How much money I make as an online English tutor (2021)

A teenager taking an online English lesson.

Teaching ESL online has its pros and cons. Let me explain my experience as a freelance English tutor and how much money and made. 

Written by: Anonymous – September,29/2021

 1 – Dedication and unpaid work

 It is no secret that people love working from home, and being an online tutor can make that life a reality. However, I don’t think most people wake up in the middle of the night with an epiphany to get started in this profession. 

Looking back, I was aware that being a Canadian with a clear accent could work to my benefit, so teaching it was. I was living in Colombia, South America at the time. I had spent way too much cash on empanadas, beers and accommodation. I needed to get my butt a job. 

 2 – The Job Search

To start off, I tried applying to sites where you could teach Chinese kids, but I couldn’t get hired. I remember one interview where I was giving a mock lesson to some old Chinese lady who was acting as if she was a child student. It was super weird, and it threw me off. 

I mean think about pronouncing apples and bananas to some 50 year old who was impersonating a toddler. I couldn’t concentrate, and this interview class was at 6 a.m. It was a total fail, but hilarious, nonetheless. 

Moving on with my job search, I decided to pursue my own students. I used sites like FB to post English content and hopefully gather up some eager to learn students. This did not happen. I was met with people asking for free lessons. If I wanted to start a charity to teach for free, it would have been a great option. But I was the one who needed charity for my empanada fund. 

3 – Tutoring with Preply

Trust me, this is not an advertisement. Most bloggers would create a link attached to a site as a thanks, but not this guy. I will explain later in the article why I choose not to. Back to the story.

While living in a shared house in Medellin, Colombia, I met a French tutor who was living in the house. His name was Julian. He mentioned that I should try Preply as he was making money on the site. I gave it a go. 

I created my profile, description, price and cheesy YouTube explainer video, which is too embarrassing to show here. After some weeks of not receiving any students, I was thinking of throwing in the towel and trying something else.

At the time, I requested 15 bucks a class and I had 0 reviews – Not an ideal teacher listing.

My super hot Colombian girlfriend at the time mentioned that I should drop the price, and as a joke I said that I would change it to 5 dollars a class – a decent wage for a Colombian. Being from Canada, it’s like working for free. That wage would be illegal in the Great White North. I dropped the price to 5 bucks a lesson. 

 That same hour, students began booking. Was I happy? No. Surprised, yes.

I realized that with Preply, tutors have to do what is called a “1st lesson” or “trial class” and in that class, the teacher makes 0 dollars. Yes 0, zilch, nada. Think about doing an hour-long English class with students, beginner students, and making nothing. 

 It hurt. If a student decided to take regular classes, you started making cash. If the student decided that you are not the appropriate tutor for them, they disappeared and you wasted an hour of your life. Some people call it “more experience.” Mmm hmm, right.

Teachers are on the site to make dinero baby. They are not there to meet people who are learning a language and have trouble pronouncing “comfortable and vegetable.”

The Outcome

A lot of things grind my gears about online ESL teaching. Over the years that I have been doing it, I’ve made enough to support myself while living in Colombia. Keyword Colombia. If you plan on being a freelancer from North America, where the cost of living is much higher, good luck. 

With this pandemic, competition is fierce. There is an influx of students and possibly even more teachers. The market is flooded and when the flood gates open, prices drop. That’s my opinion on the matter. 

I suspect many of these online platforms will continue to take advantage of teachers, especially when they need cash.  After all when a teacher makes 0 dollars an hour for a trial class, the platform takes 100% Well Preply does, not all of them do that.

Overall Earning

Year 1 – 8400 U.S.D

Year 2 – 9300 U.S.D

Year 3 (Present Year) – 8100 U.S.D


Presently, I continue teaching English online. I believe this year, my third, will be my last. Online ESL teaching is a grind. Eventually it may push you to find a different job. However, if you can be a specialist such as an IELTS teacher, you could make a decent income.

 Find the right platform. One that respects the teacher, and the rest should be history. 

 Good luck and thanks for reading. Remember that sharing is caring.