Imagine having a full time career in your home country, while also being able to boost your income by teaching students from all over the world. Sound appealing? Well, TEFL teacher Tabitha thinks it’s great! After stints of teaching English full time in China, France and online, Tabitha decided to put down some roots by taking on a full-time role with a training communications company in London, UK. To keep her passion for teaching and travel alive (and really boost her earnings) Tabitha continues to teach English online part-time.
She went live on i-to-i’s Facebook page last week to share her experience of teaching English as a side hustle with TEFL jobs expert, Jordan, and to answer all of your burning questions. You can watch the full webinar here or read on for edited extracts.
Why did you start teaching English part-time?
My first experience of TEFL was very traditional: I completed my TEFL qualification with i-to-i, moved to China and taught English in person in a classroom. After six months in China, Covid hit. I finished my contract by teaching my classes online from the UK. After about six months, I moved to France where I taught English to really young children as well as studying French. I had a successful period of about eight months teaching online and then landed back in the UK.
I absolutely love teaching English online but I really enjoy the travel component of TEFL and being immersed in a country while I’m teaching. The same applies to the UK: having those water cooler moments, having colleagues and making friends is a great way to put down roots. I can’t travel right now to the places I want to go so I thought, why not make my teaching online passion into a side project and then get a job to achieve some of my other goals and get bedded back into UK life.
How do you find time to teach English as a side hustle alongside a full time job?
I work Monday to Friday, nine to five in the office and have a bit of commuting time. When I decided I really missed teaching online, I had to sit down with a calendar and work out how many hours I could do. I give about five to ten hours a week to teaching English. If I was working from home, I could probably add in a few more hours but I need time to see my friends, family, and to recharge.
When you say ‘side hustle’ people think they don’t have the time: they’re so tired, they’re so stressed, particularly with the current global situation. Of course, you’re going to feel tired waking up an hour earlier so you can teach an English class before you go into the office but, if something is your passion, it doesn’t really feel like work.
Think about your life now: are you studying? Are you working? Have you got loads of time as you’re waiting for borders to re-open? Bearing in mind that you also need time for planning and follow up, how many hours a week could you give to teaching English classes?
How do you find your TEFL students?
I’ve used Preply and italki to find TEFL students. They’re both marketplace sites, where students go to find a teacher who matches what they need in terms of specialisms, timetable, and length of class. You can put up how much time you have available and you can charge a competitive rate.
They’re both fantastic but I personally prefer italki as students can book classes whenever they want. Preply has a subscription model tying students into two classes a week which can be quite a commitment if you’re doing TEFL as a side hustle. Preply also takes a 25% commission at the beginning (although that does go down over time) whereas italki only takes 15%.
LoveTEFL Jobs has details of this type of marketplace sites, including Cambly and Oxinity which are other sites that are popular with TEFL teachers.
I’m also now taking a new plunge and building my own website, www.helloteachertab.com, where students will be able to find me and book lessons direct.
What are the main challenges of teaching English part-time?
The number one challenge for anyone who has a side hustle (whether that is selling clothes online or teaching English) is that it’s tiring having two jobs. You need to prioritise your self-care. You need to sleep enough. You can’t teach at the expense of basic needs. It should be adding to your life, not taking away. You’ll have a lot on your plate, so try to use existing materials as much as possible to cut down your planning time. There are some great websites, such as ESL Brains where you can get access to loads of pre-made, high quality plans and materials.
It’s also important to look at the popular lesson times for students. If you’re free after work at 6pm on a Thursday in the UK, that could be a really good time to teach in South America but a rubbish time to teach in China because they’ll all be asleep. There is a website called worldtimebuddy.com which helps you identify time zones and you can check popular lesson times on networking platforms, like italki.
The other thing, in terms of balancing your schedule, is choice. You’re choosing to follow your passion, help people make a genuine difference and make more money but there are only 24 hours in a day so that probably does mean you’ll have to make some sacrifices. You might not be able to go out every night. You might have to wake up early. It’s a choice. Factor that in and recognise that you might need to make a few sacrifices – but it’s worth it!
Individual TEFL networking platforms may focus on a specific market – is this a factor when you’re looking for places to teach part-time?
If you’re teaching online full-time and you can put up loads of slots throughout the day, you’ll have students from Asia, students from South America, students from Europe, students from all over the place.
If you can only do evenings in the UK, then you’re closing off the Asian markets. That’s not a problem if you use the right networking platform. For example, Preply and Oxinity both have a large European market. However, if you only use a website like Cambly or Magic Ears you might struggle because they focus on students in China, and the times you’re available won’t match up with the market on that platform. It’s more of a delicate balance. Decide what times you want to teach and then make sure you find the right platform for that timezone.
What are the advantages of teaching English part-time?
This is a controversial one, but I actually think doing TEFL part time can make you a better teacher!
Typically, students are busy and juggling a lot to fit learning English into their life. If you’re a full time TEFL teacher doing back-to-back lessons, you’re so zoned into the world of TEFL, you lose a bit of that appreciation of how busy they are. When you wake up early to do a class, go to the office, come home, say that you can’t go to the pub because you’ve got a lesson, you have that instant rapport with your students because that is what they’re doing.
When you’re working as well as teaching, there is also much more common ground. When I was teaching lessons all day, unless I looked at the news, I had no idea what was going on outside my window. Now I’m interacting with colleagues and clients every day, there is so much to talk about. If you hit on an interesting topic on LinkedIn or with a client in conversation, there is a great chance that it will interest your students too.
Another big advantage is the added income! Your income from your full-time role will usually go on your rent and essentials which means all the money you earn from teaching can be saved for travelling or spent on whatever you want!
What TEFL courses would you recommend to teach full-time or as a way to top up your income?
Start with the basics: make sure you’ve got your fundamental Level 5 TEFL qualification for whichever type of role you want to do. In terms of turning TEFL into a side hustle, I suggest you make yourself a specialist in order to carve out a space in the busy online market. If you’re teaching in a specialist market, you can often charge more as well.
Think about what you’re interested in and what you’re passionate about. If you love the world of business, look into the business English course, if you want to coach students for exams, look at the IELTS course. There are some really interesting specialist courses now, like Teaching English through Yoga and TEFL and Technology, for really niche areas!
Many of the specialist courses are included in i-to-i’s diplomas. For example, the Level 5 420-hour Advanced TEFL Diploma includes specialist training in teaching young learners, teaching adults, tutoring one-to-one, teaching English online, coaching the IELTS exam and teaching business English as well as the 180-hour TEFL fundamentals course. The 500-hour Level 5 course even has specialist modules on how to create your own business and market yourself as a TEFL freelancer.
Personally, I want to teach business English classes. I’ve got experience teaching business English, I enjoy it and I come from that business world but, to be on top of my game, I’m doing a top-up 60-hour business English course.
How do you know what to charge for your online English lessons?
It’s really easy to get guidance on what to charge for your online lessons: be the customer. Go on a website like italki and look for English classes as a student and see what the competitive rate is from teachers who have a similar profile and level of experience.
When you do an initial search, you’ll see a load of cheap lessons but these tend to be with less qualified teachers and you can change the search to fit what you offer. For example, if you search for native English TEFL teachers who teach business English, then you can see what other teachers charge for those lessons.
What is your top tip for teaching English as a side hustle?
My top tip is to get excited about what you’re doing. To do anything in addition to your main job is tiring and may not be that profitable initially. You have to be inherently motivated about what you’re doing.
Teaching English is an amazing job. It’s so exciting to see people communicate in a way that they couldn’t and to see people move ahead in their career just because of your lessons. If that’s not worth waking up an hour early for, what is?
As you build your reputation and become a better teacher, if you can still be excited about getting up every day to teach a lesson, you’re off to a great start.
Where can South Africans find online teaching jobs?
The LoveTEFL Jobs board has a whole array of opportunities for teaching online.
At the moment, over 90% of online jobs that are being advertised on the site accept qualified teachers who have a South African passport, so there are lots of opportunities.
Who do you think teaching English part-time would suit?
I think teaching English part time would suit so many people:
- Language lovers who want to earn extra money: There are loads of positive for teaching online (you can work from anywhere, choose your own hours and be your own boss) but your income is not stable, you don’t get sick pay and you’re alone. If you’ve got a main job, you’ve probably got health insurance, sick pay, colleagues and a stable income, so anything you make from teaching online is extra. If you make $50 extra in a week from doing five extra lessons, that’s great.
- People who want to try TEFL before they commit to a full time teaching role: Teaching part time is a great way of testing the water before committing to a full-time TEFL role. You could get qualified with the TEFL Diploma and start teaching a mixture of students to find out what you love doing.
- Parents, carers, students – anyone who has other commitments: I think doing TEFL part-time is great for people whose time is limited but want to earn money doing something they’re passionate about. This could also include retired people, who were teachers 30 years ago and want to get back into it.
- Teachers who can’t go abroad due to Covid-19: We’re in a very difficult situation globally and a lot of TEFL teachers are stuck in limbo, as they can’t go abroad. If you take on a main job (so you don’t have to worry about money and you have colleagues) and then TEFL on the side, you’re ready to go the minute the borders reopen.
- Teachers who have taught abroad and don’t want their skills to get rusty: Like anything, teaching is a skill that, if you’re not using it, you get rusty. You forget things like how to manage a classroom. If you don’t want to give up your day job but might want to teach in the future, part-time TEFL is a great option.
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