- already have Chinese students interested in taking classes with you or
- you’re looking to find Chinese students to teach
…there is a huge market for independent ESL teachers right now.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps to teaching Chinese English students online as an independent teacher.
Here are the steps:
- What Curriculum to Use
- How many classes a week and how long (older students less time)
- Setting a Price
- Payment Processing
- Live Teaching Software
- Cultural Differences
- Expectations and How to Exceed Them
- Be Sure to Diversify
What Curriculum to Use
There are a lot of resources out there that you can use to teach your ESL students. You do not need to write your own.
Writing your own can be great for your long-term goals, but most teachers don’t realize the kind of time investment that’s required to create an entire curriculum that takes students from zero to fluent.
Most parents in Asia want to know…
…that you will be able to keep teaching their child for years to come, taking them all the way through elementary, junior high, and even high school, even though the older they are the less time they have (see below).
I am a little biased, of course, but I highly recommend the Kid-Inspired ESL Curriculum for use with your Chinese students.
- The curriculum was developed over the course of a decade based on the results 1000s of students and the consistent feedback of dozens of teachers.
- The curriculum covers all language domains.
- It does require more effort on your part than simply clicking through a slideshow presentation, but the results are also far better.
Students who have been learning online through many of the online teaching platforms that have now gone under often do well with listening and filling in blanks, but they often struggle with speaking, writing, and reading. These are key areas that parents need their children to succeed in.
The better results you get your students, the more likely their parents are to recommend you to other parents.
Check out the quick training video below on how to use the curriculum for teaching online.
There are two options to get access to the curriculum:
- The ESL Curriculum Membership – Includes the entire curriculum and all supporting resources.
- The Independent Teachers Membership – Includes:
- The entire ESL Curriculum Membership
- Exclusive promotional content for parents
- A website with payment processing, scheduling software, and more
- Training courses for going independent
- A beautiful, exclusive community forum
- Loads of swipe files on policies, email templates, social media templates, etc.
How Many Classes a Week and How Long
For younger students…
…online classes can be a challenge. It’s better to have shorter classes and more of them.
- 25-30 minute classes 3-4 days a week
- 50-minute classes 1-2 days a week
…in China are far busier. Parents still hope that they’ll be able to continue learning and practicing English, but they generally only have time on the weekends to do so.
- 50-minute classes 1 day a week (Usually Saturday morning Chinese time is a good time)
Setting Your Rates
Before you start teaching Chinese students, you’ll need to decide what rates you want to charge.
A lot of teachers seem to be tempted to push down prices in order to attract students.
Ironically, very often, the more you charge, up to a point, the more there is the perception that you’re a better teacher. Of course, you have to back that up by actually being a good teacher.
…the more in-demand you are, the less price matters. In Asia, people are drawn to long lines. If you let parents know that you are in high demand and spots are limited, price will almost be a non-issue.
I’d definitely set your prices at a rate that you won’t require you to pack lessons in back to back in order to make ends meet.
Within reason, I’d start with your end goal–how much do I want to need to make a month, how many hours a week do I want to spend teaching, lesson planning, etc–in mind and work your way back to your hourly rates. Parents in Asia pay anywhere from next to nothing all the way up to around $100/hour for tutoring. I’d recommend charging between $30-60/hour.
Think about the kind of rates that you will be happy with 5 years from now.
How Much to Charge Calculator
I’ve built a How Much to Charge Calculator you can use to help you thing through the different variables you should consider when deciding how much to charge.
Since many independent online ESL teachers find new students through referrals, it’s difficult to raise prices after you’ve set them.
Parents talk. 🙂
There are a few options available to you for taking payments online from Chinese students.
- WeChat & AliPay (via Stripe)
WeChat & AliPay (via Stripe)
WeChat and/or AliPay are the best options because they are ubiquitous in China. Your parents will likely already have accounts and use them for paying for things online already.
Using these options creates a lot less friction.
To activate them, you will fist need a Stripe account. Once you have a Stripe account, you can go into Settings -> Payment Options -> Eligible and click to have WeChat and AliPay activated.
Some business owners have no issues with activation while others are required to provide documents to Stripe and, in some cases, have a DBA (Doing Business As) name. Getting a DBA requires setting up a sole-proprietorship which involves some paperwork, but it is not terribly difficult.
Once these options are activated, you can send an invoice that allows parents to pay using WeChat, but no AliPay, unfortunately.
The websites included with the Independent Teachers Membership all you to connect both AliPay and WeChat (via Stripe) to take payments from customers in China. There are tutorials in the membership on how to set everything up.
PayPal is a lot easier for you, but not necessarily for your parents.
Parents in China can set up a PayPal account and pay via PayPal. It’s just that many parents haven’t heard of or used PayPal before.
There are teachers who ask parents to sign up for a PayPal account in order to make payments and many parents are happy to do so if it solves the issue of payments.
Worried about fees? Check out this article on the different fees these processors charge and how to minimize them.
Connect WeChat & AliPay to Your Website Checkout – The Best Way to Take Payments from Chinese Customers
The website included with the Independent Teachers Membership includes the ability to accept payments with Alipay, WeChat, and/or PayPal from Chinese Customers. Watch the video below to learn more.
Live Teaching Software
Zoom is pretty much the gold standard for teaching independently.
There are just so many great tools built into Zoom to help you make your lessons engaging for your students.
Zoom is accessible for users in China, though some may not be so sure how to use it and require some assistance.
On a free account, Chinese users can only be invited to a meeting. They cannot create a meeting themselves.
If you send your parents/students a link to a Zoom meeting, they can join. They will need to download the software and they may need to put in an ID for the Zoom meeting, but they can join.
Some other options you can consider are:
- Microsoft Teams
I’ve had some experiences that have given me some insight into Chinese culture:
- Learning Mandarin Chinese
- Running My Own Brick & Mortar After-School English Program in Taiwan for Over a Decade
- Interacting with Parents to Assess Incoming Students, Promote Our School, Solve Problems, etc.
Expectations and How to Exceed Them
Parents in China want their children to excel in all areas of English.
Many of them have settled for the English education their children receive from typical online teaching platforms, but they recognize that there is a lot of room for improvement.
Too often their children end up with decent listening skills, a basic understanding of English grammar, and even more basic reading and writing skills.
You can easily exceed this standard and endear yourself to your parents.
Parents in China are generally quite happy to see their children challenged. You can have a good time and get amazing results if you use the right curriculum and the right teaching strategies. You can check out the above section on curriculum for more on this.
Apart from doing a stellar job teaching…
…communication is key to exceeding expectations.
Most parents expect their children to:
- be able to use English with foreigners when they have the chance
- do well on tests at school
- be confident at completing their homework assignments
Parents also really, really, really…really, want to see their children using English in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
The more you both:
- communicate about what their children are learning and the results they are getting on assessments
- as well as create opportunities for parents to see those results in action
…the more they will love you and refer others to you.
The Kid-Inspired ESL Curriculum includes assessments every 2-4 units depending on the level. You can use those assessments to get concrete results and then share them with parents.
Be sure to Diversify
Unfortunately, things in China can change very suddenly, as many teachers discovered after online teaching regulations changed in China and many companies were forced to downsize or even shut down, causing many online ESL teachers to be without a job.
There really isn’t any way to predict what kinds of issues you could run into with
- the online meeting software you use with your students
- taking payments
If you want to have a stable, thriving online teaching business…
…start finding students in other countries in addition to those you have in China. This way you’ll avoid a heartbreaking situation where your entire business is suddenly taken you from overnight.
The Build Your Audience course and the Build Your Funnel course inside the Independent Teachers Membership can help you learn how to both find and engage your ideal customers online.
Need More Help? Join the Free Course
I’ve put together a free course that you might find helpful called How to Build a Meaningful & Successful Online Teaching Business.