Teach English Online: The Easy Guide to Getting Started


Teach English online! It’s one of the biggest opportunities that anyone who can speak English has to work from home.

With an emerging middle class China and India have over 2 billion people who are looking to learn English, and there are plenty of companies willing to pay good money to those who can deliver.

So how can you cash in on this phenomenon and to teach English online and start earning money within weeks?

Get Qualified 

Most ESL schools have their own platforms where you follow their lessons plans, basically you just have to turn up! But you still need some basic qualifications. You can get started with a 120 Hour TESOL/TEFL certificate which you can complete within weeks while still working your normal job. Find out how easy it is to do your TESOL certificate.

Don’t be alarmed at the prospect of studying for 120 hours, it takes nowhere near that long to complete.

A TESOL/TEFL certificate is the minimum qualification you require to teach English online, however most schools will require you to have a university/college degree, or be in the process of obtaining one especially if you are teaching for a Chinese based company. Any other training you have completed that may relate to teaching will of course also be valuable.

Prepare your application

Applying to teach English online is probably quite different to how you have applied for your current position, and to be honest there can sometimes be some shady or judgmental hiring practices.

In the ESL industry it is common practice to include a photo in your resume for instance, and many schools will only hire ESL teachers who have a certain look, or who have certain nationalities. You will hear and read the term ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ fairly often, or see that candidates are only welcome from the US or Canada.

Applying to a teach English online job usually includes supplying a resume, an introduction/cover letter and often you will be asked to upload a brief 1-3 minute video to introduce yourself.

Your resume should only include relevant to the ESL industry information, and should not be more than two pages in length. Be sure to include keywords and remember that the person reading your application may not speak English very well themselves. Find out how to write a great ESL resume. If you aren’t sure if your resume is up to scratch you can get a free resume feedback review from Just ESL Resumes

Some companies will not directly ask for a cover letter/introduction, however you should still consider including one. Your cover letter/ introduction letter should be a brief one page letter explaining why you are applying for the role and why you think you are suited to teach English online.

Your resume and cover letter are very important to getting eyes on your application, and letting the recruiter know that you have all the qualifications and skills to do the job on paper. However it is the video that can really ensure you progress to the next stage and get to teach English online. Your video is your opportunity to show that you have the makings of an excellent English teacher. Your aim is to show:

    • You are professionally presented
    • You are fun and engaging
    • You have an easy to understand accent
    • You can communicate well on camera/online
    • What you would be like as a teacher

It can be hard to know what to put in your video, and everyone has different ideas. Give a brief introduction to yourself such as your nationality, skills and qualifications. Talk about why you want to teach English online and why you think you would be an asset to their company. Make sure your recording is clear, steady and has good volume.

Remember not to say ummm or ahhh all the time!

Write a script before you record yourself and try to memorise it.

Don’t read off a piece of paper, and remember to look directly at the camera. Speak slowly and clearly, and show off your personality. If you are applying to teach children, be bubbly and use your hand and face expressively.

Start Applying

Now that you have your TESOL/TEFL certificate, and have prepared all of your job application tools it is time to start applying for jobs to teach English online!

We’ve talked before about how huge the ESL industry is and that there is a lot of need for teachers; however that doesn’t mean that every company will take anyone. Every company has different requirements. Some require specific nationality or accent, some require a Bachelor’s degree in Education, some will hire anyone who has any degree, while others require no degree and no experience.

When you are searching for positions to teach English online make sure you only apply to the roles where you meet the requirements. If you spend time applying for online ESL roles where you don’t meet their minimum requirements you are wasting your time, and theirs.

While face to face positions might be a little more lenient, we’ve found that online position requirements are very firm. The reason for this is that those schools often advertise to clients on the basis of those minimums. Also, some schools have different sections so if you start applying for roles that you don’t meet the standards for, you might find yourself blacklisted by them for all positions across all schools.

The good news is however that there are plenty of positions for everyone, and if you can present yourself positively and find the right company that meets your skill set, you will have a job before you know it.

Many teachers start to teach English online for one company and then apply, and start working for other companies as well. This means they can develop their skills and experience to earn more, and also teach even more hours. Some teachers work at 3 or 4 companies, and work for up to 40 hours a week.

When you apply remember to supply everything they ask for as long as it is not personal information. Find out about ESL teaching scams.

Interview Time

If your application to teach English online has been successful you will be asked to attend an interview, which is very exciting, but also nerve wracking! Most companies will send you a link to book a time at your convenience, so make sure to book a time that you know you will have some peace and quiet, and when you will have the right set up eg. mic headset

The interview will most likely only last 10-15 minutes and may either be delivered by someone whose face you can see or just a screen where they can see you, but you can’t see them. This is your chance to show them how interactive you can be online, and also that you have everything ready to start teaching English online immediately.

Find out how to ace your interview

 We also have a list some of the most common interview questions you might come across and how to answer them. Remember don’t give five word answers to questions, but also don’t drone on for 5 minutes answering one question. Again, speak slowly and clearly, and be engaging and animated, especially if you’re interviewing for a position teaching children.

For some roles to teach English online you will be given specific instructions for your interview for instance you might role play a lesson or be asked to read a book. When you find out that you have been selected for an interview, do lots of research to discover what is required!

50+ Budget-Friendly Background and Prop Ideas for Online Teaching

Next Step

There is usually one more step before you are offered a position and that is a practice lesson. Every company does this differently, and it will be explained to you what is expected and how it will work. But it is usually a fake lesson where you are given all the information as if it was a normal class, or you deliver a short lesson to actual students. Either way this is your opportunity to shine! Most companies will provide you with examples on how you can do a great job to ensure you progress to signing a contract.

Remember they want you to succeed, they have already invested time into you, but they also have clients who have certain expectations.

If you are still nervous about being able to present yourself to the best of your ability to give yourself the best chance of getting a position, Just ESL Resumes can make the process easier. They have a range of services available to make you shine, and ensure all the important information is conveyed to the company you’re applying.

Further Reading:

Magic Ears: Do You Have What it Takes?

QKids – A Comprehensive Guide for ESL Teachers

8 Easy Side Hustles for ESL Teachers

Pin it for later…

Teach English Online The Easy Guide to Getting Started