The online English teacher
Teachers can now find students all over the world - without leaving home
It's 6.55pm in Phuket. I'm sitting in a coffee shop, watching the world go by and the sun go down, and I flip open my laptop.
My student in Russia
It's 2.55pm in Moscow. Sergey, a 17 year old student about to sit his school leaving exams - exams so important in the Russian education system that success or failure here will shape the rest of his life - has just arrived home and is sitting at his desk giving last week's homework a final check.
At 7pm I call him over Skype and we have a brief chat about his week, about the weather in Moscow, the latest world news, and Chelsea's result last weekend (he's an ardent supporter - in fact, Chelsea lost, so our brief chat runs to ten minutes as Sergey gives some post-match analysis and I feed in useful language like 'own goal' and 'John Terry is past it'.)
We go through his homework as the sun is disappearing below the sea, and he tells me what he's been doing in English at school, I answer any problems he's had with it, and then we work together doing some exam practice tasks for his Russian school examinations.
I'd found a treasure trove of exam prep materials on the Internet, completely free. The hour-long lesson flies by and soon our time is up. But I continue for another 15 minutes because we're both in the flow. Then I set him some homework, arrange a time for our next lesson - usually the same time, same date - and say пока. Then I order another coffee.
Time for a change
Three years ago, I was working at an international school in Moscow, working something in the region of 50 hours a week. I'd also started taking on private students, so several evenings a week I'd set off from my school and trudge for anywhere up to 30 minutes through the snow in temperatures occasionally touching minus 30 degrees centigrade to get to my student's apartment, where the temperatures in the superheated apartment blocks usually touched plus 30 degrees centigrade.
I'd been doing this for over two years. I was exhausted, utterly exhausted.
I knew that this was no way to live life, especially after spending two weeks in hospital with a mild viral infection, so in the summer of 2012 I decided to swap the Land of Frowns to the Land of Smiles. Today I still teach the same private Russian students, except now, instead of trudging through snowdrifts and skidding over patches of ice, I simply open up Skype.
I'm an online English teacher, part of a booming sector of "edupreneurs" - teachers working for themselves, combining their skills and knowledge with technology, to create their own business.
Technology today has levelled the playing field, enabling individual teachers to compete on equal (or better) terms with private English language schools, enabling them to find students from all over the world, communicate with them, find materials and get paid.
Bangkok is perfect
In my opinion, Bangkok is one of the best places in the world from which to operate as an online English teacher. Living costs here are relatively low while Internet connectivity is good. Add to that the large number of coffee shops in the city with good WiFi connections and you really have everything you need.
Personally I prefer to teach from my apartment, but the choice is there. You can even teach while on your travels, from a hotel room looking out towards the mountains or, as I occasionally do, from a coffee shop looking out over a beach.
You can also supplement your income from online teaching by teaching English at one of Bangkok's many English language schools, which has the added advantage of getting you sorted out with visas, work permits, professional development and health insurance, not to mention colleagues with whom you can unload your woes.
Online teaching in Thailand also has one other big advantage: because you can teach students from all over the world, you can teach students where the pay rates for private English tutors are high, such as Japan, South Korea, the Gulf states and Russia.
When you factor in the low cost of living in Thailand, this means you don't need to work that many hours in order to make ends meet, giving you time to live your life more fully: working to live rather than living to work. My Muscovite students pay me three times the rate I'd get teaching English at a school in Bangkok. And with online teaching there's no sweaty commuting. And you can teach in shorts!
How's your online business?
So are you an online English teacher? Where are you based? Bangkok, Chiang Mai, elsewhere? What do you like about it and what difficulties (if any) do you face? Where do you teach your lessons? From your house or apartment, or a coffee shop? And which coffee shops? Which ones have reliable WiFi?
Where do your students come from and how do you find them? What sort of things do you teach? Conversation practice, exam preparation, Business English? Let's start a conversation about teaching English online from Thailand, so feel free to write a comment below.
I'm going to write a series of articles on online English teaching for Ajarn, including how to find students and what to teach them. So please check back. Meanwhile, why not check out my blog
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Hi! I am a South African with a TEFL certificate and 1 and 1/2 year teaching experience, but I don't have a BA. Is it still possible for me to teach online?
By Willem, Thailand (18th April 2019)
I've taught English in Indonesia for 8 years and at an Aussie Uni for 1 year plus some on-line teaching with Korean students. I'm interested in a few hours on-line teaching each week. No degree but have TEFL. Any ideas of contacts?
By Adrian, Chiang Mai, Thailand (31st December 2017)
Hey I'd like to begin teaching online full time in Thailand but the way to do this legally seems arduous if not impossible. What are the visa details I should know about?
By à¹‚à¸Šà¸„, Thailand (22nd June 2017)
I would like teach English grammar on-line. I am English with a lot of free time,, I am 67 with a TEFL certificate .can anyone help me please? Thank you,, regards Malcolm
By Malcolm workman, Bangkok (21st February 2017)
Hi there, how did your friend promote herself. I have been an online English teacher for 7 months. Does your friend have an website?
By bencher, South Africa (16th January 2017)
Hi there, could you please comment as to which online english sites i can go to work as an online english teacher. Thanks in advance
By bencher, South Africa (7th June 2016)
I have been teaching English online to Chinese, Koreans and Japanese for more than 4 years now. And now, I am not closing my doors to other foreign students who would like to learn English. I just do not know how to expand the market. Any advice on hand? Thanks a lot!
By Paula, Philippines (5th April 2016)
I'm teaching online for a company in Bali but would like to return to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Do you know what online teaching companies work through Chiang Mai ?
By Julia, Bali, Indonesia (15th November 2015)
Can you please advise as to how to get involved with this. I would love to teach, but I am not able to complete my studies because of my work commitments
By janine doubell, south africa (26th August 2015)
I have been on line teaching for some months now. On line teaching is life changing as there are so many advantages doing it
1) At home with your family (not away in another area teaching and something goes wrong at home and you can't do anything about until you get home on the week end)
2) NOT having to put up with morning and afternoon traffic dodging chickens, old people on bikes and people driving up the wrong side of the road motorcycles/vehicles.
3) Not having to put up with the outside weather conditions especially the rainy season. That season is the worst to drive around in. Winter for me is the second worst season to drive in especially if your on a motorcycle.
4) Forget about lesson plans, mid and final term tests, huge amounts of down time lost (student activity days) and putting up with the daily b.s. that happens with-in the education system.
5) Actually enjoy teaching; on line teaching is extremely fun to do and I actually really enjoy teaching now. ( I became quite frustrated with the current /long standing education system)
Living in the north I have been able to achieve my initial goal of obtaining a standard monthly Thai income. As you are probably aware the north's wages are fairly low 20000, 25000, 27/28000 to 30-35 0000 (only some schools). 25000 a month seems to be the standard wage. This goal has been achieved via one on line teaching web site so if you live in the north and on the average wage it is very feasible.
My second goal is to achieve around 30-40000 a month but utilizing two on line teaching websites. This I feel is achievable as I am currently on line teaching part time and do have a number of extra hours that I can utilize during the week.
The way I see it is I am gaining overseas income (Japanese yen for now) and perhaps US dollars at a later date. I am NOT making any Thai baht at all. Therefore I am not officially being paid by a Thai school/language school/company. If I do make more money than the Thai tax free threshold this is usually cancelled out being married to a Thai. I am utilizing my time wisely at home and with my family. I am just on the internet enjoying my pass time/interest.
Recently Paypal has put a 21 day holding policy on any funds received as a payment. This can be a huge blow to a lot of people. I got my monthly income recently with a hold of 21 days initially. I called Paypal and really explained what the account was mainly used for Premier (tutoring/on line purchases). i told them that I am NOT in business and I am NOT a seller. They released my funds quickly. I was also told by Paypal to inform them by e mail when a payment is received before a click on accept payment then the funds will be released quickly.
I am now looking forward to achieving my second goal as mentioned earlier.
On line teaching does change your life.
By Ken, North Thailand (17th January 2015)
I've been teaching online as a hobby and a part time job for the last three years. I've been using an online learning portal that helps teachers find students and vice versa. The website takes a cut from my fees but that's fine with me as there are hundreds of students on the site. At one stage I had to temporarily shut down my profile as I had too many students! Now I only have one student as I am teaching full time in a school in Bangkok. Its a useful hobby or part time gig to get some pocket money. Its difficult to do it full time as the students come and go. They also often don't show up which is frustrating as maybe you've cancelled something to remain at home. Overall it's been a great experience for me. I've taught students from Brazil, Russia, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Spain, Hungary, France, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, Libya and there's probably a lot more. I taught them all from the comfort of my own room..I taught conversation English, Business English and Examinations English.(IELTS.KET,PET...)..Its been great but it lacks security as a fulltime job especially if you have a family to support.
By Jim, Bangkok (15th January 2015)
Thanks for your comments. Thomad (Thomas?), I’m putting another article together on exactly that topic. I agree, Dan, that more and more people are going to learn English online and I know it’s already quite popular in Japan, South Korea and Turkey. Again, I’ll mention how to find students in another article, but essentially I use social networking combined with teaching a niche area of English.
By Charles, SE Asia (10th January 2015)
Sounds great but the big question is how to find students outside of Thailand who can pay those higher rates. As you obviously had your previous contacts and students from Russia.
By Thomad, Thailand (8th January 2015)
great article, really interesting..
I think more and more learning will move in this direction,
Do you advertise on sites in other countries or do you get all your students from your own website?
By Dan, Chiangmai (7th January 2015)