
(c) J'son and Partners: "English Language Learning Market, 2021 ESL for Kids: Online-Schools and Trends".

All figures below are in USD.

Table of Contents

What happened to the online ESL teaching market in China in 2021?

Recent changes in Chinese government regulations relating to the provision of after-school tutoring services are big news in the online English community right now. In the latter half of 2021, many online English teachers watched in dismay as a significant section of the online English tuition industry all but disappeared overnight.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) issued legislation known as the “double reduction/720 policy” in July of 2021, which banned teachers based overseas from conducting any training activity in China to children. This lead to a large amount of online English teacher layoffs. One company – VIPKID – hired 70,000+ teachers at its peak. 

This was followed by similar announcements by almost all the online English tuition providers/Edtech companies based on the Chinese mainland in the following months. The last major player in the Chinese youth market to concede was DadaABC, announcing that “there will be no more classes scheduled” after December 31st (2021).

These measures have also resulted in overseas-listed EdTech companies such as New Oriental and TAL Education Group losing more than half of their value in 2021 and most of the major online English tutoring companies that serviced the youth market in China either closing completely or quickly trying to pivot to alternate markets.

At this early stage, it is difficult to say what the full impact of this decision may be and finding data about the industry from a ‘big-picture’ perspective can be difficult, but we can get a broad overview. 

By taking all of the most recent, freely available information about the market, I’ll look into what we do know about online ESL current and my best guess as to the impact of these recent policies. I’ll also address what teachers (particularly independent ones) might want to consider in order to stay competitive and be successful in the industry moving forward.

The Chinese online ESL market; How big is/was it?

In 2017, according to iResearch, the size of [China’s] online youth English training market [was] around 1.97 billion RMB ($3 billion USD) but there was “frenzied growth” in the following four years, so figures are likely higher. In the same year, China accounted for “61% of all revenues for Digital English Language Learning products in Asia Pacific”, with the Asia-Pacific digital language learning market estimated to be worth $2.45 billion in 2018.

The online ESL market for children in China grew at a feverish rate (c) GETChina Insights, 2017. Note, 2017-2019 figures were estimates.

Using these figures, China likely represented ~15% ($1.47 billion) or more of the global industry size (if measured by the $10 billion valuation in 2021) by revenue in 2017. This includes both the adult and youth markets. 

This figure is likely higher though, due to rapid investment into the industry between 2018 and early 2021. $10 billion of venture capital had been invested into Chinese EdTech in 2020 alone. Some reports claim that the total Chinese market takes up about 49% of the global Digital English Language Learning market, potentially making it worth ≈$5 billion. 

It is very difficult to find exact numbers as most of the studies done in this area are very costly to access. My estimation based on the available data is that the recent CCP policy changes have possibly reduced the global online ESL market by ~20%.

Yet, the adult market in China is also very large and not likely to be affected directly by recent policy changes relating to after-school tuition. ESL for Chinese adults (online and offline) had a reported value of 37 billion RMB ($5.5 billion) in 2019.

Research by J’son and Partners (2021) indicated that online ESL comprises 22% of the total market and globally, adult online ESL makes up 68% of the total market. Using these figures, we can estimate that the Chinese adult online ESL sector is potentially worth $1.21 billion+ (22% of the $5.5B estimation above). 

Should freelance teachers teach Chinese adults?

If the J’son and Partners’ global figures are used, the Chinese adult online ESL market is extremely significant in size. Yet, it is unlikely that this will scale in the same way that has been done with children in the past decade. Whereas Chinese parents have been willing to invest heavily in years of tutoring, only 14% of adults stick with English learning products for more than one year, with a majority losing interest after 1-3 months. For teachers, this means an opportunity in this market, just note the higher turnover of students. 

A new black market emerges.

Unsurprisingly, almost immediately after the Chinese Government announcements, teachers began to attempt to make contact with their former students and parents sought to find alternate ways to access the tuition that has become so integral to student success in a high stakes exam culture. 

A large number of Facebook groups suddenly popped up overnight with newly freelance teachers quickly trying ways to set up websites that processed Chinese payment methods and to negotiate the sometimes tricky world of social media apps ‘behind the great firewall’.  For freelance teachers wanting to take the risk of navigating this new void in the market, ‘going underground‘ was “skyrocketing private tutor rates“. 

Understandably, there is a reluctance from many teachers to approach students and families in the face of uncertain legality and potential repercussions, especially for Chinese citizens. For those in this camp, it is worth looking at the global picture and the size of markets elsewhere. 

Photo by zhang kaiyv from Pexels

The global online ESL market in 2022 (without China): What does it look like?

Despite China, it's growing.

With more than 1.5 billion English learners (up to 1.7 billion by some estimates) increasingly ‘going digital’ – in addition to the traditional English language market – the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed the face of the online ESL sector. 

It was estimated the global online English-as-a-second language learning market in 2021 is now worth $10 billion (22% of the total ESL market)*, with ESL for children estimated at $3 billion (32% of online ESL in 2021).  The Educational Tests (such as IELTS, PTE and TOEFL) and Businesses segment accounted for 46.29% and 35.51% of this number respectively in 2018.

(c) J'son and Partners, 2021.

Broadly (online and offline), the global education market is set to reach $10 trillion or more by 2030, driven by population growth in developing markets and expansion, as technology “drives unprecedented re-skilling and up-skilling in developed economies. Asia and Africa are the driving force behind the expansion”.

There are currently an estimated 12 million English teachers worldwide, yet The British Council states that “the world needs to add 1.5 million teachers per year on average, approaching 100 million in total in order to keep pace with the unprecedented changes ahead in education around the world”. 

Europe is the second largest market after China.

Europe followed China (with 16%) as the second biggest market for digital English language learning. In 2018, 96% of pupils in upper secondary education in the EU-27 learnt English as a foreign language. The largest ESL markets in Europe are Germany, France and Russia.

Maxim Azarov (founder of Novakid, a US-based teaching platform that caters to the European market) said in a recent interview that “The popularity of online English language training for children has increased significantly since the pandemic began.  A year later, it is still growing, and is poised to continue to grow exponentially. We believe this is a consequence of the wider availability of quality online English learning platforms for children, the expansion of career opportunities for those with a good command of the English language, and an increase in remote working”. 

Growth in the demand from India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil and Mexico (among many others) is increasing offline and so may be reflected in the online space in the coming years.

(c) J'son and Partners (2021)

Summary

China was, until 2021, likely the largest segment of the digital English learning market, followed by Europe. Changes in Chinese policy regarding online ESL tutoring for children possibly reduced the global online ESL market by ~20%. 

The major difficulty is accurately separating the true size and demand of the now restricted youth segment from investment and profit figures and therefore this is an educated guess

Yet, while there are indications that this will be significant in the short term; there is still increasing global growth and if the $10 billion estimation is correct, the current online ESL market is still worth ≈$8 billion dollars and counting. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the uptake of online education and if trends continue, digital learning will likely increase from the current minority share of the ESL industry. With the potential growth of online English language learning platforms and peer-to-peer learning, the landscape is great for independent, freelance English teachers.

The announcements by some of the major Chinese companies that they intend to pivot to other non-China markets indicates that they too believe in this growing global potential. There is still a notable Chinese market for adult language learning, irrespective of CCP policy. Teachers who decide to continue working in the (now more challenging) youth Chinese market, despite the legalities, are likely to find significant demand. Those who look more widely may be surprised by how many students are really out there.

From the figures that we can access, the online global English language learning market is growing and set to continue such growth into the foreseeable future, with or without China.

How do you think the online ESL market will change because of China’s policy changes? Comment below. 

Importantly, while global trends can help paint a ‘big picture’ for teachers, having good relationships with and an intimate knowledge of the needs of your students will ultimately result in much greater dividends. Whether online or face-to-face, students are seeking high quality tuition from passionate educators. If you’re interested in starting your own online independent, freelance teaching business, please express your interest in coaching from a teacher with 10+ years in the industry and extensive experience in attracting and retaining private students at up to $100AUD/hr. 

The biggest mistake that I made as an independent freelance English teacher?

Are you looking to attract and retain a private student base? An online English teacher wanting to make a break from a large foreign company and go out on your own? Here’s the biggest mistake I made after “accidentally” becoming an independent freelance English teacher. I hope it saves you from making it too.

This post is written for Australians and New Zealanders but all of our information can be used by teachers worldwide. We use affiliate links, which earn us a small commission (at no cost to you, see our Disclaimer) but always give you the best impartial advice based on first-hand experience.

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First, how I accidentally become independent.

Anyone that has taught English in a foreign country is likely to have quickly found themselves with one of their students (or their aunt, their cousin, their best friend etc.) approaching you for “private” tuition. 

Like many others in similar circumstances, while teaching English to adult professionals in Colombia, I began to be approached by parents who were considering sending their teenagers to study at university in Australia and wanted help in achieving the prerequisite IELTS score.

Australasian teachers, being fairly uncommon in the capital city, Bogotá, at the time – were hard for these parents to find. Before I knew it, I had a side-hustle in conjunction with my main job teaching ‘business English’ at corporations during the day.

Having a $3000 TESOL certificate and a few years of experience under my belt did nothing to assuage the feeling of insecurity that arose from not having a university degree or “real” education qualification (plus not knowing the first thing about the IELTS test). When these parents asked me what I charged, I did some vague mental calculations and came to a figure something like this:

The hourly rate I earned from the company I worked for + bus fare = hourly rate.

So, when the executives went home for the evening, I would squeeze myself into hot, overcrowded public transport and go to their large suburban homes and help their children too. This went on for a few years, reading every possible book that I could on the test, eventually amassing a large folder full of lessons on every facet of IELTS and a number of successful students ready to embark on their international dreams. 

On returning to Australia to pursue an Education degree, I continued to be contacted by people in this extended network whose children were now in Australia and continued on with a similar story, tutoring between afternoon lectures and returning home in the evening.

My hourly rate remained similar (now about $30AUD/hr) but with an increased awareness of the thousands of dollars of mounting student debt, I did some additional mental calculations and came to this figure:

The hourly rate I earned from the company I worked for in Australia + 10% + petrol costs = hourly rate. This was about $40AUD/hr.

This continued on for the duration of my university degree and beyond, until I realised my mistake.

What was my biggest mistake?

I wasn’t charging enough.

I undercharged for years and had no idea.

Without going into my entire life story, I grew up very poor. Neither of my parents graduated from high school (both actually ‘dropping out’ before Year 10), I was raised by a single mother and I was the first in my immediate family to travel overseas.

At every stage of my journey, I was both constantly grateful for the opportunity and carried around a huge sense of inferiority. No-one I knew ran a business or taught me what a good rate for a professional was. So, I just made it up, feeling lucky that they were even paying me. I had no idea that the skills that I possessed were so valuable. 

It was only in 2020, when I was forced to move online that I saw people with half my qualifications and experience charging double what I was!

The light bulb finally went off.

Once I became aware of how much I was undercharging, I changed the concept of myself from a private tutor who did this ‘on the side’ to an independent English teacher who ran a business. I began to see that my decade of experience was valuable. Yes, now having a degree increase my ‘market value’ but without this internal change in perspective, I may have simply added another 10% and gone on my way in the same way for years. I slowly increased my rates to $50AUD/hr, to $100AUD and now $150AUD/hr.

So, let’s do another one of those mental calculations, shall we?

Your current hourly rate should be what you are worth as an independent teacher based on the value that you give to your students.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

....but what am I worth?

 “How will learning with you provide tangible value to your student and by how much?”

The more value you add, the more that you can charge.

Until you can measure the value that you offer your students, your hourly rates might simply be an arbitrary number in your head that is based on nothing other than what you think or have been told that you deserve. It’s likely much, much more.

You have your own story of how you came to your current hourly rate mental calculation and it is probably based on an incomplete understanding of your true value. It took me ten years to understand my value. Save yourself a decade and learn from my mistakes. 

Would you like me to support you to…

  • Discover the unique value that you offer?
  • Find those high-paying students most likely to value your services and keep them studying with you as long as possible?
  • Overcome your doubts and reluctance to increase your prices or change your student or tuition type?
  • Say “No” to the wrong students who don’t value you?

Express your interest in a Coaching Power Hour and let’s go!

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Teaching English online for introverts – is it a good choice?

Is teaching English online for introverts? It might be for many who prefer more solitary, quiet time. Online teaching, done from the comfort of my own home, has allowed me to connect while also having the privacy and space critical to my well being. 

This post is written for Australians and New Zealanders but all of our information can be used by teachers worldwide. We use affiliate links, which earn us a small commission (at no cost to you, see our Disclaimer) but always give you the best impartial advice based on first-hand experience.

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Teaching ESL online; my introverted experiences.

Firstly, what exactly is introversion?

It might be helpful to quickly define ‘Introversion’ as there is often a bit of confusion about what is (and what it isn’t). Often confused with shyness, “Introversion is a preference, while shyness stems from distress. Introverts prefer solitary to social activities, but do not necessarily fear social encounters like shy people do“. 

Introverts are “easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, introversion having even been defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating external environment“. So, it’s easy to see how the noisy, chaotic environment of the brick and mortar classroom is a major challenge for those who identify as high in introversion.

According to this Psychology Today article, between half and two-thirds of the population are ‘ambiverted’, that is, they exhibit a mix of introverted and extroverted traits. So, it is statistically likely that most of you reading this article are also this combination. Maybe you have some introverted traits but you are likely able to balance them with a healthy dose of opposing people-centric skills.

The thing is, for most of my life, I have been VERY HIGHLY introverted. To the point of collapsing into my bed at the end of each teaching day, drained of every ounce of energy, never wanting to see another human being ever again. Yet, I simultaneously found teaching deeply satisfying, so I struggled through these duelling forces for many years before discovering online teaching and a balance that allowed me the best of both worlds.

If you are still teaching face-to-face or wish to continue doing so in tandem with online work, here is some fantastic advice about how to thrive as an introverted teacher.

Why teaching English online works for me:

What first excited me about online English teaching was the ability to put myself in a teaching/people space for the duration of my lessons, then to turn off my computer and return to my safe, solitary environment. This allows me to begin to ‘recharge’ and reclaim the feeling of lost energy from the lesson. In a traditional classroom, after the lesson was over – I would then have to navigate the staff room, students in the hallways and a million other personal interactions – leaving me feeling drained for the next lesson and without sufficient time to myself. Over the course of a day, it would frequently take me to the point of physical and mental exhaustion.

The second benefit to online teaching is the ability to schedule classes earlier in the day, so that I have enough time between the last class of the day and bedtime. I often feel tired yet also strangely ‘wired’ from many hours of back-to-back lessons and I try and wrap up by early evening, followed by a walk and some reading to ground and calm me before sleep.

I have also used my introversion as a part of my brand as an independent teacher. Many students are also highly introverted and appreciate and respond really well to a teacher that respects and accommodates their needs. I freely admit to being an introvert and have worked extensively with both introverted and shy/anxious students who I believe opened up more readily and admitted to their difficulties in public and group speaking knowing that I empathised and did not judge.

I believe that Introverted teachers bring a lot to the table and that we have great insight into many of the difficulties that our students face. We are often thoughtful and passionate educators who too often ‘burn out’ due to work environments that do not support or accommodate our personalities. Online teaching is not for everyone but if you are an introvert who wants more space, privacy and flexibility – it might just be for you.

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Digital security for online ESL teachers, is it necessary?

Online English teaching can leave you vulnerable to a range of different dangers than the average user. We’ll cover some easy tips that you can use to keep yourself safe – including using a VPN, avoiding remote access software and maximising your device protection.

This post is written for Australians and New Zealanders but all of our information can be used by teachers worldwide. We use affiliate links, which earn us a small commission (at no cost to you, see our Disclaimer) but always give you the best impartial advice based on first-hand experience.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

This post is part of our “Ultimate teach English online guide“. Go check it out. 

Why is digital security for online English teachers important?

The Australian Cyber Security Centre’s (ACSC) online reporting tool (ReportCyber), which “assists members of the community to report different types of cybercrime” receives a report every 10 minutes. It is incredibly common and can lead you to be at risk of identity theft or fraud. Online English teaching can incur some additional risks and working for a company based overseas means that you are potentially at risk from data breaches and hackers outside of Australian jurisdiction, so it’s worth spending a bit of time securing your system as best you can.

Note: We are NOT cyber security specialists, just online English teachers. These tips are based on our own personal experiences and research. If you want more information, consult a professional or visit the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) website.

OUR TOP TIPS

Do not include personal information on your resume

I recently found a copy of a resume that I had sent to an international company almost two years ago online. Luckily it did not contain anything too personal. It’s worth remembering though that once it’s on the internet, it’s hard to remove. 

My general advice is DO NOT INCLUDE ON YOUR RESUME YOUR:

Home address;
Passport/Driver’s License/Birth Certificate/Social Security Number;
Phone number.

Use a VPN.

We personally always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connected to the internet but feel that is particularly important to do so when teaching online. A VPN is a secure tunnel between two or more devices (such as between your computer, Internet Service Provider (ISP) and your teaching platform) and is used to “protect private web traffic from snooping, interference, and censorship” by encrypting your data and making it more difficult to intercept or steal at it travels through this tunnel. This is even more important when using public wi-fi, as this is more vulnerable than your ‘private’ home connection.

We’ve been using ExpressVPN for a few years now and find it easy to use, doesn’t slow down our internet speed and is consistently well reviewed. Click on the link for 30 days FREE.

Use Antivirus software.

You’re likely already using some form of antivirus program but if not, it will help protect you from malware, ransomware, spyware and adware. We use Avast, which have both excellent free and paid versions.

Avoid remote access software.

Many online English teaching companies ask you to download remote access software such as TeamViewer so that they can access your computer and troubleshoot any IT problems that you might be having. While this might be integral in certain situations, there are obvious risks in letting a staff member in a foreign IT department access your personal device via this type of software, so we recommend that you proceed with caution before downloading this software and particularly before opening it and sharing your connection. Other common remote access software includes: Remote PC, Zoho Assist, Splashtop, LogMeIn, ConnectWise Control and Remote Desktop Manager (among others).

Maximise your device protection.

There are many small things that you can do to increase your device security, depending on whether you are using a computer, laptop or mobile device (phone/tablet) to teach classes, including (but not limited to!):

  • Cover your webcam when not in use. You can do a ‘Zuckerberg’ and use a piece of tape or post it note but you will end up with sticky residue on your cam after a while. You can buy an inexpensive webcam cover slide for only a few dollars.
  • Choose a strong password, change it regularly and use a different password for your online teaching platform than you do for other sites as online teaching platfoms from overseas companies are not always well secured.
  • If you teach over Zoom, set a password for students to enter and/or use a waiting room to avoid Zoombombing.
  • Many Chinese companies use apps such as WeChat and DingTalk to communicate between staff and teachers but there are security concerns so be cautious and avoid sharing identity documents through these channels.

Be careful.

In summary – if you follow the above tips, you are less likely to encounter some the dangerous elements that teaching online can expose you to – but caution and carefulness are always the best approach to security. If your company asks you to download software, do a quick google search first and look for online reviews. China, in particular, has their own version of many common programs used in other countries so it helps to do your homework before downloading and ask your company if an alternative is available. In the world of digital security, a little bit of prevention is better than a possible lifetime of cure.

International Job List

REGULARLY UPDATED [2021] list of the top 50 online English teaching jobs for Australians & New Zealanders.

Do you have any tips for keeping safe while teaching English online? Comment below…

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This post is part of our “Ultimate teach English online guide“. Go check it out.