Everything You Need To Know About Teaching English Online
Updated on January 18th, 2020
Today I am excited to be sharing an interview with Nicola from See Nic Wander about teaching English online. Nicola is a lizard loving travel blogger who is seeing the world one house sit at a time. She packed her bags, left her classroom but didn’t close her teaching chapter. Instead, she took it to the road with her.
You can find Nicola wandering around new cities while stuffing her face with pastries, enjoying her furry (or scaly) house sitting friends, and working on her blog See Nic Wander. Ah, where do I sign up? I want to visit as many countries in the world as possible and this seems like the perfect way to do it.
Teaching English online, like working aboard superyachts is a great way of being paid to travel. Continue reading to find out how you too can become an online English teacher and what it’s like to be one. Or maybe you’re more interested in teaching English in Vietnam?
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, I receive a small commission. This will never cost you extra and in most cases, you receive a special discount.
Hi Nic, tell everyone about yourself.
Hi! I’m Nic and I’m a travel blogger, online English teacher, and house sitter. I’m from Atlanta and I’m super into affordable travel, big lizards, and finding the best guacamole everywhere I go.
How did you first hear about teaching English online?
I heard about teaching English online from a friend when I was working back home in the states. She knew that I wanted to travel and she had been teaching with VIPKID for a year to save money for a house. She recommended that I check it out since it’s remote and very flexible. Two things that complement a travel lifestyle nicely.
Tell us about your life before teaching English online; what made you want to do this?
Before teaching English online, I was a traditional classroom teacher in the states. I love working with kids and helping them learn new things. For this reason, I wanted to teach English abroad in a foreign country so I spent about a year researching tons of teaching gigs abroad and getting TEFL certified. When the summer came around and I left my traditional teaching job, I still had no idea where I wanted to go. There were so many good choices, I felt a bit stuck.
So my friend suggested teaching English online and I started doing that as a way to save money for travel. I ended up loving it so much I didn’t want to stop! I saved a lot of travel money that summer and was able to keep the job I loved while travelling, so it was a perfect fit.
Have you taught English in a school or in person?
I previously was a classroom Science teacher for three years. During that time I worked at a very small school and often I filled in as a reading enrichment teacher during extracurricular time. It was a small group setting focused on reading, so a bit different from a full-blown classroom, but a lot of the teaching principles are the same.
What have you noticed are the main differences?
One of the biggest differences is that VIPKID classes are one-on-one. I really like this aspect because you can give all your attention to the student and their specific needs. VIPKID also provides your lesson plans, which is really nice compared to traditional classrooms where teachers usually do all their own planning. Students do VIPKID in additional to their regular classes so you’ll teach students when they’re at home. I really like this because you get to meet the kids’ families and learn about their culture more than you would otherwise.
What does it mean to be teaching English online? Do you have a typical day?
Teaching English online is very flexible so you can structure your days however you like. Since VIPKID classes are geared toward kids in China, classes can be opened any time during the day, China time. As a result of this, you’re most likely to get booked in the evenings and on weekends, China time. There are no minimum or maximum teaching requirements so you can design a schedule that meets your needs and it can change from week to week.
Because of the time difference, if you’re teaching in the USA you’ll likely have classes in the evening, overnight, or early morning.
I know people who teach five hours a day, five days a week on the East coast time zone. They start classes at 5 am their time (5 pm China time) and teach until 10 am East Coast Time (10 pm China Time). I also know people who just do four hours on the weekend because they have a traditional job. It’s totally up to you.
Teaching English online sounds like the dream job for a traveller. How do you deal with different time zones when travelling?
VIPKID makes it very easy to update your schedule to the correct time zone. On your bookings page, you can update your location so that times are reflected accurately. Afterwards, you can open your bookings, as usual, using the updated times.
Is the work part-time, full-time or seasonal? Do you work within school terms?
VIPKID is part-time in that you don’t get any benefits. But you could choose to work full-time hours if you wanted. Most people I know work around 20 hours and get by comfortably on that, but you could open up more hours if you wanted to. Since VIPKID classes are done in addition to regular school in China, the highest demand for classes is in the evenings and on weekends, China Time. There is also increased demand during summer and school holidays when kids are out of school.
What is your favourite part of the job?
I love that my schedule is totally flexible and that I don’t have to ask permission to take time off for travel. Because of this, I’ve done longer trips to visit friends who live in other states and I don’t have to take any time off work, which is an amazing perk. I also love being remote as it means I can work while travelling or even just take extended trips to visit friends and family back home. It’s so nice to be able to go home for the holidays, for example, and keep your income while spending time with family.
You can read more about my favourite parts of VIPKID in my latest VIPKID Review here!
Are there any negatives?
The class times can be very early, especially if you’re in the US West Coast time zone. The application process can take a while as well which is frustrating for people who want to start right away. For example, from the initial application to your first class, it usually takes about 3-4 weeks.
Since the application process is a bit complicated, I highly recommend using a current VIPKID teacher as your mentor or coach so you have someone to practice with and ask your specific questions to. I have helped dozens of people through the process and I would love to help you too! When you apply, use my code: NICOL0117 and I’ll be there to answer your questions every step of the way. 🙂
Are there any things that are hard to get used to?
Teaching in a tiny little online box can be a bit hard to get used to, especially if you have traditional classroom experience. Luckily you’ll get used to this pretty quickly! Sometimes if the internet isn’t great that can cause a headache, but tech issues are pretty rare as long as you do your research before booking accommodation.
Speaking of living in other countries, how do you go about finding accommodation?
My favourite way to find accommodation is through house sitting! As a house sitter, you take care of someone else’s home and pets in exchange for a free place to stay. They get peace of mind knowing their home and pets are cared for and you get free accommodation. It’s the ultimate win-win!
You can find house sitting opportunities all over the world for any length of time. I like to find sits on TrustedHouse Sitters.
It’s not always possible to find house sits that line up perfectly, so when I’m not house sitting I like to use home sharing options like Airbnb. Airbnb’s are usually less expensive and give you a more local experience. It’s also easier to confirm internet speeds with an Airbnb host as opposed to a hotel. Some of my best friends I’ve met while travelling have been fellow Airbnb guests or hosts.
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Do you have a favourite place to live as a digital nomad?
I wouldn’t say I’ve lived in many places since I travel around pretty frequently, but I definitely have some favourite cities! I absolutely loved Ao Nang in Thailand and Bucharest in Romania. I’ve found that staying in a city for 4-5 weeks is the perfect amount of time for me.
What qualifications do people need to get started?
To teach with VIPKID, teachers should have the following:
- Be a native English Speaker
- Eligibility to work in the USA or Canada
- Bachelors Degree or Higher
- 1+ Year experience teaching, tutoring, mentoring, coaching or working with children in some capacity (this doesn’t have to be a direct teaching experience, but one year experience with children is required)
*The company Nic works for is VIPKID. While this company sounds awesome to work for you must be eligible to work in the US or Canada (Make sure to use Nic’s code below). If you reside elsewhere in the world check out these 8 online English teaching companies to find one which suits you best.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to work as an English teacher?
Start now! I waited to get started until the timing felt right but I wish I had started a long time ago. Even if you don’t have specific plans to travel yet, start teaching online to save some money. You can do it in addition to your regular job back home and it’s so much fun!
Would you recommend teaching English online for someone who loves travelling?
Absolutely! If you’ve wanted to try out remote working and the digital nomad lifestyle, teaching English online is a great place to start. VIPKID is one of the most trusted names in the business, so they’re a great place to begin your online teaching career.
Do you know any more online teaching companies?
Yep! I’ve heard great things about GoGoKid which is structured similarly to VIPKID. If you don’t have a college degree, check out Cambly. If you don’t speak English as a native language, you can teach your native language online with iTalki.
Finally, if someone wants to apply to VIPKID, how should they do it?
You can apply to VIPKID here! Remember to use code NICOL0117 if you want me to help you out along the way.