In an era where we’re glued to our screens, anyway, making money through them sounds like a good idea. But how viable is it? After the big dot.com boom of the late nineties, where basically everyone set up a website and made good money, the competition has just got stronger. But we’re conditioned to think that every small business set up and run entirely through the internet is bound to fail, that the job market is absolutely saturated by people selling chocolate, soaps and their own drawings, that it’s only the big ones like Amazon making any decent profit.
It’s true that there are lots of people trying to earn money through selling or working online; the competition is tough. So, if you want that elusive, sure-fire way to earn a living on the internet then you have to look at the bigger picture. It’s no good thinking that your small business is going to be different – because it probably won’t be – rather, it’s time to scout out other opportunities. It’s better to train properly and join an established industry and that makes teaching English online one that sits at the top of the pile.
The ESL (English as a second language) market has expanded rapidly as more and better technology has become available and it’s a very different ballgame now than it was five years ago. It’s entirely possible to do all of your teaching online without needing to struggle to find somewhere that you can teach in person. Now you can just stay at home and teach online, safe in the knowledge that you have to have an actual qualification to do this properly.
How will I make money?
Well for a start you’ll be saving on previously fixed costs, like commuting, which can be very expensive, and you’ll save on the little incidental things like a cup of coffee from Starbucks, or a sandwich from the little shop next to your work. They may only be a couple of pounds, but it soon adds up. You won’t need full on work attire either, looking neat and presentable is good enough. And you’ll save on make-up if you aren’t wearing a full face of it everyday! Of course, the biggest way that you’re going to make money online is by doing your job. Teaching comes with guaranteed earnings if you do it right, and in this COVID pandemic more and more jobs are becoming online based so there will be less competition.
You will definitely need a TEFL certificate. It’s not good enough to be handy at English and regularly help with homework, you need the proper certification. Teaching English to non-natives is very different to teaching English to natives. You will need the solid grounding of a TEFL cert. – and a good certification if you want to make good money, so don’t scrimp on becoming certified, always go through a reputable company and avoid any internet ‘deals’.
If you’re teaching English online, you will still need all the relevant qualifications as if you were teaching in a school. If you’re a native English speaker then you will probably need a bachelor’s degree (most subjects are fine) and some teaching experience, either formal or informal, along with your TEFL cert. Don’t expect to be able to waltz into a job because it won’t happen. Or if you do then it’s definitely a job you don’t want.
Classroom vs. Online.
Watch out because it’s easy to teach English badly online, all it takes is a bad internet connection, your screen freezing or the audio failing. Bad audio ruins your whole lesson if you’re teaching English online because it relies on listening and speaking. If a problem crops up, you need to know how you can fix it so make sure that you have a good grasp of your software and how it works and have basic troubleshooting knowledge. Patience is required here!
Teaching in the classroom means that you are pretty much restricted to what textbooks are available and photocopied sheets of work. Whereas online you have access to lots of different resources, plus you set your own hours and you can even work your teaching around another job which certainly isn’t easy as if you were teaching on-site. There are different time zones to take into account too. TEFL students come from all over the globe, especially learning online, so you need to be prepared for students from not only countries like Turkey and Germany, but further afield in Asia and South America.
Being in the classroom obviously restricts you to one site, but if you’re using a virtual classroom you don’t even need to leave the house. As long as you look presentable, and the background is neat and tidy then you’re good to go. Plus, there’s no queuing in Costa for a cup of decent coffee or a long walk from the carpark carrying all your teaching folders and books. It’s about as stress-free as you can make a working environment! You can even fit it around whatever you like, the gym, another job, a regular commitment, chores – you’re your own boss.
Basic requirements (not academic):
- High quality headset and webcam.
- Basic technology gear.
- A decent Mac/PC/laptop.
- A workspace that’s comfortable for you.
- A room that is guaranteed to be quiet when you need it to be.
- A fast internet speeds. If you’re travelling you may want to check this in advance, and make sure there’s a good electricity supply wherever you’re going – or at least a back-up generator – to see you through.
Where do I look for jobs?
The thing to be aware of here is doing your due diligence. You are going to need to research carefully; read genuine reviews, speak to other/former students and check whether they’re accredited by an external body. Don’t rush into the first decent one you find, it’s best to shop around and make sure that you’ve found the right choice for you.