Have you been able to rely on online ESL teaching as a full time income? If so, even before the fall of the Chinese market, you could consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Not only are contracted ESL roles increasingly difficult to find, oversaturation of teachers has immediately driven down rates of pay. Where native English teachers might once have made $20+ in a contracted role, they will now struggle for $16, and sadly non-native speakers are more marginalised than ever, with some companies advertising pay as low as $2/hour! It’s time to get creative with your options, and here’s how…
Start by shortlisting a (longer) list of contracting companies to apply to, and re-vamp your teaching resume. Where once company loyalty was rewarded with generous scheduling, you’ll now be expected to get by on scraps. Use graphic design short-cuts like Canva to give your CV a professional edge. Record a mock interview yourself, and then have a family member critique it. If you really need a helping hand, hire an industry specific job coach.
Consider how best to juggle multiple schedules (and cancellation policies), and grab all the classes you can. Don’t be afraid to prioritise companies with higher booking rates or better pay. If contracted roles offer you more stability, start here and scale up other endeavours organically.
Investigate your options for joining Teacher Marketplaces, where you pay a commission to use their platform and scheduling and payment tools but manage lessons and content yourself. You’ll likely still have to market yourself, but your take-home could make it worth your while. If you’re not proficient in lesson planning, outsource to an independent curriculum company (like Crystal Clear ESL) but double check they permit commercial use.
Teacher Co-ops are increasingly popular, but do your research. There is a reason why many of these start-ups fail. Don’t invest too much time or money in a Co-op that is not establish and can’t evidence claims with proven results.
Freelancing can be a lucrative way forward. Many teachers are reluctant to ‘poach’ students from defunct contracting companies, especially with regard to China policies. Keep in mind that China Policy 720 does not pertain to independent teachers or students, only to largescale language schools registered within China. Municipalities are left to interpret Policy 720 on a regional level, which is why we see differing mindsets among parents. Officials are relying on scare tactics, rather than actual law, to dissuade parents from contracting teachers themselves. The demand is still high for English lessons, your part in the supply remains your choice alone.
Some teachers hold back on freelancing because of the non-contact time required, but companies designed to support your transition are cropping up quickly! Outsource curriculum, scheduling, payment, etc. – low cost solutions will likely earn you money by saving you time.
Diversifying doesn’t have to mean teaching. Do you have an ESL company or brand you love? Why not enquire whether they offer an affiliate program? Chances are you’re familiar with the concept of referral bonuses if you previously taught on a contracted basis, and affiliate programs work in a similar way.
If you have leads in a student market, why not sideline as a recruiter? Charge a one-time fee, or an on-going commission for students you match up with teachers. You could even start your own small scale language school!
Do you have qualifications and experience in an associated area, such as resume-writing, coaching, accent reduction, linguistics, curriculum development? Begin building a profile and establishing your brand within online ESL teaching communities, and offer your services directly to teachers, or even to larger companies offering similar services. Maybe they could use your help! Be wary about creating video recorded lessons for foreign schools or governments, however, as your one-time fee will effectively put you (and countless) other teachers out of long-term jobs.
Whether directly in the industry or not, your future ESL job will likely be made up of an array of smaller roles. Try to see these diverse tasks as puzzle pieces making up a happy career.