Skip to main content

Teaching English Online: A Flexible and Fun Way to Make Extra Income and Start Working Remotely

Sal Santiago writes about travel, minimalism, philosophy, and living an alternative lifestyle.

What kind of topics will you discuss with adult students in online English classes?

With beginning students, you are helping them build vocabulary, and improve pronunciation. Many students will have intermediate to advanced English ability. They are looking to practice conversation with a native speaker, and improve their vocabulary, pronunciation, and learn common idioms and expressions.


I taught for a company that provides the lessons, built into the platform. The 45-minute classes started with a greeting, and simple ice breaker questions, such as what did you do today? What did you do on your weekend? Where do you live, and what is the weather like today in your city? An open ended question where students could be as terse or as elaborate as they wished.

As teachers, we were able to see and review the class topic 10 minutes before the class started. A few minutes is enough time, once you are familiar with the typical class structure. Introduce the topic, then have the students read through the vocabulary words and definitions, helping them with pronunciation, and any questions about the new words and expressions.


Low-stress way to create a side income or work full-time remotely

Then onto the lesson topic, usually with a short reading followed by several comprehension questions. Then more questions designed to give the students ample opportunity to relate the topic to their own life experiences. They might also have a chance to ask questions of their classmates.


Conversation topics for intermediate/advanced English learners

Topics were designed to be relevant to student's lives and personal experiences.

Fun questions included: Where have you traveled? Where would you most like to travel? If you were starting your own business, what kind of business would it be? Do you feel there is good work-life balance at your place of work? What is your opinion on the benefits and disadvantages of technology on society? What is your favorite food? What dishes do you like to cook? Questions about culture and customs: What things do you do to celebrate certain traditional holidays? What languages have you studied? Do you like a warm climate or a cold climate? Do you believe there are other planets with life in the universe? Mythical stories, such as the ones about bigfoot/yeti. Are there any similar stories in your culture?


My experience teaching online

One company I taught with, worked with adult students from all over Korea. The lessons were one-on-one. We used phones connected to our modems, which were provided by the company. Work hours were 4-hour blocks of time, Sunday through Thursday evening, U.S. time.

The students were employees of various companies, in a variety of industries, from IT to banking, shipbuilding workers, engineering, advertising, international business, and the medical field. One student was a priest in charge of a congregation.

The lessons were short 10-minute conversations, structured into their workday. As a teacher, you might have several 10-minute conversations in a row, with several 10-minute break periods worked into the schedule.

Scroll to Continue

Hypothetical questions are a fun way for students to practice. For example: What would you do if you had one million dollars?

The 45-minute classes were more structured, and gave students more of a chance to learn new material in greater depth, and to practice speaking and listening. Creating sentences with the new vocabulary, or questions for the other students, is one way to spur the students to use the new words creatively, and that will allow them to make the words their own and commit them to memory.

Usually, the lessons provided enough material and activities to keep us busy and occupy the entire 45-minute class. If time remained, we could use some time for free talking. Asking and answering questions about common topics of interest, such as travel, food, vacations, exercise, and work.

Each class had anywhere from two to six students.

As an ESL teacher, you always want to be more of a facilitator, and avoid talking too much and giving lectures. The goal is to get students speaking, and give them more chances to practice. TEFL training courses usually discuss an 80-20 rule. 20 percent of the time the teacher is talking (explaining, clarifying, giving instructions, modeling pronunciation). 80 percent of the time, students are talking. With practice, you get better at asking questions, giving students chances to talk more in depth and to elaborate.

Hypothetical questions are a fun way to practice, that many students seem to enjoy. What would you do if you had one million dollars? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?

A simple online "classroom" background


Flexibility and freedom. Create your own schedule. Take time off when you need to

The schedule is very flexible. You choose a few hours during peak times (usually weekends), and a few hours during the week. Some companies have a requirement, such as 5-10 hours per week minimum. Others have no requirement. As for pay: it was common to make in the range of $12-15/ hour for a 45-minute class. (Often with six students in a class, this could end up being in the range of $18-30 per 45-minute class). Or about $8-10/hour for a 25-minute class for kids.

The teaching hours are usually early in the morning U.S. time (evening for students in Asia), or evening hours (morning in Asia). For night owls wishing to work all night, those are prime daytime hours for the students.

One downside, I had a certain number of guaranteed hours each week, but when I tried to open more hours in my schedule, I didn't always get classes assigned. That was a little frustrating. One way to ensure you are getting enough hours, is to work with several companies at a time. Also, if you are teaching kids and adults, you will likely have more classes, allowing you to make more each week/month.

I enjoyed my experience overall. Adult students are motivated to learn, and often the conversations were fun and interesting. I felt like I was also learning a lot from my students. And after teaching in South Korea and China for several years, I enjoyed staying connected with students who are from that part of the world.


If you are looking for work that is flexible, interesting and fun, and can allow you to make a decent hourly wage for your time, it could be a great fit for you

I love the flexibility as well, being able to work from home, and move locations when I would like to. If you need a few days off, simply send an email in advance with the requested days, and it is not a problem.

The ESL field is growing, and more countries throughout the world are moving to an online learning format.

Requirements are usually to be a native speaker, a college degree in any field (though this is not always the case), and TEFL certification. I obtained a TEFL certification from Intesol worldwide, with the entire 120-hour program being offered online. I took my time and it took about 6 weeks to complete the course. The cost: about $150. (The TEFL cert is needed for most in-person teaching jobs as well). Then you just need a solid internet connection, a headset, and your “classroom”: a simple backdrop with a world map, and some encouraging phrases or vocabulary words, will suffice.

The job board on is still one of the best sources for teaching online, as well as finding teaching jobs throughout the world. I found my jobs in South Korea, China, and teaching online, on this website.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Related Articles