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I figured out how to make $100K per year teaching TOEFL Speaking from a villa in Tuscany

This is the story about how a Turkish pharmacist living in California changed my life as I was driving around Europe with my wife and 2-year-old daughter in a rented Renault Kadjar.

“The whole time I was like this data detective analyzing my SpeechRater graphs and listening to my audio again and again, counting the was actually fun.” - Burkay

Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m John and I created My Speaking Score to help us.

Every TOEFL Speaking teacher needs a way to attract more high-paying students, right?

Even if you’re at the top of your game, you’re likely still trading your time for a so-so hourly wage.

Best case - you’re looking at a full calendar. And a hard-capped mid-4-figure monthly income.

You’re an honorable hourly soldier on the front lines of TOEFL prep.  


I know because I was there - right where you are now. For years.

Until I discovered a better - much better - way to run my business and my life.

And the great news is the 1-2-3 process flow I mentioned above doesn’t change at all. That's not the transformative part.

You still do what you do: Diagnose - Analyze - Repair.

What changes is how you interact with your students and how you position yourself as a change agent in their lives.

Let me ask you a question.

What's the most important thing you do?

Hint: it’s not implementing all those frameworks and templates and strategies and tactics.


The most important thing you do?

You detect problems and deliver feedback.

Error diagnosis and speech correction in TOEFL Speaking is brutal:

  • it’s task-heavy - your workflow is not automated, meaning you can’t scale it
  • it’s qualitative - you rely on your opinions, rather than objective facts
  • it’s inconsistent - you're a slave to the rubrics, your “ears of experience”, your gut

I’d been trying to solve these problems for years. Unsuccessfully.

Here's a common conundrum:

If you run group classes, you can charge more per hour, but can't deliver accurate or targeted feedback (or even keep track of who has what problem).

If you ask students to email you their responses as mp3s, you always have a homework hangover - “homework” hanging over your head - and worse, the feedback you deliver is delayed (and I suspect largely ignored).

Faced with these daunting realities, I tried something.

I doubled my rates.

I just started charging $100/hour.

And you know what? 

I actually started to attract very serious people (with pretty significant TOEFL Speaking problems).

Which is a good combination in a client, by the way: pain + urgency = motivated learner.

Money follows pain.

And then I got really ambitious.

I set a goal to have a 6-figure year.

That's 100K in top-line revenue.

To do 100K, you need to book $8,333/month.

At my new rate of $100 per hour, I figured I had an average lifetime student value of $1300.

Meaning, on average, a student would pay for 13 hours of classes with me, and consume those hours in about 1 month.

Back of the envelope math: to hit my $100K goal and brag to my wife that I was a “6-figure TOEFL Speaking teacher”, I needed a steady inflow of 6-7 new students per month, or 77 students for the year (77 x $1300 = $100,100).

Now, this is in February 2020.

I was traveling through Europe in a rented Renault Kadjar with my wife and 2-year old daughter. Rome, Florence, Venice, Split, Vienna, Bern, Prague, Paris, Cannes…I mean we were all over the place.

And I was teaching. And I was recording a new TOEFL course.

And I was developing a new business plan to reach my 100K goal.

I was trying to be a more successful hourly soldier.

Then everything changed. February became March and March became crazy.

Remember 2020?

At the time I’m locked down in a villa in the Tuscan countryside (not bad!) in a place called Collesalvetti.

And the COVID thing is happening and I'm lining up in the parking lot outside the grocery store with gloves and a mask on so I can buy food.

And amidst all this craziness: boom, boom, two other things happen in quick succession.

Thing one: a contact at ETS hooks me up with a trial account of SpeechRater - the scoring engine that’s used to evaluate TOEFL Speaking responses.

(Cool, because I wanted an “edge” over the other TOEFL gurus out there, and I was starting to think about ditching Reading, Listening, and Writing to focus solely on Speaking: SpeechRater is a cool way to de-couple your business from those other sections - more on this in a minute.)

Thing two: I get an email out of the blue from a guy who would change my life (and I his).

Hey John, First of all thank you for those awesome videos both on Facebook and on You definitely boosted my morale towards the exam.

I am a pharmacist who is getting ready to take TOEFL test and Board of Pharmacists is asking for a speaking score 26. 2 years ago I took TOEFL and got 23 from speaking section; but this time I don't want to miss the opportunity to get licensed with couple points.

Do you offer teleconference lessons? I would be glad if we could arrange some lessons on your schedule and help me towards the exam date.

Thanks and Stay safe during those hectic weeks!


My reply:

Hello Burkay,

Happy to hear from you and happy I could provide a morale boost! I love helping pharmacists get 26 in Speaking (and the other minimums in R, L, and W).

I guess you must be close to your S goal, especially if you’ve been speaking English regularly for the past two years.

We can set up a chat if you’d like to have a trial class with me (no charge).

book a 30 minute free consult here

During our micro-class I’ll let you know some specifics about your Speaking and anything else you’re concerned about.

Hope to see you soon!



PS we’re living in crazy times - stay safe!

(It’s funny to see emails from that time - everyone was saying the same thing about “crazy times” lol.)

So, to recap:

  • I had a declared goal of $100K in TOEFL student revenue
  • I had a trial SpeechRater account (no other TOEFL teacher had it!)
  • I had Burkay - a perfect use case for my new idea

What Burkay didn’t say in his email was that he had taken the TOEFL 7 times and came up short on TOEFL Speaking every time.

Excellent! (For my idea, not exactly for Burkay...)

What I didn’t say is that as part of the SpeechRater trial, I only had 20 “credits” - meaning, I could only submit 20 responses before my eval period ended. So I need to use these credits wisely - I wasn’t exactly sure how I could get more because I hadn't signed anything with ETS.

Back to Burkay.

On our Zoom call, Burkay’s spoken English was amazing. It was accented, but really good.

He is a great looking guy, and he has this natural confidence and charisma. So I’m thinking: this can’t be test-anxiety.

How could a guy like this get nervous in the testing center?

Then I thought: this has “case study” written all over it. I would use SpeechRater with Burkay and see how quickly I could get him to his goal.

I should mention, when I onboard a new student, I almost always start with a block of 10 hours - $1000, in advance.

But this time I tried something crazy.

I said “let’s do a daily sprints”.

Not classes. Sprints.

(When you say ‘class’ - students think of a one-hour block. So I said to Burkay, look, let’s meet whenever we need to for as long as it takes to get you 26.)

I knew that I had SpeechRater to help me with accurate score estimates...and I could offload a lot of class time to the scoring engine.

In fact, because we were trying to eliminate anxiety - BETTER that I'm not breathing down his neck as he tries to implement the Q3 template!

Oh, and I charged him $1300 flat.

The key insight here: instead of focusing on “time with me” I focused on “results for him”.

Instead of putting the pressure on him to “squeeze in” as much learning into hour-long sessions, I didn’t mention time at all.

No pressure, remember?

It was on that day that I stopped being a TOEFL teacher and started being a TOEFL Speaking coach.

Burkay and I started using SpeechRater combined with a simple skill-building strategy, guided by SpeechRater data:

Diagnosis – Analysis – Repair

What a breakthrough - for us both.

We felt like data detectives analyzing those SpeechRater charts, listening to his audio, counting was really fun.

Sometimes we'd even check in on our phones because each daily sprint was 15 minutes max.

So check out how this math works:

  • 15m/day = 7.5h/month
  • $1300/7.5 = $173/hour!!

Income-wise, I just gave myself a sweet raise - from $100 to $173 per hour.

Now, I'm trading my time for real money.


And you know what?

Burkay LOVED the arrangement. It was BETTER for him.

And Burkay thought about me as a solution rather than an expense.

And bam - lightbulb - lightning - click - aha moment - this is the model - this is how to scale a one-person operation.

You're in this thing with your student together (and at the same're apart).

It's the sweetest feeling.


This model lets me quadruple my teaching load and

  • quadruple my teaching effectiveness and
  • quadruple my income and
  • quadruple my impact on the world

Instead of 6-7 students per month, I can take 25-30 students per month!

And I'm a way better teacher coach than I ever was...because I have all this data!

It's like I finally have all the pieces - the tech, my "signature" courseware and frameworks, and now this amazing model to get my students across the finish line.

And Burkay emailed me when he got his 26.

And he was over the moon. He is such a great guy - he has a beautiful family and a little boy who was born a few days after my daughter. And it was such a thrill to help him because I knew he was going to get out there and be an amazing pharmacist and have a great life.

After Burkay’s success, he referred me to his colleague. She was in a worse situation. She had taken the TOEFL 13 times and every time missed her Speaking target of 26. I made the same deal with her.

This time, I had my workflow so dialled-in that this client actually moved her test date forward two-weeks...and got 27.

see Trustpilot stories

And here’s the cool part. She referred me to another pharmacist - also Turkish!

(So if you know any Turkish pharmacists in America, chances are they’re down with me lol - talk about niching down!)

So now I want to convince teachers all over the world that there’s a much better way than just getting on a Zoom call and grinding out timed TOEFL Speaking responses with the rubrics on a shared screen.

OMG that seems like torture to me now.

Now you get on a Zoom call and you share a screen and you look at the SpeechRater reports, and you look at the student’s waveform, and you target your feedback, and you tell them exactly what to do to jack up their score.

And you just don’t stop until you are in control of every response.

It's the ultimate flipped classroom - optimized to leverage your time and absolutely blow your students away.

Here's What I'll Show You in 30 Minutes

By the end of our Zoom call, you’ll have:

  • knowledge of ETS’s "hybrid" TOEFL Speaking assessment methodology

  • raw basics of understanding, interpreting, and using SpeechRater data

  • ideas about delivering targeted corrective feedback based on SpeechRater charts

  • examples of my proven response template that works for intermediate+ students

I broke SpeechRater

I Guarantee You'll Be Delighted

This live call is a super compressed condensation of all my years of learning and figuring out how to "crack" the TOEFL Speaking code and build a TOEFL Speaking business.

I'm sure you'll take away a ton of value. 

There will be no sales pitch or anything to make you feel weird.

Can't wait to do this with you.

John {LinkedIn}