Let’s face it, most of us didn’t get into the ELT industry for the money. In my case, going to Spain meant that I could live in a great country, learn some Spanish, do what I love, and be with my girlfriend (now wife, Kate).
At that time, Spain was the only country where we could both work legally. I am a European citizen so it was easy for me to move there, while my wife was accepted on a program called, “Auxilliares de Conversacíon. I had long dreamed of living and working in Spain, so I felt incredibly fortunate that Kate got into this program.
We had a great experience, first in Bilbao and then in Valencia. But, the pay was terrible. Kate’s stipend was around $1000 a month, and I brought in just a bit more to begin with. I taught a few private lessons which earned me some extra income, but having to go from place to place limited my ability to teach many lessons in one evening.
The money wasn’t the reason we were there; we were looking to have a good time and experience what it was like living in a foreign country. But we soon wanted to settle down and find something that brought in more money.
I had no intention of continuing down a path of little pay. So, I started my own online language school with the initial goal of earning double what I was earning in Spain while working similar hours.
But, before we get into that, let’s look at the places abroad where you get paid the most to put things into context.
Where the pay is good abroad
I came across an article the other day listing the top nine best-paid countries for English teachers. You can see that from the salaries listed (and the comments) that you can earn a good income when teaching in these countries (your definition of “a good income” may be different to mine).
I do know, however, that in a lot of these places you are expected to work very long hours, and some of those countries aren’t on my list of potential places to live.
Many of you reading this, and I include myself in this, see teaching abroad as a temporary thing. I would love to travel more and work in other countries again someday, but with a family and a house, my current situation doesn’t align with a globe-setting lifestyle at this present time.
So, going back to my story, after working in Spain for a couple of years, we decided to settle down in the US. More precisely, in a small city called Asheville in North Carolina. It’s a fantastic place to live, but it is difficult to find work here.
Since we moved here back in January 2011, I have been teaching full-time online. At first, I was a little hesitant to charge what was necessary to have a “good wage.”
But, one of the biggest things that I have learned about online teaching is that you can charge much more for online lessons than most people expect.
It’s all about finding students who are willing to pay what you want to charge.
Earn more online
It seems like the conventional wisdom is that you can’t earn as much online as you can face-to-face. I imagine this is because online lessons aren’t seen to be as valuable as the more traditional lessons by teachers.
I saw a discussion a couple of weeks ago where someone was arguing that you won’t be able to get close to $30 an hour for online lessons. His reasoning was based on the fact that some teachers offer lessons at $5 an hour.
This is the wrong way to approach pricing and, in fact, the opposite is true; teaching online and freelancing gives you the ability to charge much higher prices.
To illustrate this, let’s take the second best-paid country for English teachers from the list above: Saudi Arabia. Personally, I wouldn’t like to go and teach in Saudi Arabia (for reasons that I won’t go into). But that doesn’t mean that I can’t teach Saudi Arabians.
I have done this in the past and have made some special relations with my students from this country. This new line of thinking, being able to reach students from anywhere in the world, is key to earning more money as an ESL/EFL teacher:
As an independent online teacher, you can reach any English learning market in the world while living wherever you want.
Those of us who teach English online aren’t in competition with teachers who charge $5 per class. We are in competition with language schools and teachers who teach the students we want to target. And, if making money is your goal, then we want to target students who are willing to pay higher prices.
To earn more money, it all comes down to choosing the right niche, offering value to your students, and marketing your lessons.
The potential to earn what you believe is a “good wage” is huge. There are students out there are who desperate for a teacher like you to solve their problems and help them make the improvements that they desire. The best thing is that you don’t have to leave your house, let alone your country to do this.
We don’t have to settle for a low wage or have to move somewhere else to earn the money that we want to earn.
This in turn, means something really special to most teachers: we can continue doing what we love.
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