Online tutoring is a fantastic work-from-home opportunity for helpful souls who don’t want to miss out on human interaction when they step away from the 9-5 office lifestyle.
With many different online tutoring platforms available, you can sign up for a handful of sites and then enjoy a variety of educational activities each day.
Though the work is fun and flexible, and the rewards are great, you will inevitably come up against some challenges in the industry. To help you figure out whether these difficulties will be worth the rewards, we’ve broken down all the pros and cons of being an online tutor in the article below.
What are the benefits of being an online tutor?
Let’s start with the many benefits online tutors get to enjoy.
1. The startup costs are minimal
All you need to get started as an online tutor is a reliable internet connection and a functional laptop or desktop computer with a good quality microphone. So, if you don’t need to upgrade your tech, your startup costs may be precisely $0.
As a bonus, you’ll be able to claim your internet costs, tech expenses, and even the depreciation of your computer when you file your taxes.
2. Work from wherever suits you – no commute required
This is the benefit that brings most people to online tutoring. So long as you create a distraction-free environment for your lessons and conversations, you get to enjoy ultimate freedom in terms of where you work.
This means you can work from your home office, but you can also take your students on vacation with you, getting an hour or two of tutoring done in the morning before heading out for your day’s activities.
Though you have to be on time for each class you take, cutting the commute out of the equation makes this far more manageable and less stressful. It also means you can work in your pajamas if you so choose (so long as your top half is presentable)!
3. Flexible working hours
Though some companies do have set tutoring windows (to fall either before or after school in the country where your students live), you still get a lot of freedom in determining your schedule.
With platforms like Cambly, which connects you with students around the world who need conversation partners to further their English skills, you sign on whenever suits you best. This means you can work bulk hours one week, take time off the next, and no-one’s going to be hounding you about your workload.
4. Online tutoring companies set you up for success
To ensure their own success, online tutoring companies need to provide a consistent experience for students. To achieve this, they have comprehensive packages for tutors, giving you all the tools and information you need to deliver perfect lessons every time you log on.
All you have to do is follow the structure you’re given, meaning you can direct your energy into engaging with your students rather than stressing about developing lesson plans.
5. No teaching qualifications necessary
Though formal qualifications in education will definitely help, the pre-structured arrangement we described above means that you don’t need to have any teaching experience to apply.
Some tutoring services are designed for people with industry-specific knowledge. However, most of those focussed on teaching English online don’t require that you have a specific degree or certification. Instead, you will have entry tests to pass, usually involving things like interviews, videos, and practice lessons.
6. Small class sizes
If the idea of teaching a classroom full of kids from a computer screen has been putting you off online tutoring, then you can relax because you’ll rarely teach any more than three or four kids at a time. In fact, many of your tutoring sessions will be one-on-one.
Discipline is rarely an issue, and with these small class sizes, you’re able to develop comfortable relationships with your students. You’ll get to know them, and as your tutoring skills develop, you’ll learn to tailor your approach to suit each student.
Over time, you will see incredible development, not just in your students but in yourself. This experience is so rewarding, you will often find yourself stepping away from your computer with a warm, buzzy glow after tutoring sessions.
7. You get an incredible cultural experience
Teaching is hands down the best way to learn. As an online tutor, this learning will extend beyond the subject matter you’re teaching. Since you’ll be connecting with students from all over the world, you’ll also find yourself learning fascinating new things about their cultures and customs.
The effect of this is similar to actual travel – your hunger for learning will grow along with your understanding of the world’s beautifully diverse cultures. The positive effects of this will reach into every aspect of your life, opening up the way for endless personal growth.
8. The pay is good
The median pay for online tutoring is close to US$20 per hour. Since you won’t need to spend money on a work wardrobe, commuting to and from the office, or buying expensive lunches when you forget to pack one, you’ll also get to save a lot more of this money than you would with a traditional office job.
What are the challenges of being an online tutor?
While we’ve painted a rosy picture so far, the life of an online tutor isn’t always easy. Here are some of the challenges you will most likely come up against in your career.
1. You’re a slave to technology
Okay, so that’s kind of an extreme way of putting it, but it’s terrifyingly true. With a working laptop and a solid internet connection, you’re a successful and happy online tutor. If just one of those things dies on you, you’re in an echo chamber with no way of reaching your students (and in turn, your source of income).
What this means is, you need to be prepared for the worst. Of course, you don’t need to have an expensive laptop sitting unused in case you need it, but you do need some kind of contingency plan in place should yours give up on you. The same goes for your internet connection, charging cables, microphone, and any other tech you use.
2. Online tutoring is surprisingly exhausting
This job takes it out of you in more ways than one. You’ve probably already considered the fact that it will be mentally taxing having to be excited about the subject matter and keeping your students happy and engaged. However, there’s a physical burden to teaching too.
From the effect of constant screen-gazing on your eyes to the impact long hours of sitting has on your skeletal system, online tutoring can take a toll on your body.
To keep yourself in good shape, it’s worth either adding a blue-light-filtering lens to your glasses (ask your optometrist about this), or investing in a pair of non-prescription blue-light-filtering glasses for your screen time.
You’ll also want to logically design your office ergonomics. Ensure that your computer is at the ideal height for your arms and your line of sight, and consider investing in a good quality office chair or, if you’re really adventurous, a yoga ball to sit on for lessons.
3. Class cancelations can be a career killer
Though you do get a lot of freedom in scheduling your tutoring sessions, once you’ve locked them in, you really have no room to budge. Class cancelations can result in heavy penalties if you don’t have a valid reason (and evidence to back you up), and if you make a habit of it, you won’t have work for long.
This is completely understandable – students need structure and routine, and above all, they need to be able to rely on their educators. On a personal note, it’s also essential for adults to set a good example for the kids they meet – the last thing you want to do is model unreliability to growing minds.
This means online tutoring may demand a few sacrifices from you. While your freelance writer friends may be able to drop their work to go surfing in the morning, if you have classes scheduled, you won’t be able to join them.
4. Time zone restrictions
This is another drawback that eats away a little more of the freedom online tutors get to enjoy. Though you have some wiggle room in scheduling your classes, they need to fit within timeframes that suit your students’ time zone.
Much of the demand for online English tutors comes from China, and the kids tend to be free for lessons in the afternoon and evening. This translates to some very early morning for tutors in North America, and late evenings for tutors in Australia.
5. No benefits or paid vacations
Since you’ll be a contractor rather than an employee, you won’t get healthcare, paid vacations, paid sick leave, or any of the perks you might be used to if you’ve spent most of your working life in full-time employment.
Online tutoring: final thoughts
Though there are some challenges involved in becoming an online tutor, this is one field in which the positives drastically outweigh the negatives.
If you’re a great communicator who loves meeting people from different cultures and helping them grow (while learning a whole lot yourself), then this could be the ideal work-from-home career path for you.
Do you have any questions about the life of an online tutor? Let us know in the comments section below and we’d be happy to help. You can also check out our top tips for being successful as an online tutor as we may have already answered your question there.