Travel Tips · Work and Travel

Is Teaching Online Worth It?

The other day we got wifi set up at my current location and it was just in time for an interview with an online English company called DaDa ABC.

All you need to travel the world these days (besides a passport) is online employment and there’s always work in language teaching, especially if you’re a native English speaker. That’s exactly what I’ll be covering today: the best online teaching opportunities!

Over the past few months I’ve been looking into and applying at various online English teaching companies to get an idea of what’s worth it and what’s not and see if I can’t garner a decent income from part-time teaching that will give me time and money to travel and do other things I love–things like writing, sports, music, and art.

In total, I will be covering nine different companies on a variety of platforms, from online to mobile, with everything from self-managed to fixed-schedule work. I will give my evaluation of each company, along with a brief overview of the application process and time investment.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

51Talk-Depends

Students: Chinese kids

Rates: You should be able to make at least $15 per hour.

Schedule: Their peak hours are from 6-9pm (Beijing time), with additional hours on the weekend.

Pro: They offer fairly good pay and good hours (although DaDaABC has similar hours and better pay). A big plus though: you don’t strictly have to be a native English speaker and it’s especially great for Filipino teachers.

Con: 51Talk is probably the largest English teaching company in China and as such, they receive a lot of applicants–especially during the summer holidays. For this reason, recruiters are a little tougher on their candidates and even if you’re a good teacher, you won’t get the job without a bachelor’s degree.

Conclusion: Though I ended up pursuing other opportunities, 51Talk still strikes me as a solid option for an online teaching job and friends who work for the company seem quite positive about it. 

Apply: If you live in the Philippines, click here

Antoree-Not Worth It

Students: Vietnamese adults

Rates: too low

Schedule: no fixed schedule; you are expected to arrange your own classes with students

Pros: Everything sounds great when you begin the application process, but as soon as you realize how little you’re going to get paid none of it is worth it anymore.

Cons: you are expected to create your own material and essentially manage your own classes with access to a few poorly organized folders of mostly unhelpful teaching resources. For the amount of work you would have to do to manage, prepare, and teach classes, the pay Antoree offers is way too low.

Conclusion: Unless you’re really desperate, don’t bother!

Best Teacher-Not Worth It

Students: Japanese adults

Rates: your total monthly payment is calculated based on the number of messages you have replied to and corrected as well as the number of Skype lessons you have conducted

Schedule: no fixed hours for lessons; reply to and edit messages during free time

Pros: Skype lessons can be taught from anywhere; similarly to Antoree, Best Teacher sounds like a great platform for online English teachers; however, as soon as they tell you the rates you’ll wish you hadn’t wasted all that time applying.

Con: In order to apply, you provide some basic information and take a test. The test is quite tricky to pass because it’s so riddled with errors that it’s nearly impossible to figure out which answer they intended to be correct. This, in itself, should be a sure sign that this is not the best company for teachers.

Conclusion: Don’t waste your time!

DaDa ABC-Worth It

Students: Chinese kids

Rates: start at $13-16 with the potential to earn up to $25 per hour plus bonuses. (Update: DaDaABC no longer offers cash bonusus; you can earn a raise of 10% per year that you work for the company.) 

Schedule: Class hours are 18:00-21:10 every day plus 10:04-12:10 and 14:00-16:06 on Saturday and Sunday; to get a contract you must commit to at least 2 fixed hours for two days a week (4 hours total) and you are asked to keep a regular schedule.

Pros: DaDaACB offers competitive rates and an easy-to-use platform with decent materials; once you set your fixed hours you will still get paid at least half your hourly rate even if you don’t have any scheduled classes. You can also book extra hours but during those times you’ll only be paid for actual classes and not for standby time. 

Cons: Depending on where you are in the world, the time difference may be an issue. This is also a tricky job to keep if you travel a lot, as you must meet Internet speed requirements and they ask that your computer always be hard-lined. You’ll also need a proper headset and a classroom set up with some posters, props, and teaching aids to keep the kids engaged. Finally, tardiness, absence, and leave requests beyond a permitted amount can result in additional deductions to your salary; if you’re late or request leave more than twice a month—for any reason—penalties will apply.

Update: leave policies have recently changed, allowing teachers to take more time off.

Conclusion: if you meet the requirements and can commit to the schedule, DaDa is a great platform on which to build your teaching career. After your first six months, they will help you get a TESOL certificate and if you continue working with them for a least another year they won’t charge you for it.

Update: this policy has also changed; I applied for my TESOL certificate through DaDaABC at the beginning of the year and still haven’t received it. Now they charge teachers $300 for it.) 

Apply: To get more information or apply right away, click here.

iTutor (TutorABC)-Not Worth It

Students: Taiwanese and Chinese, all ages (kids and adults)

Rates: regular 45-minutes classes have a fixed rate of $6, with an additional dollar or two per positive rating from each student. Classes can have between one and six students. However, many don’t rate the lesson. I was told I could expect up to $18-23 per hour, but because only one or two students attended per class and less than half of them rated the lesson, I ended up averaging only $6-7.

Schedule: You can select any hours you are available to teach on a weekly or even daily basis; you’re typically guaranteed to get classes scheduled during peak hours in the morning, evening, and on weekends (Beijing time).

Pros: You can easily fill up your schedule if you’re willing to work peak hours. You can set your schedule day by day and you don’t have to commit to any fixed hours.

Cons: Unfortunately, the pay is frustratingly low. It also takes a bit of time to get set up on the platform. For starters, you have to schedule a 2-hour training session that is unpaid. Additionally, this is not a great option for travelers as you are required to be hard-lined and wear a headset and dress shirt in front of a clean white background for every class. Finally, their platform is not great and there is always an audio lag which slows down the class.

Conclusion: Perhaps, if you were willing to stick it out with iTutor and put in the hours of low-paying classes and unpaid training, you might eventually qualify for higher-paying classes. After a month or two of teaching here and there, however, I decided it was not worth my time anymore. Did I mention that if you earn less than $500 a month they deduct a $35 banking fee from your payment? That’s basically five hours of work!

The Online Teacher-Worth It

Students: from multiple companies; all ages and nationalities

Rates: They will work with you; for example, if you’re willing to work for $15-25 per hour, they will only offer contracts with hourly rates in that range.

Schedule: You will set your hours and they will commit to filling your schedule over time.

Pros: The Online Teacher promises to fill your schedule

Cons: You may need to be patient. You will also be charged a one-time fee of $25 per offer, which you will be expected to pay upon successfully receiving an offer. In my case, I got a first offer but I ended up not getting the job and still had to pay this fee. However, since I didn’t get the first job they agreed not to charge for my second offer—which is how I started working with DaDaABC (reviewed above). That being said, I haven’t been involved with The Online Teacher at all since then.

Conclusion: The Online Teacher is a service to help teachers get a full schedule and stable income from online English teaching. Once you set up a profile, they will connect you will companies that are looking for teachers. All you have to do is select the hours you would like to work and wait for offers from companies interested in you as a teacher. You will have to be patient though. It took nearly two months for me to get my second offer, but it was worth it.

Apply: Send me a message and I will refer you!

Tandem-Depends

Students: all nationalities; ages 16 and above

Rates: set your own

Schedule: set available times for students to book

Pros: Tandem is an app, so all you need to teach is your smartphone. If you’re already into language exchange, this may be a good opportunity to earn a little here and there.

Cons: Most people join Tandem for free language exchange and not many are willing to pay for classes, so you’re not likely to get too many classes.

Conclusion: I became a tutor on Tandem, set some available times, and chose to give a few free demo classes. However, none of the potential students who booked trial classes ended up enrolling in lessons. Again, most of them were using the platform for free language exchange and simply took advantage of the free trial option. For now, I have stopped using Tandem as I already have a schedule to manage with a few other companies that are more worthwhile.

Apply: download the app, sign up, and apply to be a tutor.

Verbling-Worth It!

Students: all nationalities; ages 14 and above

Rates: set your own; teacher rates range from $5-50 per hour, with an average of $17

Schedule: set your own hours and wait for students to book classes

Pros: It’s very easy to get set up on Vebling. You can set your own rates and schedule, create your own lessons, manage your own students, and be your own boss.Cons: 15% cut; filling up your schedule is tough; many prospective students and messages and some book free trials, but a much smaller percentage invest in purchasing regular classes. For example, I currently have 17 students but only one has purchased regular classes. At least five booked a trial class but never showed up.

Cons: 15% cut; filling up your schedule is tough; many prospective students and messages and some book free trials, but a much smaller percentage invest in purchasing regular classes. For example, I currently have 17 students but only one has purchased regular classes. At least five booked a trial class but never showed up.Conclusion: You will get a lot of messages, including spam and invitations from recruiters for other teaching companies. In fact, I got invited to The Online Teacher (see below) through Verbling. If nothing else, Verbling is a great place to set up your teaching profile and introduce yourself to the language-learning world. Of all the platforms I have tried, it is the easiest and most straightforward to set up and use.

Conclusion: You will get a lot of messages, including spam and invitations from recruiters for other teaching companies. In fact, I got invited to The Online Teacher (see below) through Verbling. If nothing else, Verbling is a great place to set up your teaching profile and introduce yourself to the language-learning world. Of all the platforms I have tried, it is the easiest and most straightforward to set up and use. Additionally, you can market yourself by creating and selling packages or five or ten lessons, you can post articles on their blog, and there are some other ways to attract students to book lessons with you.

Apply: right here.

YoliChat-Worth It!

Students: Chinese adults

Rates: 27 RMB for a 15-minute class; 54 RMB for a 25-minute class

Schedule: none; classes pop up at random, often in the morning and evening (Beijing time)

Pros: You can teach the 15 or 25-minute classes from anywhere by sending audio and text messages back and forth. All you need is a smartphone with wifi or mobile data. Furthermore, when you become a Yoli teacher you are invited into a wonderful community of teachers, travelers, and all sorts of interesting people who will become your support group!

Cons: You won’t typically get more than a few classes a day so don’t count on Yoli for a full or even part-time income. You’ll also have to grab classes on the spot before someone else gets them.

Conclusion: Although you have to go through quite a process to apply at Yoli, I would actually consider that a pro. They do a great job preparing you to teach and if you’re interested in improving your overall skills as a language teacher you will be sure to learn a thing or two from their method. Moreover, the recruiters and support staff are friendly and helpful.

For a detailed review, check out this post on teaching English online with Yoli Chat

Apply: Sign up here and don’t forget to mention my name—Flo Alcasas.

Honorary Mention: VIP Kid

I have never worked with VIP Kid but it is a very popular platform for teaching English online.

Requirements: Applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree and at least one year of some kind of teaching or mentoring experience. VIP Kid prefers teachers with an native, North-American English accent but does hire some teachers from other regions. Regardless, you must be eligible to work in either the US or Canada—though you can be located anywhere in the world.

Rates: According to their website, you can make up to $22 per hour.

Schedule: Technically, you can work at anytime between 9 am and 10 pm Beijing time (GMT+8). However, peak times are between 6 pm and 10 pm. As a teacher, you create your own schedule by opening time slots, during which students can book classes.

In Conclusion

Requirements differ from company to company, but if you have a knack for teaching, at least some experience, and a native accent, you stand a solid chance. It helps if you have a college degree; in some cases a Bachelor’s is required but often an Associate’s will do.

You don’t necessarily need to have a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate. In fact, some of the companies listed below will help you get one once you start working for them. On the other hand, if you’re not a native speaker, you can get still get good offers with a degree in teaching and a TESOL certificate.

On a final note, teaching English is not the only option. On some platforms, such as Verbling and Tandem, you can teach any language. On Yoli Chat you can also teach Mandarin.

Feel free to send a message or comment if you have specific questions on any of these teaching opportunities and I’ll gladly help you out.

8 thoughts on “Is Teaching Online Worth It?

    1. Hi, Chris! From what I gather, iTalki is similar to Verbling but an older platform. It also doesn’t have a built in classroom: it simply helps you connect with students but you would arrange classes yourself on another platform such as Skype. Some teachers like iTalki but I prefer Verbling because you can manage everything in one place (schedule, classroom, materials, progress reports) and they do a lot of marketing to get new students.

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    1. I don’t use iTalki so I can’t say for sure but there’s no exclusivity with Verbling that I know of. There is a condition that you can’t take students you’ve connected with on the platform and start having private classes with them.

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