Online Teaching: Self-Employment vs. Online Platforms

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“Online Teaching: The Answer?”

So you’re teaching ESL abroad, and think to yourself, “I wish I made more money!” If you’re going to be teaching for only a year or two, have fun, drink lots of beer, and travel to some amazing places during your vacation. However, if you’re doing it for longer than that, it’s wise to think about your longer term prospects. Basically, don’t waste your time!

One excellent side hustle option to consider is online teaching. After all, you already do this on site, so it’s not such a leap to do this online.

It’s also one of those things that you could get set-up while still teaching abroad, and then continue doing if you decide to go back to your home country. Hit the ground running!


A word of warning: It can be illegal to do extra work outside of the employer who is sponsoring your visa (Korea!), so be careful, keep it on the down-low and/or don’t do it altogether.

What follows is an excerpt from the book, “Side Gigs for Teachers: Ways to Actually Make Money.” There’s a whole lot more information about online teaching or tutoring, as well as 20 more ideas for ways to make extra money in your spare time.

Online Teaching: The Self-Employment Route

Many online tutors and teachers are self-employed. They have websites to advertise their services and teach over Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. There are obvious advantages to this.

Mainly, the fees you earn are not shared with a middleman. Of course, when you work for yourself, you also get to pick your hours. If you only have time for one student per week, no one will complain.

It’s Easy to Get Started

You can get started for very little money using a free VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), like Skype or Google Hangouts. You can accept payments easily with PayPal. Don’t forget that when you are self-employed, you need to keep detailed financial records for income tax purposes.

Little or No Notice for Cancellation 

One downside to teaching 1:1 is that students often cancel with little to no notice. If you are self-employed, the inevitable can be mitigated by having a strong, carefully explained cancellation policy.

A generally fair policy is: full refund or reschedule without penalty for cancellations made up to 24 hours in advance. However, there are no refunds otherwise. Again, a benefit to setting your own rules is that you can break them, if you feel the situation deserves it.

For example, if your student experiences a genuine emergency and cannot (or forgets to) get in touch, you can choose to waive your policy.

Payments for Online Teaching: Be Strict at First

Keep in mind that, like all classroom rules, it is much easier to start strict and loosen up than vice versa. Carefully discuss your policy with prospective students in advance. Be sure to remind them of the policy when your student cancels with insufficient notice or is a no-show. You may also want to have rules about rescheduling classes to avoid students who want to make class time flexible each week.

Get Payment in Advance if Possible

Receiving payment in advance is a great way to avoid missed lessons. If students are aware that the lesson has been paid for, they are more likely to show up on time. If they miss a scheduled class, well at least you don’t have to chase them for payment.

Discount for a Pre-Paid Block?

Offering a discount for a pre-paid block of lessons is a great way to get students to commit to and pre-pay for lessons. For example, you can offer a small discount for 5, 10, or 20 pre-paid lessons. It’s a win-win for both of you. Students can can get a better hourly rate and you ensure a confirmed block of lessons.

Online Teaching: Use an App or Online Platform

On the other hand, using an app or platform has its own advantages. First, they already have a pool of students. You don’t have to spend time or money marketing yourself.

Second, they are responsible for website maintenance. If you aren’t tech-savvy, and don’t want to pay someone to set up and maintain your website, that can be a big plus.

Third, they are responsible for collecting payments. It’s getting easier and easier to collect payments for services online these days. However, it is one more detail you would have to work out before getting started.

Online teaching
A Few Downsides to Online Teaching for a Company

Of course, there are some downsides to working as a freelancer for a service. First, you lose money to a middleman. That website and payment collection service isn’t free. They keep a cut of your fee. Some platforms don’t even allow you to set your own fees. There may be a minimum number of hours you must be available (with no guarantee of classes). The scheduling may not suit your time zone.

Both Online Teaching Options Require Marketing Yourself

Whether you use an online company or not, you will probably have to spend a bit of time marketing yourself. For example, you will need to set up a profile which may include an introductory video.

Some platforms require teachers to provide a free lesson to prospective students. For this, you will be paid a reduced rate, if anything. If you are teaching children online, you will also need props to keep their attention so factor this into your start-up costs.

A Few Sites = More than $15 USD/Hour

There are a few sites for ESL teachers which advertise rates of USD$15 per hour or more. We talk about them in detail in Side Gigs for Teachers, along with the pros and cons of each one. Some of the applications processes for these ones can take a long time, so be organized and start early.

Get your Documents Together

If you are willing to work for USD$7-10 per hour, you will have many more options. For both the better, and lesser paying ones, you should be prepared to submit the following documents: a passport, bank account information and/or a PayPal account, a criminal background check, letters of reference, a scan of your university degree (depending on job qualification requirements), etc.

Side Gigs For Teachers: Ways to Actually Make Money

This information about online teaching options is from the book, Side Gigs for Teachers: Ways to Actually Make Money. If you want to make more money in your spare time, you’ll need to check out the book. But, only if you’re serious about changing your life.

If you’re struggling to pay the bills each month, or want to save up money for a down payment on a house, or grad school, but can’t seem to do it, then starting a side hustle could be the solution.

Stop worrying about getting laid off from your job. Additional income streams that you control is the new job security these days.

You can find the book on Amazon, in both digital and print formats. The electronic version can be read on any device (Smartphone, Mac, Tablet, PC) by downloading the free Kindle reading app.

It’ll be the best couple bucks you spend all year, because it has the potential to turn into thousands. Check out Side Gigs for Teachers today:

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