No Experience? No Degree? No Problem! Getting Started Teaching English Online

Guest written by i-to-i graduate and online tutor Sarah

My jaw dropped as I caught my first glimpse of Mexico City peaking through the clouds. I couldn’t believe the monstrosity that sprawled on and on outside my tiny window. Goosebumps pimpled my forearms. How on earth would I make it in this place? I’d come to do volunteer work teaching about the Bible, but I still had to support myself. And as I gazed wide-eyed at the metropolis below, I felt more and more hopeless.

Friends had told me about teaching English online. “You’re a native speaker, it’ll be easy for you.”, “Trust me, you don’t need experience.”, “It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a degree.” Were just some of the things they were saying to me.

I was a secretary. I’d had 4 or 5 years of humble experience filing manila folders and answering customer phone calls about their retirement plans. I had the grand qualification of a high school diploma and a few Microsoft Office certificates and could type about 70 words a minute. No teaching qualifications. Whatsoever.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll meet a Sarah with 6 years of experience teaching English online for 6 different companies. What changed? And why do I recommend teaching English online rather that in a brick-and-mortar school?

Step 1: Get your TEFL certificate with i-to-i!

I’ve read and seen it ring true that you need at least 120 hours of TEFL training to be marketable to employers, and i-to-i offers great packages. The best thing about their courses is the flexibility (you can learn completely online at your own pace) and their reasonable pricing. When you’re just getting started teaching English, you have neither money nor experience. You might be nervous about teaching the grammar from 5th grade you can’t remember or wonder how you’re supposed to pay for a training course when you don’t have a job to start with. Well, i-to-i has you covered! Their courses often go on sale so you can get a great deal, and you’ll get thorough grammar refreshers as well as explanations about how to effectively teach English online or abroad.

Step 2: Get your foot in the door-with the community

I got my first online teaching job by word-of-mouth referral. A couple friends here in Mexico City taught English online and they referred me to their company. I was on boarded and teaching my first English lesson in no time. I’ve found my other online jobs through LinkedIn, since I had my profile updated with my TEFL certification and (now) my teaching experience. As time goes on, referrals get easier and easier. I now get so many people offering me English students that I have to reject them!

Step 3: Start small

Online English teaching companies vary greatly in requirements and pay rates. You may have to accept a job that pays a lot less at first just to get some experience. If you want to get your feet wet, perhaps try Cambly (I can refer you if you email me at sarah.rice04@hotmail.com).

How to teach English guide

Why do I prefer teaching online vs a brick-and-mortar school?

1. Flexibility

My schedule is completely fluid. If I want the weekend off to go visit some friends, I take the weekend off. If I didn’t sleep well and need to take the morning off? No problem. When I need more money and want to work more? I can do that too. If you work for multiple companies, you get much more flexibility.

2. Much better pay!

Physical schools here in Mexico City have offered me anywhere from 50 to 100 pesos per hour to teach; that’s under $5 USD per hour. Online, I earn between $10 and $22 USD per hour, depending on the company.

3. Guaranteed pay for no-shows

If the students don’t show up, I still get paid. That doesn’t happen if you’re a freelance in-person English teacher. Plus, I found that in Mexico, folks don’t have the same concept of scheduling and keeping appointments as back in the US so no-shows can happen quite regularly.

4. No countless hours spent on preparing class materials

With many online companies, class material is provided free and in advance. The teacher needs to read over it prior to class, but all the work of creating activities, games, and exercises is already done for you – easy.

5. No hectic travel through that monstrous metropolis

Try the Mexico City metro at rush hour ONCE, and you’ll never do it again! You can easily waste 2 exhausting hours traversing the city. It’s much nicer to sit in your own home, front of your laptop in your slippers with a hot cup of coffee.

6. No work visa needed (depending on your destination country)

You want to live the dream abroad, but you’re worried about pesky legal requirements. Depending on where you’re going, working online could help you dodge needing a visa.

That monster city that frightened me so much at first is now home, and it’s all been thanks to teaching English online. Your first step is getting your TEFL certificate, which can be done on YOUR TIME from the comfort of your own home. So, what are you waiting for? Check out i-to-i’s courses today!

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