Teaching English can be a great remote job as well as a nice side hustle. If you teach online, you can do it anywhere as long as you have internet. These days people love to learn online, and there are many companies that teach English this way. While it’s fun to teach kids, I found that teaching business English to adults was more interesting, fun and rewarding, and it suited me the best.

Why Teach English?

Learning English is in high demand. While more countries teach English to their children than ever, many adults never acquired this skill. And even if they did, there is still a need to improve – for getting a better job, for getting into university, for travel, or even for helping their own children with English. English is the official language of a growing number of global companies, no matter where they are from, because they have multinational employees and overseas divisions. These include Nokia, Nissan, Airbus, Renault, Honda and Siemens.

Due to the global interconnectedness of our world, English has become a lingua franca – a bridge language used by non-native speakers to communicate. We see this in our travels to places that receive travelers from all over the world. In fact, in the world today, native speakers of English are actually outnumbered by non-native speakers. English is the most used language on the internet. It’s the language of fields like diplomacy and aviation.

Why I Decided to Teach English

Several years ago, I started thinking about what kind of job I could have that I could do anywhere in the world, maybe after we retire. Teaching English came to mind because so many people are learning English, and you can teach it in person or online. It seemed like a particularly good fit for me for several reasons:

  • I speak English fluently (plus, four years of Honors English)
  • I understand the process and challenges of learning another language
  • It’s a remote job, so flexible hours

Learning HOW to Teach English

As I was considering my options, I ran across a course designed to familiarize me with teaching English online and give me the tools to be successful. I signed up! It was very comprehensive and really gave me all the information I needed to create a business online, attract students, design courses, and start working in this field. The main reason I took it was to learn HOW to teach English (since I’m not a teacher by vocation) and that was critical in getting me up to speed and giving me the confidence to pursue this occupation.

I highly recommend this course:

📖 The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English Online by John Clites

In fact, John was the one who suggested that, since I have an MBA and extensive business experience, I should teach business English to adults. He set me on this path that really fit me better than teaching small children.

The EF Teaching Experience

Upon completion of the course, I decided not to start my own business right away, but rather to get experience working with one of the largest online platforms. EF (Education First) is a large education company founded in Sweden in 1965. In addition to online language classes, they also have brick and mortar schools, overseas studies programs, educational travel and more.

Most importantly, I could teach business English to adults, which perfectly suited my interests and experience.

EF’s Teaching Requirements

Before I could get on with EF, I had to fulfill some requirements. Those for teaching for EF are similar to other major companies. Here are EF’s requirements:

☑️ Be a resident of the United States

You must be living and authorized to work in the United States.

☑️ Be a fully fluent English speaker

You have to be a fully fluent English speaker (C2 level) to work as an online English teacher.

☑️ Have a Bachelor’s Degree

You must have completed a bachelor’s degree. It does not have to be a degree in either teaching or English – any degree will be sufficient.

☑️ Have a TEFL Certificate

TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”, and it is a standard certification for English teachers. The minimum requirement to teach online is a 40 hour TEFL certificate. You can start working on your certification during the application process. However, it must be completed prior to teaching on the online teaching platform.

I found a company called Bridge that offers multiple TEFL courses and credentials. Two courses got me the basic TEFL certificate and then some: “Foundations in Teaching English Online” and “Advanced Methods of Teaching English Online.” These were courses designed specifically for the online environment. Then I added a specialized course: “Teaching Business English Online.” I was on my way!

TEFL Certificate for teaching English to adults online
TEFL Certificate for teaching business
English to adults online

EF Business English Classes

After completing a brief online EF training course, I was able to teach two different types of classes: Group lessons and private lessons. The group lessons were 45 minutes long and typically had 4-7 students. It would be for a specific level of proficiency (from Beginner to Advanced), and the curriculum was predetermined. Private lessons were with a single student and they were either 20 or 40 minutes long. I enjoyed teaching adults as I felt that I could relate well to them.

The majority of the students I had were from China or Brazil, but I personally taught students from 33 countries, including Argentina, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, Japan, Peru and Indonesia.

Some of the people I’ve taught: a business student at the University of Santiago in Chile; an executive with Save the Children in Bogotá; a female charter pilot in China; a Brazilian woman with a PhD preparing a presentation for Ivy League schools in the U.S.; an engineer who works at Embraer in Brazil; a Colombian student in Germany working on mapping the ocean floor.

I started teaching online in 2019. When the Covid pandemic hit, I had the ideal online teaching job at a time when everyone was stuck at home, learning on the internet. It was a fascinating window to a world in lockdown, where the parents were at home, the kids were at home, and they were trying to find their way through it all.

➡️ Learn More About Teaching Online with EF

Working for a Company vs Working for Yourself

The fastest way to get started and acquire teaching experience is to go to work with a large company, like VIPKid or EF. The starting pay is not as good as working for yourself, but they have everything set up for you – the online interface, the class materials, the schedule and the students. You just have to sign up and show up.

On the other hand, if you are interested in starting your own online business, you can command more money (especially once you get yourself established). However, you have to do everything yourself. You will need to set up an online presence – a website – then market your business to attract students. Once they have signed up, you will need course materials and a way to teach online, perhaps by Zoom or other interface. It will be up to you to handle the registration of your business, billing and payments, marketing, course creation, teaching, and taxes. If you have owned and operated a business in the past and are familiar with how all this works, then this might be the best way to go.

For those of you who are interested in starting your own business, then I highly recommend this course:

📖 The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English Online by John Clites

John has been teaching English for many years and can impart his years of experience so you don’t have to figure it out on your own. It includes all the essential aspects of running a teaching business such as:

  • Getting Set Up Online (technical requirements)
  • Defining Your Niche
  • Setting Your Pay Rate
  • Marketing
  • Billing
  • Finding Course Materials
  • Lesson Planning and Preparation
  • Scheduling
  • Initial Skill Assessment (determining your student’s skill level)
  • Conducting Class

A Word About China

In August 2021, Chinese governmental reforms changed the way the online teaching market operates in China. It prohibited teachers living outside of China from teaching Chinese students online. Therefore, this massive online market has largely disappeared. However, plenty of demand for English teachers remains around the world.

Summary: Teaching English to Adults

Learning English is in high demand. While it’s fun to teach children, I found that teaching business English to adults suited me the best. Their motivations for learning are different than for kids, which made it more interesting and rewarding.