What Will I Be Paid to Teach English Online?

Knowing what you will be paid to teach English online should be one of the first questions that come to your mind.

Now, if you want specifics on rates from a couple of different companies, you can check out articles that I published here and hereHowever, I encourage you to read the following so you have an overall understanding of how pay works in general.

What your pay will be depends largely on the policies and procedures of individual companies. However, there are certain factors that are common to most companies I’ve worked with and researched.

  • You will have a base rate. This is the rate that you are paid per scheduled class that is taught as expected (you are on time, the class runs for the entire time length). This is generally based on a combination of your qualifications (education and experience), the impression you make during your interview, and your performance during your mock class (demo class).
  • Incentives often seem small, but can really add up.

    You can earn incentives. In my experience, these are generally smaller amounts that companies offer for certain teacher behaviors. For example, VIPKID offers an additional 50 cents per class after you teach 30 classes in a calendar month, and an additional dollar per class after you teach 45 classes in a calendar month. One dollar doesn’t sound like much, but if you teach 50 classes, that’s an additional $50 in your paycheck.

  • There are bonuses. These are offered for a variety of tasks outside or above the teaching requirement. Most companies offer a small bonus if you teach the most recent trial class before a parent enrolls their child. There are also higher bonuses with most companies if you refer another teacher who is successfully hired and actually teaches classes. Whereas incentives are often small (but add up), bonuses can range from $5 to $100 or even more.
  • Other “perks.” Some (not all) companies offer the chance to acquire “points” or “tokens” which can be traded out for tangible rewards, including gift cards. Points/tokens can be accrued for varying tasks, from attending workshops, receiving parent feedback, or completing social message board tasks. Personally, I do not include these when considering income. My experience is that the rewards you can redeem tokens/points for are not consistently available. Often, I can purchase the item cheaply enough it’s not worth the time to earn the tokens. It *is* nice to get the occasional $5 gift card after attending a certain number of workshops, but again – I don’t rely on this part of my income.

Sounds complicated? It can be. Let me show you how I simplify it.

I keep track of how much I earn each month (after bonuses and incentives), and the number of classes I teach. I put them in this formula:

Income ÷ (number of classes ÷ 2) = hourly rate

If I make $1500 in a month:

$1500 ÷ (150 ÷ 2) = $20/hour

A few notes:

  • I do not count my prep time. Yes, I still prep. No, I do not spend anywhere near the amount of time I did when I started, but I still prep. The amount of time you spend preparing for classes is very personal. I encourage you, however, yo keep in mind: If you stick with teaching these classes, after a year, prep will take a fraction of the time it does the first time you teach them.
  • I do not count workshop attendance or any continuing ed. This is my choice, on my time. In addition, most of the workshops/continuing ed activities I attend are online. I am free to step away and get coffee, redirect my 14 year old back to Algebra, pause and discuss family scheduling with my (also-works-at-home) husband. Again, this is my choice.

To get back to my formula:

Income ÷ (number of classes ÷ 2) = hourly rate

I have found this to be very important. I recently spent a period teaching for three companies. One offered me a much higher base rate, allowing me (theoretically) to earn $22.50/hour. Another offered a low base rate but paid me a percentage during my open hours if I had no classes booked. After three months, I was surprised to find that – using my formula above, I averaged the highest hourly rate from the company that offered me the middle-of-the-road base rate. Why? Because my classes were consistently booked by students who showed up. It really does come down to the math. If you can get paid $6/class for a no =-show, or $10/class to actually teach… what is the best way to spend the bulk of your time? I don’t mind the occasional no-show – it’s a break, a breather, and a chance to “get paid” to drink coffee, catch my breath, and write reports. But a steady diet of no-shows makes for a big dent in my paycheck. We’ve all heard the old adage that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush; well, 10 students in class is better than 15 no-shows.

I hope this helps you understand some of the issues involved in the pay rates for online ESL teaching. This is one area where things are very different than teaching for a brick and mortar school. Carefully read any information provided by your company regarding pay, and think through carefully what your income goals are.


I’m Sandra Girouard, and 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. Teaching online has 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.

If I can answer any questions for you about teaching online, whether it’s about getting paid or anything else, I’d love to hear from you. Please click here to send me a message.