WHY I DECIDED TO TEACH ENGLISH ONLINE.
In all honesty I never thought I would be teaching English online (or anywhere) as a job. I have been running my own online business for over 3 years now and although it has been a bumpy ride I have never wanted to do anything else in all that time. However 2019 has been a tough year for the business and I needed to find a way to supplement my income. Since I have been working from home in Portugal (or on the road) for the last 4 years the notion of having to go to a physical place of work made me very anxious so I started looking up other options. I threw myself into SEO and affiliate marketing but I also needed a way I could make money right away…. Introducing online teaching with Palfish! I wanted to write this blog so I can share my honest opinion and experience of this journey so far. At time of publishing I am seven weeks in.
*Some links included in this post are affiliate/referral links. This means if you sign up using one of these links I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only include links for products and services I love and use regularly. Using these links helps me to build my small business and maintain this travel blog. Thank you.
Teaching English online makes perfect sense to me at this time in my life because it gives me the ability to work from anywhere. I live in Portugal and finding work that offers even half decent pay can be difficult especially as I can’t always commit long term. Those closest to me know my fear of not being able to travel is real. As strange as that might sound to some I thrive on new experiences and get pretty antsy when I don’t have future travel plans. With Palfish I can work from anywhere that has a good internet connection (which lets face it is almost everywhere on the planet these days) meaning I can still combine work and travel if I need/want to.
The other reason I decided to go down the online teaching route is the money. I had read that it pays good although I didn’t actually believe it until I started earning from it myself. I have been working for Palfish for about 7 weeks and I am just about to hit £15.40 an hour (£7.70 a lesson). I’ll talk more about the kind of pay you can expect in the ‘Pro’s’ list below.
Deciding to go down this route has given me extra security and money whilst still offering me freedom to work from anywhere. At the moment I have chosen to throw myself fully into the teaching but when I need to focus on my business again I know I can switch up my schedule and keep teaching in the background.
06/12/2019 UPDATE : I have now reached level 5 and making £8.30 a lessons so almost £17 an hour!
SO, WHAT IS PALFISH?
Palfish is an app to help non-native English speakers learn the English language. The majority of its learner users are based in China but the native English speaking teachers are based all over the world. The app essentially brings students and teachers together. There are several ways in which you can teach on the app including the Official Kid’s Course, Free Talk and by creating your own lessons and packages. You can choose just one of these or do a mixture of all three.
OFFICIAL KID’S COURSE (OKC) – This is probably the most popular and easy way to make money through the app and at the moment I solely do OKC. Kids are offered a free trial lesson on Palfish in the hope that they (or rather their parents) will pay for a package of lessons off the back of it. Although the kids do not pay for their trial lesson you get paid as normal. When you start out you’ll mainly be teaching trial lessons and you’ll get to know the slides pretty quickly. After a while you will hopefully start attracting regular students who have bought a package (either from you or someone else). When the buy a package the join the Official Kid’s Course. On both trials and courses you are provided with teaching materials to follow. When teaching these classes you are expected to be in a ‘classroom’ setting. This means a quiet room or space with good light and a backdrop featuring the Palfish logo.
FREE TALK – Free talk is a way for learners to call teachers and discuss certain topics, prepare for exams or just improve their English overall. You can choose your own rates for Freetalk and Palfish take a 20% cut. Free talk can be with kids but also adults too. The bonus is you do not need your video on for Freetalk which means you don’t need to be sat in your ‘classroom’ to take a call. If you’re not really keen on working with kids this could be a great option as there are plenty of adults who are desperate to improve their conversational English skills or practice for their IELTS exam. I have only taken a few freetalk sessions as I focus mainly on OKC but check out this guy to learn more…
CREATE YOUR OWN – You can also create your own lessons and slides to teach. You can create seminars and packages and choose your own price. If you have a teaching background this could be a great route to go down but you will still need to build up your students first. Palfish will need to approve all your lessons before you can sell them. This is also a great way to start making passive income from teaching online. Again I haven’t ventured down this route but there are plenty of teachers on Palfish who are successful going down this route.
WHAT DO I NEED TO GET STARTED
You need to be a native English speaker, that is have English as your first language. You also need a TEFL/TESOL certificate– you can get this Groupon – just check the course is ‘accredited’ before you dive in. You don’t need a degree but if you do have one you can include this on your profile too. Of course a teaching background is very helpful but also not essential to join Palfish. You need a decent phone or tablet, preferably with IOS (Apple) or Android (Samsung) operating system. I teach on my iPad most of the time as it is kinder on the eyes than my phone. If you have one of these I would highly recommend it. If not your phone will work just fine.
Once you pass the interview you’ll be given 200RMB (about £25) to spend on ‘props’. I made my own backdrop and cut and paste my own props but if you want to save time there are some great Palfish friendly props on Etsy. I’m actually really impressed with how good some of these look.
SHOP PROPS ON ETSY >>> https://bit.ly/3eqLbRQ
Palfish ask you to wear blue when teaching. It doesn’t have to be a shirt (but it can if you want it to be) I mostly wear t-shirts and jumpers that I already had in my wardrobe. If you want to look super pro to potential students go for a Palfish branded tee or hoody.
SHOP PALFISH CLOTHING >>> https://amzn.to/2B0FLhM
WHY CHOOSE PALFSH?
There are several reasons why I chose Palfsh but the biggest being they accept native English speakers from the UK. Some of the larger companies such as VIPkid only take teachers from USA and Canada. Despite the amount of information available online about different types of online English teaching platforms I still found it rather confusing trying to figure it all out. As a British national I didn’t have as much choice as someone from the US when it came to platforms but I am so glad I chose Palfish. I know some people work for two companies but I would strongly suggest just putting your time into one especially at the beginning. Palfish has been amazing so far. Sure there have been a few downfalls to this app but mainly I have been reaping the benefits of the platform. Mainly that I am about to start earning more than I ever have per hour after less than two months of work. Here are my pro’s and con’s after seven weeks of working with Palfish teaching English online.
THE PROS OF TEACHING ENGLISH WITH PALFISH
VERY DECENT PAY
The starting rate for Palfish is 50yuan per lesson (25minutes) plus a bonus 5yuan incentive if you arrive on time. 55yuan is the equivalent of around £6 so a very acceptable £12 per hour to get you started. The good news is you are then able to jump up to new pay levels super quickly through a points system.
You receive 5 points for every lesson you teach plus bonus points for achievements such as selling packages, perfect attendance and teaching at peak times. Within 3 weeks I had made it to level2 which means in my second month I am being paid £6.50 per lesson (£13 an hour).
I have now been working around 7 weeks in and I am set to make level 5 by the end of the month taking it up to £8.30 a lesson. This means in December I will make an impressive £16.60 an hour working for Palfish! The points reset each month so you have to continually reach that level to receive that amount of pay. When I first started I pictured level 3 being a long way off but within 6 weeks I’m almost at level 5.
Of course this is a huge bonus. If you have another job or you need to take your kids to school you can work your Palfish hours around this. To get the most out of the app and get the best chance of being allocated a good amount of lessons you should have your schedule open 530-9pm Bejing time which is when you will get most of your lessons. I would start off by opening as many of these as possible and once you start getting students you can tweak your hours to fit in with you.
WORK FROM ANYWHERE (WITH WIFI!)
As mentioned in my intro – this is imperative to me. When I started my business my goal was to work from anywhere so when I started looking for additional work It was important it could compliment this. You do need a good internet connection so make sure wherever you are has strong wifi and make sure you have data on your phone as a back up incase you need it. I’m about to embark on a six week trip to Thailand so I will be able to update you on my experiences of teaching while I am traveling soon.
VERY LITTLE START UP COSTS
There are little or no start up costs with Palfish. You can teach directly from your phone or tablet (just check that your model is suitable for using the app). The only other expense is your TEFL/TESOL certificate which you’ll need to pick up regardless of if you have a teaching degree/ experience or not. I picked a 40hour one as I wanted to get started right away. I would recommend taking a 120 hour one if you have the time. There are usually cheap deals for this on Groupon and at the moment you can take your 120 hour course for £29 .
I have to be honest and say I’m not naturally a ‘kid person’. I don’t have my own kids yet and although I did love teaching kids to surf the idea of teaching in in a classroom setting gave me the hebee jibes. So I was a little apprehensive about spending a chunk of my day doing this. I needn’t have worried as I love teaching these kids. They are (mostly) well behaved and eager to learn and it is genuinely heart warming seeing them improve through the lesson. Your teaching style will attract some kids and push away others but that’s ok. Its all about finding the right teacher for the right student and that’s why Palfish is so good.
AMAZING TEACHING MATERIAL PROVIDED (NO NEED TO CREATE LESSON PLANS!)
When you are accepted to be a OKC teacher on Palfish you are provided with all of the teaching materials and lesson plans. You literally do not have to plan anything yourself. You can access the slides beforehand to get a gist of the lesson and there are prompts throughout to help. It really is super easy.
THE PALFISH COMMUNITY
Once you have passed your interview you’ll be entered into two support groups which are designed to help you get started and answer any questions about lessons etc. There are around 300 members in each group and they are essentially a huge group chat. When I joined I had no intention of really using them as it just seemed like another way to waste time on the app BUT they have actually proved invaluable. The mentors have been helpful in answering any questions but the biggest benefit has been chatting with others going through the same process as you or those who’ve already come out the other side. When I’ve been worried about how a lesson went, am not sure how to teach a specific slide or just need a morale boost these groups have been brilliant. I even feel like I’ve made some penpals! The groups are optional so you don’t need to be involved if you don’t want to/don’t have time but keep them open incase you do need to call on them at some point. You can also mute conversations if you don’t want constant notifications.
THE CONS OF WORKING WITH PALFISH/ ANY ONLINE TEACHING PLATFORM
As with any Job in the world there are some downsides to teaching English online. These are a few that cropped up in my first few months working with Palfish.
SELF-PROMOTION/ MARKETING AT THE BEGINNING
Palfish requires you to find and attract students to book with you. After reading several blogs and watching a few YouTube videos I must admit I was under the impression I would be plied with loads of lessons straight off the bat. Although Palfish does help you out for your first few days by giving you trails the rest is up to you. You need to put time and effort in right at the beginning to be able to build up bookings. This involves self promotion – something I was hoping to get away from after spending three years trying to build my business solely through social media. However in contrast to growing an IG following finding students and bookings on Palfish takes a lot less time and energy. The benefit of the self-promotion aspect is that you can market yourself to your ideal student when you get going. Maybe you want to work with solely younger kids? Or maybe you want to work with teenagers? You can curate your profile to attract these types of students if you wish.
MY BIGGEST TIP : Open as many hours ‘weekly’ as possible (especially for peak hours 5pm-8pm BJT) and take as many pop-ups as you can in those first few weeks. I worked (and still do work) throughout the night during the weekend to gain more trials and therefore more lessons, money and regular students. Don’t sign up until you know you have a week or two with a bit of extra time on your hands so you can spend a good chunk of time on the app working out what works for you. You’ll learn to post moments, join the reading app and compose your own lives which will all help bring students in. Like anything in life you have to work for it. Don’t expect (like I did) to just pass the interview and be handed dozens of students. The good news is that once you get rolling the snowball effect will come into play and you’ll be as busy as you wish in no time at all. Above all – practice patience! If you master it please tell me how!
GLITCHES / APP PROBLEMS
The only other downside (which is probably true of most apps like this) is the glitches. I have heard varying degrees of problems when it comes to the app not playing ball; mostly this involves slides lagging or freezing completely. I have experienced this myself on a few lessons but managed to scrape by without it effecting me too much. The general concencus is that the problems are caused when the operating system on your phone is updated (IOS, ANDROID etc) and clashes with Palfish. My best advise is to try and log off the app in-between lessons and turn your device off and back on when you can. Even better have another device you can use. Try to hold off any operating system updates until any potential problems have been sorted with Palfish. Contact admin when you get a problem but do not be surprised if you do not get a reply right away. I’d advise asking for advice in your mentor group.
MY HONEST OPINION AFTER FIRST SIX WEEKS (NOVEMBER 2019)
Ok so I am seven weeks in and I can honestly say it was a rollercoaster ride at the beginning. Before joining Palfish I watched loads of YouTube videos and read a sea of blogs that told me I would be inundated with lessons once I signed up. This simply was not the case for me. After the initially flurry of trial bookings Palfish provided I definitely felt like I was out on my own fighting for bookings. I found comfort in other teachers who told me it would be tough the first few weeks/months and to stick at it and it would pick up. This is completely true. Do as many hours as you can, spend lots of time on the app and you WILL get busy. This is what I did and on week six I turned a corner. Now I consistently have have 100+ bookings in my schedule for the following 2 weeks and next month I will be making over £15 an hour. That’s more money than any other job has paid me before AND I can do it from anywhere. I am about to travel to Thailand for six weeks and I am beyond excited to be able to make *good* money while I’m traveling doing this. I guess all that’s left to say is I am still very new to this so who knows what challenges this will bring up over the next few months. Overall I have been massively impressed with Palfish and I am genuinely looking forward to seeing where the next few months take me.
As I am still at the beginning of my Palfish journey and I am learning new things everyday. If you have any questions please let me know and I’ll try my best to answer them and add them to a FAQ section below.