How to adapt to changes in the online teaching market
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s learn to pivot.
Recent changes in China have resulted in a big shake up of the online English teaching market. New legislation prohibits online teachers based outside of China from tutoring Chinese students, supposedly in a bid to reduce the amount of hours children spend studying outside of school. While there is still a lot of uncertainty over how this will play out in the long term, for now it means that online English teachers cannot work for Chinese online teaching companies. See our previous blog post for more information about these changes
What should teachers do? What opportunities are still out there? We’re going to cover three alternatives for teaching English online that don’t involve working for an online teaching company based in China, including:
- working for a non-Chinese online teaching company
- becoming an independent online teacher
- teaching on online marketplaces
Working for a non-Chinese online teaching company
Online teaching companies are a great way to get started with online teaching. They typically provide you with a curriculum, meaning you won’t be spending lots of time beforehand lesson planning, and they do much of the hard work for you in terms of sourcing students and marketing. All you need to do is turn up and teach.
If you’ve been teaching with a Chinese company and are now looking at alternatives you may find it challenging to find other companies that pay the same. Chinese companies offered the most competitive rates for online teachers up until now, so be aware that if you still want the convenience of working for an online company you may have to work for less.
Our tips for finding work with online teaching companies
- Be prepared to potentially take a pay cut if moving from a Chinese company to one based elsewhere. If you are inflexible on pay, understand that it may be tough to secure work right now or focus on building your own business as a freelancer.
- Ensure that your application is as strong as possible and that you nail your demo lesson. Companies will be experiencing a higher volume of applications than usual and will be in a position to be pickier, so don’t assume that your experience will easily get you a job or rush your application and make silly mistakes.
- It may take longer to hear back due to the volume of applicants. Remember that thousands of teachers found themselves without work very suddenly, so the market is in a bit of a frenzy right now. This will calm down in time. Be patient and keep applying.
Examples of some non-Chinese online teaching companies to work for
Teaching English online as an independent teacher
If you already have experience under your belt and are looking to grow your income then you should be thinking about how to set yourself up as an independent teacher. When you’re working for an online company – even before the changes to the Chinese market – your earnings are limited by their pay scales. This isn’t the case if you work for yourself.
But be aware that running your own business as an online teacher requires a lot of graft. You are entirely responsible for developing learning materials, sourcing students, getting payments and all the other admin that comes with running your own business. Understanding how to market yourself is imperative, so you’ll need to set yourself up with a website and learn how to connect with potential students.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to develop your niche. You’ll find it very difficult to stand out as a general or conversational English teacher in a crowded market, but if you focus on a specific area you’ll have much more success. See our post all about how to find your online teaching niche.
Our tips for teaching English independently
- Identify your niche and focus on that
- Learn how to market yourself – sites like Udemy and Skillshare offer a range of marketing courses
- Not sure where to start? Our 40-hour Teaching English Online course covers how to get started and how to promote yourself as an online teacher (including how to create your own website)
Teaching English on online marketplaces
Online marketplaces can be viewed as a mid-point between teaching for a company and going it alone. They allow you to create a profile on their platform and advertise your services and set your own rates (which they’ll take a commission of) and hours. Examples of such marketplaces are italki, Verbling and Superprof.
The advantage of working on a marketplace is that you’re not entirely sourcing students yourself as they find you on the platform, but you still need to sell yourself effectively and set your prices correctly. Too low and you’re undervaluing yourself, but too high and you won’t get any students in a competitive market. Remember that as you build your experience and reputation you’ll be able to increase your fees.
Like working independently, you’ll also want to develop your niche. Think about your own experience and skills and how that could inform it. Have you worked in hospitality, tourism or business? Do you have experience working with learners from specific countries? Do you have a foreign language yourself?
Our tips for teaching English on marketplaces
- Don’t price yourself out of the market from the beginning; start lower with the aim of increasing your fees as you gain students and build experience
- Develop your niche to stand out from other teachers
- Create an intro video as part of a strong profile to attract students. Put yourself in your students’ shoes and think about what would make you choose one teacher over another.
Watch out for scams
TEFL scams do exist and with lots of people currently looking for online work due to the legislation changes in China it’s very possible that scammers will take this as an opportunity. Thankfully, they’re usually pretty easy to spot if you know what to look out for.
First and foremost, online teaching companies should have a website (they are teaching online, after all). You should also be able to find reviews from students and/or teachers if they’re a legitimate operation. If you’re unsure about a company then you can also do a little digging to see how old their website is. Some scams involve setting up a new site and pretending to be an established company with lots of students when they’re anything but. Take a read through our post about TEFL scams and bad employers to get clued up and learn how to spot the warning signs.
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