How Can I Increase My Bookings?

Consistent bookings are the bedrock of being able to predict your income. In other posts, (here and here) I talk about times of the year when you can expect bookings to drop off.  But what about the rest of the year?

Do a search on Google or YouTube, and you’ll find as many responses out there are as there are teachers.  But certain issues do come up consistently.

Below is a list compiled from comments and posts from other ESL teachers on various social media channels. This is not “my” list, but I will say that I have found it either be to true in my experience as an online ESL teacher, or makes complete sense to me as a parent.

Factors parents consider when booking a teacher for their child.

Other Parent Feedback  What do other parents say about you?

I absolutely believe this, 100%. The more good reviews you have, the more new parents will trust you. I will go one step further: I think that parents who regularly book lessons with you feel their choice is endorsed when other parents leave you positive feedback. It’s like getting a pat on the back from a gigantic, anonymous crowd of parents-just-like-you: This teacher is great! You made a good choice!
How can this help you? Well, you can’t make parents leave you feedback. Some teachers ask for feedback, and it works for them. I don’t (you do you, I’ll do me). What I do do is to thank them in subsequent class feedbacks. “Thank you for your kind feedback. I strive to be the best possible teacher for each student. I am grateful to know that you are pleased with my classes with Bao Bao.”

Consistency of teacher schedule Are you available the same hours, week after week?

This is the #1 piece of advice I give my referrals: Open time slots that are in high demand, that you are fully committed to teach if they book, and keep that availability consistent. Bao Bao’s mama may notice you as a new-to-her teacher, but she already knows Teacher Someone-Else. But maybe in two weeks, Bao Bao’s current teacher is already booked. Mom remembers you and says, “Yes! Time to give that other teacher a try…” but she goes back to your schedule and finds you aren’t teaching during that time slot she needs. Am I saying to never change things up? No, I’m not. But give a schedule a fair chance from the other side. As a teacher, four weeks of low-to-no bookings feels like an eternity. As a parent, I know that two weeks can fly by for me, and when I need to find a solution for one of my boys’ schedule, I do go back and look at other options, including new teachers.

Their own family activities Does your availability mesh with their schedule?

I am currently turning down a lot of priority bookings. That’s not bragging – hear me out. For some mystery reason, I am getting weekly requests to teach during time slots I have never taught in (and currently have no plans to). When I reply to these parents, I always acknowledge that I hope they can find a time that I am available for class that fits with their family schedule. I have three children. We have more control over our schedule than many other families, and I’m still often maxed out. I get it. I also think this makes the consistency issue above a double-whammy. If they like you and your schedule fits theirs, they’ll be back.

Teacher Cancellations Some companies show this statistic on a monthly basis.

I can tell you that I had to cancel two classes last month. I spent an hour trying to figure out how I’d messed up, and it came down to the simple fact that I had read my (own personal) calendar wrong. I not only opened up two slots on a Saturday when I couldn’t teach, but I didn’t open those same times on the previous day, Friday when I was available. Happily, those Friday classes booked late notice, but I had to cancel on Saturday. One of the students was one of my regulars, and her mom has continued to book me. However, I have noticed a drop in bookings at that company. Oh, I still get booked, but my classes are down by about 1/3. When I take into consideration all other factors (time of year, time of day, etc), that cancellation is the one factor that stands out for me in this drop in bookings.

And to be completely honest, I can’t blame them. I need to show I am reliable. Again, I’ve been there on the other side as a parent. One of my sons took online language lessons. The company we used assigns the student two teachers from which to choose. Teacher #1 was fine. Competent. I never felt like he was a superstar, but I was satisfied. Teacher #2 was kind and also competent, on her own. I never felt that she reviewed any notes left about my son by the other teacher, but it’s okay, I could see he was still learning. BUT there were two big flags with her for me. The first one was a day she was having IT problems. They were on her side, she was upfront about that. She kept trying to correct the problems (while I kept hearing the minutes I’d paid for tick away…). She finally just gave up and never came back to the classroom. Well, okay, these things happen. I know that. The class was credited back to my account (After I made a fuss. This company has teachers communicate directly with parents via email, and she kept trying to get me to reschedule, which I couldn’t. I had to go to her supervisor to get the class credited back). The second issue came on another day when we had a lesson scheduled. I received another email from her about an hour before the lesson. Could I reschedule the lesson? She was in an airport and couldn’t teach from there. Okay, again… things happen. But the truth was that I couldn’t just reschedule and that the other teacher – teacher #1? No IT problems, ever. Never late to class. Always finished on time. With two teachers who are comparable when it came to fostering my son’s learning when they made it to class, which one do you think I booked exclusively after that? It’s not about being hard-hearted. I’m the teacher, too. I get it. But as a parent, I will make sure my child is getting the most for the money I’ve paid.

Teacher certifications Is this teacher an expert? In what areas?

I always recommend that my referrals get a TESOL or TEFL certificate if they don’t already have one. Also, some companies require this, neither company I refer for does… but that’s not why I recommend it. Having these certifications gives you a two-fold edge. First, that certificate shows you have completed a course of instruction and demonstrated a level of expertise. Second, having a valid certificate with a trackable number can help you to get a slightly higher base pay offer. International Open Academy offers certification courses in both TESOL and TEFL with solid, basic information included in each program. Use my link and you will get a discounted rate on the tuition. Disclaimer: These links are affiliate links. Read more about these links and my affiliate statement by clicking here.

Teacher-student connection How well does their child respond to you?

In some ways, I’m a little sad this is the last button, but I put it here for a reason. The previous four topics are hurdles to be crossed. And until we’ve gotten past booking schedules, family schedules, qualifications, and reviews… until you actually get into the classroom with your student, you can’t begin to cultivate that relationship. So the only thing we can do about this is to do what we would already: Be ready to support and foster that child, cognitively, emotionally, and linguistically, from the first moment the camera opens until we say, “See you next time!” at the end of class.


Hi! This website is written by me – Sandra Girouard.

I’ve been blessed with a long teaching career – first as a music teacher, then an instructional technology manager. When my family’s needs meant traveling and later moving around the country, I began the adventure of homeschooling and eventually working online. After five years of working remotely in other fields, I was thrilled to discover what a great fit online teaching is for me. Teaching online allowed me to return to passion my of working with children (besides my own), and lets me spend time each day with students and parents at home and across the world. I currently teach ESL for VIPKID and Gogokid, as well as teaching humanities classes through U.S. based online class portals.

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