Work From Home: Online Tutoring

Are you considering tutoring in your off time while living abroad? Or maybe you’re just someone looking for a job in general. Maybe you’re a stay at home mom with only one hour in the morning, before the kids wake up.

Why Tutor?

For a lot of people, tutoring is a means to make some extra money (often under the table) in their spare time, or during vacations when they aren’t traveling. Since most contracts forbid you from taking extra contractual jobs within your residing country, you have little choice but to tutor for that extra money.

The unfortunate thing about tutoring is that it comes with a lot of faults. You are often met with little pay if you do not tutor groups, the parents can be difficult to deal with, not everyone is time conscious (which is bad for consecutive sessions), you need to make lessons outside of your other classes, you may not like teaching children, and so on.

This is where you turn to online tutoring (or an online job in general if you have mad writing or coding skills).


Generally, online tutoring companies require similar qualities in their candidates, or their experience reflects the pay they receive. With that said, I’m including some companies in this guide that do not require any experience at all. But first, the desirable qualities most companies want:

  • TESL, TEFL, or some other teaching certificate
  • Experience with children ages 3-12, or tutoring in general
  • Experience teaching
  • An undergraduate degree
I’ll be the first to admit that teaching isn’t always fun, but tutoring tends to take the cake. Online tutoring makes it so much easier.

Why Online Tutoring?

Online tutoring tends to pay better, even after taxes. When it pays less than or equal to what you can make from your own house, the benefits often still outweigh the extra money offline tutoring gives:

  • 25-30 minute lessons are more common online
  • The lessons are generally pre-made for you
  • The children aren’t from The Ring, and so they can’t jump out of the screen to destroy your house
  • You don’t have to buy books, paper, crayons, or any supplies
  • You almost never deal with the parents
  • Incentive bonuses
  • One-on-one lessons for the same pay as your usual three child group
  • Direct deposit funds, usually to your homeland bank account
    • Bonus: usually the company hiring you eats the transfer fee too if they aren’t from your country
  • People can only book the slots you have open on the calendar! That means you don’t have to WeChat 15 parents about not coming to class for week 3 -or was it 4?- of May.
I worked so hard on this, and it was never properly used between my 10 tutorees. Mostly the paper was ripped or crumpled.

Of course there are a few downsides:

  • You have to pay taxes in your homeland
  • Contracted taxes suck if you go over a certain amount of earned income
  • There are rules: you can get fired
  • You can’t cancel more than x number of classes in x months
  • You need good internet or risk too many technical issues
  • You might need props
  • You have to buy a certain color T-shirt…

As you can see, it’s not too big of a deal. Taxes suck, but you’d have to work a lot outside of your actual job abroad to have to pay more than a reasonable amount of taxes, since you probably aren’t making enough money at your teaching job that you have to report that too. Beyond taxes, the issues are small: you just need to be responsible, you want to buy better internet anyway, and it wont kill you to spend a few bucks on a white board or orange shirt.

Here are just a few places to consider when looking into an online tutoring gig! Some of these are suggested based on personal experience, while others are research based suggestions.



Lesson lengths: 25 minutes

Potential Pay: possibly $22/hour : $7-9/ half hour + up to $2/ lesson incentives that are very easy to obtain. Also, many incentives for referrals, good reviews, and more.

Work Hours: minimum 7.5 hours per week during peak times (Beijing Time). So, 4-9pm on weekdays, and all day on Saturday and Sunday (Beijing Time).

Even after taxes, this brings in great funds. I have two friends working for VIP KID that bring home $17/ hour after taxes. That’s not too shabby for someone fresh out of college  just wanting to make some extra dough in their off hours. My friends also love their jobs. The company is highly supportive of it’s teachers through their incentives, free workshops, quick response support team, easy to use platform, and much more. The lessons are provided for you, so you don’t have any work outside of your designated time slots (unless you can’t write a quick review in between back to back classes, which only takes a few minutes).

The downside: the company does need to work on their hiring process. Glass Door shows another side to the company. The people hiring do not always have adequate English skills to be hiring someone. The process is also very lengthy, and seems to trick some people into believing they have a job. After an interview and short mock class you are offered a pay rate based on your skills and experience. The part where people are tricked is after devoting several hours of their time to two mock classes, you are told to look for an e-mail to continue the process. A few days later, no e-mail from VIP KID, many people log onto their platform  to find a message saying you were not hired. This is not professional, and very discouraging to people devoting so much time to the company.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.32.58 PM.png


Potential Pay: up to $20/hour, additional incentives

Work Hours: minimum 7.5 hour per week

From the base description, this company seems to be very similar to VIP KID, although there is not mention of providing the lesson plans. Regardless, the pay is good if you can hit the upward limits, making it better than most tutoring jobs from your home. Glass Door offers little in review of the company, but it seems to be positive!

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.42.10 PM.png


Potential Pay: unknown. Reported $10/hour with room for pay raise.

Work Hours: minimum 10 hours per week, usually in 4 hour shifts

This one is less popular and also promises a lot less money, but tends to cater to adults if you are not interested in teaching children. The upside is that Learnlight (formerly ISUS) offers teaching positions for a variety of languages if you happen to know more than English. This  is also not a China based company, unlike most online tutoring. The platform also allows you to customize lesson plans, meaning you don’t have to stick to their lesson all the time. Glass Door gives mixed reviews of people loving their jobs, but lamenting the low pay. Like the other companies, you can set your own hours, making it good for a bit of extra cash.

Other Companies to Consider:

There are lists of companies out there that offer language learning services, or online . You can further research them to see what works best for you:

  • iTalki: A bare bones company connecting students and teachers. You set your prices, make your own lessons, and meet with students through video chat. You don’t need any qualifications.
  • They offer a whole range of positions, from tutors, to tech support, to video editors. This is great if you don’t want to tutor, but contribute to education in some form.
  • Education First: I can tell you this company can’t hire you (as of this posting) if you are based in China, but they seem to be a good business (I applied for it anyway).

Searching for More Companies:

At the end of the day, there are countless companies for you to look into. You could honestly even tutor people you meet solely through your favorite video chat program. If you don’t like any of these options I’ve given you, pull open your favorite search engine and give these keywords a go:

  • teach esl online
  • online tutoring
  • teach esl from home

Look at the bottom of the page for a “Become a teacher” link, and you can see if you’ve found your dream side-part-time-maybe-full-time-job. Good luck in your search, and don’t hesitate to tell me about any great companies you find.

Check out my other Expat Guides for ideas on living, teaching, and traveling abroad. Thanks for reading!


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