Virtual Language: A Guide to Teaching English Online for Adults

Many companies allow you to teach English online to adults from all over the world. Here is a list of popular companies and freelance options.

How to Teach English Online to Adults

If you are looking to teach adults, the number one suggestion I have for you is to find a niche. How? There are two ways you can approach this.

  1. Focus on what students want and choose something you can deliver upon.
  2. Or, you can focus on what you are good at and market yourself hard. Put in some legwork, draw on your patience, and wait for students to come to you.

The former might seem like a better tactic, but both are valid.

#1: Teach What They Need

The first tactic might get you a student base faster, but you might burn out, or others may beat you with more background in that specific niche.

#2: Teach What You Know

#2: The second tactic will take longer and won’t earn you lots of money right away, but you will likely never burn out discussing your personal, unique passions, and you may end up dominating that field and therefore be able to charge higher rates eventually.

a professionally dressed man sitting on a couch and working on his laptop

Ask, “What Are Your Goals?

Teach English Online to Adults

Adult students willing to invest in their education usually want to learn English to achieve a specific goal. For example, they may want to progress in business, apply to graduate school abroad, or take the IELTS exam.

So, an English tutor who brings some verb worksheets and chats with them in English just won’t cut it. (A notable exception is the Cambly platform, which focuses on conversational English. But, even there, you will develop a stronger student base if you differentiate yourself.)

Therefore, consider taking the time to identify what makes you unique.

a young blonde man typing on his laptop in front of an orange background

Look Inwards before Teaching Outwards

Like preparing for any job interview, ask yourself, “What sets me apart from other teachers?” Are you a retired mechanic that knows about cars? If so, put that in your profile and market yourself as teaching “English for Engineers”. Did you invest $100,000 into an arts MA in visual studies (*cough* *cough* me)? Consider marketing yourself as a tutor specializing in helping foreign students apply to humanities doctorate programs.

Once you determine what makes you special, apply to every company in order of pay.

Below are a few common employers that hire online English teachers and tutors for adults and professionals. I have separated them by companies that hire you directly and platforms where you work for yourself.

2023 Companies that hire ESL Teachers for Adults

  • English First
  • Learnlight
  • SkimaTalk
  • Cambly
  • Tutoring
  • Open English
a smiling, young woman with long brown hair sitting at a table in a room with blue walls and typing on her laptop

Top Freelance Tutoring Platforms

Some English tutors prefer advertising on an ESL platform and marketing themselves directly to students. The benefit of these sites is that you can set your rates and potentially earn much more money.

Also, these platforms are a good option for non-native speakers. They do not discriminate against non-native speakers of English because students choose their teachers. Some students prefer a native speaker of their first language. They might want to ask questions in their native language or feel intimidated by a full English immersion experience.

The Bottom Line: Adults often see English as instrumental to achieving a long-standing goal of theirs. Highlight your unique skills or bone up on some certifications (there are many free and short programs online) so you can stand out from the crowd.

You can also always compare companies across this comprehensive chart I made to help you.

That’s it and, as always, happy teaching.

Or…check out these related posts, too.

Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.