How to Make the Most Money as an Online English Teacher

By Bridge TEFL
August 3, 2020

Whether you’re looking to supplement your income or create a full-time job opportunity, you can make great money as teaching ESL online. Online teaching companies usually offer a range of hourly pay for the teachers, and you may wonder how you can land on the high end of that. Or, if you decide to launch your own business and become a freelance online English teacher, what factors influence how much students are willing to pay for classes with you? We’ve got some strategies to help you maximize your earning potential so you can make the most money as an online English teacher.

Get as qualified as possible

To make the most money as an online English teacher, it is important to establish yourself as a professional in the field. The primary way to do this is to get trained and certified.

Bridge grad, Hawra, with her certificate


Online teaching companies, in particular, want to see that you’re not only initially TEFL/TESOL certified and have learned the fundamental methods of teaching English, but also have specific training in teaching online and are committed to ongoing personal development throughout your career. On the other hand, if you start your own business as a freelance online English teacher, you’ll also attract more students and be able to charge a higher hourly rate the more qualified you are.

  • If you’re new to teaching, you can start with an initial TEFL/TESOL certification such as the 120-Hour Bridge Master Certificate, to build a foundation in teaching English to speakers of other languages (online or in the classroom).
  • Next, you can hone your skills with a specialized certification in teaching English online. Choose from Foundations, Advanced Methods, a Virtual Practicum, Teaching Online as a Freelancer, or a bundle of all four courses. This specific training shows employers you’re serious about the field of teaching online and can raise your earning potential beyond tutors who only have more general training.
  • For further professional development, take Bridge’s free TEFL/TESOL Micro-credentials courses, which offer the option to upgrade and earn a verifiable certificate to enhance your resume.

You can showcase your TEFL/TESOL credentials as you earn them, by adding stackable Bridge digital badges to your resume, LinkedIn profile, business website, or in your email signature.

Digital badges for BridgeTEFL certification

Choose a teaching niche

Choosing a niche for teaching English online is another effective strategy to boost your earning potential. This strategy mostly applies to freelance English teachers, rather than teachers working for online tutoring companies. Freelance tutors who zero-in on a particular TEFL/TESOL subfield can increase their earning power by leveraging expertise in a certain are or attracting particular students.

Some possible teaching niches include:


Carla, teaching online


Aside from allowing you to charge a higher hourly rate as an expert in a certain niche and attracting the right students, choosing a niche also helps with organization, as you will be planning only certain types of lessons, rather than a variety of lessons for students of different ages,  language goals, and levels.  By consistently focusing on certain areas or age groups, you stand out as a teacher and maximize your earning potential.

Not sure which target market to choose? Check out this article on choosing a nice for teaching English online.

Seek out the highest-paid online tutoring companies

Another way to make the most money as an online English teacher is to find out which online teaching companies pay the highest. When choosing a company to work for, consider both the base pay and any additional bonuses being offered, which can boost your hourly pay substantially.

Curious who pays the most? Check out this article: Teaching English Online Salaries.

Rachel tutoring with VIPKid

English teacher, Rachel, tutoring with VIPKid


Beyond hourly rate, also consider which companies can offer you the most bookings. If you want to maximize your earning potential as an online English teacher for a company, the secret is earning the highest base pay, having the ability to earn incentives or bonuses in addition to your base pay, and getting plenty of bookings.

Work for multiple companies

If you work for an online tutoring company and the employer permits it, you may want to work for multiple online tutoring companies to make more money. By doing so, you can rotate your schedule to allow for more income. For example, if you choose two or more companies in different time zones (i.e. one in China and another in Canada), then you can maximize your schedule better because the students will be learning at different peak times. While students in one time zone are asleep, the others will be up and ready to learn! Being available during various times of day will get you more bookings and a higher earning potential.

Make yourself available during peak hours

This is definitely a way to make more money as an online English teacher! The flexibility of teaching English online comes with the freedom to pick your schedule. Opening teaching slots during peak hours, which usually depend on students’ or parents’ requests, will get you many bookings that a lot of other teachers miss out on.

Online teacher, Juicy Mae, teaches Chinese students


For instance, peak hours for teaching English online in China are generally between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST. There are the hours when students are most available for online English classes, so, if you keep your schedule open during these hours, then you are likely to increase your pay. Online companies sometimes offer a slightly higher rate of pay for teaching during peak hours, as well!

Work to get good reviews

One quick and easy tip when trying to make the most money as an online English teacher is to get good reviews. students or their parents will have the option to review their teacher within a company’s online tutoring platform. Or, if you’re a freelance teacher, students may provide reviews on your website or Facebook page, as well as simply recommending you to friends via word of mouth!

Receiving positive comments on your lesson content, teaching style, or bubbly personality increases your chance of getting more bookings, which means higher earnings! So, make sure to show up professional, full of energy, and with a positive attitude, no matter what time your classes are.

Become a freelance teacher or start your own business

Last but not least, you can become a freelance online English teacher, which can either be a full-time job in itself (with unlimited earning potential!) or can supplement your income while you work for a company.

Freelance teaching is also a good choice for teachers who may be struggling with getting employed by an online company due to issues with qualifications, such as not having a university degree or previous teaching experience.

Let’s look at some ways you can work as a freelancer.

Teaching for a marketplace


Freelance teaching can be done through online marketplaces like Preply or italki, which aim to connect teachers with students in virtual space. Although you need to make a standout profile and craft an engaging introduction video on a marketplace’s platform, there is no limit to the class rates you can set. You also don’t need to worry about coming up with online marketing strategies – the marketplace takes care of advertising your classes to potential learners. However, most marketplaces take a commission from the earnings you receive, so make sure to consider that when you determine the prices of your classes.

Does working for a marketplace appeal to you? If so, read our comprehensive guide on choosing a marketplace for teaching English online.

Getting started freelancing


If you want to have total freedom over your online English teaching work, become an independent teacher! It’s not difficult to get started as a freelance online English teacher – you can get going once you’ve got your qualifications, teaching equipment, and platform ready. While you have to take care of class planning, marketing, and financial transactions on your own, being an independent teacher allows you the freedom to set your own class rates and receive 100% of your students’ payments.


Not sure which teaching path to take? Our guide can help you decide whether you should work for a company or for yourself.

Maximizing your earning potential as an online English teacher is really up to you! Get your TEFL/TESOL certification, as this will help you stand out, then seek the highest paying companies that offer the most bookings. You can even “go it on your own” as a freelance teacher, choosing your own hourly rates. Whichever route you take, be confident and committed to your professional development and you will earn the salary you deserve.