You’ve spent hours on Dave’s ESL cafe, youtube and teacher forums trying to find out who is the best ESL company to work for. Should you work independently? Should you get a TEFL or CELTA? In this guide, we’ll give you an in-depth guide on how you can teach English online to Chinese students.We’ll cover all your questions from how to find clients or jobs to how to get paid.

Online Enlgish Teacher

I am a 29 year old woman with a genuine love of teaching, both in the classroom and now online too! I started online teaching a year or so ago to supplement my income and was a bit nervous about teaching via Skype, but I surprised myself by really enjoying it. I am originally from the UK where I taught in a high school for 8 years, but I now live permanently in the South of Mexico and enjoy earning some extra money alongside my classroom based job.  It’s an extra bonus, especially as I can work from home.

The growing demand for online English tuition in China.

As most teachers are aware, the demand for online English tuition is growing, but nowhere more so than in China, where English, like in many countries, is a highly sought after skill. Parents have incredibly high expectations and want their children to a have access to the best universities. There is something impressive and admirable about hiring native speakers and giving your child the kind of education found in Western countries.

In a growing global market, English is valued across the business world as well as in industries such as tourism. Online classes also allow those children who may live in more rural areas to access high quality English classes in places where language schools and native teachers are not as prevalent as in the big cities, as well as avoiding travel time and costs for families.

Evidence suggests that the domestic online teaching industry is set to double to US$165 billion (S$221 billion) in five years. ( Statistics such as these go to show what a fast growing industry online teaching has become. Cindy Mi, the founder of VIP kid, a hugely popular online teaching platform in China commented that her company is using “on-demand economy to connect teachers and children across the world” ( ) The site is proving hugely effective for both US teachers and Chinese students. It seems to be a win-win situation for the children making progress and the teachers making a decent income from something they love doing.

Further growth and competition is both expected and inevitable with classes becoming more and more widespread.  Evidence suggests that the market will grow at more than 50% a year, reaching 160 billion Yuan by 2020! ( )


Benefits of working from home + teaching English online.

Online English Teacher Desk

Teaching online is a fairly simple, flexible and fun experience. Depending on your experience and how you work best you may opt for one on one teaching or choose to work with small classes. The benefits of working from home include the fact that you choose your schedule so you can work around other activities, family life and so on. Choosing when you work is also a massive plus. Don’t like early mornings? No problem. Prefer to work late at night? There’s a time zone that suits you and needs English teachers! Working from home also means no travel time or travel costs, and can often be a more comfortable environment than a school-based classroom.

Who can teach English online?

One common question is often, but who can teach English online? To be honest, almost anyone!

  1. Stay-at-home momsTeaching online works well for stay at home Moms (or Dads!) The fact that you can work when you want to means you can fit in all the other tasks, chores and activities you need to get done.                                                        
  2. Expats already living abroadExpats also have the bonus of choosing when and where to teach online. The freedom to have some extra income without the pressure of a full time job is a great advantage and as companies often pay in USD you will find your funds go further than earning in the local currency.                                                                                                             
  3. Retired TeachersSimilarly, retired teachers who miss teaching and still want to be part of education can do so by teaching online. Minimal grading (or none at all), no teacher meetings or additional expectations from a traditional school setting means a much simpler and more relaxed approach than that found in a customary school.                                                  
  4. Full Time TeachersTeachers often like to work in the classroom as well as online. Like me, it’s possible to do both and enjoy them side by side. What better way to develop new activities and develop your teaching skills than by doing both?      
  5. Graduates – Graduates, particularly new graduates often need experience before starting a full time job and online teaching can provide this. Maybe graduates are also hoping to travel before settling down. Teaching online is so flexible that if you want to you can travel alongside your work.                                                                                                                             
  6. People without degrees or teaching experience – Many companies are interested in employing native speakers, regardless of whether or not you have a degree or teaching experience. Often students want to practice their speaking with a native speaker and work on their accent and pronunciation, as a result, experience in the classroom is not important, and you can still be a successful teacher.


What are the children like?

I find that generally speaking students are keen and want to learn. Behavior management is basically non-existent and the children want to do well and impress you. They know English is important, they want to improve so they can excel at school and they also realize the long-term benefits for their future.  Parents tend to be supportive and encouraging and this means children are very aware of the need for a good level of English.


What do I need to teach?

Depending on your teaching style you may like some toys, games and activities more than others, but there are some basic things every online teacher can benefit from.

Online English Teacher Equipment

  • A mini whiteboard to write messages of praise, keywords and so on makes a class more fun and dynamic.
  • A toy or mascot for kid’s classes is a nice touch and helps make the child feel comfortable. The same character can then reappear in all your classes!
  • I also enjoy using messages on sticks! (As shown in the photo) These are normally used at parties for photo booth photos but are fun to hold up to the screen with a well-done message. They also make a nice change from the more traditional spoken praise or thumbs up sign.
  • Games can be sued by using the pieces as mini flashcards, for example, a going shopping game with food cards can be used for vocabulary and so on.

Be creative- remember you want to be remembered and little (appropriate) quirks will mean students enjoy your classes and remember you.


How to find work teaching English online:

Finding clients independently.

Personally, I think finding online clients independently is quite challenging, although not impossible. You will need to be very forthcoming with your presence online, perhaps through Facebook, but you will be relying a lot on friends, family and their friends and family sharing your profile far and wide in order to find students. Finding clients independently allows you a lot of freedom and you can set your own schedule and price, you are also your own boss. However, it involves a lot of organization and dedication when promoting your profile.

Advertising on freelance websites.

Freelance websites such as Superprof allow you to create and post your profile for free, and students contact you through their system for classes. I have done very well through Superprof and would certainly recommend it. Offering a free trial class helps attract students and writing an honest and clear profile about your skills and what you can offer helps too. You will also need to do a little research to decide on an appropriate price per class. If you choose to find students this way it’s worth thinking about a student contract and so on in case of last minute cancellations. Again you are your own boss but this can bring its own challenges.


Working with Online teaching companies.

There are a huge number of online companies all over the world. What you want to offer will affect the company you choose. For example, Cambly focuses more on conversation practice, some companies teach only Business English and others focus on children’s classes. Be aware of what companies want before sending your CV and do some research about how teachers have reviewed the companies to get an idea of their satisfaction before signing up.


How to get hired finding clients independently.

There are a lot of ESL teachers out there, it’s a popular job. To do well, particularly independently, you will need to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps offering a free class is a good way to start, as mentioned above, as well as considering what makes you different. Flexibility is key, both in class times offered as well as topics and content you are able to cover in classes. Another area to focus on is the speed with which you reply to messages and the tone you use when responding. A friendly yet semi-formal approach works well, but remember to use simple English if you are not writing in the student’s first language, this will help them to feel both comfortable and a bit more confident.


How to get hired on Freelancing websites.

I think the process for being hired on Freelancing sites is very similar to finding them independently. Be honest and clear about what you can offer and respond promptly. Also think about asking friends, family and past students for reviews. When I first joined Superprof three of my ex colleagues kindly wrote reviews for my profile and this highlighted me as a good teacher and also gave me a star rating to attract students. Using a clear, well lit and friendly but professional photo of yourself and you teaching area also gives a good impression to potential learners.


How to get hired by online companies.

Make sure your CV is up to date and highlights the experience or skills you have that are linked to teaching. If you do not have experience don’t panic! Emphasize any experience you have working with people and qualities that would make you a good teacher such as creativity, patience etc.

Assume that you will have an interview for an online company, using Skype or the company’s own video technology. Remember it is still an interview, just because it is online it shouldn’t be taken any less seriously than an interview in person.  Consider your clothing and wear a collared shirt or smart top. Ensure you have a clean and well lit room and check what will be seen behind you on the video. A professional work space is essential. Also consider who you will be teaching if you get the job- if it’s for kids, can you have some posters of words in English, or a noticeboard with colorful images on behind you? Nothing too distracting but something that creates the right atmosphere.

Be ready to teach a short trial class and if you can, demonstrate any props you use in class such as mini whiteboards, toys, and flash-cards and so on.

Check your internet connection before the interview begins and make sure you have asked any necessary questions about the interview or trial class in good time. Don’t leave them to the last minute.

How do I get paid to teach English online?

Both my online work for a company and my online classes through freelancing websites pay via pay pal and this is a very popular option. I have not experienced any issues with this method and it works well. Be aware that with students found independently you may not be paid in your local currency, so when agreeing a price with your own independent students it is worth doing the conversion from their currency to your own first so you don’t accidently end up out of pocket.


How do I deal with taxes when teaching online?

Taxes will depend on a variety of things like where you are working, who you are working for and the amount you earn. In the UK for example, you would need to declare your earnings as a self-employed worker through HMRC revenue and customs, but this may not be the same for all countries. Always work with and talk to the company you work with and your own country’s tax department in order to avoid any problems.


What is the interview process like for online teaching jobs?

The interview process for online teaching normally involves the following steps although these may vary.

  • Being invited to interview via Skype or similar video technology. Some companies require you to choose from a slot and book using an online booking system and others will just arrange a time with you via email.
  • Being asked before the interview to prepare a short lesson to be taught during the consultation. For example, the company provides a 15 minute lesson plan for part of a class and ask you to prepare accordingly.  Or they may ask you to create your own plan depending on the software and curriculum they use.
  • You will be asked questions just like in a face to face interview and depending on the company will be notified if you were successful within a few days, subject to background checks.
  • Some companies ask you to take part in training before classes begin, particularly if you will be using software they provide.


Online Teaching Jobs that you can apply for:


51Talk are one of the leaders in online education in China and the Philippines, boasting that they offer successful careers for educators and progress for students. Classes are 30 minutes and one on one with Chinese students normally aged between 4 and 12 years old and beginners in English.  51Talk provide the materials needed and ask you to give feedback during the class and then complete a lesson memo at the end of the class. They offer online training to their staff and a bonus system based on hours and classes taught. The application process seems fairly simple using their online application form asking for basic information and qualifications, pay falls somewhere between 13- 17 USD an hour.  Teachers seem to be Filipino and are based in the Philippines.


With Vipkid you can expect to earn between 14 -22 USD an hour.  Lesson plans are provided and as usual, teachers choose their schedule. Vipkid follow US Common Core State Standards and classes are with children and are one to one.  Competition is high due to the sheer volume of applications received by the company and they are very well respected in the area of online teaching. As a result teachers must have a Bachelor’s Degree as a minimum requirement.

The application process is detailed:

1. Send your CV or resume

  1. Complete a one to one Interview of 30 minutes to show your teaching skills.
  2. Watch example videos to learn about VIPKID ‘s classes, standards curriculum and so on.
  3. Complete a full practice class with a current teacher or VIPKID personnel.
  4. Sign your contract, complete upload of information and background checks.
  5. Complete the online booking system with your free times for classes and begin to teach.



Students are Chinese and between 5-12 years old. No lesson planning is required and the company provides the material you need. Earnings are from 16-20 USD an hour and classes are 30 minutes. Qkids require a minimum of 6 hours (equivalent to 12 lessons) per week and up to 19 hours (38 lessons) weekly.  Teachers are required to be enrolled at college or university or have completed a degree and have experience working with young people. The application requires technical checks on your internet service and computer specifications, a short video which includes telling a children’s story, and your CV or resume.

Their website requires you to be a US or Canadian citizen and the application process involves Application- Initial screening – Interview 1 – Interview 2 – Trial Classes – Start work.



Cambly employs native speakers and emphasizes conversation practice although they offer teachers for classes and exam preparation too. They pay $0.17 USD per minute ($10.20/hour) and pay via PayPal. The application is fairly simple and involves an introductory video and an application form. No prior teaching experience is necessary. You decide on your own hours and students browse the teacher profiles and pick their teacher, rather than you being assigned students.


Education first

Education First are a well-established company based in Shanghai. Classes may be one to one, Business or group sessions of maximum 10 students. Teachers need to give feedback to students to help them make progress at the end of the class. Salaries are 12,000 – 13,500 RMB monthly        (12,000 RMB = 1908 USD) and are based on qualifications. Other benefits such as a flight allowance are included.
To fulfill the application process the following are essential:  Bachelor’s Degree and TEFL certificate, pass a background check, willing to lie abroad for a year.  Applicants must also be citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.



Aimed at children 5-12 years old with qualified native speakers from Canada and the USA, Magic Ears offers 18-26 USD per hour based on various incentives.  Classes last 30 minutes, 5 minutes at the end of the class are for student evaluations and feedback.

In order to apply you complete an online application and then have a live interview or record a demo class. There are then two online training sessions and a trial class before you sign your contract and classes begin.

Classes are 1-4 students and students vary from class to class. Materials are provided and Magic Ears ask you to us props appropriate to the class content.



Sprout is a little bit different as it doesn’t only focus on English but teaches traditional subjects too. As a result, non ESL teachers can apply.

Students are aged 5-15 and there is an average of 2-3 students per class. Teachers come from the UK or North America. The process is simple and requires a short video and a resume. Pay starts at 18USD an hour.

A degree or teaching qualification is preferred but not essential and class materials are provided.



Landi English offer 18-23 USD an hour and ask for a minimum of 12 teaching hours a week over 4 days. Students are aged 5-10 and the company provide the software and lesson plans. Students are normally beginners.

To apply Landi ask for your resume, an interview and a demo lesson on Skype before you receive a contract. A Bachelor’s degree is required and TEFL certification preferred but not necessary. New teachers also receive up to 3 days training.   



This company focuses on interviewing and training and does not ask for specific qualifications. Classes vary from conversation to Business to teenage classes so there seems to be lot of variety. Teachers work 8 hour shifts and are office based. Teachers can expect to earn around P12000 which is around 230 USD a month with the option of taking on additional hours.

Classes are 17 minutes long. Hiring takes place via either the Thailand or Philippines office. In order to apply you need to complete the online application form, and then undergo an interview. There are then 3 exams to take: pronunciation, technical skills and English grammar, and finally a mock lesson.

Originally offering jobs to citizens, the company now employs native speaks too who wish to live and work abroad.



Voxy is another online company with quite a detailed application process.  After applying online you are asked to complete a short assignment. The next step is to undertake 2 interviews and then if you are successful you will receive a job offer.

Voxy offers a huge range of courses to all sorts of people and has teachers worldwide. Voxy has not published payment details on their website.



Teachplus intrigued me as on their website you see photos of students interacting far more with each other than on the websites I visited. For example a photo shows students playing a ball game with the teacher on the TV screen, presumably guiding the game and also helping young learners to enjoy their classes. Each class also has a native teaching assistant which is an interesting idea and helps support the teacher. Teachplus is also helping rural areas to gain access to English.

Classes are made up of between 2-12 students and training is provided. Salaries start at 22 USD an hour but can increase to up to 30USD and teachers teach the same classes consistently.

The application process involves the online application, an interview and demo class, training and trial classes and a background check. You must be a native English speaker with a BA degree and a teaching certification. Teachplus also ask for more than 2 years ESL teaching experience.



Dadaabc are partnered with the American TESOL Institute and also the Pearson Test of English Academic, Highlights, and National Geographic Learning. Students are from 4-16 years old and the application process is similar to other companies. Send your CV/resume, interview, Internet connection testing & System training; TPR training; watch video records of qualified teachers; complete a demo class, and finally receive a contract. Materials are provided and teachers just need to familiarize themselves with the material before the class begins. Most classes are 30 minutes but trial classes may be shorter. Pay is decided based on your TPR training and the application process and details of specific salaries are not provided on their website.



Weenglish are well established and offer English at a range of levels with a focus on one to one classes. They employ native speakers with Bachelor’s degrees, teaching experience of at least 1 year and a TEFL certification (or similar) or a teaching certification from the USA. To apply you need to send your resume or CV with a covering letter.  Payment is not specified online.





Author TET

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