I recently ventured into the world of online teaching. It seems to be everywhere! You can’t log onto any teacher forums these days without seeing adverts from online companies looking for teachers, usually for Chinese students. But is it that easy? And is it worth it?
I was only working in the afternoons and was thinking of taking on a few extra hours in the mornings to increase my monthly income. Online classes seemed an easy, flexible option so I decided to look into it. The most useful source of information I found was here in this Facebook group. I found genuine user reviews for most of the biggest online companies and platforms.
After doing a little online research, I applied to the following companies:
Most of these companies have a time limit within which they will reply to your application. If you don’t hear anything back within 14 days, for example, you know you’ve been rejected. I didn’t hear anything from Verbling, Vipkid said I didn’t meet their criteria (either because I don’t have a degree or because I am a British English, rather than an American English speaker) and iTalki didn’t get back to me within their stated time limit.
DaDaAbc made me an offer, although not before making me jump through a few hoops! After the initial application, I had an interview, after the interview I had 30 minutes of training, then after the training I did a 30 minute, observed demo class. After all that I had to watch several hours of training videos. The training videos were of a good standard and gave me a really good impression of the company. They are very professional and expect the best from their teachers, even asking you to learn some essential phrases in Mandarin in order to put your students at ease. You are expected to use lots of props (toys, flashcards, finger puppets, white board, etc) in your class. Your background must be decorated, colourful and attractive. You must wear their company colour, a light blue, and you shouldn’t have any visible tattoos.
Having considered all of the above, I accepted the offer and set a start date for a few weeks later. But something kept nagging at me as the start date was creeping up. They had offered me 110RMB per hour. That works out, depending on exchange rates and before bank charges for international transfers, at just a few cents over 14euros. Honestly, it seemed like a pretty low salary given how much I had to do, the rules I had to adhere to, the props and decorations I had to buy. Thinking ahead to the summer months, I wanted to be able to travel while I work, but if my office was to be transformed into a classroom I wouldn’t be able to do that. Finally, 2 days before I was required to sign the contract, I sent them an apology and clicked the ‘decline’ button on their website.
Thankfully, (and I’m a firm believer in these things happening for a reason!) iTalki then sent me an email. It was past the date they had told me initially so I assumed my application had been rejected, but when I saw their email I happily set up an account. This is a much easier process than the DaDaAbc application, although it does involve you making a video to introduce yourself. You don’t have to do this, but I don’t think you’d get many students if you were not to include it.
I’ve now been teaching on iTalki for 2 weeks and I couldn’t be happier. Here is a list of what you need to know if you are tempted to do the same:
- Add tags to your profile, (for example #cambridgeexamprep #teflcertified) whatever you feel is most important about your profile.
- Include a video! Even if it takes you ages, invest the time in doing it. Make sure the light and sound are good, and smile! Your students will watch this before booking any classes.
- Set the price for your trial classes higher than the suggested 1dollar. Your trial classes are 30 minutes long, in theory your students get a maximum of 3 trial classes with their iTalki account, but I’ve had requests from students who have maxed out their trial requests and then just set up a new profile, essentially getting a regular 1.5 hours of class with various teachers for 3dollars. Setting your trial price a little higher will put off those people.
- Don’t accept requests from people sending their Skype ID or asking for yours and asking to talk in private. There are quite a few spammers and time wasters and I suggest you go to their profiles and report them when you come across them! They’re a pain in the arse for everyone!
- Set your class price a little lower at first, until you build up a good profile. Your students can see how many completed classes you have done and the feedback from other students, so work to create a good profile and later you can up your hourly price.
My final piece of advice is this; never consider an online class or teaching job as somehow less legitimate than your usual, in person classes. There is still a real life student sitting there, listening to you, paying for your class and expecting you to teach them the same way you would if they were in your academy class. Take them as seriously as any other student. The pay for online classes is of course a little less, in general, than in person classes, but there are reasons for that. You don’t have to spend time travelling, you don’t have to pay for your transport, you can send materials directly to your student without spending money and time printing them out, you teach from the comfort of your own home (I’ve even skipped my morning shower a few times because well, they can’t smell you!). The wage is lower because the classes are more convenient for you and cost you less, not because the students expect less from you, so don’t treat them like they’re not real! Don’t be late, plan your classes, don’t cancel on them as though they were simply online avatars, or they won’t book with you again.
That said, I hope you try and love online teaching as much as I do! Let me know what experiences you’ve had! Thanks for reading!