Teaching Tips from Austin Wood

Austin Wood has been teaching on italki since Nov of 2012 and we discovered this blog post that he put up about maximizing your earnings on italki. We couldn’t have written anything better and thought the post was so great that we wanted to share it with all our teachers and tutors on italki.  Reposted with permission.  Original article is on Austin’s Blog here.

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 How to Make Money Teaching on SKYPE

italki is a site that connects online language learners and tutors. Over 80% of the money I made on Skype came through this site. I no longer teach on Skype, but I still use the site for taking Spanish lessons twice a week. I highly recommend it for both language learners and teachers. They make scheduling and finding students/teachers extremely easy. SETT user Paul recently wrote to me asking for advice on how to get started teaching English on italki. I’ve included his question and my answer in this post.

 

Hey Austin,

I’ve been a follower of Tynan’s blog for about a year now, and stumbled across yours some time ago. Several months ago, I read one of your posts about teaching English on italki, and figured it’d be a great way to make some side money.

I’m just now getting around to investing my time in teaching English online and figured you’d be a great person to contact for tips and details on how to get started (I noticed from your italki profile that you’ve given over 200 lessons).

Just a few notes about myself:

1. I taught English for Turkey in one year, mostly focusing on TOEFL preparation. I also taught some conversational English classes.
2. I have an online TEFL certificate, so I’m considered a “Professional Teacher” on italki.
3. My italki profile: http://www.italki.com/teacher/1149807 .

I understand your quite busy, so if you don’t have time for a full length response, no worries. Even just a few quick pointers would prove tremendously beneficial.

Thanks much Austin, and I wish you the best going forward.

Cheers!
Paul

 

Hey Paul!

Here’s my advice for making money on italki:

 

  1. Start your prices low, especially while you don’t have any stats/reviews. I started at $10/hour then bumped it up by $1-2 every time I reached 50% of max capacity (that is, if I have 10 hours available per week to teach and I’m consistently filling up 5 of those hours).
  2. When you raise your prices, avoid alienating your loyal clients until you’ve reached that next 50% max capacity. You can do this by creating packages with discounts. Write them a message saying you’re raising your prices, but until *such date* you’d like to continue providing them your old price via the 5-lesson package. Of course, don’t bother doing this for clients who you’re sure will pay your new price!
  3. When I was actively searching for clients and still had few stats, I made corrections to at least one random notebook entry every day. This increases your visibility, not only in searches but people can also just find you by browsing notebooks entries.
  4. It’s possible to add an introduction video. I never did this (I don’t think the option was available when I started teaching), but it’s probably a very good idea. Many students are skeptical that the teacher is a native speaker, or are worried that the lesson will start and they won’t understand a word the teacher says. If they can watch a short intro video, this will help remove their skepticism and insecurity.
  5. Reply to session requests and messages as quickly as possible. In my experiences this increases trust. I always logged in at least once every 24 hours and responded to everything.
  6. Specialize (especially after you have some stats). TOEFL prep is a great example of this. On italki, I specialized in TOEFL Preparation, Math and Physics Tutoring and Beginner / Pre-Intermediate English for Native Russian Speakers. For now, I’d recommend keeping TOEFL at $15 and taking your conversation down to $10. At the end of my Skype career, I had about 10 hours per week of “specialized” lessons at $18-$20/hour and another 10-15 hours per week of conversation at $16. It’s probably pretty difficult to raise prices much more than that on italki, just because students have so many options available to them. I experimented with finding clients outside of italki and picked up a few at $25/hour, but the scheduling and advertising that italki offers is probably worth the lower wages.
  7. Consider recording and watching your lessons (I use Call Recorder for Mac). Obviously don’t waste time doing this for every lesson, but I did this quite frequently at the beginning and often noticed things I could do better and would actively try and improve during my next lesson. italki students often have experience with many teachers, so they’ll be able to recognize a good teacher when they meet one. Always focus on improving your teaching abilities and increase your fee accordingly!

 

If you stick with it and are business oriented, there will inevitably come a time in your English teaching career when you outgrow teaching on Skype. There’s simply a practical limit to how much you can charge due to the high availability of teachers. My starting price for private lessons in Moscow is currently 4-5 times higher than the most I ever charged on italki (granted, travel time — average 50 minutes one way — is unpaid). However, I don’t think I ever could have reached that level without the hundreds of hours of teaching practice that italki and Skype provided me. It’s a great training ground to refine your teaching skills.

I’m very busy until January 12 (English camps in Russia during winter holiday) but write to me again after that — especially after you’ve had some time to put this advice into practice — and I’d be happy to hop on Skype and continue this discussion further.

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Photo is me teaching physics on Skype to my Chinese student, Steven.

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