Fund Your House Sitting Travels by Teaching English Online

Teach English online

Last updated on November 21st, 2019

Have you thought what it might be like to teach English online to earn a remote income?

Like many of you we’ve tried a number of different ways to create a successful remote income, and I’m guessing as you might have found too, that it’s not easy. If you have a job that’s easily transportable to do from anywhere, then you may be among the lucky digital nomads who have quickly transitioned to working on the road. But when we first hit the road almost 7 years ago now, we found ourselves experimenting with lots of different options… until we realized that we could teach English online, in our case, to Chinese students.

We used this as a stable income while we worked on our other projects, which do now produce a residual income, and we continue to look at other ways to secure an income for the future. Now in our 50’s and semi-retired, our pensions are still a way off, and so it’s important we have the options available to earn some additional part-time income.

House sitting helps reduce your monthly outgoings

Our house sitting lifestyle really does make the difference between needing a full-time career or a part-time job!

Don’t underestimate the savings made on accommodation and utilities like electricity, gas, water and WiFi. Quite often the provision of a car represents a further saving against our annual expenditure. We do have to factor in the costs of flights, visas, car hire, contingencies and living expenses, but the savings on property rentals certainly makes a huge difference. We estimate we save around $30,000 dollars US per year!

Ways we have created a remote income while house sitting

We have tried many different methods to make a remote income with some success, but none of these income streams was enough on it’s own to fund our global travels.

  • paid travel blogging
  • self publishing books and helping other self-publish
  • a house sitting video course on Udemy
  • website design
  • copy writing
  • editing books

We earned a reasonable income by combining all of these services, and still offer most on an ongoing basis. But while they add ongoing incremental amounts to our income stream, none had the consistency of teaching English online.

It was actually possible to SAVE money through our remote online teaching, while working just a few hours each week!

Update 2019 – We have now stopped online teaching as we have a successful website where we earn our income through affiliate marketing. Interestingly though, we work more hours than we did teaching, to create the same income! We do expect this to swing the other way as we gain more and more success.

The shift to online learning

Teaching English online is a fast growing industry and options are springing up all around the world. In China alone, where the population is fast approaching 1.4 billion, 7 million students are said to have enrolled in online lessons during 2015.

Native English speakers with a North American or British accent are in high demand, especially for these Chinese language learners. But If you are articulate in English, with a neutral accent, have a degree and a TEFL qualification, there are still many options available to teach students online from countries around the world.

Are you confused by TEFL jargon?

You can qualify to teach English online by taking one of any number of different courses, either online or in a classroom. But an initial search on the internet may have you wondering what the difference is between TEFL, TESOL and CELTA for instance, and which of the many hundreds of courses advertised are best for you.

Let’s start by understanding the terminology:

  • TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language
  • TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
  • DELTA – Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

How we got started teaching English online as a remote income

Back in 2015, we took a break from house sitting and hot-footed it to China to top-up our travel funds. We were off to teach English to Chinese students in Shenzhen, a sprawling modern city of 23 million people, conveniently located just across from Hong Kong on the Chinese mainland.

We took a slightly “unconventional” approach, arriving on a six month business visa with no firm offer of employment, or place to live. But we did have a friend with “connections”. Within 10 days we had an apartment. This was our view, across to Hong Kong:

The view from our balcony in Shenzhen over to Hong Kong

The view from our balcony in Shenzhen over to Hong Kong

We also had bank accounts, WiFi, and an all important WeChat account – a Chinese app which is like a combined WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. Absolutely everybody uses WeChat in China – currently 700 million users and growing. Most crucially, we had also secured teaching jobs in a super-modern, well equipped, Chinese-run language school.

It’s all about who you know in China when it comes to teaching English

Networking is key in China and having that initial contact who had already established himself in Shenzhen, made all the difference to the speed with which we were able to integrate ourselves into the teaching community, especially as a “mature” couple.

Teaching English Online as a Remote Income

Ian teaching in a Shenzhen classroom

As it happened we were in great demand as a couple in our 50’s. Teachers in China are very highly respected, as is maturity, and there are some excellent opportunities for older, native speakers interested in teaching English in both public and private educational establishments.

With 1.4 billion people, China is now the most populated country in the world and this has resulted in a large number of teaching positions. The Chinese people currently have an insatiable demand for improving their English language skills. Fulfilling this desire has also become a major priority for the Ministry of Education.

Schools are constantly seeking good teachers and offer competitive salaries. Of course 1st tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen pay most, but equally living costs are high and continually rising. Buying a property in Shenzhen is now as expensive as in places such as London or New York!

Second and third tier cities like Chengdu, Wuhan, and Ningbo can make great alternatives, with lower living costs and less stringent teaching requirements if you want a work visa.

Travels in China - time off from TEFL teachingWhat if I want to be “legal”?

It isnโ€™t always easy to find work legally (yes you read that correctly), as it seems the government is making it harder, not easier, for full-time teachers to access the coveted Z working visa.

But, with any type of degree and a minimum of 120-150 hours TEFL certificate, you can pretty-much guarantee a job somewhere in this vast country. You just need to be aware of unscrupulous agents and scams.

While in Shenzhen, I wrote a comprehensive guide to teaching English in China for a popular blog site. Here’s a link to everything you would need to know about how and where to apply for legitimate work.

Transitioning to online English teaching

After 8 months of teaching in classrooms, we were asked if we’d like to do some online English teaching for the same school. At first we rejected the idea because the pay was a little less, but then a light bulb flashed on!

Teaching online could be done from ANYWHERE in the world!

We decided to get on-board quickly and took the time to negotiate higher salaries while still in China – we had become popular teachers within the company among staff and students, and wanted this to be rewarded.

We knew from experience that the chances of securing pay increases once leaving China would be minimal!

Everything was finally coming together. After a number of years experimenting with remote income streams, we now had a way to continue our world travel adventure. We could teach English online, and earn a regular remote income.

For the final piece of the puzzle, we could combine online teaching with house sitting to create our version of a perfect lifestyle!

We only ever worked between 30 and 70 hours a month, and we scheduled our hours to suit our free time. We were even able to take a month off whenever we chose to travel more extensively, or if we didn’t have access to good internet.

Working for a Chinese company presents a number of frustrating niggles. As a Westerner it’s virtually impossible to make changes to the system (the cultural gap is still too wide) and we’ve now learned to accept these subtle nuances of Chinese business etiquette. “Losing face” means that it’s difficult to effect change, as someone would always need to “lose face” in the process!

We can teach English online and earn an income anywhere in the worldApart from this, the work is easy, all lessons are prepared by the school, the platform works efficiently and the students are amazing! Most of them speak very good English – it’s simply a process of making improvements.

As long as we had an internet connection we could earn our income anywhere in the world. If we were in a property with two separate areas we could both teach at the same time, and then enjoy our time off together. Sometimes this was more difficult in smaller homes, but we improvise. Ian once ended up teaching with an ironing board as a table!

This worked out wonderfully for us. We were able to save all the money we earned while in China and simply use our new monthly income to fund our continuing travels.

First things first – Getting started

We’ve put together a useful PDF with all the information we’ve accumulated since starting out on our teaching path. You can check this out here:

If you want to get started teaching in another country, or you want to teach English online, you will almost certainly need a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification, (or an equivalent such as CELTA).

There are many options available online, but if you want to learn how to teach English online, we have negotiated a special 35% discount with a highly respected international TEFL training companyย  – the school where we took our courses.

Simply click the image below and use the HSM35 code at checkout. (It may be necessary to enter the code twice, once on the first page where prompted, and again on the second checkout page).

Teach English online - special 35% off offer

Invest the time now to get your TEFL qualification, learn how to teach English online, and you’ll find that there are many different opportunities available for using your new skill teaching English as a foreign language!

If you’d like to know more about teaching English to kids with Chinese company VIPKid then take a read of this House Sitting Magazine article written by teacher and house sitter, Donna Carvell.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
D - Reply

I am very interested in receiving a tesl certificate but I did not finish my 4 year degree back in the 80โ€™s when I was in college. From your article and several other similar ones it sounds like I am not a candidate for teaching English as a second language. Is this correct? I am retiring from a great 34 year career and I am not interested in going back to college to finish my degree. Does this prevent me from teaching English? Please be straight forward. I would appreciate some honest advice.
Thank you!

    Ian Usher - Reply

    Hi D,
    Yes, you’re right, it can be difficult to secure a position as a TEFL teacher if you don’t have a degree, particularly with schools based in Asian countries. Many companies will ask for a copy of your degree certificate as part of the application process.
    We first started teaching while in China, and met a couple of people there who had managed to secure jobs based just on their TEFL qualification and experience, as they didn’t have degrees. As we mention in the article, in China in particular, much of what you achieve is about who you know, and your ability to network.
    Of course this is no guarantee that you will be able to do the same.
    If you are considering online work then the requirements will vary from school to school.
    A suggestion might be to go through the list of online schools here:
    and ask them directly if they would consider you, if you have your TEFL qualification, but no formal degree.
    Outline your work history and experience. This may swing the deal for you if you sound like a teacher their students will benefit from.
    Based upon those responses you could make a decision on whether to progress with your TEFL course or not.
    See our free pdf for more info:
    Sorry I can’t be any more specific. The need for a degree isn’t a legal requirement as such, just something many companies use as a basic measure of the level the teacher was educated to.
    Hope this helps.

Niefia - Reply

Hi Vanessa
You’re article inspiring – I’m an older wanna-be English teacher – looking to try this when I retire – was thinking my age would work against me though – maybe there is hope – I have a Masters in Nursing Education & have worked as a professor at the local university – was thinking of getting my TEFL or maybe the CELTA – which would boost my chances of securing work ? Since I already have a teaching background do I really need the CELTA? Also how realistic is it that a 65 year old can find a teaching gig?
Thanks for your response

    Vanessa Anderson - Reply

    Hi Niefia and thanks for the feedback. I have to be honest and say the older you are, the harder it might be finding teaching work in other countries. It all depends on the retirement ages in that country. But it’s not impossible, especially online, and for Chinese students it should be remembered that age and experience are honored and respected – that’s what we’ve found as “mature” teachers. My partner Ian has a teaching degree (outdoor ed), but it stands for very little when teaching a language, especially using immersion techniques where you aren’t encouraged to speak in the student’s native language at all. CELTA is an expensive exam but very thorough, where as TEFL can be done online and is much less expensive. The 120 hour course with a reputable company like the one we mention in the article, will set you up with all the skills necessary for teaching English as a Foreign Language. Many of the online schools list TEFL as a requirement for entry, plus a degree in any subject (no doubt that teaching will stand you in good stead at interview stage), and good articulate spoken English (some accept native English teachers only). There are a lot of options out there for teaching, you just might have to apply to a few more to find one that accepts your obvious experience. Maybe try and find an option where you could offer medical vocabulary as a specialist topic – just an idea ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck.

Francesca - Reply

Would it be difficult to go straight to teaching online without having had actual classroom time first (in other words could we expect to have a harder time finding work or anticipate lower pay?). My husband and I spent the last 2 years quitting our lives and selling a few lifetimes worth of belongings (we were deeply rooted in our business and community so our transition to nomads was extremely complicated and Expensive). We are leaving for our first long term house sit in Hawaii but need to stay on the property so we’re hoping to take the TEFL. We are scuba divers and owning our own gear does little to make it more affordable (it’s an expensive hobby no matter what but it’s all we live for) however steady income has not been possible yet. We are seriously considering this but I don’t want to invest time and money in something if it won’t be viable and in this case I don’t see us getting in a classroom any time soon based on our house sitting commitments and travel plans for the next 12 months. Can you please give your honest opinion if this is worth pursuing in this case? Thank you in advance!

    Vanessa Anderson - Reply

    Francesca it’s so hard to say. What I can tell you is I am not a trained teacher, I’ve taught in businesses, but language teaching was very new for me. Despite having a year in China I was still a little nervous teaching online – it’s so different to face to face. But in some respects I think it was harder, because I’d taught in classrooms. I kept comparing the teaching process. I don’t think online schools will mind if whether you’ve had classroom teaching experience, more that you meet the minimum requirements, so for Chinese companies, a degree (in anything) and a 120 hour TEFL or equivalent. What may be tough is meeting your salary expectations – you need to approach the schools that pay a decent lesson rate of $15 upwards, where all your lessons are pre-prepared. I would suggest approaching some of the schools first to see what the selection / acceptance process is and get a feel for it before committing. If you’d like to ask more, please email me or connect in Facebook and message. Happy to help.

Elaien - Reply

hi.i am Elaien.

    Vanessa Anderson - Reply

    Hello Elaine – you are my Chinese student and I’m happy to see you found our website ๐Ÿ™‚ Unfortunately I can’t access you with your QQ number – it doesn’t work. Perhaps you can contact again on the email link. Hope to hear from you ๐Ÿ™‚ Vanessa

      Elaien - Reply

      iI want to tell you that i change my English name, my new name is Skylar. Now,everyone around me call me Skylar!! Do you remember it? That name was you told me before.And i like it . At last ,i want to tell you ,i miss you so much

        Vanessa Anderson - Reply

        Hello Skylar – thanks for writing to me and I have tried to email you but I cannot email to QQ for some reason. Can you email me using the contact page on this website? Glad you like your new English name – I think it was the best choice! Miss teaching you ๐Ÿ™‚

Brenda Middle - Reply

Great article! You make it sound so easy but we also know of the hard work, innovative thinking and incredible amount of research you both have done to get to this place. Thanks for sharing your insights, your knowledge and your experiences with the rest of us!

    Vanessa Anderson - Reply

    Thanks Brenda, spending a year in China did provide us with a lot of insight and experience, which we are pleased we can share. Good luck with your new adventures into the world of TEFL and teaching. I am sure you are going to find it very rewarding, coming from a business training.

Leave a Comment: