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How to Teach English Online with the Best ESL Companies Now

By Alice Teacake

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my affiliate disclaimer here.

Do you want to teach English online and get paid big bucks? Online language teaching is a thriving industry that allows you to teach students on the other side of the world without leaving the comfort of your own home. Sounds good right? That is freedom, culture and goodness all rolled into one awesome job!

Top down photo of a person writing in a planner with an iPad, Macbook, photos, glasses, coffee, and books around them.

Yes! It is possible to make great money while teaching online so start planning now!

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of how you are going to start your dream career, there are some important things to consider. Here are the answers to the top questions people ask me!

How to Teach English Online with the Best ESL Companies Now

This in-depth easy step-by-step guide is going to:

  • Unearth the pros and cons of teaching English online
  • Unlock just how much money you can make teaching on the internet
  • Tell you honestly who you can teach; when, where and how
  • List the essentials for you to start your awesome classroom from the comfort of your own home
  • Reveal a variety of online English teaching companies (so you can choose the best one for you)

What are the advantages of teaching English online?

There are many advantages of teaching ESL online

Advantages for online English Teachers

  • You can organise your schedule to suit you: choose your hours and days of work
  • Work part-time or full-time, and make good money doing it
  • Fit your work around your life, not your life around your work
  • Save on commuting expenses (and wake up later than a typical 9 to 5 job!)
  • You don’t have to do a lot of preparation or admin
  • If you’ve taught ESL abroad before but returned to your home country, you can still teach
  • Preparing to teach English abroad? This is the perfect way to gain experience and travel money
  • This is a job you can take with you anywhere in the world

What’s the best thing about teaching English online?

Flexibility, freedom and finances!

Teaching English online is the perfect job to fit around other commitments and the pay can be lucrative.

Advantages for online English Students

By choosing to learn English online, students are able:

  • To study at a time that fits around their work or school schedules
  • To have more cost-effective learning where it’s cheaper than hiring an in-person private tutor
  • To meet foreigners and native speakers within seconds

With all of the advantages above, it’s easy to see why online language tutoring has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. Kaboom!

Can I make money teaching English online?

Yes you can make money being an online English tutor! Lots of people do!

But how much can you get paid to teach English online?

Online English teaching salaries vary widely depending on the company you work for and on your nationality and location. Some companies reserve their most lucrative hourly rates for native English speakers based in English-speaking countries only.

As a guide, a native English speaker based in the US, Canada or the UK could make anything between $10-$23 per hour. If you branch out and start your own independent business after gaining some solid experience too, the sky’s the limit.

Some packages are based on a fixed hourly rate, while others offer a lower base rate with the possibility to earn performance-related bonuses. Some companies such as Italki let you set your own hourly rate.

Can I teach adults or children online?

You can teach adults, kids, or a mix of both. Some companies have both adult and young learners, such as iTutorgroup.

A group of young students in uniforms sitting and smiling in a class room

Others cater only to kids, such as VIPKID and Qkids.

Others focus on adults, for example Learnlight and Learnship.

Keep reading to find out about all of these teaching companies…

Which nationalities can I teach online?

With most companies, you will teach English online to Chinese adults or children. Some Chinese companies such as iTutorgroup also cater to Japanese students.

Some companies do focus mainly on European customers, such as Learnlight and Learnship which offer courses to adult business professionals.

What hours can I teach English online?

Online ESL companies will generally require you to book about 7-10 hours per week at their peak times. This is most often weekday evenings and all-day weekends Chinese time. However, many companies have work available round the clock, so you can pick up additional hours that suit you.

Remember that you can go solo too and start your own mini online teaching business. There is nothing stopping you from starting your own site and offering your services as a freelancer. 

Girl working on laptop in front of window Girl working on laptop in front of window

Girl working on her laptop while sitting on a brown couch Girl working on her laptop while sitting on a brown couch

Can I teach English online without a degree?

Most companies require that you have a bachelor’s degree. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in an education-related field. Some companies may hire you without a degree, such as Cambly.

Related Reading: 

17 Countries Where You Can Teach English Without a Degree Abroad

Teaching English Abroad Without a Degree: The 100% Success Guide

Do I need a CELTA or TESOL to teach English online?

Many online ESL teaching jobs require some form of TEFL certification. Some will hire you without TEFL certification but require you to get it within a specified time frame after you take up employment.

Many companies will accept an online-only TEFL certificate so you may not need to go all-out and take the CELTA. Check with each individual company as requirements vary.

Get your TEFL certificate here (use code TEA35 for 35% off!)

A smiling woman using a Macbook

Can I teach English online with no experience?

Some companies require teachers to have at least one year’s teaching experience, and others state that experience is preferred but not essential. There are definitely places you can teach online without any experience though.

I recommend applying to Italki as a Community Tutor or signing up with Cambly.

Do I need to be a native speaker to teach English online?

Different companies have different requirements. Some companies, for example English First (EF), require native English speakers. Other companies employ non-native English speakers as long as you speak English fluently. So please do not worry if you are not a native. There is definitely work available for you.

Two girls, one wearing glasses and one without, looking at a Macbook.

I recommend applying to Italki, iTutorGroup or Cambly

You can find out more about all 3 of these companies further down in this article.

Note: Native English speakers may command a higher hourly rate than non-native speakers employed by the same company, so be sure to read any job offers carefully to avoid any nasty surprises come payday.

Do I need to live in a certain country to be an online English teacher?

This varies from company to company. Some companies only employ teachers from certain countries. For example, Qkids only employs teachers who live in the US or Canada. 

VIPKID used to only employ teachers in North America but they have recently changed their hiring policy to allow teachers who are based in any country as long as they have a good internet connection.

A tattooed woman sitting in a cafe and looking at laptop

EF requires teachers who are authorized to work in the UK, but they don’t necessarily have to be living in the UK to teach.

What gear do I need to teach English online?

You’ll need a couple of items to start teaching online. Here is what you need to get started…

Girl wearing black headphones

Technical requirements

Before you start, you must make sure you have the following. Click on the links to grab my favourite gear to get you set up and well on your way to teaching awesomeness.

Note: Many online English-teaching jobs are quite strict about the headset – using your computer or webcam’s built-in microphone will not be good enough in terms of sound quality. An entry-level headset needn’t break the bank and is a sound investment for your online teaching future!

Software-wise, most large companies have their own web-based teaching platform that you will use to conduct your lessons, so no special software is required. Some smaller companies use Skype or Google Hangouts which are freely available.

Work environment

In terms of your working environment, you will need:

  • A well-lit and quiet workspace where you will not be interrupted!

Depending on the company, you may be required to teach in front of a blank wall, a backdrop with the company’s logo, or you may be allowed to decorate the wall behind you with appropriate teaching props.

Clothing

What you wear may also be a requirement that the company asks of you. Some companies require you to wear a particular colour of shirt, while others accept any smart clothes. I recommend turning up for work online smart, vibrant and feeling totally ready for the lesson ahead. Yes folks…pyjamas aren’t gonna cut it.

OK I’m ready. How do I become an online tutor?

OK great! If you’ve read the above and taken everything into account, we can start job hunting online weehee! Look at the different companies below and choose the right one for you. Then you can start applying for your dream online ESL jobs immediately.

Photo of a laptop in a desk with a black chair tucked underneath. Some other decorations include a plant, some books, and a photo frame. Photo of a laptop in a desk with a black chair tucked underneath. Some other decorations include a plant, some books, and a photo frame.

Photo of a man working on his laptop in a blue cafe that features a blue wall, blue floor, and blue chairs. Photo of a man working on his laptop in a blue cafe that features a blue wall, blue floor, and blue chairs.

What is the best company for teaching English online?

There are many different companies that offer online tutoring jobs, and the best one for you will depend on your priorities and preferences. Don’t worry about busting a gut getting this info. I’ve done all the hard work for you. All the information you need is below.

For each company I have listed:

  • What nationality you need to be
  • If you need a degree
  • What experience is necessary
  • If there’s a contract
  • Where you need to be in the world to work for them
  • If lesson plans are already prepared
  • The nationalities you’ll be teaching and their ages
  • Hours you’ll have to work as a minimum to qualify
  • Average pay
  • If classes are 1 on 1 or in groups
  • Holiday bonuses
  • Referral bonuses

Let’s dive in and see what is out there! Many online English teaching companies exist, and some are more established than others, so be sure to consider the facts below before you apply for any online teaching jobs.

Remember: Your needs and wants are important. Make sure they match the company you choose.

Magic Ears

Teach Chinese students aged 4-12 in one-on-one up to 4 students per class
Earn $22-$26 per hour
Work from anywhere in the world – as long as you are a native speaker from the USA or Canada

Apply to Magic Ears here

Magic Ears are one of the best paying and most reputable companies online right now. If you’re from the USA or Canada and have a degree and teaching experience, this is a seriously great option to choose!

  • Be a native speaker from USA or Canada
  • Bachelor’s degree required in any subject
  • Chances of employment are greater if you have a TEFL, CELTA or educational teaching qualification!

Get 35% off your TEFL certificate here with code TEA35

  • You NEED teaching experience – make sure to put something down in your application otherwise you’ll be rejected automatically
  • 6 month minimum contract (can be renewed upon both parties’ approval)
  • 25-minute lessons + 5-minute student evaluation
  • Classes are in the morning during weekdays, and all day weekends if you want to work at this time
  • No prep! Lessons are already prepared
  • Hours are flexible and there’s no minimum
  • There is a referral bonus!

Start your career with Magic Ears: apply now

VIPKID

Teach English to Chinese kids aged 4-12 in one-on-one classes
Pay is $15-$22 per hour
You can work from anywhere in the world as long as you have reliable and stable internet connection

Apply to VIPKID here

VIPKID are an online English teaching company that I love and have promoted for a number of years. They are the leader in China’s online English learning industry. My friends who I used to work with, whilst teaching English in South Korea, have gone on to work for this company. They love the financial freedom they have and the students they work with are ace.

  • Need to be eligible to legally work in Canada or the US to apply, but don’t have to be there!
  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in any field required
  • Experience working with kids required: 1 school year of traditional teaching experience or the equivalent in mentoring, tutoring, or alternative education
  • Initial contract is for six months (which is renewable)
  • No prep! A curriculum team has designed the materials for every class
  • Be available for at least 7.5 hours a week – no maximum hours required
  • 30 minutes teaching sessions
  • Pay is determined by your demo class performance and your monthly class participation and completion
  • Bonuses for referrals made

Start your career with VIPKID here

Qkids

Teach English to Chinese kids aged 4-12 with 1-4 students in each lesson
Pay is $16-$20 per hour
You can work from the US or Canada

Apply to teach with Qkids here

  • Need to be eligible to legally work in Canada or the US
  • BA preferred. If your level of education is below BA, you will need a TESOL/TEFL certificate

Get 35% off your TEFL certificate here with code TEA35

  • Teaching experience preferred (from a classroom or tutoring, mentoring, homeschooling)
  • 6 months contract term with possibility of extending
  • No lesson planning necessary! All lessons are preset
  • Minimum of 6 hours work (12 lessons)
  • Extra pay incentives: eligibility for $1 Performance Fee for each lesson based on family review and $1 Attendance Bonus for each lesson once a minimum of 15 lessons are taught in a week

Start your career with Qkids here

EF Education First Online (USA and UK)

Teach English to Chinese kids aged 5-10 one-on-one or in groups with up to 6 students
Pay is $13- $16 per hour / £8.50 – £12.50 per hour including bonuses and employee benefits
Opportunities available to both US and UK teachers

EF USA program

  • American programme asks for you to be authorised to work in the US and be a native English speaker
  • Bachelor’s degree required in any field
  • Minimum of 40 hour TEFL certificate

Get 35% off your TEFL certificate here with code TEA35

  • Teaching experience preferred but not essential – must be able to connect with and motivate kids
  • Initial 6 month contract, with auto renewal option
  • No lesson prep!
  • No minimum hours
  • 25 minute lessons

Apply to EF Online USA here

EF UK programme

  • UK programme asks for you to be living in the UK and be a native English speaker
  • Bachelor’s degree required in any field
  • Minimum of 40 hour TEFL certificate

Get 35% off your TEFL certificate here with code TEA35

  • Teaching experience preferred but not essential – must be able to connect with and motivate kids
  • All EF teachers need an Enhanced DBS check (full cost refunded after 3 months of contract starting)
  • 12 month contract with opportunities to renew
  • No prep! Lesson material is provided
  • No minimum hours
  • 25 minute lessons
  • Lessons primarily 8:00am GMT to 2pm GMT weekdays and as early as 6:00am GMT during the weekends if you wish to work at this time
  • Benefits include company pension, paid training and holiday pay

Apply to EF Online UK here

Italki

Teach any language to any age, anywhere in the world, one-on-one!
Set your own hourly rate
Work from anywhere in the world!

Italki is a great place to teach if you’re a free spirit and want to teach any language to any age and any person. You can also set your own hourly rate woohoo. Note that there are different levels of teaching that you can apply to on here. You can be a Community Tutor (no teaching qualifications required) or a Professional Teacher. You can charge more as a Professional Teacher compared to a Community Tutor. 

  • Community Tutor (no teaching qualifications required / be a native or near-native speaker)
  • Professional Teacher (need proof of teaching / formal language learning such as a degree in language or education, CELTA or TEFL certificate
  • Free to apply
  • No contract
  • Work from anywhere in the world
  • Prepare your own lessons
  • No minimum hours – you work what you wish
  • Set your own hourly rate. Charge more as a Professional Teacher compared to a Community Tutor 
  • Referral bonus when you refer a friend

Note that you earn your payment through Italki credits, a virtual currency, which can be exchanged for cash. 

Students first buy the credits then use them to pay you when you teach them. Currently, 1 Italki credit = $1 USD. Italki charges a 15% fee on transactions between teachers and students. You are only charged when you complete a lesson and make money on italki.

Are you learning a language yourself? You can withdraw your Italki credits as cash or use your credits to take lessons with other teachers to excel in your own language learning.

Start your dream career with Italki here

Cambly

Teach English to any age, anywhere in the world, one-on-one
$10.20 per hour ($0.17 per minute)
Work from anywhere in the world

Cambly is a great place to start teaching English online if you just want to jump online and get some experience. Cambly requires no degree and no teaching certificate so if you want to break into tutoring foreign students in English – this is it.

  • No degree required
  • No teaching experience necessary
  • No contract
  • Work from anywhere in the world – but must be fluent in English
  • Lessons haven’t been prepared for you (but a lot of students are here for free-flow speaking practice!)
  • Note that you are paid per minute – wages are paid weekly if you reach the minimum threshold of $20
  • Set your own hours / no minimum hours required

Click here to apply to Cambly

iTutorgroup

Teach Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese students aged 6 to 65, one-on-one
Earn up to $24 per hour
Work from anywhere, as long as the internet connection is reliable (native speakers are paid more than non)

  • Need a Bachelor’s degree
  • Need a TESOL, TEFL or equivalent
  • Must have a minimum 1 year of teaching experience
  • No prep! Teaching material is provided.
  • Set your own schedule and hours (7 hours during the weekday and 3 hours during the weekend)
  • Adult classes are 45 minutes with 1-6 students
  • Kid classes are 25 minutes one-on-one
  • Yes you can refer others!

Apply to iTutorgroup here

Want to start your own teaching business online? You can!

There is nothing stopping you from starting your own classes and promoting yourself online to gain clients.

What is the best online platform for teaching English online? There are a variety of platforms that you can use, such as Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom. All of these will allow you to have private or group video calls and screen-sharing capabilities, so ultimately it’s down to your personal preference and what you feel most comfortable with.

Start teaching English online now!

As you can see, there are many, many options for getting an online english tutoring job. Whether you are wanting the flexibility to travel and teach abroad or love the idea of a homebased online teaching job; there is a company out there looking for people like you.

So what are you waiting for? Hurry! Your students are waiting!

Are you ready to start teaching English online?

Becoming an online tutor can be so rewarding. Not only do you gain location freedom, but it also feels great when your students are learning! Let us know in the comments if you are working for any of these awesome online teaching companies!

Related Reading

How to make tons of travel money as a VIPKID teacher

Teaching English without a degree abroad: The 100% success guide

Avoid these 10 mistakes with teaching jobs in China for foreigners!

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About Alice Teacake

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I'm a feminist British kickass solo female traveller who believes in women facing their fears, pushing their boundaries and reaching their full potential through solo adventure travel! I have been featured in Nat Geo Traveller UK, Lonely Planet, the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed and spoken about solo female travel safety on BBC One, whilst working with a bunch of awesome brands. Follow me for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!

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