How to Start Your Own Online English Teaching Business

When you want to teach English online, getting hired by a company seems to be the easiest way to start your career.

But after a while…

You might become tired of teaching the same beginner lessons over and over again.

Or maybe you’ll want to start looking for opportunities to make more than roughly $15-20 per hour.

Have you ever considered starting your own independent online teaching business – having the freedom to set up your own curriculum, schedule and price model?

In this post, you will learn what it takes and how to get started.

Start Your Own Online English Teaching Business: 7 Steps to success

Should You Teach English Online Independently?

Running your own online teaching business is a lot of hard work, and it’s definitely not for everyone. However, if you do go down this path, you’ll find yourself with a sustainable career that gives you flexibility, creative control, and life skills, not to mention a sizable income.

If you have good credentials and can tutor in business English or help students prepare for the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, or other tests, you can charge a lot of money and will undoubtedly get good business.

If you spend 20 hours a week tutoring in a specialized area at $50 per hour, you’ll make $4,000 a month!

But teaching English independently doesn’t just require good teaching and curriculum development skills.

It also requires you to be self-motivated and unafraid to put yourself out there, to have good entrepreneurship as well as be able to market yourself effectively, manage your finances and your schedule, and take care of nitty-gritty details like paying taxes, figuring out cancellation policies for students, and maintaining a website.

Teaching ESL independently is undoubtedly rewarding. It makes you your own boss, gives you the ultimate freedom and flexibility, and gives you the opportunity to design your curriculum independently.

Keep in mind, you can always teach English in more than one place. For example, you can schedule classes with a major ESL company and practice your teaching skills while you work on your own teaching business and build up a client base.

These are the relevant pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to follow this route:

The Pros

  • Running your own teaching business gives you control over every aspect of your teaching practice, so you’ll never be subject to the whims of a major company.
  • You can build up a good reputation and grow a loyal customer base.
  • You can earn a high salary as an expert teaching professional.
  • Once you’ve become established, you can cooperate with other teachers, help new independent teachers start their own businesses, and even hire teachers to work for you.

The Cons

  • Running your own business is a LOT of work: administration, marketing, sales, payment, and troubleshooting are all up to you.
  • You’ll need to put a lot of effort in before you start seeing results.
  • You assume all the risk, financial and otherwise, for your company.
  • Most teaching companies have a section based in the country where their students are and have staff that communicates with them in their native language. As an independent teacher, you have no support, so all communication, including fielding complaints, is up to you. This may be challenging if your students’ English isn’t great and you can’t communicate with them in their native language.

7+1 Steps for Starting Your Own Online Teaching Business

Starting your own company can seem totally terrifying, and with good reason. It’s a lot of work, and the responsibility for all of it falls on your shoulders.

It’s important to make a plan and strategize so that your teaching company is stable and well-run.

Here are a few tips that will help you create a successful online teaching company.

1. Choose your Specialty

Before starting your independent business, you need to set clear goals for what you want it to look like. You should figure out what specifically you want to teach, who you want to cater to, and what teaching methods you want to use.

Do you want to teach IELTS prep classes to Chinese college students or do you want to teach conversational English to kids in South Africa? Will you give students material to study on their own before class and then review it with them? Find your niche and work to excel there.

Read our guide on how to become an IELTS Examiner.

2. Figure out your Pricing Model

Look at what other teachers with similar experience and specialties as you charge to help determine what a fair price point for your lessons looks like.

You may also want to consider whether you want to sell class bundles, have free trials, or offer promotions.

You’ll also need to write up a student contract that details pricing and your class cancellation policy.

3. Build your Class

Create a model for curriculums including long-term plans and individual lesson plans.

You’ll probably want to modify it to fit individual students once you get to know their language levels and learning styles, but you need to build off of a strong model. This is, after all, the meat of your business.

You should also collect teaching resources, including any materials or textbooks the students will need, props for your classroom, teaching backgrounds, and more.

You’ll need to set up your classroom space, including a headset, a high-speed internet connection, and a quiet, bright teaching environment.

Here’s a buying guide for the essential equipment to teach online.

Lastly, you should figure out which platform you want to teach through. Whether it’s Skype or something more sophisticated, it should be easy for both you and your students to use.

Read our step-by-step guide on how to teach online through Skype.

4. Make a Website

This is an absolute must for your teaching business.

It’s not hard to make a website: WordPress, Wix or SquareSpace all make web design easy for anyone to do, no technical skills required.

Your website should feature information about you and your teaching model, including an introduction video and, if possible, student testimonials. It should also include contact information and information about how to sign up for classes.

You can advertise free teaching resources and a free trial class on your website to generate business.

5. Promote Yourself on Social Media

Use social media sites, teaching forums, and YouTube to advertise your company and build a name for yourself. You can write blog posts and use SEO methods to make your company more visible.

6. Set up a Payment Process

You can use PayPal or another payment platform to collect money from students.

Because you’re teaching internationally, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for students to transfer money to you from a different currency.

If you’re living in China, you may also consider conducting payments through WeChat Pay or Alipay.

7. Always Keep Pushing Yourself

You’re never done building your online English teaching company.

In order to keep your company ahead of the curve and attractive to customers, you should work to constantly improve your business by working on your lessons, marketing, and website.

You should also try to always be learning more about the online English teaching industry to keep yourself abreast of new ideas that will make your company better.

Bonus: Create Opportunities for Passive Income

Once you’ve established your online teaching business, you can profit off of it and benefit by selling video courses on how to teach, as well as model lesson plans, marketing strategies, and other resources to help other teachers.

Also, you can sell premade courses to ESL students.

Once you’ve made these resources for sale you don’t need to do anything besides a little advertising to make money from them.

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  1. Hi Marcel,
    I’m looking into starting my own ESL online business sooner rather than later. I have been an ESL teacher for the past 6 years at a public school but would love to start something that I could call mine. Are there any other suggestions you might offer especially on topics such as handling aspects of administration and taxes when starting a business.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Alexandra, thanks for your comment.
      Aspects of administration and taxes heavily depend on the laws of your country or state. I recommend talking to a local tax consultant or so.
      Wish you all the best for your business!

  2. Hi Marcel.
    This is a great article.
    A lot of capable English teachers out there struggle to get employment with ESL companies for arbitrary reasons like having the “wrong” accent or passport. I firmly believe that anyone in that situation can take control of their destiny by building a freelance online English teaching career.

    I wrote a blog article on this recently and would appreciate your thoughts.

  3. Hi!
    I find your article to be very helpful. I am currently living in Cologne and I have been an ESL trainer for four years, but now I really want to work for myself so, I really want to apply for a self-employment visa. Would you say this article would be a good basis for a business plan? I read that in order to apply for self-employment visa you need to show them a business plan. I would like to have this all figured out before I make an appointment at the immigration office. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hello Allie, thanks for leaving a comment. I don’t know about the specifics of business plans required by German immigration. Of course, the points mentioned in this blog post need to be covered in your business plan, but I would look for further advice: for instance, hire a consultant (a “Gründungsberater”) or talk to others who have already gone down that route successfully. Facebook groups with expat ESL teachers in Germany might be a good place to start.

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