Start Your Own ESL Business

If you do not have a permanent, year-round teaching contract in Ontario, I am sure that you have considered alternative careers or income streams from time to time. We all have our own reasons for our professional situations whether they are extrinsic or intrinsic.  As I see it, there are five paths forward for short-term, contract ESL instructors in our sector: 

  1. Leave the teaching profession for a career that offers year-round remuneration 
  1. Continue along from short-term contract to short-term contract 
  1. Continue improving your credentials through volunteerism and steadfast professional conduct 
  1. Open an alternate stream of income to make additional income during the revenue gaps   
  1. Open an alternate stream of income that may lead to financial independence  

If you are interested in option 5, please read on. To achieve financial independence, you will need to either attain a full-time, full-benefits contract from an Ontario institution with a union membership. Otherwise, you will need to own a business. The following post provides directions on how to move forward with the self-employment path.  

Starting your own ESL/EFL Business – Advisors 

I am not an expert on this topic; however, I have been an occasional independent contractor for the past twenty-eight years. So, I will point you to the experts and you can locate solutions that meet your requirements. Each of the following advisors provides a series of steps and thoughts for those considering opening a new ESL business. I have stressed one concept from each below.  

Elizaveta Shkurina offers a broad starting point in her post, 5 Things to Consider before Starting an ESL School. An interesting concept that Shukurina offers is setting up Pop-Up language schools in restaurants or cafes. This temporary partnership with the establishment owners benefits both the host facility and the ESL business. The ESL business runs sessions without the overhead of renting or buying a physical space.  

Vishal Gupta also provides start-up details for a new ESL business here. He advises that it may be sensible to start with one online course to work out elements such as company brand, purpose, style and target audience. This will help you define your business model to start writing a more comprehensive business plan. You can start small using free online hosts such as There are dozens of similar free options online. The experience of creating your own course will reveal a great deal of the realities you will encounter if you pursue an online business.  

In his post, How to Start Your Own Online English Teaching Business, Marcel Jimmy advises that your first step is to identify your language teaching specialty. This will start your business venture off with focus. If your initial business thrives, expansion can occur later on. 

ESL Business Courses 

Another type of groundwork for your ESL business is to take a course such as Udemy’s How To Set Up Your Fabulous ESL Business. I have not taken this course, but it is an alternate way of moving forward with your business plan. Courses offer more depth and a broad set of topics that can start off your venture with a respectable foundation of knowledge.  

ESL Business Resources 

Discovering open, online dedicated resources related to operating an online educational business would be a real asset in the quest for financial independence. One that I have used is EFL Magazine. It has been publishing online articles or posts written by a variety of English teachers since 2014. The magazine has expanded its offerings in three areas. The first is an EFL business articles section. These deal with various commercial issues about planning, starting, running, and growing an EFL/ESL business.  

The second is an EFL business podcast resource that focuses on entrepreneurs in the field. Many of these interviews touch on the journey from EFL instructor to EFL entrepreneur. Accessing these experiences foregoes the time and expense of contacting entrepreneurs on your own to learn about lessons that they learned to become financially independent.  

Finally, EFL Magazine administers the EFL Magazine Entrepreneur Conference. The conference targets business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers in English Language Teaching and general education. It purports to support EFL business peers, promotes sharing relevant tools and practices and provides clarity and focus.   

Final Thoughts 

Teachers in our sector are not guaranteed benefits and job security. This suits some as they are satisfied with part-time employment. Others aspire to work steadfastly toward a permanent full-time position. If you have aspirations of independence due to an entrepreneurial spirit or hopelessness of acquiring a permanent full-time position, I hope some of the information provided in this post assist you on your journey to financial freedom.  


Coursify Me, 

EFL Magazine, 

EFL Magazine Business articles, 

EFL Magazine Business Podcasts, 

Future Learn (University of Edinburgh. How to Create an Online Course, 

Jimmy, Marcel. (2020). How to Start Your Own Online English Teaching Business 

Gupta, Vishal. (2022). How To Start An Online English Teaching Business In 2021? 

Shkurina, Elizaveta. (2018). 5 Things to Consider before Starting an ESL School. On Your Agora. 

Udemy. How To Set Up Your Fabulous ESL Business. 

Hi—I'm John Allan. I am an educator who works in the technology enhanced language learning field. I create online learning opportunities and mentor instructors on the Avenue project. I have experience teaching ESL and EFL in Canada and the Middle East. I hold an MSC in Computer Assisted Language learning, a M.Ed. in Distance Education, TESL B. Ed., a B.Ed. (OCT), and a variety of TESL relevant certifications from TESL Canada, TESL Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Education. For more articles, learning objects, projects and blog links see


2 thoughts on “Start Your Own ESL Business”

  1. Thanks John for an excellent article. As a former contract ESL teacher, I agree that teachers need to supplement their income. Tutoring is common but not consistent. Some teachers like me go into corporate coaching/training. I found my financial independence this way. I have been a Communication Coach/Trainer for many years now, and left the ESL private school market. I just wanted to add my support for your blog and let others know that communication coaching is also a path forward. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Ric for this. Awareness of alternate career paths that may be suitable for ESL/LINC teachers can lead to new horizons for our peers. I had not heard of communication coach/trainer. I and I am sure, others will look into this opportunity.

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