Teach English online to students in China

In 2019 I returned to Australia after completing a Masters degree and had a few months with no plans before I was meant to travel to China to continue studying (little did I know that those plans would drastically change). In order to make some money in this break and keep myself busy I started looking for casual jobs and came across an industry I had never heard of before, but I am so glad I did – teaching English online to children in China. There are a number of companies that hire English teachers and if successful you teach a group of students (usually the same group) via their online platform. I started teaching with one company and in the last two years have taught for four different companies and am currently working at two. In this post I’ll outline the process of getting hired at an ESL company and why you should teach.

How does teaching online work?

There are a number of companies based in China that run online English programs. Think of them as mini schools specialising in teaching English. They hire and train teachers and organise the classes. So as a teacher you simply indicate your availability and they will assign you classes. No talking to the parents required! Most companies will also provide you with a lesson plan, which can take the format of powerpoint slides so there is no need to develop your own content based on a syllabus. You simply review the content you are teaching before the class, load up the powerpoint slides, and get to teaching. I personally find it really simple and straight forward and love not having to develop the content myself.

What do I need to teach online?

This varies by companies but in general you will need to meet the following requirements:

👩‍🏫 Native or fluent English speaker (some companies only hire native speakers, other companies are happy with fluency) with a neutral English accent

👩‍🏫 A certificate in teaching such as TESOL, this is a requirement by the government. This is an online self-paced course that teaches you how to teach English online. They are very easy to get and Groupon usually has discounts so you can enrol for as little as $20

👩‍🏫 Fast internet speed and a powerful computer. Again, this varies by company but any computer purchased within the last 3-5 years should be fine

👩‍🏫 Some companies will require a Bachelors degree (in any area) whereas others are happy without a degree or whilst completing a degree

👩‍🏫 Some companies require you to be legally allowed to work in the USA or Canada

What companies are there that I can apply to?

There are numerous companies that operate in this space and more are growing each year which shows just how popular this industry is becoming. So if you get in early and establish yourself as a good teacher you can leverage that for future companies and work. I have created the following table that breaks down each company and their requirements

CompanyCountry of residenceDegree English levelWeekly minimum hrs
Camblyanynonenative none
DaDaanyBachelors native6
Future FirstanyBachelors native and non-nativedepends on what program you select
First LeapUS, Canada, UK, IrelandBachelors native12
GOGOKIDUS or CanadaBachelors nativenone
iTutorUS, UK, CanadaBachelors native10
Landi EnglishanyBachelors native18
Magic EarsUS, CanadaBachelors nativenone
NeuABCUS, CanadaBachelorsnative and non-native4
OutSchoolUS, Canada, Australia, NZ, UKBachelors native and non-nativenone
PalFishanynonenative and non-native10
QKidsUS, CanadaBachelors native and non-native6
VIP KidsUS, CanadaBachelorsnative and non-nativenone
VipXanyBachelors native and non-native15
Whales English*anyBachelors native8
Zebra EnglishUS, CanadaBachelorsnative and non-nativenone
* – note this is a referral link

How much money can I make?

Ahh the Elephant in the room, how much money can you make teaching online. Again this varies by company and by experience. As a general rule, the companies that pay the most money also have greater expectations of their teachers. Whales English and BlingABC are the two that I have found to pay the most. But both companies require a Bachelors degree, only hire native speakers, a minimum of 8 hours a week, a few years of teaching experience, and training with the company. They also evaluate your classes and expect a high standard from their teachers. They pay a lot so they expect a lot – makes sense.

On the other end there are companies that pay less money but don’t require a degree or experience or minimum hours. If you are just starting out or don’t have a degree then it may make sense to work with a lower paying company until you build up experience and then switch to a higher paying company.

Another thing to consider when it comes to payment are the incentives and bonuses. Generally speaking, most companies will pay a “base lesson rate” a set amount that you will receive per lesson taught. However, on top of that you can earn a few extra dollars by working peak hours, weekends, substituting, teaching large classes etc. Additionally, you can receive a bonus if you teach over a certain number of classes each month, have perfect attendance, sign up students, or recruit new teachers. So if you are strategic and only teach lessons with bonuses then you could add a few extra dollars onto each class which can really build up over a month.

For example – in April 2021 I earnt $846USD and worked 40 hours which is $21.15USD/hour which is $27.30AUD/hour. Now, because I live in Australia and teach at night I was teaching between 9pm and midnight which is usually time I am watching Netflix or procrastinating so to make almost $30/hour in time that would otherwise be wasted is great. For reference, when I was in university I was working as a swimming teacher for around $25/hour, so I make more by teaching online and don’t have to get wet!

Screenshot of my monthly earnings in April 2021

My advice for new teachers

If you pursue forums on the inter-webs you may find a lot of people complaining about a certain company or the industry. Maybe they were hired by a company and never got any lessons or they thought they interviewed great and failed their interview or got low marks. In my experience, the reality is quite different, I have been working this job on and off for almost 2 years and love it.

Here is my advice to new teachers or those thinking about applying

👩‍🏫 Treat it as a real job. I see people thinking that because they can teach from home they don’t have to care, don’t have to prepare, and can teach from their couch. They can’t. Treat this as any other tutoring or teaching job you may have. Prepare for class, follow the lesson plan, and be a good enthusiastic teacher.

👩‍🏫 Stick with it. You may not get a full schedule the minute you are hired because it may be the middle of term so no new classes are being assigned. Just be patient and you will see classes. Also, when you do get a class then teach it to the best of your ability. Lots of classes are evaluated and graded so the better you are as a teacher the more likely you are to get more classes. For BlingABC you complete a trial class which is graded. If you score an A you are more likely to get assigned classes than someone who scores a B, so do your best and the classes will come.

👩‍🏫 Be aware of the time commitment and the holidays. All classes are taught in the afternoon or evening Beijing time which is late evening Australia time, afternoon Europe time, or early morning US/Canada time. Make sure you are aware of the time zone and can commit to classes. Be aware of the cancellation policies and leave policies so that you don’t have to cancel classes.

Overall, this is a great job or side hussle for those at university or just looking to supplement their income. It plays really well, isn’t that difficult or energy intensive, and very rewarding. If you are thinking about applying then send me an email (lizzierichardsonbusiness@gmail.com) and I can answer any questions you have.

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