Moving Beyond the Traditional ESL Classroom

Have you ever thought about how you could use your skills as a teaching professional in the online world to earn additional income? When I left classroom teaching in December 2015, after a 20-year teaching career, I certainly did. During the next eighteen months, I had the time and energy to discover how I could use my skills and expertise as a teaching professional to earn income outside of the traditional ESL classroom.

There are many reasons why teachers are looking to earn additional income online, such as precarious employment, the need for a creative outlet, the desire to develop new skills and to earn extra income. For me, it was the desire to travel at any time of the year. What I learned during my time out of the classroom is that there are several ways that teachers can earn money online – the most common way being to teach individuals or small group of students who want to learn English with companies like VIPKids ( You may be wondering if there is space for so many of us competing for online ESL students, but take a look at these astonishing statistics:

  • It is estimated that over 1.5 billion people are currently learning English worldwide and that the number of those learning ESL/EFL will double by the year 2020 to nearly 2 billion people (Beare, 2018).
  • ESL/EFL speakers outnumber native English speakers 2–1 worldwide. China is already the largest English-speaking country in the world. The number of English language learners over 300 million and growing(Montrose, 2018)!

If you would prefer to have more control over your rates and the type of student you would like to work with, is a great alternative. I have had the pleasure of working with some interesting students from this site.

Another common way to earn money is to sell your teaching materials on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers ( I have had some success selling materials on this site. I definitely had the most success earning passive income by writing an e-book called Successful Group Work: 13 Activities to Teach Team Work.  I met a publisher at TESOL in Seattle and this has been lucrative for me.

If you think you might enjoy freelance projects, set up an account on or I have worked on some interesting short-term writing projects; however, the downside is that these sites take a commission from you.

Before you get started on an online venture, make sure that you “google” yourself. You might be surprised at what you discover from your digital footprint.  I only use social media for professional purposes so you will not find vacation photos or pictures of my family.  I strongly believe that we should present our best possible professional self online.

Many teachers have asked me during the last three years for more information, so I launched the Teacher to Teacherpreneur website ( I have interviewed more than 60 teacherpreneurs from around the world and have uploaded some resources to help you get started.

How have you used your teaching skills online? Comment below!


Beare, K. (2018). How Many People Learn English? Retrieved from

Montrose, B. (2018)

Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., TESL has 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Curriculum Writer in Canada, including 7 years in Hong Kong. Patrice has taught students from age 8 to 80 years in ESP, EAP, LINC, ELT, and OSLT.

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