"How much money can I make teaching English online?"

Today, we are going to talk about that wonderful thing that undeniably makes the world go round: money.

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Here at Online English Teaching, we talk to a lot of people about teaching English online.  One of the first questions we get from interested candidates is, “Can I make a living doing this?”

The short answer to that question is: yes, absolutely.

The long answer is: it depends on where you live (due to time zone, currency, cost of living), what companies you work for, your lifestyle, how much you are willing to work, and how smart you work.

Many people also ask “just HOW much money can I make teaching English online?” In today’s blog post, we’re going to take you through a couple of scenarios to answer that question for you.

Warning: there will be math.

For those who aren’t fans of math, here’s the TLDR:

You can make:

$30,000 part-time

$50,000 full-time

$70,000 over-time

A Modest Example

For today’s calculations, we are going to assume you have been teaching online for a few months and have built a decent rating and parent following with your company.  The truth is, many people spend the first few weeks (and even months) collecting positive feedback scores and building their parent following.

Personally, it took me a few weeks to get any bookings at all, approximately three months to get consistent bookings during peak times, and about a year to build up a large enough parent following whereby I can typically book any slots that I open.

Let’s make an example using VIPKid.

At VIPKid, the base rate per 25-minute class ranges from $7 to $9 USD. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical teacher who had some experience whey they applied and started at $8 per class.

Let’s now pretend this is someone who works four hours each weekday during the peak times (6pm to 10pm Beijing time), and 10 total hours during weekend peak time slots (10:30am to 10pm Beijing time).  Keep in mind that this is only a 30-hour work week.

In one week, they will teach 60 classes.  

60 classes x $8/class = $480 per week.

In the example above, the teacher would teach 240 classes in a month, which means they would make roughly $1920 in base pay.

On top of this, VIPKid offers two types of bonus incentives: a $1 per class  Participation Incentive for showing up on time and completing the class, and a $1 per class Finished Class Incentive if you hit 45 classes in one month.

We are going to assume our hypothetical teacher is a good teacher who shows up on time and finishes their classes, so they get the full Participation Incentive. And because they taught over 45 classes in the month, they qualify for the Finished Class Incentive.

Now we have:

$1920 in base pay
+ (240 classes/month x $1 Participation Incentive)
+ (240 classes/month x $1 Finished Class Incentive)
= $2400 USD.

If we project this number out for the entire year, we get approximately:

$2400 x 12 months = $28,800 yearly salary.

Not bad! Obviously, whether or not this is “making a living” will depend a lot on the cost of living where you are and your spending habits.

People living the expat life in Thailand or Cambodia will be living well.  Someone teaching from San Francisco or New York might have a harder time with the bills. But, let’s keep in mind that this is for a 30-hour work week at the median base pay. Furthermore, since you work from home, you also do not need to spend money on transportation to and from your workplace.

On the High End

Now, let’s take a look at an example to show you just how much you CAN make.

First, let’s look at somebody who has a little more teaching experience, or somebody who worked at VIPKid for a year or two, got a raise, and reached the $9/class base pay.

Next, let’s assume they are willing to work a “typical” 40-hour work week.

Now, instead we have:

80 classes per week
x 4 weeks/month
= 320 classes/month

$9 base pay
x 320 classes
= $2880 in base pay

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Stay with me here.

VIPKid has another incentive which they call the Short Notice Bonus.  This is an extra $2 per class they will pay you if your class gets booked within 24 hours of its start time.  

To ensure your classes always receive the 24-hour Short Notice Bonus, you will have to make sure you DO NOT open the time slot until after the 24-hour mark. For example, if you want to have a class tomorrow at 8 a.m., open that slot today at 8:01 a.m..

It can be risky for a new teacher to try doing only Short Notice classes because they haven’t built up the demand yet. They simply won’t get all their time slots booked this way. However, I have been teaching for just over a year with VIPKid and I am now able to book all short notice classes.

Let’s add our incentives:

$2880 base pay
+ (320 x $1 Participation Incentives)
+ (320 x $1 Finished Class Incentives)
+ (320 x $2 Short Notice Bonus)
= $4160 in monthly pay


Now, if you teach only short-notice classes, you are bound to get some Trial Classes.  With Trial Classes, come Student-no-shows. This just means that he student doesn’t show up for class. If a student does not show up for a Major Course class, you still get your full base pay.  But if a student does not show up for a Trial Class, you do get a break from teaching, but you only get 50 percent of your base pay.

For some strange reason, all my short notice classes are Major Course classes these days.  However, a good friend of mine also does only Short-Notice classes and she averages roughly 20 percent Student-No-Shows.

Time for some more math:

320 classes
x 20% Student-no-show rate
=
64 classes

In one month, our teacher who does only Short Notice classes for 40 hours per week might encounter roughly 64 Student-no-shows. So in this case, they will lose 50 percent of their base pay for each of these 64 clasess. We now have to take this amount away from the monthly pay we preciously calculated.

64 Student-no-shows
x $4.5 (loss of half of base pay)
= $288


$4160 monthly pay
- $288 in Student-no-shows losses
= $3872

But here’s the thing about Trial Classes: if a student takes your Trial Class and then registers with VIPKid, you get a $5 Trial Conversion bonus.

My friend says she converts about 7 trial students a month doing only Short Notice classes, but she only works 20 hours a week. Our hypothetical teacher is working 40 hours a week!  Let’s say he or she is able to convert a conservative estimate of 14 students out of 320 classes in a month.  That means that he or she could make an additional $70 per month.

Let’s add that:

$3872 in monthly pay
+ $70 in Trial Conversion Bonuses
= $3942 in monthly pay

Just when you thought we were done with the math…

...VIPKid also offers a $100 Referral Bonus for referring teachers to the company.

If our hypothetical teacher has previous teaching experience, whether at a bricks-and-mortar school; at a language learning academy in a foreign country; or at another online English learning company, they probably have some teacher friends.

If our teacher could refer a conservative number of one teacher per month, they would make an additional $100 each month.

$3942 monthly total
+ $100 Referral Bonus
= $4042 per month

If we project that monthly income for the entire year, we get:

$4042 monthly income
x 12 months
= $48,504 USD in yearly salary

Ok, there’s just one more thing.  VIPKid also has Referral Milestone Incentives for every three-month period.  They give you additional money if you hit a certain number of referrals every quarter. Our example teacher would get three referrals in the three-month period, qualifying them for an additional $100 bonus every three months. That means an additional $400 for the year, bringing our grand total to:

$48,904 USD in yearly salary for VIPKid.

Let’s use the same hours and assumptions at Gogokid. Their top base pay is $10 per class and once you reach the highest teacher “credit score” you are paid a 1.25% bonus on each class. Their Trial Conversion Bonus is $10 and they pay $120 for each successful referral. Gogokid pays 60 percent of your base pay if a trial student does not show up. Gogokid does not have short-notice classes, however. Given that, we get:

$48000 in base pay
-$3840 in student-no-show losses
+$1680 in trial conversion bonuses
+$1440 in referral bonuses
+$400 in referral milestone bonuses
=

$47,680 USD in Yearly salary for GOgokid

For the purpose of this calculation, we will use SayABC’s Official Kids Course. The pay rate is up to $21/40 minute class, but you aren’t able to teach more than that within the one hour time slot. So for calculation’s sake, let’s say it’s $21/hour. SayABC has some pretty great incentives, too. You can make $8 for converting trial students, $7 extra for teaching a class with less than 24 hours notice, and $100 per successful referral. There are no referral milestone bonuses, though.

While we here at Online English Teaching do work for SayABC, we have never tried doing ONLY short notice classes there. So we are not entirely sure if it is possible to go 100% short-notice with this company. For those reasons, these calculations may not be entirely accurate.

For comparison’s sake though, we will assume it is possible. Since you teach four students at once with this company, we’ve slightly increased our estimate for trial conversions to roughly 21 per month. In addition, it’s highly unlikely that all four students will not show up, so we have NOT included student-no-show losses in this calculation. At SayABC, it would be approximately:

$40320 in base pay
+$1120 in short notice bonuses
+$2016 in trial conversion bonuses
+$1200 in referral bonuses
=

$44,656 USD in Yearly Salary for Sayabc

To recap, VIPKid it is roughly $48,904 per year, Gogokid is roughly $47,680, and SayABC is about $44,656.

Those numbers are pretty darn good for a job you can do from the comfort of your home working a standard 40 hours a week.

Not for the faint of heart

While working 60 hours a week is not realistic for a lot of people who want to teaching English online, it can be done.

We’ve crunched the numbers for you workaholics out there. Here are the numbers for each company we mentioned assuming a 60-hour work week.

VIPKid = $72,556 USD

Gogokid = $70,600 USD

SayABC = $66,048 USD

Location, location, location

Whether or not you are “making a living” teaching online depends on a number of factors. One of those being location.

For those in the US, $48,904 a year doesn’t go that far in New York city. But if you were in a more affordable US city like Charlotte, St. Louis, or Kansas City, you might be doing alright.

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For you Canadians out there, the number from VIPKid above would give you a whopping $65,305 CAD a year using today’s exchange rate. The number at Gogokid would be $68,979. That might not go far in Toronto, but there are plenty of affordable cities where $68,979 a year would grant you a comfortable lifestyle.

Imagine how far that money would go if you were living abroad in Vietnam, Thailand, or Cambodia. Not only do you gain an incredible amount on the exchange rate, but your cost of living would be much, much lower.

Other ways to maximize your earnings

Work for Multiple Companies

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again - working for multiple companies maximizes your earnings.  

How?  Well, the major companies frequently offer monetary incentives for people to open more time slots during high-demand times of the year. If you have multiple options, you can open your time slots with whatever company is offering the best incentives that month, going above and beyond the salary estimates we mentioned earlier.

On top of that, if something bad were to happen and you were to get a few bad reviews resulting in a drop in bookings at one company, you would have a back up.  If you were to have an emergency situation and had to cancel a bunch of your classes and you were fired, you would have a backup. If, for some strange reason the company were to decide not to renew your contact (it happens), you would have a back up.

Keep more of your hard-earned money

If you are teaching English online and you have to exchange the currency to get paid in your country, you absolutely have to get Transferwise.

When I started teaching English online, I was using PayPal to get paid and then convert my currency from US dollars.  I was losing an incredible amount of money to PayPal when they exchanged my currency. I tried getting paid into a local bank in my country, but I then had to pay my bank over $50 in fees for each transaction.

With Transferwise, I have a virtual US bank account where I get paid. And then, Transferwise charges a very small flat rate to convert the currency and send it to my bank account in my home country

Let me give you an example to illustrate.

If you are using PayPal, you may not realize that you are losing money in fees, because they do not list a “fee” on their statements.  What PayPal does is skim money off the exchange rate to get paid.

Look at this first photo:

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I transferred $2,594 USD to my Canadian account. The ACTUAL market exchange rate on that day was 1.330970 CAD.  Using THAT exchange rate, I should have gotten $3,452.87 CAD.  But, using PayPal’s exchange rate, I got $3,337.03. That means I essentially lost $115.84 in that transaction.

Now, look at this next photo.

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Using Transferwise with a similar amount of money, I only paid $11.35 USD in fees.  That’s it. And Transferwise uses the Google exchange rate that day without skimming any money on the exchange.

That’s a difference of over $100. This is significant, especially when you think about how much you would lose in a year.

I want to keep more of my money, thank you very much.

Let’s Review

If you’ve made it this far through all the math, give yourself a pat on the back.  Here’s what we learned today.

How much can you realistically make teaching English online? Over $51,000 USD if you want to.

Can you “make a living”? Absolutely.

How can you do it?

  1. Work on maximizing your base pay by nailing your interview, or by accumulating raises over time.

  2. Work about 40 hours per week.

  3. Teach only short-notice classes (if your company offers that).

  4. Convert as many trial students as you can.

  5. Work for multiple companies to maximize your incentives.

  6. Refer your friends and colleagues.

Bonus points for:

  1. Keeping more of your money by using smart services like Transferwise.

  2. Living in a low-cost area to make your money go further.

  3. Minimizing what you pay in taxes. (more on this in a later article)

I hope this blog post was helpful in showing just how much money you can make teaching English online. If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or send us an e-mail!