A former teacher started a YouTube side hustle teaching English – here’s how it works

  • Jennifer Thompson started a side hustle teaching English as a second language on YouTube.
  • She had spent five years teaching children English in school in Spain, but wanted more flexibility.
  • Thompson said she’s started using ChatGPT to help her generate example sentences for her videos.

Jennifer Thompson decided to create a YouTube channel detailing her experience as a freelance voiceover actor and video editor after finding success on Upwork.

She began posting videos on how to apply for jobs and get clients. After some success, she had the idea to create another channel based on her previous experience teaching English to an online audience.

Thompson had spent five years after college teaching English in Madrid before joining Upwork.

“I’ve always loved teaching English —that’s what I’ve always been about,” she told me. But she desired the freedom of living in both her native Canada and Spain.

She decided to become a freelancer

Thompson purchased a microphone and taught herself audio editing in order to do voice-overs.

In 2017, she began applying for voice-over jobs on Upwork after recording a demo reel. She also applied to edit video, transcribe audio, and proofread for clients. In 2019, she earned $24,300 on the platform.

Her YouTube channel aimed to help her subscribers get started with freelance work

In October 2019, she decided to post video tutorials about her freelance work.

She’d make YouTube videos showing how she created cover letters, filled out her portfolio, and applied for jobs as a freelancer. This channel earned her $3,500 in one month in 2021.

Based on her own experience, she decided to publish videos on how to get started as a freelance transcriber.

Thompson stated that she saw many creators promising their audiences that they could make thousands of dollars from transcription, but she knew from her experience on Upwork that it would be difficult to make even $5 per hour.

“I know it’s tough to make money online, so I’m not going to sell it as being something easy,” she told me.

She created another YouTube channel for teaching English

Thompson’s videos on how to become a freelance transcriber were becoming increasingly popular, eventually receiving 340,000 views. Their success sparked a new idea, she said, to create another channel teaching English, because many people seeking transcription jobs did not speak English as a first language.

In February 2020, she launched the Sparkle English channel.

Thompson stated that she began with shorter videos that explained quick tips and grammar. In her videos, she’d record herself going through a Powerpoint presentation she’d created using Camtasia, a free recording software.

She would then use Audacity to remove background noise from her voice recording.

She began experimenting with different formats after her first 50 videos. When a phrasal verb series didn’t get many views, she used YouTube analytics to figure out what her audience liked and published videos on those topics. She discovered that videos about basic sentence structure were much more appealing to her audience.

She promoted her side channel on her main channel

Thompson began promoting Sparkle English at the end of her first channel’s videos.

“If I could go back and do it again, I’d probably post longer videos,” she said, referring to the requirement for content creators to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the previous year in order to start making money from ads on YouTube.

Thompson began earning money from advertisements on her side channel by December 2021. In her first month, she earned $144. She earned $2,400 in November 2022, her highest month. She reached 100,000 subscribers on Sparkle English in October of this year.

She uses AI to generate example sentences

Thompson has been using ChatGPT since November 2022 to help her generate examples to demonstrate specific grammar rules for quizzes at the end of her videos.

She used it to generate examples of sentences in a specific tense on a specific topic.

Or she instructs it to “generate ten different sentences.” I’m giving a quiz on the first conditional, and I want two of the sentences to be incorrect while the rest are correct.”

She does, however, have to check and correct sentences generated by ChatGPT because they can contain “some serious grammar errors.” As a result, she does not use it to create content for her YouTube tutorials.

She went on to say, “I want to make sure everything’s perfect.”

She plans to make her side hustle her main channel

Thompson now does far less freelancing, and her Upwork YouTube channel is her primary source of income. She hopes, however, that Sparkle English will soon replace it.

She claims that each video takes her about five hours to create and edit. She currently posts at least one video per week on each channel, but prefers to post two per week on “Sparkle English” if possible.

“Posting every day can be exhausting for your subscribers. “They don’t have time to watch every video,” she explained. “One to three a week I think is an ideal number.”

Her YouTube channels allow her to work from anywhere. She stated that she does not consider herself to be a creator. “I’m a teacher first,” she explained. “I teach on both of my channels. That’s exactly what I do.”

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