Teaching English Online: A Guide for Digital Nomads

If you’re looking at becoming a digital nomad, a full-time traveler, or searching for ways to make money while you travel, you’ve thought of teaching English online or abroad. Which totally makes sense, by the way! So you’re saying you can make money while traveling just by teaching the language you already speak? Sign me up! Well, friend, it’s definitely a huge opportunity that not enough people are taking advantage of and isn’t even difficult to start! To teach English online and abroad, you’re going to need to know a few things in regards to experience, qualifications, and which countries to teach English in. Throughout our full-time travels, we’ve met dozens of travelers who’ve made full-time incomes just by teaching English online. We have picked their brains and this is everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

A digital nomad teaching English online

Why You Should Teach English Online as a Digital Nomad

Teaching English Online is a great entry into full-time travel and digital nomad life. That’s because when you teach English online, you can make money from anywhere in the world. Online English teachers also have benefits like setting their own hours, getting a stable paycheck, and even sometimes getting benefits! If you have a knack for sharing knowledge with others, teaching English online is a great opportunity to monetize your passion! With dozens of platforms to choose from, it is a no brainer option for those looking for a quick way to make money while traveling!

Another amazing benefit of teaching English online is that you can work as much or as little as you want. We’ve had friends who teach English online when they are running low on money. They also take on more hours if they’re trying to save up for a big trip or purchase. On the flip side, they’re able to take weeks off when they’ve saved up enough money to continue traveling. Teaching English online is a great, flexible, and reliable way to earn an income online.

Related: 3 Easy Ways to Make Money While Traveling the World

Woman teaching English online to others on a computer

How to Start Teaching English Online

To start teaching English online, you’re going to need:

  • A bachelor’s degree or TEFL certificate (dependent on the platform)
  • A platform for teaching English online- there are dozens
  • Some basic tech gear for optimal sound quality and teacher props
  • Experience with kids or teaching (dependent on the platform)
  • A reliable laptop
  • And a strong internet connect

That’s it!

Although the experience and education components exponentially increase your chances of scoring a high paying job teaching English online, it’s not always mandatory. There are many platforms online that have loose requirements!

Woman teaching another woman something on the computer

Do you need to have teaching experience to teach English online as a Digital Nomad?

Having experience teaching makes it much easier to get a job teaching English online, but it’s not mandatory. Some platforms are designed like study groups and less like classrooms. Those platforms are great for people who are new to teaching English online and want practice. And especially for those of you who want to be Digital Nomads and make some extra cash on the side, these study group style platforms make it easy!

Something to note, however, with less experience comes less pay. If you’re looking at pursuing teaching English online seriously, you might want to consider volunteering in a classroom to gain experience. You would be surprised what a little fluff on your resume could do for your pay rate!

Related: What is a Digital Nomad? What You Need to Know

Woman teaching English with a pen

Can You Teach English online Without a Degree?

Like I was mentioning earlier, it is possible to teach English online in a less formal setting. Although with less experience and in this case education, comes less pay and options. Also without having either a TEFL or bachelor’s degree it can be harder getting a job in the first place. However, there are a few platforms that let you get away without experience and education.

Black chalkboard with words in English written on them by a teacher

What qualifications do I need to teach English online as a digital Nomad?

To get a high paying job teaching English online, you’re going to need a bachelor’s degree, 1 year of teaching experience, and preferably a TEFL certificate. With these requirements, you can stand to make a very nice salary that can easily replace your income from back home. One of my friends was able to teach English in South Korea and made over $50,000 a year with free room and board! All because she had top-notch qualifications! This allowed her to make money while traveling South Korea and teaching English.

Now, don’t get discouraged if you don’t have these qualifications. Even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can still get a TEFL certificate online and start to apply for high paying course platforms.

Child Learning English Online from China

What is a TEFL Certificate?

A TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. It’s a certification that is globally recognized to let you teach both kids and adults English as a foreign language. There are a few certifications that you can get, such as an ESL certificate, both it is not the same! ESL certificates are designed to teach you how to teach English learners who are living in an English speaking country. For example, teaching English to a Cuban immigrant living in Florida. A TEFL certificate teaches you how to teach English to people learning in a different country. For example, how to teach English to students learning in China.

How do I get a TEFL certificate?

You can get a TEFL certificate both in-person and online. Most universities and community colleges have a TEFL or ESL certification program available. However, if you've already started traveling full-time and just trying to learn how to make money while traveling, you can do it online. From what my friends have told me, they prefer the in-person classes because you're able to learn hands-on with another instructor. However, online courses will give you the same certificate.

If you want to get your TEFL, click here for more information!

Girl working on her TEFL certificate so she can teach English online

How long does it take to get a TEFL certificate for Teaching English Online?

Course options are a minimum of 100 hours long, and go very in-depth. A lot of people think that they can get away with teaching English by just being fluent, but it's not that simple. Teaching English Online to students who have no experience with the language can be overwhelming. You're going to have to explain concepts of grammar, nouns, preverbs, and things you probably haven't covered since elementary school. Having a TEFL certificate is imperative if you're planning on taking this seriously and making it a profitable option for you.

How much does Teaching English Online Pay?

As a digital nomad, you're going to want to know how much you're going to make teaching English online. Franky, Teaching English Online can have a pretty varied salary. Depending on the platform that you choose to teach English on, English teachers online can expect to earn between $1000-$5000 a month! The salary varies depending on the online English teacher platform you're teaching on, your teaching experience, as well as any certifications or degrees you hold. If you plan on teaching English online, you can expect to earn between $10-$22 dollars an hour! One thing that's important to note is that there are dozens of platforms where you can teach English Online. However, some of these platforms require you to be from a specific country to be accepted.

Related: 10 Best Location Independent Jobs That Let You Travel Full-Time

Do I Need Any Special Tech to Teach English Online?

The tech required for teaching English online varies by platform. For example, VIPKid requires a simple backdrop and a headset. But here are all of the things that will set you apart as an instructor and will keep your students and parents happy:

Macbook Air used for Teaching English Online

Laptop with a Webcam

For teaching English online, you don't need a super-powerful laptop to get the job done. If you're trying to make money while traveling I recommend getting a Macbook Air. These laptops are tiny, light-weight, but powerful enough to keep you connected. Not to mention they are super durable! In 2015, I was on a long-haul flight with my MacBook when I spilled an entire cup of Bailey's coffee on the keyboard! The laptop was on, flickered for a second and then shut off for three days. Like, literally would not turn on. I thought that was the end of the road for my laptop. But miraculously, on day 4 my computer turned on with no signs of damage outside of a coffee stain on the screen. Years later, I'm still using it to type this all out to you right now.

If you already have a laptop that you know and trust, don't replace it. But if you're in the market for something that will last forever, weighs next to nothing, and will allow you to teach like a pro, this is the laptop for you!

Headset with Microphone Used for teaching English Online

Headset with Microphone

A headset is required by some teaching platforms but is honestly recommended for all of them. If you're planning on taking this seriously, it's worth investing in one. They change the game for your sound quality, make you look professional, and increase your student retention! Remember, although you're catering to the students, the parents are the ones paying you. If you want to retain your student, you want to set yourself apart from the competition.

Alphabet cards used for teaching English online as a Digital Nomad

Alphabet Cards

Alphabet cards are not required by any course platform, but can drastically set you apart from others trying to teach English online. Outside of making you look good, alphabet cards and teacher props really enhance the student experience! Imagine back when you were in school. Did you learn from the boring teacher that always wrote down everything on the board and spoke as though she was trying to make you meditate?! Or did you learn best from the teacher that was loud, funny, and made the class engaging? Remember these kids are taking your class to learn. The more fun and engaging your class, the more they will learn from you!

Map Backdrop used for teaching English Online

Map Backdrop

Kids love learning about you as their teacher! Most of the kids you'll be teaching will be in countries very far away from your own! Having a map like this one allows you to engage them with questions like, "where are you from?". It also lets them get to know a little bit more about you! You can tell them stories about your travels, practice conversational skills, and take them on visual storytelling journeys! Also, map backdrops roll up tiny and can easily fit in your carry on.

A Dry Erase board used for Teaching English Online as a Digital Nomad

A Dry-Erase Board and Markers

Teaching kids English might involve teaching them an entirely different alphabet. Modeling that behavior by writing it down on a dry erase board like this one can make it easier for them to learn how to write. Also, there are tons of fun ideas for keeping your students engaged using reward systems, smiley faces, and drawings to reinforce class concepts.

Hand puppets of various animals

A Sock Puppet

This is something you don't have to buy and is super easy to make with a couple of old socks. Sock puppets are a fun and easy way to model conversations. This helps keep your students engaged and entertained. Also, they fold up very small and are easy to carry around if you're teaching English online as a digital nomad. If you are not a craft person, here's a simple tutorial on how to make a sock puppet. If you're not into crafting at all, here's a set of 4 already made for you! 🙂

Pro Tip:

For those of you who are looking to make money while traveling, you're probably limited on space. A couple of pro-teacher friends keep all of their teaching English online gear in a small shoebox for portability and safekeeping!

The Best Platforms for Teaching English Online as a Digital Nomad (Organized by Pay) that Require a Degree/TEFL

Little girl with books that say never stop learning

VIPKid

VIPKid is an amazing platform for teaching English online and is the highest paying one, too! It's currently the leading online platform for Teaching English to Chinese students. VIPKid is limited to teachers from North America, and they do require a minimum of a bachelor's degree and prefer at least one year of teaching experience. The pay on this platform is between $14-$22 USD per hour and the classes are on a one-on-one basis. One nice thing is that VIPKid creates lesson plans for you, so you never have to plan out your own curriculum.

VIPKid does have an application process that involves teaching a demo class to an interviewer. Although this may be nerve-wracking at first, you can find tons of YouTube videos online that teach you how to best prepare. VIPKid requires that you have a classroom "backdrop", even if it's a portable one and a headset with a microphone. If you're wondering about the things we recommend you use, take a look at the "Gear" section above.

To get started with VIPKid, click here!

Big blocks that say the words "teach"

GogoKid

GogoKid is another great platform to teach English online for loads of reasons. For one, the classes are one-on-one and you're teaching kids from China. The curriculum is also decided for you, they have great pay incentives, and you can set your own hours. The pay is between $8-$25 USD per hour which makes it one of the high paying platforms especially when you hit the pay incentives. They do require a bachelor's degree but DO NOT require a TEFL certification (though they admit it helps. GogoKid is limited to Americans and Canadian and they require at least one year of teaching experience. So keep that in mind if you're applying.

I want to give you a heads up that on occasion there are communication issues with the company. For one, on their website, it says that pay starts at $14, but that is simply not accurate. This is not going to be a problem for everyone, but I would rather you go into it with eyes wide open. Also, the base pay is low when you first start out in comparison to other teaching platforms like VIPKid.

If you want to get started with GogoKid, click here!

Black chalkboard with English alphabet surrounding it

DadaABC

DadABC, like many of the platforms on this list, focus on teaching Chinese students. The pay with this platform is great and ranges between $15-$22 USD per hour. The classes are one-on-one, and you can work from anywhere in the world. This is awesome especially for those of you looking at teaching English online as digital nomads. DadaABC requires a bachelor's degree in any field and openly prefers teachers with a TEFL. DadaABC is limited to North American teachers from Canada and the USA, so keep that in mind while applying.

Why DadaABC is Great

Some great aspects of using DadaABC for teaching English online is that they have the curriculum already laid out for you. This keeps you from spending hours of your life creating lesson plans. Also, DadaABC has a booming Facebook community where you can chat with other teachers and exchange ideas. Lastly, you can set your own hours, and they have great pay incentives.

Why DadaABC is not Great

Some not so great aspects of DadaABC have caused quite a bit of controversy for some teachers in the past. For one, they allow kids to take one trial class with you, which are free of charge. This means that occasionally, you're working for free. Also, after each class, you have to fill out a class report for the parents. This is usually not a problem, but the time it takes to fill these out is not paid either. What I've heard from other teachers is that this a time consuming and can be repetitive when things don't change very drastically from class to class. Furthermore, DadaABC charges teachers fines for all sorts of things like disconnected service canceled students and showing up late. Though the incentives may be great, this is all enough to turn some teachers away. Lastly, the base pay is low.

If you still want to give DadaABC a shot, click here to get started.

Guy Teaching English to a Group of people

The Best Platforms for Teaching English Online  as a Digital Nomad (Organized by Pay) that DON'T Require a Degree/TEFL

Italki

Italki is one of the best platforms to teach English online because they allow you to teach any language that you're fluent in, not just English. This is a huge opportunity for those of you who are multi-lingual and feel comfortable teaching others different languages. Italki does not require a degree, but it does pay more to people that have degrees or certifications to teach a specific language. The pay ranges between $12-$25 USD per hour, and they allow you to set your own pay rate. Keep in mind that although you can set your pay rate, you don't want to be way more expensive than your competition. You may not get any gigs if you do that.

Italki's classes are one-on-one and they cater to a global audience. You can be from any country to teach English online with Italki, and you can set your own hours! There is no contract with this platform which makes it easy to work as much or as little as you want. There are a couple of things I want to give you a heads up about. For one, Italki takes 15% from each class you teach which is a pretty high margin. Secondly, you have to set up your own lesson plan, unlike other platforms that create it for you.

If you want to get started with Italki, click here!

Cambly

Cambly is a great platform for teaching English online for those of you who don't have a degree or TEFL. The students you will be tutoring extend far past China, as Cambly caters to students worldwide. The structure for Cambly is more like a study group than a proper classroom, which makes it nice and informal. One caveat to this is that your students may not be consistent each time. Also, the pay on Cambly isn't the best, capping out at $10.20 USD per hour assuming you have students for that long. With that said, Cambly is a great option for those of you who just want to make some extra cash on the side without going through the trouble or investment of getting a TEFL. Cambly, like many of the other platforms, allows you to set your own hours and doesn't make you sign a contract. Woot woot!

I do want to give you a heads up, some of the students on Cambly can be creepy or even inappropriate. A common suggestion from other female teachers is to use a pseudonym so your students can't stalk you.

To try out Cambly and get a FREE 10-minute class, use the code: Chase for Adventure

Young Girl Learning English in a school uniform

Teaching English Online for Digital Nomads Takeaways

Teaching English online is a great way to make money while traveling the world as a digital nomad. Although it may seem complicated to get started at first, teaching English online can be an easy and profitable way to sustain your travels long-term. There are tons of great platforms for you to choose from, you just need to find the one that's right for you.

So, how about you? Have you started teaching English online? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below 🙂

If you want more ideas on how to make digital nomad life sustainable, we have an entire video series on YouTube called Nomadic Monday's where we teach you exactly how! Binge watch the series below!

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