How to Teach Online through Italki
This guide is designed to give you a complete introduction to teaching any language on Italki and to allow you to learn from some of my successes and mistakes along the way.
I’ve taught 2,000 classes on Italki
5.0 as my rating which is the highest possible
Charge $28 per hour and have a totally full schedule
How did I start teaching on Italki?
After taking my CELTA qualification and receiving the highest grade possible, I came to Colombia with high hopes of finding a well-paid job straight away. The reality was a little different and I ended up teaching business English for 8 hours per week which was just enough to enough to cover my rent for the month. The biggest problem is that most classes in Colombia are available at unsociable hours, 7am or 6pm and there was a huge gap in the middle of the day where I had nothing to do. My friend recommended Italki to me and after considering it for a month or so, I put in my application.
Who Can Apply to Teach On Italki?
Anyone can apply, it might help if you have some teaching experience, but many students are just looking to practice with someone who speaks the language to a high level. Especially if you want to be a community tutor, you can easily just get paid to chat about interesting topics with foreign students.
Which languages can I teach?
Any languages in which you have C2 or native proficiency. If you would like to teach a second language, you’ll need to prove that you are at C2 level by speaking in that language during your Introduction video. Italki actively promotes language learning and is looking to allow everyone to learn whichever language they want from the comfort of their own home.
How to Apply to Teach on Italki?
1) Make an engaging video
I’ll make a full post about this in the future, but you should aim to talk about what you can do for the student, instead of just talking about yourself.
How can you help them?
What do you specialise in?
What types of students are you looking for?
In my original video, I mentioned my hobbies and educational background to help make a personal connection too. Make sure your hobbies are genuine though, I literally have students who mainly talk to me about football in their classes.
2) Don’t read a script
The biggest mistake I made in my first video was reading a script, it looked pretty unnatural. I did manage to attract plenty of students with this video, but I’m really not sure how. I noticed a huge increase in my lesson requests after improving my video and speaking with more confidence. Lighting and sound quality are also crucial.
Make sure your video is at least one minute and to talk in any languages that you are planning to teach. Additionally, if you are going to teach a language other than English, it can be a good idea to speak English in your video too.
3) Professional Teacher or Community Tutor
On Italki, you can be either a professional teacher or community tutor. If you have an official certification like TESOL, CELTA or a PGCE, you’ll be classed as a professional teacher. This allows you to create courses and add course descriptions. On the other hand, community tutors are only allowed to teach informal tutoring. Even if they create a course, they have to market themselves as informal tutors.
If you have the appropriate qualifications, it’s definitely better to apply to be a professional teacher because it’s easier to charge more for classes.
4) The final thing is to make sure your photo looks professional enough, you can find guidelines for photos on the links that I provided above.
5) If your application is rejected please check out the link at the bottom of the page. Sometimes they might say that they are not searching for new teachers at the moment, to be honest this is hard to believe and generally means there was something wrong with your application.
If you’ve been rejected, let me know and I’ll have a look through your application to help you to improve it.
Part 2-You’ve been accepted what to do now?
Congratulations for getting this far and now it’s time to find out how to make some money.
1) Make Time Available for Students to Book
You need to create availability in your calendar, especially in the beginning it’s important to think about this, but you don’t want to be cancelling classes as a teacher. Once you have availability, students will be able to see this and possibly reserve a class or trial class with you.
2) Create your courses and pricing structure.
It’s a great idea to start off with cheaper classes to encourage students to try you out and get some feedback.
For the first month, I offered $1 trial classes (30 mins) and charged $10 per hour. Even if you are an experienced teacher, you might not know how to teach effectively online. The lower prices allow you to learn in a less pressurised environment and hopefully build up a solid reputation. During this period, you should directly ask your students for feedback and explain why it is important to you. Ask them at the end of the class if they were happy with everything (if yes, ask them to write something on Italki, if no, try to rectify this)
How to Figure out What to Teach?
1) Create a Niche
It is quite useful to create a niche and as you can see mine is IELTS test preparation. This doesn’t mean that I don’t teach other parts of English, I just market myself as an IELTS teacher. This is useful for two main reasons. Firstly, when teachers are looking for an IELTS teacher, they know this is my speciality and trust me to help them. Secondly, I can make materials which can reused for my IELTS students, as any teacher will tell you, the more efficient your preparation process, the more you’ll enjoy teaching.
2) Offer a General Option too
Despite this, I’d still recommend having a more general English course in the beginning. I have a course called conversational English which is designed to help students improve their fluency by talking about a range of topics. Sometimes people want interview preparation, just to talk randomly or to improve to the next level. Having a more general course allows people to know this is an option.
3) Don’t have too many options.
Italki allows you to create around 6 courses as a teacher and at one point I had almost 6. After receiving feedback from my students, I realised that less was more. I’d advise offering 2-3 courses which cover distinct areas.
Right now I have three options:
1) Online IELTS Class
2) Offline Writing Correction Service
3) Conversational English
Remember the people who are booking your class are not fluent in English, so you need to make it simple for them.
In theory you can teach online with your phone and a data plan, but in reality you are a charging students for a service and need to make the experience as painless as possible to receive high feedback. Here are my recommendations:
1) Use a reasonable laptop (i5 processor or higher)
The vast majority of classes will be video calls and these are quite intensive. During the class you may have to search for things on Google, send documents, messages etc. A tablet or phone won’t really allow you to do this, so try to invest in a laptop.
2) Buy earphones or headphones with a microphone
There is nothing worse than hearing the echo of your own voice in the background. Imagine how this might be for a student who is feeling self-conscious. Get some earphones with a microphone included (the ones that came with your phone should be good enough). Be careful with wireless headphones, unless you always remember to charge them.
3) Find a quiet place for your classes
The one surprising thing taking online classes is how you can hear everything that is happening. Even relatively quiet noises can be heard by the student. Try to avoid having someone else talking, watching TV or cooking nearby.
How to Set your Prices
1) Start Lower
As previously mentioned in the beginning you should start off with a lower price while figuring things out
2) After the first month don’t undervalue yourself
Once you have a rating and some feedback, it’s definitely time to put your prices up. Italki is a marketplace and there are teachers who consistently charge $5 per hour. Don’t try to compete with them and instead focus on creating value for your students. There will be students who look for the cheapest teacher, but there are many others who are looking for the best teacher. If you charge $5-10 per hour, you’re excluding these students. In my opinion, students who are looking for the best teacher tend to be more motivated and engaging, so consider marketing yourself at them.
3) Create discounts for booking multiple classes
When I look at my schedule now, it is totally full for the next two weeks and that’s because students have booked packages. Personally, I believe that 5 or 10 is the best length, I wouldn’t feel so comfortable booking 20 classes with a new teacher, but 5-10 is manageable. A discount of 10-15% should be sufficient.
4) Take account of commission and taxes
Italki charges 15% commission for their services and after creating my own website, I really consider this to be reasonable. They take care of marketing, payment, booking, technical issues and resolving any disputes with students. Just remember to take account of losing 15% when you set your prices. You are responsible for declaring Italki earnings to the relevant tax authorities, the process for this varies from country to country, so I won’t go into it in depth.
How Do I Get Paid?
1) After the Class is Completed
Students have three days to confirm their class, if they don’t do it in this time, it is done automatically.
2) Teacher Wallet
Once a class has been completed the money will go into your teacher wallet and can be withdrawn on certain dates each month depending on your withdrawal method.
3) Withdrawal Methods
I use Paypal and money can be withdrawn from your teacher wallet on either the 15th or 30th of each month. It then takes 1-10 days to be processed and you can move it directly from your Paypal to bank account.
Congratulations if you have made it this far! Teaching online is a great opportunity and can be used as a side-hustle or a full-time job. It is very enjoyable and you have the chance to meet students from all over the world.
If you have any further questions after reading this please let me know. This is the first of my guide to teaching online and I’ll aim to publish something new every month if the guides are popular.
Hi Natalie, Thanks for sending me a message about it and hopefully I can help you out. Obviously, I don’t work for the Italki hiring and it is difficult to say exactly without seeing your application, but I’d advise looking at your video. I’m going to update this guide soon and I know that the video is the number 1 reason that they reject people. Make sure the resolution is high, that you speak in all languages that you intend to teach etc. If you want me to look at your application in more detail, feel free to book a… Read more »
Hi there, I’ve just stumbled across your post after googling “declined application from italki”. I wonder if you might be able to help? I applied to be a professional teacher on italki last week. I have CELTA and I’ve been teaching English at language schools, privately and online for years. My application has been declined without reason and when I asked for more feedback was told that my qualification didn’t meet requirements. Given this is one of the top internationally recognised qualifications for teaching English (and is listed on italki’s own website!) I queried this and asked them to clarify.… Read more »