Teaching English Online – Our How To Guide

In our new Teaching English Online series we aim to help ESL teachers earn independent income.

Welcome teachers! If you want to earn independent income, one of the best strategies is to go online. James Heywood (co-founder of off2class) has been teaching students online via a business called TurksLearnEnglish and has found it to be a great way to earn his own independent income. What do we mean by independent income? We mean income that is independent of school administrators, school curriculum and online teaching portals. Your own students, your own teaching strategies, your own student management and your own income.

Why go online?

ESL teachers have been supplementing their day jobs with private tuition for decades, if not longer! Many successful tutors have eventually started their own bricks-and-mortar language institutes. So why do you suggest and recommend Teaching English Online?
There are several benefits to an online education from the teacher’s point of view:
1. Costs are low

From a technical perspective all you’ll need is Paypal, Gmail and Skype (or another videoconferencing system) to launch your business. Each of these services is free to use. As you grow your business, your investment in infrastructure will be limited (a website/landing page and other nice-to-haves are easy to access at a low cost).
2. Kill the commute
In many cities, traveling to your students’ home or to other premises can be an inefficient way to teach. A one hour lesson easily becomes three hours with a long commute between classes. Your ability to take on more students grows with an online teaching business.
3. Grow your student base
By creating an online home for your business and employing some basic student acquisition and management strategies, you can create a following for your services and start converting referrals into new students. You cans reach students all over the world.

Grow your business incrementally …

Many of our ESL teacher friends and colleagues have pondered Teaching English Online but very few have taken the leap. Sometimes the leap can seem daunting. Where will I find students? Curriculum? Lesson content? Website? Facebook group? What videoconferencing system should I use? Can I really teach a Young Learners online? How will I manage their behavior? Can I teach writing online?
Our aim with this Teaching English Online series is to answer as many of these questions as possible. Some of the best success stories we’ve seen so far have been achieved by teachers taking an incremental approach to online teaching. Start by supplementing your current day job by Teaching English Online and slowly transition to your own, full-time independent business. As you become more comfortable with the online environment, your student base will increase until it naturally takes over as a full-time job.

Two Teaching English Online fundamentals: students and content

There are two fundamentals to a successful online ESL business:  paying students and lesson plan content.
It is important to start building your student contact list as soon as possible. Even if you are currently teaching in a traditional classroom and you’re only considering Teaching English Online, it is important to start your contact list for the future. Be sure to keep in touch with past students and parents with short notes for birthdays, graduations and other milestones. Your personal teaching relationships will be the key to obtaining your first paying students when you do decide to go online. Managing contacts is simple; there is a plethora of apps available yet even a simple Excel spreadsheet will suffice.
You need engaging content to run your lessons and to keep students coming back. The content required for a lesson plan focused on the traditional classroom is quite different from what is required in a private conversation class. For a private ESL lesson you need a “conversation guider”, such as a prompt to direct natural conversation between the teacher and the student which also delivers the target grammar and vocabulary.
This is where we (Off2Class) come in. We noticed there was a lack of suitable ready-to-use resources targeted at private ESL teachers. So far, we’ve released a set of 75 ESL lesson plans covering grammar, vocabulary and phonics… and our library grows every week. We are currently in private beta though you can obtain a free account by requesting one on the contact form on our homepage. All of our lessons are on an easy-to-use web platform and perfectly suited for Teaching English Online.
In the coming months we will be building the Teaching English Online series with strategies to help you grow your own independent English business. We plan to cover a variety of subjects from lesson content, videoconferencing systems and techniques, how to manage young learners online, how to manage group classes online, how to teach writing online and how to command premium pricing.

If there are any specific strategies or topics that you would like to see covered, let us know!

James Heywood is an online ESL teacher and is the co-founder of TurksLearnEnglish and Off2Class. After years of teaching in language institutes and private schools he made the leap to go online in late 2012. He has taught a variety of ESL students online including young learners, adults and adolescents in one-on-one and group settings. Off2Class (lesson plan content for private ESL teachers) was launched after realizing there was a lack of suitable lesson content resources targeted towards teachers running their own private tutorials.


  • lessonup says:

    June 12, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kris Jagasia says:

      August 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks lessonup! Have you had a chance to try out our content?

  • Kate says:

    October 14, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    This is a great site. I am an ESL tutor now based part time in UK and US so I am looking at transferring to on-line teaching since my students can’t follow me! Do you have any recommended assessment tools for use online to determine a new student’s level in all receptive and productive skills?

    • James Heywood (Off2Class) says:

      October 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your positive feedback. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend any assessment tool for online learning. I have never found anything that I felt effectively assesses both productive and receptive skills. Instead, I decided to create my own assessment test that I administer during a potential student’s trial lesson, which also allows me to understand if I am a suitable teacher for that student. In the future, Off2Class intends to add an online assessment tool, though it’s functionality that won’t see the light of day until early 2015.
      I highly encourage you to move your current students online! This is the ideal way to move online, as many online teachers struggle to find new students. If you already have students, the rest will be easy.
      Best wishes,

  • Kara says:

    August 17, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I’m new to ESL – just got my TEFL certificate. I would like to teach online, but would like to observe an experienced teacher for a little while first. I have absolutely no idea how to go about doing this or finding someone to let me do this. Any suggestions?

    • James Heywood (Off2Class) says:

      August 17, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Hi Kara,
      The best I can offer you at the moment is to watch the final 15 minutes of my presentation on Phrasal Verbs. From 49’30” in this webinar: https://www.off2class.com/phrasal-verbs-teaching-strategies/ , you can see a recording of a live class with one of my students. He is a 12-year-old from Turkey and I am teaching him Phrasal Verbs. At least this will give you a start!
      Feel free to ask any further questions.
      Best wishes,

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