Photo: Victor Freitas

10/11/2020 

The title of this post uses British ‘tonnes’ instead of the spelling we’re used to (‘tons’) because this post is about a well-paying skill nearly all Americans have: the English language.  (For the word nerds out there, the distinction between the tons and tonnes is more than just the spelling.)  With millions of newly unemployed — or underemployed — people this year, some bright news is that many of us are sitting on a highly marketable, untapped skill we are using every day: our fluency in English.  Particularly, our English with an American accent.  For the uninitiated, it is called ESL teaching (teaching English as a Second Language).  There are ESL certificates that will help you earn more if you’re going a more traditional route with existing companies out there, but there is also a growing, more lucrative option that requires no formal training, and just a little American ingenuity (that’s code for “self-marketing”).

Here are pros and cons of the 3 options for making some easy, legit money from the convenience of your own home:

1. Established Language Companies – There are existing companies that employ armies of English teachers like iTutorGroup, iTalki, and VarsityTutors for teaching English to aspiring English learners.

Pros: Get up and running fast — they’ll have you scheduled and earning money quickly.

Cons: They usually require some kind of teaching credential (for example, TEFL).  The pay range is generally low: from $8/hour to $17/hour depending on the company.

2. Online Tutoring Marketplaces – There are self-service directories such as verbling.com and englishninjas.com where you get to create a profile and name your price.  Of course, the more you charge, the less interest you’ll get because you are competing side-by-side with other teachers with competitive prices.  Many require teaching credentials.

Pros: It appears that you can earn up to $20-$25/hour according to Indeed reviews.

Cons: These require a teaching certificate, and you are listed in a directory with other tutors, so it may take some time to build a student base.

3. Independent – This option cuts out the middleman and has the highest potential for earnings because you (1) don’t necessarily require an ESL certificate or any teaching accreditation, and (2) by cutting out the middleman you can keep up to 50% more in the traditional “agency” fee.  How do you get students?  There are a bunch of groups on the internet such as English Learners (~150k members) and Speak and Learn English (351k followers) to join and participate in discussions where you can ultimately recruit students directly.  Many of them are taking English courses, and simply need practice listening and speaking to a native English speaker.  By charging students directly, you can charge up to $40 according to google search results.  

(Pro tip: English learners often put a premium on native English speakers *with American accents*.  So make sure you make the clear – use a handle that conveys that, e.g. @ChicagoDude, or @MadeInUSA — likely taken already.)  

You can schedule classes with students using Google Hangouts or Zoom, and then hope to get paid over Venmo or PayPal, but our shameless plug for Ourglass is to use our single app that combines the video call with the charging so that you never waste an unpaid minute (we give you a prorated charge option at the end of each call), we minimize delinquent payments (we validate the student’s pay method before each call), and you have no accounting when you’re done with each call (your students will be charged immediately after the end of each call).

In short, you can use traditional English teaching companies to earn less money sooner (usually requiring accreditation), or you can leverage the growing social groups on the web and with some self-marketing earn much more money with the English skill you have now.  The choice is yours!

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