How to teach online?

How to teach online?

How do I get started teaching online? This is a question you’ve likely asked yourself, or you wouldn’t be here. Stepping away from the classroom or a comfortable day job to make a go of distance teaching can be intimidating. That’s why Teacher Indie is here. This article will help you learn how to teach online and put together a plan for getting started. We’ve also got many resources covering all angles of teaching online and digital nomad entrepreneurship. Let’s get started!

Identify your expertise

We discussed this in depth in the article Do I Have What It Takes To Be A Successful Online Entrepreneur. The most important factor in figuring out how to teach online is to identify the skill set you’re going to offer. What do you do well? How can you help people? Once you’ve got this figured out, start plotting the major milestones that have led you to becoming an expert in this topic. Mark those as teaching points to emphasize to your students or those viewing your online course. Then, think about the best way to deliver that information to students.

Online teaching platforms: A quick overview.

We’ll get into these platforms more in this article and others, but these are the three primary ways to make money teaching online.

  • Online video courses: If looking to create a guide that can be applicable to a large number of people, an online course may be the best route. Sites such as Udemy are a great place to learn more about the world of online courses and find out if recording yourself teaching your expertise is right for you.
  • Teaching and tutoring schools. If looking to help students with a specific subject. Or you are hoping to get a job teaching at an online school or university.
  • Starting your own company. ESL teachers, music instructors, and tutors often wish to work solely for themselves. By forming your own company, you’ll have complete freedom over material, rates, and profit.

Getting Started

Contracting with an online teaching platform

How long it will take to launch your online teaching career depends on the type of teaching you plan to do. It also depends on whether you’ll be working through an existing platform or building your own website and starting a company from scratch. Many sources for teaching online, such as freelancer directories and certain music or language schools, require little more than signing up, creating a profile, and jumping into the pool. Having a few profiles online can help generate the first base of clients and help to build a resume and portfolio.

Some companies, such as Live Lingua, have a more legitimate hiring process because we are looking for quality teachers that (we hope) will stay with us for extended periods of time. Our process has multiple steps, beginning with sending in a resume. Once the resume is accepted, you’ll go through one to two rounds of interviewing, and then be brought on for a three-month trial period prior to being fully vetted and on-boarded with the company.In almost all circumstances, online teachers are independent contractors. Therefore, you’ll typically set your own hours based on availability and be responsible for your own taxes.

Starting Your Own Website

If starting your own website, allow extra time. You’ll need to build your site (see the article linked above for advice on that), develop a business plan, and do some marketing before being ready to launch. All in all, this could take two to three months to get set up.

Research how others are doing it.

Distance education allows a great deal of freedom for teachers to incorporate their personality into lesson plans. That said, there are many successful online teachers who have set a good example of how to do things effectively. Students should take something valuable from each encounter with you.

Make sure you have these considerations on lock down:


A big part of teaching a successful course, lesson, or just about anything else, to a web-based audience is preparation. Your students pay to learn something, and they expect the process to flow smoothly. Prior to flipping on the webcam for your first lesson, have the course plan or curriculum finalized and presentable.

Take the time to become familiar with the classroom management system you’ll be using. The same goes for any other software, websites, or SAAS (software as a service) programs that are used to host or present your material.


If teaching via your own website, the site should be complete with any necessary information and tools that the student will need. We’ll preach this over and over on Teacher Indie: the key to being a successful online teacher is to present yourself as an expert. Putting off a vibe of winging it or ill-preparedness to help the student get from start to finish is going to doom you to a succession of one-off customers. Being upfront about this being a new venture or concept for you is fine – you can be perfectly honest while still coming across as having your &%$! together. 

Planning Your Business Approach

The finance game

Whether you’re doing this as a side hustle to earn extra cash or you’re planning to completely leave the day job and pursue online teaching full time, it’s important to have your business plan figured out. This can always be amended down the line – if the side hustle becomes the full-time gig, for example. To get started, have these basic things figured out:

  • Calculating your rate.

    This is a biggie. You want to be competitive with what’s available while also earning the income needed to make teaching online worthwhile. Let’s break this down into steps.

    • First, calculate the total monthly income you hope to generate from teaching online.
    • Then, make a note of how much time you can put into it per month. For full time teachers, be sure you’re leaving room for spending cash, savings, and other financial responsibilities. If you need $2000USD/month from this project, and have 20 hours per week available to teach, your hourly rate should be $25.
  • Saving for taxes.

    In the US, freelancers pay the Self Employment Tax, in lieu of normal taxes that are taken out of W-2 employment income. Most other countries have similar setups with different names, some with higher rates than others. A general rule of thumb is to put aside 25% of your income for taxes, before expenses. If you’re a pro at saving money and can hold yourself accountable for transferring 25% into your savings account for taxes every month, bravo! For the rest of us, there are a number of services to help with that:

    • Track automatically transfers the designated amount into a savings account, and calculates your estimated quarterly taxes.
    • Quickbooksa great online accounting service for small business owners. Handle invoicing, track expenses for tax purposes, and more.
    • TurboTax Self Employed and FreeTaxUSAaccounting software built for freelancers, that allow you to file your taxes.


How do you plan to attract students? Putting yourself out there as much as possible is the best thing you can do. Particularly for those starting their own website, repetition is the name of the game. Social media presence is key. Craigslist can be a good resource. Also, registering your site with online business directories tailored towards your niche is a good idea.

For social media advertising, find a professional to build a campaign. It’s very easy to throw money away on Facebook advertising and not see much return. People who specialize in social media campaigns know how to directly target ad campaigns to people looking for your services.

I always recommend attending events and conferences. In-person connections are the best way to form business relationships. Online communities such as Location Indie can be great for sourcing leads.

Putting It Into Action

You’ve got a basic feel for how to teach online. Remember: In the world of freelancing and entrepreneurship, no one is going to come hounding you to work harder or get more done. It’s all on you! YOUR income, YOUR lifestyle freedom, and YOUR business are a result of YOUR hard work and commitment. We’re here to help – take these resources and run with them!

Ray is the founder and creator of Teacher Indie. He is an award-winning entrepreneur who has created online education businesses that have appeared in publications such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc Magazine, Buzzfeed, The Boston Globe and many others. His goal is to help teachers from around the world get online and gain the financial independence they deserve.

1 Comment

  1. I was thinking about starting my own business that is marketed to homeschooling parents so that I am actually teaching public school classes online. Is this something that is even possible, or should I stick with one-on-one type situations? I am certified to teach all 4 core subjects and also special education in the state of Texas. Thanks for your input?

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