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How to Make Money Teaching English Online

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Jenna Delport
Jenna Delport
I’m a tech writer, world traveller, avocado-eater and dog lover, not always in that order.

The online education market has grown rapidly within recent years. Opportunities for teachers to make money teaching English online are abundant. But make no mistake. You’ll have a lot of competition.

In this blog post, we’ll give you some tips on how to stand out and get started making money teaching English online. With everything from qualifications and working hours to marketing and creating a virtual classroom. Your online English teaching adventure has only just begun.

Get Qualified

This is a crucial first step in your online English teaching career. Paying customers want to be sure they are not studying with a cowboy teacher. Your qualifications are a quick and easy way for potential students to see your teaching ability.

As a minimum, most online teaching companies generally require that you have a university undergraduate degree, although there are a few employers who make an exception to this rule. Note that your degree does not have to be teaching or TEFL-related.

Beyond this, you are strongly recommended to get TEFL qualified to help you stand out from the crowd and demonstrate to potential students that you have at least a basic understanding of teaching English as a foreign language. The in South Africa offers a range of TEFL courses which meet the various needs of TEFL teachers. Course units cover grammar, lesson planning, managing student behaviour and more.

Some courses are even tailored specially to online TEFL teachers. In addition to improving yourself as a teacher, certain units will cover how to market yourself to potential students, crucial in helping you stand out from other online TEFL teachers and maximizing your earning potential.

In some respects, your qualifications are your first impression upon potential students. Get qualified and you will already be on your way to making money teaching English online.

Where to find Students 

Essentially, online TEFL teachers have three options here. Let’s go through each one by one and talk about the respective pros and cons. 

Option number one: Get a job with an online teaching company 

The main pro here is that the employer will pretty much do everything for you. Assuming they are professional, you will be provided with basic lesson materials and a virtual classroom. And you don’t have to worry about where your next students are coming from because the company will take care of that too. 

On the downside, you probably won’t have the flexibility you dreamt online teaching would give you. And expect your earning potential to be limited as the company will pocket most of the students’ fees. Applying for an online teaching job could be a good way to get started with online teaching, but might not be so good to do long-term. 

Option number two: Post your teacher profile to freelance websites

This will give you a little more flexibility in terms of your schedule and what you want to teach. And you won’t have to worry about how you will get paid because most freelance websites will take care of this for you. 

Still, however, if you’re looking to make a fortune, this probably isn’t the way to go. Freelance teaching websites will usually take a cut of students’ fees as a condition of your posting on their site. 

Option three: Create your own independent online teaching website

The biggest pro of this is that your potential earnings are effectively unlimited as you won’t have any third parties taking cuts from students’ fees. And you will have ultimate flexibility. You can teach what you want when you want. You can be your own boss. 

As an independent online TEFL teacher, you will effectively be running your own business. And you probably don’t need me to tell, this takes a lot of work. Setting up a website, marketing yourself to potential students, designing a curriculum etc. all take time and effort. 

Option three may sound daunting. But if you want to teach English online in the long-term, it may well be the best option for making money from teaching English online, provided you have a well-thought-through plan. 

Marketing your Teaching Services 

This step is essential if you are to be successful in making money teaching English online. 

First things first, you need a good resume. This is particularly important if you are applying for an online teaching job with a company. Other than the basics of writing a resume (there are too many to go into here), there are two key things to remember. 

In the qualifications, put your TEFL certificate at the top. This way the employer knows straight away you are a TEFL-qualified candidate. And in the work experience section, list any teaching experience first. If you are applying to teach kids, list experience of teaching kids. For teaching adults, list any experience of teaching adults.

If you are short of work experience, consider any transferable skills you may have acquired from any other experience. For instance, coaching sport to kids may show an employer you are able to manage the behaviour of and motivate young students. If you are applying to teach business English online, you may want to mention the experience of working in business to let employers know you are familiar with business-related ESL material. 

For those going freelance or independent, you need to take marketing to the next level. For freelancers, this will be in the form of your profile on freelance websites. When writing your profile, think about who you want to market your services to and adjust the tone accordingly. For kids, you will probably want to sound fun and exciting. For adults or business English learners, you will want to come across as more serious and professional. 

Likewise, when creating a website as an independent online English teacher, think about who your target market is. For young kids and pre-teens, you may want your site to be bright and colourful with something young learners can relate to. And for adults or business English learners, you may want a professional-looking profile picture of yourself and to use language which strikes a professional tone. 

Potential students are more likely to pay for your teaching services if you have a specialist teaching area. Knowing your target market will take you a long way towards making money teaching English online. 


This is vital for delivering quality online lessons so that students are happy to keep paying for your services. 

Generally, this is what you will need to teach a high-quality online English lesson: 

  • An up-to-date computer
  • HD Webcam 1080/720 HD
  • Headset with microphone/external microphone
  • Minimum 5MB per second internet speed 

Beyond this, you should think about using a virtual classroom platform to make your lessons interactive. As well as clear audio and video, such platforms offer features such as a virtual whiteboard, space to upload screenshots or photocopies of text, space to upload PowerPoints, a messaging service and more.

If you are working for an online teaching company, there is a good chance that a lot of the above will be provided for you and that there will be someone on hand in case of technical issues mid-lesson.

If you are going freelance or independent, it will be your responsibility to ensure you have the appropriate equipment and software. And make sure you are familiar with all of it. If anything goes wrong mid-lesson, the only person able to help you will probably be… you! 

Think of it this way. If your paying students are constantly experiencing a bad audio connection, poor video quality or whatever other problems, they probably won’t be willing to keep on paying for your classes. Having the right equipment is essential to making money by teaching English online.

Getting Paid 

For those working for a company or via freelancing website, this may not be something you have to worry about. For those going independent, take note.

Fortunately, getting paid over the internet has never been easier or more secure. They are as follows:

  • PayPal: Perhaps the obvious choice for many as it is by far the largest online payment provider.
  • Payoneer: This may be an option for your students in some developing countries where PayPal is not available.
  • Bank Wiring: This can be expensive as you will usually have to pay a flat rate fee per transaction.
  • Gumroad: This allows for payment via credit card and via PayPal.
  • Stripe: This can be used by payment plug-ins on WordPress which you may use to set up your own teaching website.
  • Sam Cart: This platform features functions to help teachers promote lessons to students. Make sure you have a large number of students otherwise it can be expensive to use.

Opportunities await 

The opportunities to make money teaching English online are vast. But within such a large market, there is a lot of competition. It is crucial to ensure you not only do the basics well but also work on how you can stand out. 

Following these tips will help you get your online English teaching career started. Your journey into online English teaching has only just begun.

Staff writer

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