Home / Teaching English Online: How to get your own students and grow your own company
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As you will see in any blog about teaching English online, the most profitable way to do this is to prepare your students and work for yourself. This way, you’re not limited to earning $10 an hour with some big, faceless company, but can charge your rate based on your experience and qualifications. You also have more control over what you teach and when you train!

You would typically start teaching your students as many hours as you want to complete your timetable. However, the potential doesn’t stop there. If you get a lot of interest and want to take advantage of this, you can then develop this into your own online teaching business where you take on other teachers to work for you! That’s right – you can go from being the teacher to the boss! This is a long-term goal, and it takes work to get there. The first step is to attract students and get yourself started!

How to get more students?

Sign up for teaching platforms. 

There are many teaching platforms out there which allow you to set your rate. The venue may take a percentage of this, so bear this in mind. Whilst in the long term, you want to be able to work independently from these types of platforms, they are great to get started and get your profile put out there. Students also leave reviews for you, so this is an ideal way to attract more and more students to sign up to take classes with you.

Popular platforms include Classgap, Amazing Talker, Preply and Italki – you must check their conditions and commission rates before you sign up, so you know what you’re in for. Once you get regular students and build up your reviews, a smart move would be to approach the student to arrange lessons away from the platform – cutting out the commission and offering the student a better deal. This way, you can transition from relying on the media to being more independent in your online teaching.

The power of social media 

Remember that social media has an incredible reach for marketing any product – including yourself as a teacher! It’s good to build up your pages so that students can see you have an online presence – this creates more trust between you and the students. What page you use will depend on your target market. Instagram is suitable for a general audience, whilst LinkedIn will focus more on professions if you specialise in Business English.

social media

Top tips for social media as an online teacher: 

-Make sure your potential students have the opportunity to get to know you as a teacher. Your posts and content should show your personality and your teaching style. If you come across as a fun and motivational person, students will want to take your classes! It also creates more trust between you and your potential clients as they can know you on a more personal level.

-Keep your social media and teaching social media separate if you want more privacy. It’s lovely to want to separate the two – not everyone wants to have all their students following their pages. Creating another account is perfect for this, as the students can still interact with you, but you can have your pages for your close friends and family. It also works well to have a separate email and phone number for business enquiries and contacts – that way; you can switch off far more quickly outside of working hours.

-Post regular content about learning English. Students will want to feel as if they know something from you, even by looking at your Instagram and Facebook. Make posts consistent and post things you can understand such as useful expressions or vocabulary. This will get you more interest on your social media and attract more potential students.

-Work with teachers who are similar to you regarding business goals. It’s great to reach out to teachers with pages like yours and an equal amount of followers. You can do live videos together or posts – this will attract their followers to your page and theirs. Working together in this way is mutually beneficial. Networking is a great way to grow a business; online networking is unique!

Using local resources 

You will most likely have a target audience, perhaps based in the country you are teaching from. Utilise local advertisement spaces both online and offline. For example, if you live in Italy and want to start by getting students from this area, place ads on local sites and noticeboards. These are often free, so you don’t need to spend money on marketing. You could also join some appropriate Facebook groups and post ads to advertise your online teaching services. If you speak the local language, promote this too to reach lower-level learners. 

Work with referrals 

There are many people out there who run successful businesses or who have a complete list of students to teach themselves. This often results in them having a waiting list. If your network and know anyone who fits this profile, you can propose a referral system to them that will benefit you both.

How does this work?

If the person has no room in their timetable to teach more students, you can ask them if they would pass the student onto you for a one-time referral fee. This fee can be worked out between the two of you. The one-time fee works best if you see long-term potential for the student. However, if you think the student is only short-term, the price should reflect this. It’s no use giving away all the money for the first month if the student doesn’t continue after this. 

Why is this beneficial?

There are several benefits to doing this. Firstly, the most obvious one is that you get more students coming your way. This utilises someone else’s resources if you struggle to find your students. Secondly, the student is getting a recommendation that they are in good hands with you and will be more likely to sign up with you. Thirdly, there are financial benefits for the person you want to set up the referral system with as they will get some money to pass on to the students, which is better than the learner being on a waiting list with no money being made from them.

Get reviews from your existing students.

This is one of the most important things you can do and ties in with your online presence. People are more likely to buy a product if it is recommended. Even if you only have a few students to give you a review, everyone has to start somewhere! After a few months of teaching your students, start collecting them and go from there! Building up studies is essential to attract new students – it shows you are trustworthy and worth investing in!

Word of mouth is also significant in many cultures, so encourage your students to tell their friends! This can work exceptionally well if you are targeting a particular group. For example, if you are teaching students IELTS or teaching lawyers, find out if they have friends or colleagues with similar interests. You could even propose joint classes or groups if this interests them. This way, you can make a maximum profit but still lower the individual price for your students, so they get something out of it too.

Teach English online

Connect with schools

This is a great way to source students, especially if your target market is young learners or university students. Connect with local students in your area this way. Many parents want their children to learn English from an early age. You might be able to place some adverts and run a conversation club after school. It wouldn’t hurt to research language academies, but make sure they don’t offer online private lessons; otherwise, they won’t want to recommend you! 

What not to do:

-Don’t overbook! You know how many hours you want to work and don’t feel you need to overbook. If you get to the point where you have a waiting list, then so be it! You can consider taking on other teachers to work for you or even set up a referral deal with someone else!

If you overbook and have to start cancelling lessons, this will reflect poorly on you. As great as favourable reviews and word of mouth work to generate your business, negative feedback can also work the same way! Take your time and only take on what you can realistically manage. Quality teaching over quantity teaching!

-Don’t undervalue yourself. Of course, you might not be able to charge the very high rates if you have little experience or haven’t got all your qualifications, but that doesn’t mean you should value yourself at meagre rates. TEFL teaching can be hard enough with people undercutting each other at low rates – don’t be part of it! It is better to set your speed at what you want and work with people willing to pay than charge $5 an hour to try to get students.

young boy on laptop


Remember that building up your business can take time to become fully independent and earn a full-time wage. It’s essential to put in the work and have some patience. It’s always a good idea to work for a more prominent company to generate income while you’re on your students once you get this going, you can decrease your paid hours at a lower rate and increase how many you do with your students! This is one of the most sensible ways to build up your business and earn what you need. It won’t be long before you’re a teaching guru and entirely in control of your work!

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