This isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Success is earned.
This post contains my referral link. If you use my link to join italki and use some of your teaching funds to take a lesson, we’ll both earn $10. Pretty sweet, right?
I was in a tough spot. Student loans were breathing down my neck. My other projects weren’t making money. I’d spend 8 hours crafting an article, only to have it rejected (no publication = no income). And I needed something stable, a little more secure to tide me over.
Enter: italki. (Yes, it’s all lowercase. I checked 3 times.)
What is it?
It’s a platform for language learners to connect with instructors. People from all over the world can view teacher profiles and decide to sign up. You have complete control over your schedule, and you don’t have to worry about timezones, either. italki takes care of all of that for you.
Whoa, whoa. Teacher? I’m not a teacher.
Don’t worry. If you have a verbal native language, you’re more than qualified. At italki, there are 2 kinds of lessons language learners can sign up for. One is a professional lesson with tutors who are certified in teaching their language to non-native speakers. And the second kind is what I do: informal tutoring. These are simply normal conversations with students in your native language. Easy peasy. Right?
Sounds Cool. How Do I Start?
Joining italki is pretty easy. Everyone starts out with a free student account. But the teacher profile has to be earned. You’ll have to apply for it from your student account. The application process involves filling out a profile and creating a 1-3 minute introduction video. And then the waiting begins. It takes about 10 business days to get approved. But, if you follow all of the guidelines they provide during the application process, you shouldn’t have a problem getting approved.
And, How Do I Find Students?
This was honestly the part I was the most worried about when I started this venture. But as soon as I set my availability and lesson rates, lesson requests flooded my inbox. Trust me. If you do everything right, the students will find YOU.
But What About the Money?
You control what your prices are and how often to teach. So, how much you make is up to you. And keep in mind that italki will take a 15% cut from each lesson.
Students on italki purchase credits based on the American dollar. So, if you live in another country, keep in mind that your earnings are in USD.
Also, the payout timing is a little different depending on which payment system you use. Skrill, Paypal, Payoneer, and Bank Transfer via Payoneer work on a bi-monthly system, while other withdrawal methods are only processed at the end of the month. Withdrawals do not happen automatically. This is because you have the option of transferring funds to your wallet to buy lessons. But be careful, because transferring money to your wallet can’t be undone. I’d hate for you to do that by mistake and lose some of your hard-earned money. 🙁
Because withdrawals aren’t automatic, you need to manually request a withdrawal of your earnings. This request will be processed on either the 15th or the end of the month. And then it will take about 10 business days after processing for the funds to make it to you.
Long story short? This is not for anyone who needs quick cash yesterday.
My italki Strategy
Some of my students have told me horror stories about past tutors who were disrespectful or unreliable. Naturally, they stopped scheduling lessons with these tutors. The ideal italki tutor is reliable, punctual, empathetic, fluent, and patient. Remember, your students are doing something brave! Speaking a language you don’t know very well can be embarrassing and demoralizing. Put yourself in their shoes.
The Price is Right
When you first start out, italki recommends charging a low price to attract new students. This helps you pick up ratings and testimonials so you can start charging more. italki has guidelines for the minimum and maximum you can charge for one lesson. These are higher for certified teachers and lower for informal tutors.
I followed this advice and raised my prices after the deluge of requests.
Many of my students come from countries with currencies that can’t compete with the U.S. dollar. My personal opinion is that it would be unfair to raise my current students’ prices because it’d be a bait and switch. Plus, I’d rather have the lower income from students I have a relationship with who will come to me for lessons again and again. Luckily, there’s a way to give your students discounts so none of them got charged more than they could afford.
There are also instant lessons which allow me to charge full price. And new students can sign up for trial lessons to decide if I’m worth the money. I’ve done one trial lesson so far. They decided I was worth the money. 🙂 Because…
You Have to Care
No two students are the same. Everyone has different struggles. You have to listen to each student and figure out what they need to work on most. By figure out, I mean ask them. Get them to practice, and try not to interrupt them too much. That can get super frustrating and a little demoralizing.
You Have to Be Respectful
italki has guidelines on topics that cannot be discussed in lessons. Remember that your students come from all over the world. Some topics may be sensitive and uncomfortable for your students. And speaking in a new language is uncomfortable enough!
Also, be punctual. Be awake. Have a nice clean, quiet space dedicated to lessons. Don’t try to multi-task by doing other household chores while you talk. Students notice, and it doesn’t make them feel great.
Your student may have topics they’d like to discuss, but sometimes they won’t. Have a few topics on hand to ask them questions about. Take notes so you can track what you’ve already talked about.
Even though italki allows people to teach any language they are fluent in, students generally prefer native speakers. If your region has a strong accent, try to adjust so your student can understand you. If a student is having trouble, speak slower. Use shorter sentences. Write out what you said in chat. Adapt to the moment. Simplify.
What I Love Most…
italki gives me the chance to tell stories, help people, AND make an income. Tutoring has taught me so much about the rest of the world. And it’s a great way to rediscover how quirky the English language really is. 🙂
Does this sound like something you’d be interested in doing? Or maybe you’d like to learn a new language?