Is Teaching English Online Harder Than It Looks?

Updated on June 20, 2019
Ria Fritz profile image

Ria ditched her nonprofit office job in Chicago to teach English overseas. Needless to say, that transition gave her a fresh perspective.


With high-speed internet becoming more widespread around the world, the market for online English classes is growing. Many countries, like China, have a large population of parents seeking small-size English classes to supplement their child's English lessons at school. Since recruiting native English speakers to teach abroad is hard, companies have begun to rely on online freelancers to meet demand.

Like with any online freelancing, though, there are pros and cons to online English teaching. Here are some of the basics to consider when preparing to apply for an online teaching job.

The Pros

Decent Pay

For an entry-level job that only requires a college degree and has flexible hours, the pay for online English teaching isn't bad. You can make at least $12 an hour immediately, with many companies offering merit and attendance bonuses as well as raises. If you have certification or prior experience, you can make even more. A very experienced and credentialed teacher can make $30 an hour if you get rid of the middleman by recruiting your own client base.

Flexible Hours

With various students located around the world, English teaching online has the most flexible hours of any teaching job. You can wake up early and teach two students before you head to your day job, or stay up late and teach some cute kids their morning lesson. There are ample Saturday lessons available as well.

Wide Range of Students

Some online teaching platforms specialize in kids' lessons, while others specialize in high school tutoring or business English. If you prefer small group lessons over individual lessons, you can usually find an employer who will give you those as well. If you go through a more independent platform like iTalki, you have even greater control over who your students are.

Fun and Dynamic

Whether you're teaching middle-aged businessmen or three-year-olds, you'll find some way to bring some creativity into your lesson. Plus, your students will always be full of surprises. Kids can be incredibly funny and clever, and more advanced students will sometimes have insightful and informative things to say. You're guaranteed to learn something about another culture if you teach English online.


The Cons


While working for an online English school usually means a steady stream of students, the downside is that you might make a little less because the company takes a decent chunk of the class fee. The alternative, though, is working through a platform like iTalki - where you'll be competing with a lot of other teachers! iTalki takes a smaller portion of your class fee, but the amount of competition around means that you'll have to charge a lot less when you first start out. Once you get enough reviews, it's a lot easier to make money.


If you're not charismatic, friendly, and fairly high-energy by nature, you'll find teaching online to be just as hard as teaching in person - and possibly even harder! In a normal classroom, you can have students do a worksheet and play educational games with each other sometimes. In small group and individual online teaching, you'll spend a lot more time talking, and your students will notice if you start to get bored or tired midway through the lesson.

Curriculum Prep

Some online English schools have a pre-designed curriculum that requires minimum preparation by you, but many require some work outside of your paid class hours! This can easily knock your actual hourly pay down below $10 an hour if you're not careful. While experienced teachers won't need as much time to prep, the slog of lesson planning can easily overwhelm newer teachers.

Client Expectations

English companies and more open platforms alike allow customers to review their teachers. While this is excellent for getting feedback and improving your craft, it can also mean sometimes dealing with unrealistic expectations. This can be especially true if teaching small children, since sometimes parents don't realize how hard it can be to get a four-year-old to pay attention! If you're working for an English company, it can also very hard to get them to reassign a student who is rude or uncooperative.

Location Matters

Online English teaching may be appealing to wannabe digital nomads, but you need stable, fast internet in order to teach your lessons without any problems. If you experience connection problems mid-lesson, you may end up being docked pay, and repeated problems could cause you to be fired! Some companies also want teachers to be based in specific countries, and while the reasons vary, they're sometimes related to internet connectivity.

Weird Hours

Since many English learners are in Asia, the most in-demand hours are very early in the morning for North America or in the middle of the day for the U.K. Plus, some companies require teachers to take a minimum number of hours during peak times, so you can't just politely refuse certain times. Some companies also set a minimum or maximum number of hours you can work per week, and it may be more or less than what you really want.

A Note for Non-Native Speakers

Unfortunately, many companies are only looking for native speakers of English. The good news is that there is still demand for non-native speakers who have attained fluency. If your English is level C2 or higher, you can teach on iTalki, and you might attract a large client base from your native country since you're bilungual!

The Verdict: If You Don't Like Teaching, Stay Away

Teaching English online has enough quirks and limitations that it's not a magic bullet for your work-at-home or digital nomad goals. It's good for people who love teaching, or stay-at-home moms who have plenty of toys and props around to supplement their lesson materials.

If you've ever actually enjoyed tutoring, working at a summer camp, or babysitting, it might be worth it to give English teaching a try. You might have the energy levels and charisma necessary to make it work.

If you really don't want to teach kids, you might need more advanced certification in order to get your foot in the door at a company that exclusively gives you older students. However, flexible teachers who can deal with a wide range of ages will find that teaching English online is one of the best flexible gigs that only requires a college degree.

Good luck!

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Stina Caxe profile image

        Cristina Cakes 

        7 months ago from Virginia

        I often wondered if I would enjoy that as a second job. Your article provided a lot of great insight to the pros and cons of the job. Thank you!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        7 months ago from UK

        This gives a balanced view on online teaching based on personal experience.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)