How to Teach English on Skype

#teach #esl #teachonskype #skype #tesol

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.

Wait…and wait…

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.

Gather resources

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?


  1. Interesting! I thought about teaching on Skype but I could never go through with it because I thought it would be too awkward. Also, for some reason, I never thought of using articles. I love that last point about being culturally aware – it can definitely spare you some awkwardness or lead to some interesting discussions!
    Marielle recently posted…Ali from Alisa YuiMy Profile

    • It’s not that awkward, I promise. If it was, I would not be able to do it. Just don’t let your students know you’re doing it in your pajamas!!

  2. Oh man… you don’t stand still for a minute, do you?! Great tips. I often use blog posts. I pick the ones that are well written and include colloquial expressions/language, because that’s something you can’t get from a news site.
    Simone recently posted…Grumpy MorningsMy Profile

  3. This is so interesting! My best friend is teaching english in Korea right now, and it’s interesting to here about the differences in teaching here vs. there, but I never considered teaching on Skype! So cool!
    Jess recently posted…Editorial CalendarMy Profile

    • I would love to jump over to Korea and teach for a year. It’s so much fun over there – I love Seoul so much!

  4. I would recommend Breaking News English – there is literally a lesson plan there every single day and it’s amazing!! It got my students learning about the world as well as English 🙂
    Vanessa recently posted…Brunch O’ClockMy Profile

  5. I’ve been a volunteer Skype language partner to Asians for almost 5 years. I began with China, but the Great Firewall makes it less fun. Now my partners are all Japanese. The more I learn about Japan, the more I like it.

    I’m considering becoming more structured, and offering my services for pay. I’m here to do research for this. Some of your suggestions look useful. I’m going to give some thought to writing a profile. It’s value is obvious, but I’ve never done it before. I’ll need to read a few first, to see what I like. Thanks!

    • Oh wow, 5 years doing it for free?! You need to sell those skills!
      I hope to have given you some useful tips. Good luck!

      • I’m a retired writer, you see. I’ve been doing this on a volunteer basis in order to “give something back,” as is said. But lately the price of groceries has begun to scare me.

        What is involved in getting “certification?” Is it time consuming? Is it expensive? Do you recommend it?

        • I have a TESOL degree, but I don’t think you need any kind of certification to teach on Skype. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for really. If you wanted a holiday, they do short breaks in Spain where they TESOL train you though.

  6. Hello Charlotte,
    Wow, what a great article! Thank you!
    If you can spare a few minutes, I have a few questions which I would be very grateful if you could answer!
    I already teach on Skype, I live in Russia – so I have the basics down. My question is specifically about your experience working on Verbal Planet:
    How many lessons a week were you teaching? Were you maxed out, or could you have taught more?
    I work in schools reaching intensive courses, but much prefer the dynamics of teaching via skype and really want to understand if there is enough demand (teacher depending of course) to fill a weekwith say 40 lessons?
    I know it will take time to establish a reputation, but in time, would you think it could be possible?
    Kind regards,

    • Charlotte says

      Sure, I’d love to help you.
      I teach only a handful of lessons a week – probably 5 at most. I limit them when I feel it’s a bit too much; right now I work mornings in an office and do this on the side so I don’t need to do loads of these to stay afloat. I have 4 regular students and lots of ones that pop in and out of my schedule. I limit new students by stopping offering the free first lesson. I don’t like to do that anyway since I feel people just do it for fun because it’s free.

      I guess I could teach more, but I don’t need or want to. I have enough right now to keep me going. I think if you worked at it, you could get 40 lessons or more in a week. The best way is to keep your rates slightly lower to begin with, to ask your students for teacher reviews, and to offer as many languages as you can. You need to watch for people only using your free lesson so maybe do the 60% off option.
      Good luck!

  7. I’m currently on a quest to teach abroad. I think teaching online will allow me to get my feet wet. Your blog was very helpful with my decision to proceed. Thanks again!

  8. meagan playzer says

    Hi Charlotte,

    Thank you for your informative post.
    I have tried on several occasions over the past 2-3 months to register on verbalplanet and it always says they are not accepting any more tutors at the moment.
    any other suggested sites?
    Sites like preply seem reputable but they take a good chunk of ur earnings.

    thanks again


  9. Hi Charlotte

    You said you start your rate at $10 an hour (is the US $$) then as you get a reputation you increase it. As I am working towards doing this for my main income can you tell me how much you can increase your hourly rate too so I can work out a budget.


    • Hi Donna, I may not be Charlotte, but I may be able to answer you.

      I have been teaching online for 16 months now and it has become my main source of income, although I also work at a school 2 nights per week, my earnings from working online equate to 3 x the earning I make from the school.

      I live in Russia, so I will talk about amounts in Rubles, but as a rough guide, considering the recent economic crisis, you can multiply the amounts by 2 which should give you an amount relative to the US dollar.

      I started charging 850r per hour for the first 6 months, after I had picked up half a dozen students and received a few referrals I increased my price to 1000r. I just recently increased my price again to 1500r and my schedule is full, I have between 20-30 hours of lessons per week online.

      People seem happy to pay the amount and when I informed current students of price increased I only lost one of them, most seem happy to pay a lot more.

      So, to convert all that to dollars, I would say that my price equates to around $45 per hour in dollars. But it is not the peak, I know of one teacher who lives in America who charges $60 per hour.

      Of course, holidays and other factors affect your earnings on a monthly basis, September is the best time to find students, whereas the summer months are slower months, but, I would say to you that if you get cracking at finding a niche and get some experience you could be charging $45 per hour within a year. at 30 hours a week, that works out to be $70,000 per year. So, there is money to be made for sure!

      Good luck!

      • Hi Gareth, Thank you so much for this information. I am from New Zealand and I am currently teaching 62 students 30 hours a week at an engineering company (not a school). Do you work from an established website? How do you source your students.

        Again thank you for your guidance.

  10. Hi Charlotte,
    I love the new look. I can’t believe I haven’t read your blog for a while, but I will catch up promise. Unfortunately VerbalPlanet has stopped accepting new tutors, teaching German could be useful for my work. I used to teach German to adults in London many years ago, but my full-time job took over.

    So, looking forward to catch up now.

    Nadine x

  11. The free first lesson…how many students do you find continue on with you after that?
    Jackie recently posted…Dictogloss: ESL Listening and Speaking ActivityMy Profile

  12. I am a full time online teacher and Online learning expert. I found your tips very good, especially for newbie online teachers.
    the cultural awareness is very important. Thank you!

  13. Very good advice. I tried to set up a profile on Verbal Planet a couple of years ago but they told me they weren’t taking on any new teachers. So I set up my own website and started advertising in Spain where I’m currently living. I now have over 40 students and am just starting to get contacts from other countries as well. I’ve just hired a new teacher to help with the excess classes and am hoping to hire more in the future. Here’s a link to my website.

  14. Hi! I’d like to know your opinion on slowly raising your price. I read that when you start teaching you often have to set a lower price to attract students and then raise it as you go. I’d like to know how you would go about doing that, when you would choose to do it and how much the raise would be, as well as what you would do in order not to lose students. Thanks!

    • Charlotte says

      Hi Maria, I did slowly raise my price, but I kept my original students at the same price. You can decide if you want to raise the price for existing students or not. I had a lovely Russian girl I taught for a long time and I always kept it the same for her.

  15. Marietjie Stander says

    Hi Charlotte I fine your artical very interesting. I M REALY INTRESTED. HOW DO i get started. I m in retail at the moment…but I enjoy helping people and have a lot of patients with children. I would love to teach

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: