Can you turn online ESL into a career?
Can you make enough money for online teaching to be a career rather than just a part-time thing?
This question is answered in the video and transcript below:
AskDigiNo Question with my answers in italics
Firstly I'd like to thank you for the usefulness of DigiNo. Your website has often been my first point of call when seeking answers to online ESL-related queries. Keep up the good work.
Thanks a lot. That's what it's for, to answer as many questions as I possibly can that's within my ability.
It is my hope to make a lasting career in this field as there are many factors involved that I absolutely adore. Principally, the sheer pleasure of imparting knowledge and seeing faces light up with realization and excitement.
Yeah, that's what it's all about. Brilliant job. If you're all about education, you love teaching, then yeah, you'll get it. You'll get it in online teaching for sure.
Unfortunately, however, I'm beginning to doubt if I can sustain an outgoing lifestyle on such few hours. Despite the reasonable hourly wage, my sister who introduced me to the role has now opted to pursue a PGCE having been priced out. Given your familiarity with the topic, I'm hoping that you can please advise me on some further thoughts.
Which company offers the best salary prospects?
In terms of wanting to make a lasting career out of it, obviously you want a lot of money to make it a career, so with the best salary prospects – SayABC, for me is really good.
I'd have to pull up the exact figures, but I'll leave it all in an article down below. I've got an article called “Say ABC Pay”, where it shows how much you can earn.
You don't wanna rely upon things like bonuses. I posted recently a Go-Go Kid article about the new teacher bonus, where if you teach free classes in your first 30 days without any complaints, then you'll get a free $100 bonus. Now, that's great, that's amazing, but you're not gonna get that every month, so you can't include that into your monthly earnings when you do your financial planning.
So, in terms of hourly rate, for what you can earn, Say ABC is one of the better ones, one of the best ones. All of it ultimately depends upon what you get for your starting hourly rate and each company differs. Data, it was all about your demo class and your experience. That would decide your starting hourly rate. But with some companies, you have a set hourly rate and then it's all the things on top of it. You get these easy bonuses.
My pick is Say ABC, because they're like VIP Kid and like DaDa in terms of structure, but what point am I making here? But they hire a lot of nationalities, so they hire it's not just like VIP Kid where it's just North Americans and Canada. They hire people from the UK and native speakers from South Africa. In terms of the broad depth of what they're hiring, they offer a really good hourly rate.
But if you compare it to someone like a Acadsoc, who they hire everyone, natives, non-natives, but the hourly rate is quite low, quite low. It's like around $10, so with someone like Say ABC and if you're South African then you're getting employed at the $20 per hour rate, so that's a lot better.
I currently work for DaDa. Do you know what I can hope to earn in my second year and beyond?
Okay, so first year in DaDa in terms of negotiating your new contract and getting a wage rise, what they do is once a year, if you performed well, you get a 10 RMB rise. Now, 10 RMB is about like a dollar, one pound. So, that's what you can hope, that added onto your hourly rate. It's not a lot, and some people leave over this, because they get a low starting hourly rate and they're thinking I've been doing well, I wanna be on the higher stuff.
But they won't do that massive jump in salary. So, that's why some people, they clear off and they look for companies where they can get a better starting hourly week. So, to answer your question, what you can hope to earn in your second year and beyond, in your second year, you can hope to earn 10 RMB per hour more than what you're on at the moment.
Do you know of other reputable companies that operate in different geographical markets? Ideally, opening up more time zones and available working hours.
Okay, yeah you're talking about working for DaDa or working for Say ABC, but they operate in the Beijing peak time of 6 p.m. Beijing time 'til 9 p.m. or 5 p.m. Beijing time 'til 9 p.m. and these are the peak hours and this is when you're gonna get your regular students booking.
They teach students, children, adults all around the world. And with PalFish, you can make yourself available on the app and then if anybody wants to book you, they will book you.
And this is people from all over that want to learn English. So, that's a way to do it. You can have … you're not really meant to work for multiple companies, don't broadcast it, but if you work for a regular student-based company like DaDa or SayABC and then up your hours with something like PalFish, Hujiang, Cambly, you can start to make some really good money.
I've written so much about how much you can make as an online teacher:
So, let's think from my own experience. With DaDa, when I was working let's say 15 hours, so that was five days a week, three hours a day. Yeah, three hours a day. And I was … what was I on? I can't remember now, but I was getting a rough amount of between 600-800 pounds, I think. I can't remember now, because I don't work those hours now. If you want to up that, so make it a full-time career, so you're looking at getting to 37 hours a week.
You've got to find on Cambly and PalFish etc enough students to make it up to 37-40 hours a week from your 15 and you might be quite drained from this. Obviously, there's other ways to boost your income through online teaching. I'm always talking about referrals.
If you can set up a referral system like what DigiNo is … where you can make your own blog and promote it. Not necessarily just to promote, to get the referral fee, but just to write about, write about your experience with online teaching.
Write reviews of the company you're with. Make sure it's always to help people, not just like, “This job is great, give me money.” Otherwise it just won't be successful, because people will read it and know it's not coming from truth, so yeah that's an extra way to earn money from it.
Like I said before, I don't strongly recommend just relying on bonuses. You should never rely upon passive income to pay your bills, because it fluctuates and it's not guaranteed.
You get your food, your bills, your shelter sorted with the hours you know you're working for each month. It's very hard at the moment to make a career out of this, but here's a suggestion for you. I was speaking to someone from Landi and they were saying that they're really looking for career-driven online teachers.
And because the online teaching marketing has sort of shot itself in the foot…
…because it's advertised in such a way that's like “make money now”, make this much per hour and it really attracts digital nomads, it attracts travelers, who just want a bit of money to fund their travels or people who are building up a side business.
They can work part time and still a bit of money whilst they build up their side business. So, this isn't attracting passionate teachers to the role. And this has got to change in order for the companies to really grow, because obviously if they're going through all these recruitment runs and then these teachers are only lasting a little bit of time, so I think Landi … I don't refer for Landi, but I think they're a cool company.
They're one of the first ones to really start thinking this of like, okay we've gotta change this up now and we've got to be attracting people who love teaching. So, that's a consideration and I think sooner or later, they'll all be going down that route. Otherwise, they'll just be having teachers for a month or two and then they've gotta re-hire again. And then they're losing out on referral fees and it's just not sustainable.
So, if you're looking to make it a career, then do your research on companies whether they're desperately marketing to get teachers or whether they're really educational based and they're all about the education and they want you there for a long time. And like I said as Landi, I've written an article about them, DaDa vs Landi, I'll link to that below. Yeah, I'm pretty sure they'll all be like this eventually.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email. Hopefully, you're advice will allow me to continue in this work that brings me such joy.
Yeah, yeah, because it's obviously still such a young thing, online teaching. We wanna make it grow and we want to make it our jobs, because it's such a great job. It really is.
If you've been in the classrooms for too long and it's not for you anymore or if you're a stay-at-home mom and you need some extra money, it just creates such a good income source for those situations. Yeah, it's good for travelers as well, good for side businesses and stuff in their early days. But yeah, it's a great job. We'd all love to do it full time. If you love teaching, then stick with it. It's growing, online teaching's growing. Find a company that has the same ethos as you.
They want long-term ESL driven teachers that are gonna be there for a while; three years plus or for life. So, yeah, that's my best advice to you. Hopefully it's been helpful.
And I've got the free e-book PDF that I've posted on DigiNo, 101 Things I Wish I'd Known About Teaching Online. Absolutely free, so hopefully that's a good resource for you: