While I was job hunting I kept myself financially afloat by teaching English on Skype. The reason being that it’s free to do, super easy, and if you work hard at it, you can get quite a good amount of dosh from it! I even know people who have Skype teaching as their main source of income! So, how does it work?
Choose a website
If you go onto freelance websites you will find lots of companies who will offer to give you teaching work on Skype. I use Verbal Planet because it is completely free to use, and the fee to use the site comes from the student side. It’s not that much and not a strain on the student.
Setting your price and writing your profile
My advice would be to set a low price to start with. I began with $10 per 45 min lesson, which is actually ridiculously cheap. As you get more reviews coming in, visitors to your profile will see how much of a great teacher you are, and then you can slowly up your price.
Your profile is also very important. If you have TESOL qualifications, list them, along with any teaching experience. If you have no experience, then list things you are confident in (for example, would you like to teach literature?) Students also like to know what kind of teaching style you have. There are some people who claim to have “the secret to language learning” and teach in a very Michel Thomas/Rosetta Stone style. Others like to focus on grammar and will run through drills with their students.
What I like to do is work through online articles. This way, I can correct their pronunciation and maybe edit their accent a little (most language learners want to get rid of their accents!) Then I work through the vocabulary and end the lesson with a discussion. I find this covers so many areas in the short 45 minute lesson.
This is the hardest part. You need to sit there and wait for the little fishies to bite. For me it took about 2 weeks (so make sure you have something to do in that time!) Once you get one student, and they write you reviews, they’ll all come flooding in and you won’t be able to fit them all in.
Free Trial Lesson
I find that by offering the first lesson for free, you attract more students, and also you get a nice relaxed first lesson where you don’t need to plan anything – you can just chat with the student and get to know their level and needs.
As I mentioned, I work mainly through online articles. It’s real life English (as opposed to textbook English) so it’s great for the students and, as long as you pick the right level of difficulty for the student, articles make for great virtual classroom material. I use news sites like The Guardian, as well as Time Magazine articles and also things from The Fast Company, depending on what kind of thing the student is into. BBC News is good for lower level students because they tend to have shorter posts with slightly easier vocabulary. American sites tend to use more colloquial language, so you can get some great phrases there to teach.
Be culturally aware
One thing you have to be careful of when you’re teaching is cultural awareness. Have some idea about the situation in the country the student is from, because you don’t want to cause them upset when they are trying to learn from you. I made a mistake of asking my Libyan student what she considered “happiness” to be, and this started her off talking about the war in her country. I don’t like to talk about politics and so on in my lessons unless the student asks it. My Russian student is very open minded, and likes to talk about lots of different things. We had a great conversation at the weekend about an article from The Guardian that showed photos of dorm rooms in a Russian university. I said that the article was like propaganda because it wanted to portray Russia as being cold and mean to suit political interests, and she talked a lot about the kinds of propaganda media they have there in Russia.
Have you ever taught – or have been taught – on Skype before?