Before the age of the internet, only a few people were in the position to start their own English teaching business. Access to students was restricted to your local area and it required significant startup capital to either acquire or rent out classroom premises. In the world of online learning, this is no longer the case.
Today, anyone can start and scale an online teaching business if they know what they are doing. With an estimated 1.5 billion English language learners worldwide, the opportunities in English teaching are greater than ever before. Over the last few years, the demand for online English teachers has skyrocketed, providing a unique opportunity for you to turn your English teaching skills into a successful online business.
In this guide, we cover everything you need to know on how to successfully start an online English teaching business, from setting up your website to marketing your services and finding students.
So, if you’re ready to become your own boss and make a difference in the lives of English learners around the world, let’s dive in!
Why you should start an online English teaching business
You might already know why you want to start an online English teaching business. Or perhaps you’re looking for a reason to start. Either way, there are several reasons that you should consider.
You don’t need much money to get started
For a lot of people, starting a business is prohibitive. You need capital to pay for rent, salaries, and inventory, and this can be a big risk if it doesn’t work out. However, when starting an online English teaching business, you don’t have these concerns.
All teaching is done online so you don’t need a classroom, you can make use of free online teaching resources, and you don’t have to take on any employees until you’re ready. All you need to worry about is having access to a computer, setting up your teacher website, and advertising.
You can get started on this with as little as $100.
The growth potential is huge
When you teach English online you’re not restricted to just teaching students in your local area, and as your online presence expands you will naturally acquire more students. It’s up to you how hard you push it and you can work as little or as much as you like to grow the business.
It’s estimated that there are 1.5 billion people learning English worldwide, that’s a lot of potential customers you can reach!
You can be your own boss
By starting an online English teaching business you can set yourself on the way to becoming your own boss. This means that you can work when you want, where you want and you get to keep all of the profit! Provided you’re making enough money to support yourself this gives you complete control over your schedule. You can travel and work anywhere in the world and take back your time and freedom.
Maybe you already work for a language school or have an online English teaching job. Nothing is stopping you from doing this alongside your own teaching business while you establish it. Once it pays you more than your day job you can then fully focus your attention on it. In other words, when managed correctly the risk is low.
Make passive income
The internet runs 24/7, so once your teaching website is online people can acquire your services at any time of day. If you create and sell your own courses you can start to make passive income, which can free up even more of your time.
Ready to set up your online English teaching business now?
How to set up your online English teaching business
The first thing to do before diving into starting your own online English teaching business is to make sure you have the necessary qualifications to teach English online. If you’re new to English teaching it’s important to obtain a TEFL certification, such as TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA. You can get this by taking a TEFL course, which trains you how to teach English as a foreign language. This will equip you with the skills you’ll need to effectively teach English and manage your (online) classroom.
These certifications demonstrate to potential students and clients that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to teach English effectively. Students will have more confidence in a tutor who is properly qualified, which is particularly useful when they are paying you directly!
If you’re already TEFL qualified and have some English teaching experience you’re good to go. However, you might want to consider taking a specialized course on teaching English online or how to build your teaching website.
Identify your business idea and teaching niche
Before you get started you need to decide what you want to focus on. Consider who you want to teach and how you want to teach them. Do you want to focus on students of a certain age or level of English proficiency? Would you like to teach one-on-one or in a group setting? Do you want to offer online lessons or do you prefer to create online courses? You might decide that you want to do both.
You also need to identify your niche. In order to successfully create a brand around what you do, it can be a good idea to focus on a specific area. This might be teaching business English or preparing students for the TOEFL exam, for example. Try and come up with something unique that makes you stand out in the market over other English teachers and where you can establish yourself as an expert.
How to choose an English teaching niche?
- Research the market: Look for trends and demand in the English teaching market. For example, is there a high demand for business English or exam preparation?
- Identify your strengths and interests: Consider what you are good at and what you enjoy teaching. This can help you choose something that aligns with your skills.
- Consider your target audience: Think about who you want to teach and what their needs and goals are.
- Specialize in a specific area: By developing your expertise and reputation in a particular area, you’ll attract students who are interested in learning about that topic.
- Be flexible: Keep in mind that your niche may evolve over time as you gain experience and your target audience changes. Be open to adjusting your focus as needed to meet the needs of your students. In other words, don’t go too narrow!
You also need to make sure that there is an audience for the services that you plan on offering. This shouldn’t be too much problem in English teaching as the global audience is huge. However, if you are creating a niche service you need to make sure that you find the right audience to target. As a rule, there should be:
- A problem that needs solving.
- A willingness to pay for a solution to the problem.
- Sufficient income to pay for your service(s) that provides the solution.
- Enough demand to make it worthwhile.
One way to test this is by creating a single landing page website template to validate your idea and gauge interest. You can even include an option for people to sign up or leave their email address to have your first customers ready and waiting for you.
Once you’ve decided upon your niche, you can move on to setting up your website and establishing your business.
Set up your teacher website
A website is a key component of any online business, and this is no different when establishing your online English teaching business. A website acts as your online presence where potential customers can find you and acquire your services. It can serve as a platform to promote your services, schedule lessons, and communicate with students. It also provides a space for you to run your lessons or courses and display your pricing, qualifications, and experience.
When building your website, you’ll need to develop your brand identity around your chosen niche and choose a website platform and web hosting to get set up. There are many website builders available that can help you create a professional-looking website without needing to know how to code.
We recommend using WordPress.org for your website builder and Bluehost for your hosting. WordPress essentially provides the template for your website and Bluehost is where you can host it. Don’t worry if this sounds confusing, you can see this full guide on how to create a teacher website using this approach.
Make sure you have the right equipment
You can’t teach English online without having the right equipment. In order to teach effectively you’ll require the following:
- A decent computer or laptop.
- A good webcam: You’ll need a good webcam with a microphone so that students can see and hear you clearly. It should also give you the option to record any footage that you want to use in courses.
- A headset with a microphone: In some cases, a good webcam will be enough. However, a decent headset with a microphone can really help improve the audio quality of your lessons and reduce background noise. If you want to go one step further you could also get a dedicated microphone for teaching to really enhance your clarity.
- A stable internet connection: A strong and stable internet connection is essential for conducting online lessons.
- Teaching materials: You’ll need to have access to teaching materials. These can be on online ESL websites or physical textbooks that you teach from. You may also want to create a list of recommended resources for your students to use outside of lessons.
- A whiteboard or chalkboard: A whiteboard or chalkboard can be useful for demonstrating concepts and writing notes during lessons. You may also want to get access to an online whiteboard. This can make online lessons much more interactive.
- A planner or calendar: Use a planner or calendar to schedule lessons and keep track of student attendance.
- Marketing materials: Create marketing materials, such as social media posts and short videos, to promote your business.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll also need to set up your workspace for teaching online. It’s important to get this right, because if you’re sitting in the wrong position for long periods of time it can be highly detrimental to your posture. In this sense, teaching online safety is just as important for teachers as it is for students.
Develop your lessons or courses
Having a well-designed course or curriculum is essential for any successful teaching business. It will help you provide valuable content to your students and assist you in staying organized and teaching your lessons effectively.
If your focus is on delivering lessons, you should include lesson plans, activities, and materials that you will use in your classes. If you plan on creating a course, then you should structure it in a way that results in your students achieving a certain goal.
Choose how to deliver your lessons or courses
When running your online English teaching business, it’s vital that you have a way to deliver your lessons or courses on a reliable online platform that is user-friendly for both you and your students.
If you’re delivering your lessons live online, you can use one of the following platforms:
- Google Meet
- Microsoft Teams
You can deliver group or one-to-one lessons using these tools. Consider the features and pricing of each platform to determine which one is the best fit for your business.
Zoom has arguably become the most popular way of teaching students online over the last few years. You can have up to 100 attendees per meeting, even on the free version! However, this is with a cap on a meeting time of 40 minutes. So, if you want to run 1-hour lessons and above you’ll want to purchase the pro package. This comes with an online whiteboard and 5GB of cloud storage where you can share lesson files.
If you want to create courses that your students can access in their own time you should consider:
Determine your pricing
If you’re running online classes, you can either set an hourly rate or offer a group of lessons as a course with a fixed price. You should do what works best for you and the types of services you are offering. For example, you may choose to ask for a higher rate for more specialized lessons or specific requests.
There’s nothing wrong with experimenting at the beginning until you find a good price point that attracts the most students and returns the highest profits.
Plan your schedule
Before you start marketing your services you should decide when you want to teach. This is one of the great luxuries of being your own boss or working as a freelancer. However, it’s also important for student acquisition. Of course, you want to do what works for you, but to maximize your returns you should try and make yourself available when your target audience will want lessons. This means taking time zones into account if you are teaching English to Chinese students online, for example.
You can publish your schedule to students via your website or you might choose to use another tool such as Google Calendar.
Market your services and get students
Now that you have your qualifications, course plan, and online presence, it’s time to start marketing and getting students.
If you’re ready to launch, you can spread the word about your business through social media, word of mouth, and online advertising. Consider offering a discount or free trial lesson to attract your first batch of students who can then hopefully leave you some positive reviews for your website!
Developing a social media presence can be particularly beneficial as it will help you to reach more potential students. You can do this via a Facebook or Instagram page, or even a YouTube channel. And, let’s not forget LinkedIn, which can be one of the best places to find English students. Just make sure you have created a good LinkedIn profile.
When marketing, the most important thing is to go where your audience goes. Try to identify where this is and hone your efforts there. For your niche, this might be on Facebook Groups, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even Google.
Just be aware that if you do take the Google route it can take some time. You’ll need to employ SEO techniques (search engine optimization) to rise up in the page rankings. Feel free to get in touch here if you have any questions about this.
Develop, and make use of, your network
You also shouldn’t overlook networking with other teachers. Building relationships with other teachers and letting them know about your services can be helpful in many ways. You can exchange ideas and resources, discuss teaching methods, and even collaborate on projects. It’s not uncommon to get referrals from other teachers if they already have a full schedule. However, they need to know you and trust your teaching to feel like they can recommend you.
Joining professional organizations or online discussions and communities such as teachers’ Facebook groups can be an excellent way to connect with other teachers.
Don’t forget, you can also reach out to friends, family, or colleagues who might know people who would be interested in taking your classes. This can be a good approach if you’re living in a country where English is not the first language.
Teach your first lesson
Now that you’ve done all the hard work and acquired your first students, it’s time to get into what really matters – teaching English. You should be professional and organized and make sure that you show up on time for lessons. You should also be prepared with materials and a lesson plan.
Remember, online teaching is different from in-person teaching. You’ll need to use different techniques to keep your students engaged, such as using interactive activities, quizzes, and games.
Try to respond to student inquiries both during and outside lessons to build trust and establish a good reputation. However, make sure that you set clear boundaries and expectations so that your students are aware of how much support you’ll be giving them for the money that they are paying. This avoids any misunderstandings and should result in positive feedback.
Finally, you should always look to evaluate and improve. Your business will only be successful if you are willing to improve and make changes as needed. After each class, it’s important to evaluate your lesson, ask for feedback from your students, and make adjustments as needed.
Try to be open to constructive criticism and be willing to change things that are not working. This will help you create a better teaching experience and result in happier students in the long term. Happy students equal recommendations, which equals more customers for your lessons!
Grow your business
As word spreads about your business and you get more requests for classes, you may find that you have sufficient demand to bring in another teacher. You’ll need to ensure that you have an enough extra students to make this worthwhile, and devise a compensation philosophy that makes teachers want to work for you.
For example, you may not be able to pay a full-time salary right away. But, you could offer 50% of the lesson income plus flexible working initially, with the understanding that the amount of work would grow over time. This would still suit some teachers who are more than happy working for multiple employers.
Once you start taking on teachers that’s when the real fun begins and you can begin to step back from teaching and start running a business.
Where to find more help
If you’re looking for some extra help to start your online teaching business there are a few avenues you can go down.
Online forums and communities
You can join online forums and communities related to online teaching and education to connect with other teachers and get advice and support. This can also be a great way to find out what has and hasn’t worked for other teachers and stay up-to-date with the latest developments and trends.
Find a mentor
If you can find a mentor or startup coach who has experience in building a similar business it can be a huge advantage. Mentors can provide guidance and support as you start your business and help you avoid any costly mistakes. They will already know what it takes to be successful and can guide you accordingly. It’s work seeking out people who already have their own teaching website or those who can enhance your skillset in areas that you’re not strong in.
If you’re interested in acquiring new skills to help you run an online business you can take an online course. There are loads of great courses in areas such as business management, marketing, social media, and technology. These can all help you to develop the skills needed to run a successful online teaching business.
You can join professional organizations for English teachers, such as IATEFL, for access to resources and networking opportunities.
Books and blogs
Read books and TEFL blogs written by successful online English teachers to learn from their experiences and gain insights into best practices. This can be to do with teaching or how to structure and manage an offering on your website.
Conclusion: Just start it!
Starting an online English teaching business can be a great way to earn a living while helping others learn a new language. It’s now easier than ever to teach English online and reach students all over the world, and with the right approach to business you can build up a large client base. So, why not start by following these steps? You can create a great business and have something that you’ll enjoy and be proud of sooner than you think.