How To Teach English Online: Interview With Jodie Larson, Online English Teacher

by | Last updated Sep 14, 2020 | Live Work Play Travel, Work Online + remote & nomad Life

For many years travellers have found teaching jobs Teaching English in English Language Schools around the world. Now, you don’t need to leave home to Teach English as you can teach it online. Of course you don’t get the same cultural experience as if were living in the country but for some, that doesn’t really matter. If you are thinking of Teaching English online either as you travel the world or from home read my interview with Jodie Larson, someone who is Teaching English online.


Tell me about yourself! Where are you from and what do you do?


Hi! My name is Jodie and I’m from Minnesota, U.S.A. In addition to my “boring desk job,” I teach business English online.


What does an online English teacher do?


An online English teacher uses the Internet to teach virtual lessons to people from all around the world. Some specialize in teaching children, whereas I focus on teaching business English to adults. 


What made you decide to Teach English online?


I lived in China from 2014-2017, teaching English at a manufacturing facility. During this time, my love for teaching English grew and I learned a lot about how to be most effective. When I returned to the U.S., I wanted to continue teaching, but lacked a teaching degree that would allow me to do it in a school setting. After some research, I found many companies that specialize in online teaching. 


How long did it take you to get up and running?


I took a 3 week course in Teaching English as a Second/Other Language (TESOL), but a certificate isn’t necessarily required by all companies. Having some experience and/or a certificate might make it easier to get approved. I submitted applications to four companies and was approved by two. From application to approval was less than a week. The two companies who declined my application did not give any details as to why. It sounds like this is fairly common, especially since more people have been applying to online jobs due to the COVID-19 situation. I tried not to take it personally! 


Where do you find clients and resources to Teach business English?


Your profile on the teaching websites is important as it’s how students get to know you and (hopefully) decide to book lessons with you. The two companies I work with also allow you to sign up for available time. You make yourself available and students looking for immediate help can connect with you. This is a great way to meet students in the beginning. 

As far as resources go, when a student indicates they want help on a certain topic, I try to create my own content and put it on my website. In this way, I am developing a curriculum at the same time I’m helping my students. Other students prefer to talk about current events, so I find news articles online and write up questions to go along with them. It helps keep me in-tune with what’s going on with the world as well! 


What equipment do you need to be an online English Teacher?


To teach online you will need a desktop computer or a laptop with a camera. A headset with a microphone is a good asset to help with clearer communication and to omit background noise. Secure and fast Internet connection as it is unprofessional to loose the connection with your student half way through your lesson. A rechargeable selfie ring light will be helpful to light up your face so your student can see you better. You also need to consider your virtual classroom setting. A desk or table and a chair will aide you teaching effectively. Also consider your background setting. This could be a piece of felt or a map of the world. Having some teaching aids like flash cards with numbers, letters and flags can also be helpful.


How many hours do you usually work teaching business English?


The number of hours online English teachers teach can vary widely. I usually work 2 hours in the early morning and then again in the evenings to appeal to students on the other side of the world. The weekends can be quite sporadic as people are busy living life. I keep my schedule open for regular students who might want to book. I don’t have as much luck with immediate/standby lessons on the weekends as I think people are busy. Normally I shoot for around 20 paid hours per week. 

I do hear of people who work 40+ hours a week teaching online. It certainly is possible. When you work for more than one company it’s important to keep your schedule straight so you don’t end up double booking. 


How much money do online English Teachers make?


One company I work with allows you to set your own rates. This is a great option once you have built up a client base. However, in the beginning it can mean doing a lot of lessons for free (or very little money) as you try to attract regular students. The other company I work with pays around $10 per hour (based on 60 minutes of talk-time). 


What does a day in your life look like?


Nearly every day I work from 5:30 am to 7:30 am teaching English. This seems to be a good time as it’s evening time in Asia and a popular time for lessons. Sometimes it’s for pre-booked lessons; other times I go online and see if anyone needs immediate help. Then I go to my day job until about 4:30. I’ll return to teaching after 6 pm when it’s morning in Asia.  


What are your favourite things about working as an online English Teacher?


I love the sense of satisfaction when I help a student with their English. Sometimes people bring work issues, project proposals, presentations, emails, etc. that they need help with. I get to learn about a wide variety of industries. I also really like learning about different cultures and perspectives.


What are your least favourite things about teaching English online?


It is frustrating when students don’t show up to a lesson. Since I only get paid when I work (with a small cancellation fee depending on website), it is important to me that students show up. Waking up early for a pre-scheduled lesson and having the student not log-on can be really disappointing. 


If you were to help someone else follow in your footsteps, what would you recommend they do?


Having a TESOL certificate really helps. You can get these in person or online. A good certificate program gives you the skills to teach, which will come in really handy once you have your first student. Also, be sure your internet connection is top-of-the-line. Your student won’t have a good experience if there isn’t a good connection and you wouldn’t want a connection issue to cause a bad review. 


For any readers looking to hire an English Teacher, what services do you offer?


I offer a wide variety of classes, which can also be adapted for people who already speak English. I have classes on a variety of business topics such as time management, practice job interviews, resume critiques, and professional negotiations. Contact me via my website: Learning Business English Online.


Jodie Larson teaching English online. Sitting at her desk teaching.

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Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to live work play travel around the world with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.


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