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How to make $1,000,000 per year as an online teacher

business teaching online
Teach English Online

A million dollars sounds like a lot of money to most people, especially to teachers who tend to get paid less than most other professionals.

So, how was I able to generate over one million dollars in revenue for one of my online teaching businesses that specializes in teaching English online from the beginning of January to the middle of September? Let's take a look at some of the factors that have helped us get to where we are now:

Getting Started

It's no secret that success doesn't happen overnight. Looking back, the biggest contributor to our success was definitely our planning and goal-setting. After all, if you don't aim for your target it becomes much harder to reach it.

But how do you set appropriate, achievable goals that let you teach English online and earn as much as a doctor or lawyer?

Go backwards

First and foremost, you need to block out time in your calendar that is not available. You probably don't want to work on your birthday. You might want to take a day off to celebrate your family members' birthdays too. That's up to you. And you probably don't want to work seven days a week, so make a decision as to which days of the week are your workdays and which are your days off.

What? You're not using a calendar? That's a recipe for failure. Choose a calendar service and let it rule your life. I suggest starting with Google Calendar.

Put all of the times that you're not going to work into your calendar first so you can see precisely how much time you have to dedicate to other stuff. This includes your current job's working hours. Need to pick up the kids from school? Add that to your calendar. You're a member of the local curling team? Put it in your calendar.

Identify free time

Most people think they don't have any free time at all. They think that their calendar is completely booked and that there's no way for them to get more done or to take on new projects. With this mentality it's no wonder they get overwhelmed and see no way to escape their current routine. But the truth is that "I don't have time" is always a myth.

When you've blocked off all of the time you are going to spend doing other things, you'll see how much free time you really have. The average person who claims that they don't have any free time typically finds approximately four hours of free time after doing this exercise correctly. In my Teaching Business Catalyst program I give teachers specific exercises to follow to identify free time and how to batch activities so that they can access even more time.

Set your life goals

The next step is to add activities to our calendar. But which activities should we add?

This depends on your life goals. The reaction I usually get at this point is people rolling their eyes, stop listening, or flat out calling "BS". And that's because life goals sounds like something intangible, make-believe, or far-fetched. But that couldn't be further from the truth. It's actually the most important part of the entire equation!

When you know what you want out of life, you know why you do the things you do. It's like anchoring each and every step you take to your ultimate goal - and that will help motivate you to do the small, routine things that need to get done every day because you see how they relate to achieving overall success.

Be specific

Life goals and the daily tasks you set in order to reach them should be very specific. In fact, the more specific they are, the more likely they will come true. Setting specific goals means setting realistic, time-focused, quantifiable goals. They should have deadlines or due dates and you should be able to measure them (numbers are your friend).


Be Prepared to Invest

Online English teachers tend to take jobs that pay an hourly wage or monthly salary because they think if they aren't directly compensated for each piece of work they do, then they are getting ripped off or their work was pointless. However, we need to move away from this mindset and start thinking about how we can invest our time into projects and work that will not only compensate us for the time we spend, but instead for the results we produce and the value we provide.

This requires an investment of time, energy, and sometimes money. It doesn't typically result in direct compensation of the time we spend, in terms of hours worked. If we only count the hours we work, and demand compensation based on work hours performed, then our work doesn't stand out. Let's be honest, anyone can sell hours of their time without promising results.

The irony of teaching English online

Probably the hardest thing about becoming an online English teacher is sifting through the options that are out there. Generally, work opportunities for those who would like to teach English online can be broken down into three broad categories:

  • Teach for someone else on their platform
  • Teach for yourself on someone else's platform
  • Teach for yourself on your own platform

This video will tell you more about teaching ESL online, how to teach ESL online, and the options that are out there: 

The problem that most online English teacher jobs present is that as you increase your rate of pay or your hourly rate, you become less profitable for the company you work for. This means they are naturally encouraged to give more hours to someone else. A high hourly rate is uncompetitive and can be difficult to justify, but employers tend to offer regular raises as you get more hours under your belt.

This leads to teachers who have experience in companies and with online platforms needing to search for multiple online English teaching jobs. The hiring process at most of these companies takes between two and six weeks - and most people who want to teach English online don't calculate the loss of income they will experience when transitioning between companies into their estimations of how much they will earn in total.

Unfortunately, transitions between companies in the ESL industry occur quite frequently, compared to other industries, and if you teach English online you should be prepared to go through such a transition between one and four times per year.

This video might give you some more ideas about how to earn money as an English teacher:

Learn the necessary skills

Another daunting task that those who are getting started teaching English online face is the barrage of new skills that make some online English teachers excel and other flounder. Surely succeeding at online English teaching requires a different skillset than offline English teaching.

Here are some of the skills I've noticed that most successful online English teachers develop:

  • Video and audio production (including recording and editing)
  • Copywriting
  • Digital marketing
  • Use of web constructors to quickly create and edit websites
  • Front-end coding and web design (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)
  • Search engine optimization
  • Email marketing

This is a very basic list and you've probably noticed that none of these skills directly relate to the English teaching part of teaching English online - they are business skills. Developing these skills requires time that most people who want to teach English online are not willing to invest. Therefore, taking the time to learn the basics can give you a large advantage.

Ask for help

Another method of quickly gaining traction in the world of teaching English online is by seeking out those who have done it successfully, especially when it comes to the business side of things. Get ready for me to toot my own horn in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... I run a coaching program for teachers of English online who want to quickly learn the business side of online English teaching and the teaching of other subjects online, called the Teaching Business Catalyst, which includes step-by-step instructions for setting up your own independent teaching business online, as well as weekly checkups in the form of live coaching calls.

But if you've got more time to spend on getting started teaching English online, then there are tons of free resources that will tell you and show you how to perform many of the basic functions of an independent online English teacher.


Understand the Separation of Platforms

One of the most surprising things I learned when I started coaching other online English teachers on how to start a teaching business was that most teachers didn't realize there was a separation between their teaching activities and their business activities. I mean, they probably realized it on some level, but they didn't build it into their business when they transitioned from offline English teaching to online English teaching.

Not only are there two types of activities that teachers need to think about, but there are two distinctly separate parts of your business. And those different parts sometimes require different platforms. I call them your sales platform and your delivery platform.

Sales Platform

As the name implies, this is the platform that you use to sell your English teaching services or your English language products. The main purpose of this platform is to attract leads and clients, so that you can close sales.

Delivery Platform

Your delivery platform is what you use to actually teach students English online. Skype used to be the industry standard for teaching 1-on-1 English lessons online, but it's recently been surpassed by Zoom. Hundreds of other also exist. Another option is to combine multiple platforms in order to deliver your product or service to its customers. And nowadays there are special platforms that combine everything you need into one platform, so you can both sell your product and deliver your product from a central location. I suggest the all-in-one platform called Kajabi (in fact, the website you are viewing right now was built on Kajabi).


Going the Distance

The most important factor to your success with teaching English online is your ability to go the distance. Let's face it, when presented with the options of working hard or giving up, many people choose the latter. And many others work hard for short spurts, but get burnt out or discouraged when they don't see immediate results.

Long-Term Thinking

If you really want to be a successful online English teacher, then you need to focus on longer-term goals than if you just teach in someone else's company. Your initial investments of time, money, and energy that put into your business may not produce significant returns for six months, a year, or even longer. And if you give up before your investment matures, then you won't reap the benefits you deserve.

When setting your business, revenue, and income goals, don't just look at days, weeks, and months - but also consider entire years of revenue and income. It's highly likely that in your first year as an online teacher-entrepreneur you will make the same amount of money working independently as you would working for someone else, while doing double the amount work. And that's fine - because the real profits come when you build on what you've done in the first year (if you've optimized your business for compounded results).

Brand Recognition

Another point of confusion for online teacherpreneurs is how they should promote their "brand". Most people who want to make money teaching English online think they need to post on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, VK, and other social media websites every single day in order for them to grow their brand. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

Sure, you want people to know that you exist. But spending your time posting isn't going to guarantee you clients - and it's definitely not going to produce a reliable stream of customers. In fact, clients you get from posting on social media are typically lucky exceptions. The problem is that most newly independent teachers of English online leave the success of their English teaching business to luck, instead of taking control of it. Only predictable, measurable results will make your business successful - and responses social media tend to sporadic.

Instead of spending all of your time focused on increasing brand recognition through social media posts, focus on providing value to clients and potential clients. Value sells.


Bringing It All Together

Going from teaching English online for someone else to being able to make a living as an online English teacher to generating over a million dollars per year with your own independent teaching business requires long-term thinking, planning, and goal-setting. Set goals about what you want to get out of life overall, but also set financial goals.

Make the decision to invest your time into learning the skills necessary to succeed in this industry because these skills will set you apart from those online English teachers who choose not to dedicate their energy to learning new skills. As a general rule of thumb, if you see everyone else in the industry doing something, you should really scrutinize it and analyze its objective benefits.

Don't rely on social media luck to get your business started. Take your destiny into your own hands by targeting specific problems that need solving and then relentlessly adding value.

Don't get sucked into the hourly wage mindset. If you just want to teach and you don't want to do business, represent yourself, or take control of your career, then hourly wages are fine. But if you want to become an independent online teacher who has total control over what happens in your life and business, then you'll most likely need to sacrifice in the short-term so you can see huge returns in the long-term.

Don't forget to ask for help.


Feel free to leave a comment below and I'll try to respond as quickly as possible.

Best of luck in your future teaching endeavors!