Teaching English As A Foreign Language Online

Teaching English As A Foreign Language Online

English as a foreign language, or EFL, is a subject that is always in demand due to the large number of people in the UK looking to learn or improve their English for business, study, or leisure activities.

English as a foreign language, or EFL, is a subject that is always in demand due to the large number of people in the UK looking to learn or improve their English for business, study, or leisure activities. This range of potential students also means that clients are looking for tutors throughout the year, helping you to have a steady stream of income should you decide to become an EFL tutor.

With most of us leading increasingly busy lives online tuition is more popular than ever, quickly becoming the fastest-growing sector of the tutoring industry. If you’re looking to become an online EFL tutor, you can look forward to a flexible and rewarding career that allows you to work when and where you want. This being said, it can often be difficult to know exactly how to get started in the online tuition industry, so we’ve put together our top tips to help you get on the path to success.

The Qualifications You Need To Teach EFL Online

You might be surprised to know that there are no formal qualifications needed to teach EFL in the UK, especially if you are a native speaker. This being said, the more qualified you are, the more valuable you’ll appear in the eyes of potential tutees. With this in mind, you might want to look into doing a TEFL course, to gain a formal qualification in teaching EFL – there are many online courses available, so take some time to research which would be the best fit for you.

In addition, although it isn’t a legal requirement, you might want to consider obtaining a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, especially if you intend on tutoring students under the age of 18.

The Skills You Need To Be an EFL Tutor

two women talking at a table

As an EFL tutor, there are four main skill areas that you’ll want to cover with your students, and have a firm grasp of yourself. These are: 

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Speaking

The resources that you can use to teach these skills effectively will be covered later in this article, but beyond these skills, you’ll also need the following competencies:

Adaptable Communication Skills – In order to teach effectively, you’ll need to be able to communicate with students of all ages and abilities. In addition to this, every student will have their own learning style – for example, auditory or visual - so you’ll need to be able to adapt your teaching methods to best suit their way of learning.

One-to-One and Group Teaching Skills – As an online EFL tutor, you’re likely to be teaching one student at a time, so you’ll need the ability to give your full attention to that student for the entirety of a lesson. Your teaching style should be friendly yet fair, and positive without over-praising.

Business Knowledge – When you become an EFL tutor, you will automatically become a business owner. Whether you work as a sole trader or limited company, you’ll need business knowledge of areas such as tax and marketing. You can find help for these aspects of business through local council business advisors, online, or through the services of accountants.

Choosing Your Target Market

As an EFL tutor, the most demand for your services is likely to come from businessmen and women who have moved to the UK from abroad, or foreign university students who need a little help perfecting their English. You can decide whether you’d like to focus on teaching one group of students – such as business professionals – or whether you’d like to teach a wider range of tutees. There are benefits to both, although teaching a variety of students will help you to gain invaluable tutoring experience across a range of ages and abilities.

Setting-Up And Choosing Your Online Teaching Platform

After you’ve decided upon your target market, you can start thinking about your online teaching set-up. The most important aspect to consider is which online platform you’ll use for your lessons, and there are two main paths that you can go down:

  1. Online video platforms such as Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams – These video-calling platforms are generally free to use, and are great for online lessons as they give you the ability to carry out actions such as screen-sharing and sharing documents. If you’re already familiar with one of these platforms It’s best to choose that one, as this will make for the most effective lessons.
  2. Tutoring platforms – The second option is to join a tutoring site that has its own online teaching platform, such as Tutorful or Teach9. These sites come with all the functions of the above video platforms, but have the added benefit of allowing you to access your clients and teaching tools from one website. Nevertheless, be aware that some sites may charge you commission as a tutor to teach on their site, so it’s important to do your research before you sign up.

Once you’ve chosen your online teaching platform, you can finalise your teaching set-up; the ‘where’ and ‘how’ of your online EFL tuition business. Some aspects you’ll need to consider are:

  1. Your teaching environment – it’s best to choose a quiet, well-lit area where you can carry out your lessons without being disturbed.
  2. Your audio and visual set-up – it’s important that you have good sound and picture quality on your computer, so that you can be seen and heard clearly by your students. You could also consider buying a microphone or headset for teaching, but these are definitely not a prerequisite for teaching online.
  3. Getting to know your online platform – be sure to familiarise yourself with your chosen online platform before you begin tutoring, and make sure you are able to carry out tasks such screen or document sharing or using online whiteboards before you begin lessons.

Online Resources For Your EFL Lessons

In order to make your lessons as effective as possible, it’s important you make the most of all the resources available online, as this will keep your lessons fun and engaging.

For each of the different skill areas you need to cover in your EFL lessons, there are different resources available, such as:

  1. Listening: Videos, podcasts, and YouTube

Using videos such as news or weather reports, listening to podcasts or watching YouTube clips can be a great way to develop your student’s listening skills. Sites such as the BBC’s ‘Learning English’ website, or the British Council’s ‘Learn English’ also have a wealth of audio resources that are fabulous for EFL students.

  1. Reading: News articles, short stories, and blogs

For reading skills, you can use blogposts, short news articles, or side-by-side stories in English and your student’s mother tongue which can all be found online, for example on sites such as My English Pages. Sending your students articles in advance that you can then discuss during your lesson can be a great learning tactic, and helps them to simultaneously develop their reading and speaking skills.

  1. Speaking: Discussion topics and presentations

Many of the resources mentioned above can be used to spark discussion in English, and thus create an easy way to incorporate speaking into your lessons. You could also use news headlines as conversation starters or use role-play scenarios to practice speaking. EFL roleplays and conversation starters can easily be found online on sites such as English Current.

  1. Writing

While writing can be a trickier skill to develop through online lessons, it is by no means impossible. You could send to your student worksheets beforehand, such as those found on the British Council website, and then go through them together during the lesson. You could also use Google Documents during your online lessons to practice writing skills, for example with the help of ‘story starter’ sentences that the student must continue. These can be found on sites such as ESL Activities.

Set Your Online EFL Tuition Rates

Once you’ve finished setting up for your online lessons, you’ll need to start thinking about how much you’ll charge for your EFL tuition services. There are no industry-wide set rates, and prices vary widely from tutor to tutor, so it’s important to do some research before you set your rates.  

If you’re just starting out as a tutor, doing a quick Google search to find out how much online tutors with a similar educational background to yourself, are charging for EFL tuition can be very helpful. You can also browse one of the many tutoring sites that offer online tuition, such as MyTutor or TheProfs, to gauge the average rate for online EFL tutors.

Although it can be tempting to start out by setting your online tuition rates low in the hopes of attracting more clients, it’s important that you undervalue your time and skills. You’ll need to take into consideration the time you spend planning lessons, creating resources, and marking any work you set, and not just the hour or so you spend with your client, into your hourly rate.

Finally, you’ll need to decide how you’ll receive payments for your online lessons. If you’ve decided to tutor through an online tutoring site or agency payment will usually be handled directly through the site, and not with the client. If, however, you are not using one of these sites, you can decide whether you’d prefer to receive payments through bank transfer or PayPal. In both cases, make sure that you keep invoices and receipts so that you can easily keep track of payments received safely from students.

How To Find Online EFL Tutoring Jobs

The final, but most important step in setting up your online EFL tuition business is to market your services. This can often be one of the trickiest parts of setting up your business, so it might help to take a look at our post,  7 Steps to Effectively Market Your Tutoring Business Online, which has some really effective marketing tips.

Hopefully once you’ve established your business, tutees will find you, but until that happens it’s a good idea to take a look at tutoring jobs boards like the one we have at The Tutor Website in order to find potential tutees. Last but not least, in order to maximise your chances of being found by potential students through online searches, you should think about signing up to our private tutor directory.

Here at The Tutor Website, we provide advertising to both in-person and online tutors through our tutor directory – so feel free to sign up and create your profile.


  • Teaching
  • English
  • Foreign
  • Language
  • Online
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