Teaching English Online: How to Earn Good Money

2020 has been a crazy year for most people. The world and the ways that people work have completely changed. Luckily, it’s never been easier to work online and start a new career or a part-time side hustle to top up your income. And the best part of it all is that you can earn money from anywhere in the world! In this guide, I will comment on teaching English online in general, the qualifications you do (or don’t) need, and the platform (app) that I use: PalFish.

Teaching English Online Myths

“You need to be a Native English Speaker (NES).”

A NES is someone who speaks English as their first language and is a citizen of one, or more, of the following countries: USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand.

Not all companies require you to be a NES. Anyone with a high proficiency in English and the relevant qualifications (where necessary) can start teaching English online. Cambly, iTutor, Hujiang CCClass, and Topica Native are just a few examples of companies that invite non-native English speakers to apply.

“You need a degree.”

Nope! But you DO need a TEFL or TESOL qualification – more on this below.

Many companies do not require their teachers to have a degree! You DO NOT need a degree to teach English online using PalFish! PalFish requires you to have a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) qualification. There are some companies which DO NOT require TEFL or TESOL qualifications, however I do not know enough about them to comment on them here. Obtaining a TEFL or TESOL is quick and inexpensive. The qualification allows you to teach to the best of your abilities and be a good teacher, which is key to gaining students and earning good money.

I have included an overview of the exact TEFL course that I chose below. The 120 hour TEFL course with MyTEFL qualifies you to start teaching English online. MyTEFL have very kindly agreed to give my readers a 35% discount on the course price You can click here to view their website and use code milly35 to receive the discount.

You have to have a set schedule and a minimum contract length.”

Nope! You choose the hours you work and when you take days off. You can easily stop working if teaching isn’t for you and you want to try something else. As a teacher on PalFish (and many other platforms), you are free to set your schedule to work for you. You can work as much or as little as you like, and you can modify your schedule whenever you need to.

However, this is a job and you are talking to real, paying customers. You should treat this as you would treat any other job. Be punctual and reliable. Don’t cancel your appointments unless you HAVE to. Do not arrive late or completely miss the class. It is unprofessional and will upset your students. Would you be happy to pay for a service if your teacher is unreliable? You need to be reliable to make good money. Aim to get regular, repeat students, who keep coming back to have classes with you.

TEFL/TESOL

To start teaching English online, you need to get a TEFL or TESOL qualification. You can do this either in the classroom or online. You often need the 120 hour course as a minimum for teaching English online. Make sure you choose the right course when you sign up! This qualification also allows you to teach English in schools and language centres in many countries. Each country has their own specific steps and requirements. Some countries require degrees, but no TEFL/TESOL, for example. You must check your desired country’s requirements before you decide to do the TEFL/TESOL, if that is the reason why you decide to take the course.

Why MyTEFL?

I chose to do an online TEFL course with MyTEFL. MyTEFL is a well-known, approved online TEFL course provider. The MyTEFL qualification is a widely accepted qualification, which is recognised by many online teaching platforms. Click here for a link to the MyTEFL website. To enrol, select the 120 hour online course, and use code milly35 to get a 35% discount! This discount has been very kindly offered to my followers by MyTEFL, and so a larger discount is not available anywhere else on the website.

Although the course is called the 120 hour course, in reality it takes much less time than that to complete it. I was able to finish my course in one week (during lockdown in March). The course consists of many different sections on grammar, teaching styles, how to plan lessons, etc. There are short multiple choice tests to complete at the end of each section. Don’t panic! It’s very simple and easy to complete. When you finish your course, you’ll be sent a certificate via email. You can then use this to apply for teaching English online (or other) jobs.

MyTEFL is a socially responsible company. For every single course sold, a donation is made to charity. Students receive an email within 2 weeks of registration from a charity confirming their donation. MyTEFL are currently supporting people in several countries. They are building schools and providing food and hygiene kits to people in Nepal via Trek to Teach. MyTEFL also sponsors one-year vocational courses, plus accommodation and meals, for young people in Malawi.

PalFish

PalFish connects NESs teaching English online to Chinese students of all ages and abilities via video and voice calls. It’s an app based platform that works from most smartphones or tablets. You don’t need a laptop, because the app is mainly designed for phones and tablets, or a wired ethernet connection to use PalFish. The app is very social, and many students in China use it like a social media platform. If you use the app and it’s other components well, you will be more visible to students and will receive more bookings.

Teaching on PalFish

Teachers create a profile detailing their qualifications, facts about them, and their interests. You should tailor you profile to the type of students you want to attract (kids, adults, both). I recommend recording an intro voice message and intro video, so that prospective students can hear your voice and see your classroom straight away! You can post moments (like posts on Facebook or Instagram), do Lives (like a Facebook or Instagram Live) doing activities such as reading a picture book, taking a walk around your home town, an educational class, e.t.c. The messaging feature allows you to chat to other teachers or ask questions amongst the community, which is extremely useful.

To be a teacher on PalFish, you must be a NES from USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand (sorry, South Africa).

The busiest times, i.e. when more lessons are up for grabs, are as follows:

  • Mon – Fri – 5:30pm – 9pm BJT / 5:30am – 9am EST / 9:30am – 1pm GMT
  • Sat – Sun – 9am – 9pm BJT / 9pm – 9am EST / 1am – 1pm GMT

At the end of each class, you will receive your pay for that class into your PalFish wallet. You can keep track of how much you’ve earned in the Profile section on the app. Your pay collects in your wallet over the course of the month. On the 1st business day of the next month, the total balance in your wallet (as at midnight BJT on the last day of the month) is withdrawn. PalFish then transfers the money earned to you on or before the 7th calendar day. I usually get paid by the 5th.

There are two ways to start teaching English online on PalFish; the Official Kids Course (OKC) or Free Talk (FT). I only teach OKC, but this guide covers the basics of both. I have many friends who are successful at both OKC and FT or FT only, too.

Official Kids Course: OKC – Basics

OKC teachers teach children aged 3 – 14. Each class is 25 minutes long and is booked in a 30 minute time slot. All of the OKC lessons are completely prepared by PalFish, therefore you do not have to plan each lesson from scratch. Lessons are colourful and interactive in a slideshow format. Teachers can preview each lesson before they teach it. There is a Teacher’s Guide which tells the teacher exactly what to do and say for each slide. Lessons are booked for you in the slots you mark as available in your calendar.

OKC – How Do I Get Started?

OKC teachers have to pass an interview, i.e. a demo Trial class. You choose when to schedule the class so that you have time to prepare for it. If you sign up using my link here, I will guide you through the process and answer any questions that you may have.

Don’t be nervous at first! New teachers head straight into two weeks of training, given by the NES mentors (very experienced PalFish teachers). Mentors provide support to other teachers – new and old. They will help you to get to grips with to the platform, but are also available for you to seek advice and support throughout your PalFish career. You must complete the training classes for each Trial class, before you will be assigned real students. I advise you to create an intro video that shows off your classroom environment, as well as your teaching style, as early as possible, so that prospective students can use it to see what your classes will be like.

Rules

OKC teachers have to abide by certain rules. Your entire lesson is taught via a video call with the student, therefore your classes are recorded, so both the student and you can go back and watch the replay. You must be well presented, wearing a blue T-shirt. A colourful background which displays the PalFish logo – your “classroom” – is a must! There are many beautiful, pre-designed, backgrounds for teaching English online that you can order on Amazon, Etsy e.t.c. You can design your own background, using a website like Canva, and have it custom printed. Or, you can go full DIY and make your own (like mine)! You must teach every class in your classroom – you can’t teach in the car, for example.

The “Official Handbook” contains all of the rules, so you can refer back to it when needed. It’s pretty straightforward and most of the rules are common sense. You do need to read them, though, as you’ll have to do a short test on them when you apply. As an OKC Teacher, you’ll need to have a minimum of 3.5 hours (7 lessons) per week available for bookings during peak hours (above) to receive classes.

OKC – Payment

The number of “points” you achieved in the previous calendar month determines your pay level for the current month. Points are awarded for teaching a class, selling a course after a Trial class, and other bonus points e.g. for completing training from time to time. A Trial class is a lesson which you get paid to teach but is free for the student to take. The aim is that they will like the class and buy a package of lessons. Points will be deducted if you are late or absent for class, for receiving a complaint, and for cancelling classes at short notice.

All classes qualify for a 5 RMB bonus for being on time to a class. For trial classes, all teachers are paid at 55 RMB (50 RMB + 5 RMB on time bonus) – approx. $8/£6 per 25 minute class. Your payment for official course lessons (lessons with students who have purchased a package of lessons, who you often see regularly each week) depends on your level. Assuming you arrive on time, the levels work as follows:

  • Level 1 – 0-300 points – 55 RMB – approx. $17/£13 per hour (2 classes per hour)
  • Level 2 – 300-700 points – 60 RMB – approx. $18/£14 per hour (2 classes per hour)
  • Level 3 – 700-1,100 points – 65 RMB – approx. $20/£15 per hour (2 classes per hour)
  • Level 4 – 1,100-1,500 points – 70 RMB – approx. $21/£16 per hour (2 classes per hour)
  • Level 5 – 1,500+ points – 75 RMB – approx. $23/£17 per hour (2 classes per hour)

OKC – How Do Bookings Work?

I teach mainly regular OKC students, most of whom have bought a package of lessons with me after our Trial class. Sometimes, you may gain students who are part-way through their courses. The student or their previous teacher may have had a schedule change. Maybe the student wants more than one teacher (I share some of my students with other teachers, too). Sometimes, your current students may recommend you to their friends or family members. I have taught two sets of brothers and a friend of an existing student, as a result of teaching one of each for a few months. Your classes will be assigned automatically by the sales team and head teachers, who are the Chinese PalFish staff. Sometimes, the students book their appointments themselves, by going through your schedule and choosing an available slot.

Free Talk: FT – General

FT teachers have a lot more flexibility. You are in charge of everything that you teach. From creating your own lesson packages and preparing students for exams, to just having informal chats or reading books with students of all ages. FT teachers are also not bound by as many rules. Blue T-shirts and the PalFish logo are not required. You don’t even have to use the video part of the call, but you do need to be somewhere appropriate and quiet to take the call – this is work, after all.

FT students can book appointments with you in advance based on your availability, or you can click the “Start Tutoring” button and your status will show as online to students looking for a teacher to call. Any student can call you at any time, but most will send you a message first before calling. You do not have to stay on the app to receive calls, but don’t forget that you’re online if you do something else while you wait for a call!

Free Talk – Payment

FT teachers set their own pay rates. As you gain more experience and more students, you can charge more for your lessons. You’ll choose your “trial rate”, which is the price per minute that callers receive for their first call with you, and your “normal rate”, which is the price per minute for subsequent calls with the same student after the first call. FT teachers can also create Lesson Packages. Packages are a set number of minutes usually at a discounted price – on any topic they wish. Students may book multiple slots in a row to use more minutes at one time. Note: PalFish keeps 20% of your fee for FT lessons, which is deducted before the money hits your wallet, so consider this when setting your rates.

Money – My Experience

I have consistently earned between $2,900/£2,200 and $4,200/£3,200 per month since I started working on PalFish. It all depends on the number of hours you decide to work! Are you thinking of becoming location independent or has your income been affected by COVID? If so, teaching English online really is a viable way to make a decent wage. It’s even a decent bit of extra cash for just a few hours per week. You are aiming to catch students’ and head teachers’ attentions by being active on the app. This, in turn, then helps you to attract new students. The hard work does pay off. It’s also a very rewarding job, as you are helping real students across the world to improve their language skills.

Any Questions?

Do you have any questions about teaching English online or about MyTEFL or PalFish specifically? If so, please feel free to contact me! You can do this via email or at the Contact page. If you are ready to apply to PalFish, you can message me using the PalFish messenger on the app using my sign-up link here. Disclaimer: I will get a small bonus if you sign-up using my links and codes. Because of this, I will help you to prepare for the interview and guide you through the sign-up process. Think of it as a way of saying thank you. If you decide to make a step towards a new career, then please do update me on your progress. I would love to hear how you are getting on!

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