It’s a question many are asking at the moment: just how much can I earn teaching English online? And is it realistic to make a living as an online English teacher in 2021?
While some people teach online as a side hustle to supplement their income, the opportunities are there to make a full-time living if you have the ambition. Those willing to put in the work stand to reap the rewards in this industry that has been rapidly growing for many years. Take a look at our post all about the current state of the online teaching market to get up to speed and understand what to expect before diving in.
Whether you’re looking to make a bit more cash or you’re serious about a career as an online English teacher, the information in this post will help give you an idea of how much you could be earning!
Working for an online teaching company
Working for an online teaching company is the best way to get started teaching English online. If you have no experience teaching English then you’ll find it very challenging to find clients as an independent online teacher, which can be one of the toughest and most time-consuming aspect of the job. The good thing about online companies is that they do the hard work of sourcing students for you. Many will also provide all of the lesson materials as well, so no need to spend additional hours lesson planning.
It’s a good way to find your feet and build up online teaching experience, but if you’re ambitious and aiming to maximise your earnings you’ll want to progress on to building up your own business as an independent teacher.
How to set your fees
As an independent online teacher, how much you charge will depend on a number of factors and, at first, it can feel a bit like a bit of a stab in the dark. But here are a few things you need to take into account in order to set your price.
What type of lesson is it?
We’re going to get into the different types of online lessons in more depth shortly. Certain types of lessons – like conversational classes – are popular with students and an easy way for teachers to get started. But due to the number of teachers offering these lessons you won’t earn as much as you would with other kinds.
If you have the skills and expertise to offer more specialist lessons – such as exam preparation and Business English, or even more niche topics – then you can expect to earn more.
How much experience you have
A teacher with more experience is going to be able to command a higher fee than one just getting started. As you build up your teaching experience and strengthen your skills you’ll be able to charge more for lessons, but charge too much too soon and you’ll struggle to fill up lesson slots.
What are your qualifications?
If you have no qualifications at all then you’re going to have your work cut out for you. Employers, as well as students, will expect you to have a TEFL qualification, and having further qualifications such as a degree is beneficial (and a necessary requirement to work for a number of online employers).
Remember that in order to attract clients you need to sell yourself. Would you hire someone with no credentials and no experience? Probably not, so don’t expect English language learners to do so either, especially when they have plenty of other options.
Consider where your students are from
You can’t expect a student in Vietnam to pay the same amount as one from Sweden. You need to take into account average salaries in countries and adjust your prices accordingly. Some teachers choose to specialize in teaching language learners from particular countries, so if this is your intention this point is particularly important, and you’ll also want to make sure to advertise lesson prices in your students’ currency.
Work out how much you need to earn
Calculate how much you need to be earning each month to cover your outgoings. It’s unlikely you’ll start teaching English online and immediately have a full schedule of students paying your ideal rate, but knowing how much you need to earn in order to go full time will help guide you.
Types of online lessons and how much you can earn
There are so many different types of online lessons it’d be impossible to cover them all, so we’ll take a look at some of the most common ones. Keep in mind what we’ve just covered about how to set your fees. The figures listed below are just a rough estimate and factors specific to you can lead to earning less or more.
General or conversational English
£8+ / $10+ per lesson
Conversational English is a great place to start if you’re new to online teaching or if you’re looking for a side job to bring in some cash. These lessons don’t typically require a lot of lesson planning or in-depth grammar study, their focus is on practical English and increasing your students’ confidence in their language ability.
But don’t think that it just involves you sitting back and simply listening to your student speak! There’s a skill to conducting good conversational English lessons and those able to hone it will be in high demand and able to up their hourly rate.
£20+ / $25+ per lesson
Business English can be a very lucrative area of TEFL and teachers who succeed in finding their niche can earn very well from it. You don’t necessarily need experience in business to be a successful Business English teacher, although it can help, especially when you’re first starting out.
Keep in mind that there can be a lot of preparation work involved with these kinds of lessons. From a needs analysis to preparing a tailored lesson plan, there can be a lot of work outside of the lesson slot, so that has to be factored into your fee.
£15+ / $19+ per lesson
English learners preparing for their IELTS, TOEFL, or Cambridge proficiency exams often look for extra tuition in the run-up to the exam. You’ll need to become familiar with how these exams are structured and assessed, so prior study on your part will be required before you can get started in this area of TEFL.
£15+ / $19+ per lesson
Just like a typical job interview, you will be helping the learner practice talking about themselves, their strengths and achievements, and what they can bring to the role. Roleplay and scenario-based tasks are best used in this type of lesson.
Sample or trial English lessons
£1+ / $1+
How much you charge for sample lessons is up to you and it might be something that takes a bit of trial and error. Making these lessons free will undoubtedly fill up these slots with timewasters and students who will never convert into paying customers, so even charging as £1 can help to drastically limit this.
Keep trial lessons short – there’s no need to give them a full hour lesson! Around 20-30 minutes is enough time to sell yourself and give a potential student an idea of what a lesson with you involves.
Offering students the option to block book lessons is a great way of filling up your schedule with guaranteed income as these are paid for in advance. An incentive, such as 10% off for booking ten lessons, for example, can work well for both you and the student.
You can get creative with this and put together all sorts of lesson packages. This can be a great way of marketing yourself!
When you’re advertising lessons you need to consider what currency to use. You will most often see teachers advertising lessons in US Dollars ($) or Euros (€), but if you’re focusing on teaching English to people from specific countries then it makes sense to use the currency relevant to them.
Receiving online payments
PayPal is the most common payment method for teaching English online lessons, and it’s straightforward to use. It only takes a few clicks to send an invoice to your students and keep on top of payments.
Know when to raise your fees
You might be wondering at what point do you start raising your fees and it’s actually quite simple. If you’re filling up all your lesson slots each week and have to turn students away then you’re in a position to consider raising your fees.
You might worry about losing students but have confidence in the quality of the lessons you’re offering. If one or two choose not to continue with you then they’ll be replaced with students who are willing to pay your higher rate.
If you’re going to work as an independent English teacher then you’re going to have to learn how to market yourself effectively. You could be offering the best English lessons going, but if you’re not marketing them then no one’s even going to know they exist!
If you don’t know where to start with this then take a look at our 40-hour Teaching English Online advanced TEFL course, which covers how to set up and promote yourself as an online English teacher.
Are you planning to teach English online? Let us know in the comments!