Italki is the best website to teach languages online.
Why a guide to teaching languages online
I’m ready to share my little secrets as I transition from online tutoring to running my website.
After 4 years of teaching and 1600+ online lessons done, I feel entitled to write a guide about teaching languages on Italki. My credentials are in my review of Italki.
Other similar guides and reviews exist, but they’re either outdated or restricted to “housekeeping” such as sign-up system and features, and they lack personal experience-based advice.
Why do you teach languages online?
Teaching languages online is a fascinating choice if you have the luxury of being able to select your career based on your interests rather than just making a living.
If you’re enthusiastic about your native tongue and enjoy conversing with people from all over the world, you might make a good tutor.
You could become a professional teacher with some additional training.
You can now work from anywhere in the world thanks to the internet. Yes, you can work and travel simultaneously.
Digital nomads come in a range of shapes and sizes. Programmers, web designers, graphic designers, translators, and teachers are the most common careers.
There are well-paid professionals for each job category, as well as ordinary guys who barely get by.
Although online teaching does not offer extremely high hourly rates, if you market yourself properly, you can still command reasonable rates.
This guide aims to assist you with that as well.
Italki is the largest language learning community that connects students and teachers for 1-on-1 online language lessons. It boasts 10,000 teachers teaching more than 130 languages to over 5 million students.
Check out my review of Italki for students. I wrote it from a student’s point of view, but it’s also relevant to teachers.
- Earn decent money
- As an Italki teacher, you set your prices
- Find more students
- Largest and best developed in its genre
- Teach on your schedule
- Work from home, or just anywhere
- You can teach from anywhere with an internet connection using only a computer and a headset.
- Build an online teaching reputation in order to draw new students and prospective employers.
- International payments
- Italki handles all the payments so you don’t have to
- Manage your students
- Italki helps you manage all your student records and history
- Safety and security
The benefit of Italki is that you will receive a much higher hourly rate than you would if you worked for an online teaching company. You’ll also have the ability to teach more advanced subjects to adults, as well as exam preparation.
It’s also convenient because you can teach at different times during the day, rather than only in the morning, like a lot of teachers who work for Chinese companies do.
Italki is a great place to start if you want to take your online teaching to a new level of independence and want to venture out from online teaching companies.
It might be tempting to develop your website in the hopes of attracting students and having all of the money for yourself.
But, especially in the first couple of years, I don’t recommend it.
Italki is the biggest marketplace for language teachers and students in the world. You have the freedom to teach any language you choose. Just set up a profile, set your rates, and students will find you. Creating a profile is completely free.
Yeah, Italki takes a 15% share of your profits, but what they do for you is worth it (and it’s still less than many other platforms).
You have all of your marketing done for you, and their campaigns are high profile. If there are issues with lessons, they respond quickly and reasonably, and their dispute resolution is fast and fair in my experience.
It’s pretty simple to create a website or a blog nowadays, but it takes an unimaginable amount of time and effort to make it successful, – i.e. generate traffic and students.
Being a teacherpreneur is similar to running a small business. You must choose a plan, develop a list, create a website, handle social media, and publish awesome content (regularly). The payoff is worthwhile, but it can take dozens or hundreds of hours to produce the desired results. It’s intimidating, and many (if not most) people give up somewhere along the way.
If the traditional teacherpreneur route is comparable to running a company, Italki is comparable to getting a booth at a flea market. There isn’t enough space for blog posts or websites — all you get is a small table to display your wares (in this case, an intro video and a few paragraphs of profile), and Italki provides the traffic.
And you do get traffic from day one. Students looking to purchase lessons from an instructor can see your profile every day. This is a big benefit for those who don’t have a blog, a website, or a social media following. Keep in mind that this is a flea market. Although the English teacher next to you might have a blog and a large email list, their table is the same size as yours in this place.
To paraphrase the previous point, building a website that makes money takes much too much time and effort while building a website that assists you in making money is easy.
Even if your website does not explicitly produce traffic or sales, it can still be a useful teaching and marketing tool.
You put your profile, FAQs, and useful links like language-learning apps and dictionaries on your website.
A professional website also gives the impression that you are a professional.
You can command higher rates if students perceive your worth.
Social media are a massive time waste, and it takes time to develop relationships with the few serious potential students out there.
You’ll need to make a lot of contacts, post content, and then maintain your followers with messaging campaigns (which aren’t automated).
In the end, it’s equivalent to building authority through a credible blog: you can’t become an authority overnight.
This guide is intended to provide you with a detailed overview of teaching any language on Italki, as well as the opportunity to learn from some of my achievements and mistakes along the way.
We’ll go over everything you need to know about getting started with Italki in this free guide. From how to teach a class, to how much Italki pays, to how to hire students, there’s a lot to learn.
Unlike online teaching companies, Italki is not an online school like SayABC, Palfish, or VIPKID. Instead, they are a bustling marketplace for language teachers and students.
They’re a combination of a marketplace and a community that links language students with private tutors.
It takes some time to get started teaching. Before being added to the marketplace of potential teachers, you need to apply, submit your qualifications, and go through a screening process.
To start the process of becoming an instructor, you must first apply.
Submit your application for consideration.
The application will be pre-approved, put on a waitlist, or denied. Within 10 business days, applicants will be informed.
Teachers go through an onboarding process that involves teacher success videos and a quiz once they’ve been accepted.
You’ll have to complete a video call with Italki Teacher Services after finishing the self-study portion.
Once you’ve taken all of these steps, your application will be officially accepted. Following your call with teacher services, you will be informed within 7 business days.
This procedure is needed to eliminate time wasters and unqualified individuals.
Anyone may apply; having some teaching experience might be helpful, but many students simply want to learn with someone fluent in the language. Especially if you want to be a community tutor you can easily get paid to talk about interesting topics with foreign students.
On Italki, there are two types of teachers:
- Professional teachers
- Community tutors
To work as a professional instructor on Italki, you should meet the following requirements:
- Having a bachelor’s degree. If in education you’ll be given priority. If no bachelors you’ll need a TEFL certificate or equivalent.
- Having references and employment history
- Submitting a short introduction video
- Being a native speaker (or being at a C2 language ability)
- Being at least 18 years old
Professional teachers are required to have a background in education and/or comprehensive experience teaching. They should also include tools, prepared content, and well-structured lesson plans to assist students in achieving their objectives.
To apply for a professional teaching profile you have to upload documents demonstrating your training and experience as a teacher.
To work as a community tutor, you must have the following credentials:
- Submitting a short video introduction
- Being a native speaker in your language or having a verified C2 language ability
- Being 18 years old
Community tutors should be friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, should provide students with the necessary conversation practice.
Any language in which you are fluent at C2 or native.
If you wish to teach a second language, you must show your C2 level by speaking in that language during your Introduction video.
Italki strongly encourages language learning and aims to make it possible for everyone to learn any language from the comfort of their own home.
Your next step after passing the vetting process and being admitted into the teacher marketplace is to create a successful teacher profile.
Several items should be included in your Italki teacher profile.
Upload a profile photo for Italki. This photo should be of you smiling and taken from the shoulders up, with a clear background. It should appear welcoming and professional enough for you to be taken seriously.
The introduction video is probably the most significant aspect of a profile on Italki.
It’s so crucial that I’ve included a segment on it below.
This video should be posted to YouTube and then inserted into your profile.
Set your video to “unlisted” on YouTube if you don’t want it to be viewed by the general YouTube audience.
Then, with Italki, you’ll be able to make a list of the languages you know and can teach. Your teaching specialties assist future language students in deciding if you are the best instructor for them.
You have three long text fields to show your personality and teaching style.
Since this is your marketing copy, write it with care.
Include information about your professional experience, schooling, teaching style, previous jobs, and teaching success.
These fields can become very lengthy. Dividing them into smaller paragraphs is a smart option.
You have full power over your schedule.
However, just set your available time when you are genuinely available. It is unprofessional to reschedule and postpone appointments.
Students would be able to see your availability and possibly reserve a class or trial class with you once you have it.
Here’s a little secret: availability is also marketing.
You should be accessible enough to appear dedicated, but not too available to appear popular and exclusive.
This is especially true after you’ve developed a strong reputation.
Surprisingly, after I reduced my availability, I received more bookings from new students.
Instead of talking about yourself in your video, focus on what you can do for the student.
- How can you help them?
- What do you specialize in?
- What types of students are you looking for?
If you want to make a personal connection, you might mention your interests and educational history.
Write a script so you know exactly what you’re going to say, but don’t read it.
Small bits can still be memorized and edited.
Make sure your video is at least one minute long and that you speak the languages you want to teach. Furthermore, if you’re teaching a language other than English, it’s a good idea to speak English in your video as well.
Your video is a promotional tool.
Your background can give a completely different impression.
Books, maps, flags, and other things that are symbolic of your country will help to build a trustworthy and meaningful impression.
Your smartphone is already capable of producing decent video, but lighting should be considered. Shoot in a spot that has a lot of natural light.
Use an external microphone. You’ll need it for your classes anyway.
Italki is a completely free online marketplace. You can set your own prices, ranging from $4 to $80 per hour.
Starting with lower-cost classes is a perfect way to get students to try you out and give you feedback.
I provided $1 trial classes (30 minutes) for the first month and charged $10 per hour after that.
Even if you’ve taught before, you may not know how to effectively teach online.
Because of the lower prices, you can learn without pressure and develop a strong reputation.
You should specifically ask your students for feedback during this time and explain why it is important to you.
At the end of the class, ask them if they were satisfied with anything (if yes, ask them to write something on Italki, if no, try to rectify this).
You can and should raise your prices as your profile grows with positive feedback.
Italki is a marketplace, and there are teachers who charge $5 per hour on a consistent basis. Instead of competing with them, concentrate on providing value to your students.
There will be students who seek out the least expensive teacher, but there will also be students who are looking for the best teacher. You’re excluding these students if you charge $5-10 per hour.
Students who are searching for the best instructor, in my view, are more inspired and active, so market yourself to them.
Many teachers find it difficult to increase their fees. On Italki, I didn’t. It’s a marketplace, and there are scores of teachers. Students have no obligation to commit to just one.
They may (and often do) take lessons from several teachers at the same time or turn from one teacher to another regularly. I didn’t feel like I’d be “leaving someone hanging” by raising my prices unexpectedly in this setting, so I did.
This produced two findings, both of which indicated that I was on the right track: The first is that more than half of my original paying students were able to pay the latest, higher price while providing the same quality of service. Second, the increased rates did little to stop the influx of students. In reality, I was about to drown.
My valuable lesson from 30 days was to teach less and charge more, so it was time for another price increase.
Now for the exciting part: how much does Italki pay?
Unlike other online teaching companies that have a fixed hourly rate and some incentives, Italki allows you to charge anywhere between $4 and $80 per hour for your time.
The majority of teachers charge a low rate of $1-5 for trial lessons to attract students. Then, for daily lessons, charge a much higher rate.
Each student can book up to 3 trial lessons in total and only 1 per teacher.
The average hourly rate for an English teacher is $15- $35.
It all depends on your abilities and the subjects you teach.
Bear in mind that Italki takes 15% of your revenue as a fee.
Italki also allows teachers to build complete course packages, which is a very useful function.
As an instructor, you can charge $30 per hour for a course like “business English,” which is a 10-lesson course aimed at complete beginners.
5 or 10-lesson bundles, in my opinion, are the best. I wouldn’t book 20 classes with a new teacher, but 5-10 is doable. A discount of 10-15% should be appropriate to entice customers.
Unlike online teaching companies, you have full control over the teaching method and lesson material.
The slides, PDFs, downloadable material is all on you. This makes Italki a lot of work upfront.
Skype is my preferred video calling app. It can be buggy at times, depending on the changes, but it’s acceptable.
In particular, I appreciate the following features:
- Webcam + screen sharing at the same time
- Editing and deleting your messages in the chat in case of typos
- Showing the student’s video even when I switch to other windows
- Hiding your background
- Most students already have it
Zoom, Facetime, and Google Hangouts are several other choices. They’re all viable, but some of the features mentioned above are missing.
On their website, Italki has a “virtual school,” but it rarely works. It’s been around for a long time but still doesn’t work properly.
Wechat is mainly used by the Chinese because they are not free. It works outside China, but the Chinese government spies on you.
Italki has a simple partner program that pays $10 for any new student (not teacher) who signs up and purchases.
If you’re already well-known, this is a tiny one-time charge that won’t make a difference.
In that case, you should probably avoid migrating students to Italki and instead handle them yourself, using your website or a scheduling platform like Calendly.
The most common mistake freelancers make is trying to provide services to everybody.
This is valid not only for online instructors, but also for translators, designers, and content authors.
You may be afraid of losing business by narrowing your reach, but you can actually increase the quality of your classes, students, and overall business by doing so.
The benefits are:
- Perceived professionalism and expertise
- Efficient reuse of your existing teaching materials
- Higher degree of preparation
- More enjoyable classes for you and your students
Yet, in fact, how do you specialize?
If you’re a community teacher in Italki, you can also offer “conversation practice” classes. You can still boost your sales copy, though.
If you’re a trained teacher, you can charge different rates for different types of courses, such as “Italian for opera,” “French for travelers,” or “business English.”.
Despite this, I’d still recommend having a more general course in the beginning.
As a professional teacher, Italki allows you to create up to six courses, but this is excessive. Having so many choices can be confusing. The optimal number of courses is 2-3.
As an anchor, you can always keep an expensive course on hand. Thanks to the high cost of this option, the other options will appear more affordable.
Remember that the people who are signing up for your class are not native English speakers, so make it as easy as possible for them.
Even if you don’t teach English, it’s still a good idea to write your profile and course description in English to make it more accessible to beginners.
In theory, you can teach online using only your phone and a data plan, but in practice, you are charging students for a service and should make the experience as pleasant as possible to gain positive reviews. Here are my suggestions
You find more tips for a productive online language class on Skype.
You need to get a nice headset right away!
Make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did. I don’t know how many students I missed because my cheap microphone failed or picked up background noise.
Here’s my guide to headsets for online teaching.
Video calls will make up the vast majority of classes, and they will be very intensive. During the class, you might be expected to perform Google searches, send documents, and send messages, among other items. You won’t be able to do this with a tablet or phone, so use a laptop or desktop computer instead.
One of the most surprising aspects of online classes is that you can hear all that is going on. The student can hear even the most inaudible sounds. Avoid being around someone who is chatting, watching TV, or cooking.
If you can’t avoid noise, you can always reduce the sensitivity of your microphone.
On Skype, this option is found under “settings > audio”.
To set the sensitivity manually, you need to disable the option “adjust automatically”.
Before class, do an audio test with the “echo test” Skype account.
To let your student focus on you even when you’re in a crowded place, you can blur or replace your background.
To enable to feature, right click on your video during the call and click “blur/change background”.
Video calls can be challenging. You’ll need not only a fast but also a reliable internet connection.
If you’re a digital nomad moving to a new venue, the first thing you should check is the internet connection speed.
Use Ookla’s speed test to measure it.
You can feel safe if you have more than 10 MB/s in upload and download.
I’ve done classes with even less than 1 MB/s, but I don’t recommend it.
Throughout the test, this value should remain constant. Your call can always be choppy if it fluctuates.
On Skype, there’s a tool to check the audio quality, but not for video quality. Add the “echo/test” user to your contacts and call it. You record a message and hear its recording.
Since video requires much more data than audio, this test does not guarantee that a video call would go smoothly.
- The student books a class and pays for your class to Italki. You don’t get anything yet.
- You do the lesson.
- Wait for the student’s approval. Students have three days after the class ends to confirm their class; if they do not do so during that period, it will be done automatically.
- Check your 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.
- Make a withdrawal request. Money can be withdrawn from your teacher wallet on the 15th or 30th of each month if you use Paypal. It takes 1-10 days for your payment to be processed, after which you can transfer it directly from your Paypal account to your bank account. Payoneer (which I despise) and Skrill (tried once, looks ok) are two other choices.
If you take time off for a vacation, for example, expect it to take some time to re-establish student relationships when you return.
Never turn off “Accept New Students”. If you do this, in my experience, it can take quite a while for new students to come through again when you turn it off. Reduce your availability – or increase your rates – if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
If you adjust rates or classes, you might note a delay – or even a drop-off – until the impact kicks in.
I’ve changed my rates a few times over the years. Lesson requests have dropped a little for a few days or a week every time I’ve done it, then returned to previous levels. Or even higher.
You lose students at the lower end, but gain them at the upper. Some people will automatically search for more expensive teachers, on the (correct or otherwise) basis that they must be “better”.
Your profile appears at the top of the list any time you log in or simply refresh a page on Italki.
The more you log into Italki, the more you’ll appear in the teacher listing as being online. This means you’ll be more accessible to students.
This means you’ll be busier. Students like to see teachers who are busy because it means that they are well-liked and so successful!
Put as much availability as possible for the first couple of weeks as a new instructor.
Give a $1 trial class. Offer a single conversation class for the bare minimum ($8 for professionals, $4 for the general public).
For the first few weeks, your target is to get some reviews, ratings, and scores on your profile. You’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the platform. Once you have some reputation, you’ll find it much easier to bring in new students.
Don’t expect miracles overnight. It takes time and patience to build a base of students. It’s a virtuous circle where success leads to more success.
After a few classes, you’ll have a better understanding of what you like and don’t like, as well as how your students respond. Concentrate your classes on what works.
Don’t be afraid to try out new lessons – you have 3 or 6 slots per language you teach to play with.
Some casual learners will ask you to teach 2 or more people at once. Some don’t even mention that until the lesson has started!
In any case, turn down their request. It just won’t work out.
Examine the titles and material of your classes! Students would be more interested if you make them sound interesting. Don’t tell them who you are or what your qualifications are; instead, tell them what you can do for them.
Also, in my opinion, a healthy dose of humor goes a long way.
Change your bio and lesson description based on your students’ feedback. They know what they need and what they like!
It’s an art to correct language learners.
On the one hand, if you interrupt them every time they make a mistake, they will become confused and lose confidence.
If you don’t correct them, on the other hand, they won’t know how to fix their errors. Perhaps they aren’t even aware that they have made a mistake!
The best time to correct varies from person to person. It also depends on the lag caused by your internet connection’s speed.
Italki and other similar websites to learn languages online have attractive benefits for me:
- Students are motivated adults or young adults learning of their own volition
- This usually makes lessons much more interesting and enjoyable
In my review of Italki for students, I mentioned these platforms to learn languages that could be alternatives to Italki:
- Verbal Planet
I said “could”, because they’re not as good as Italki.
You should focus on only one teaching platform and you should choose the best. So, it’s a no-brainer to teach on Italki.
Online schools, unlike Italki, are similar to conventional language schools, with the exception that they operate online.
Popular examples include VIPKID, Palfish, DADAabc, and Landi.
I’ve never considered them because:
- Most of these teaching websites cater exclusively to children and younger learners
- Lessons are mainly at unsociable times or require you to commit to blocks of hours each day/week
- Unless you are a native English speaker, there is also very little chance to be able to teach there
- Generally, you need higher qualifications to be hired
In the past, I used to teach 30-45 classes per month. That wasn’t enough to make a living, but I wasn’t under any extreme stress because I had other sources of income.
Demand doubled during the 2020 pandemic, and I became exhausted. Now that I’ve increased my rates, I only have about 20 classes a month.
I’ve seen extremely busy people, like 80-100 hours per month. In many cases, these are long-standing profiles who could easily raise their rates and earn just as much as they do now.
You set your own schedule and prices in any case, so you’ll never be busier than you want to be.
To protect your privacy, do not give out your personal account information to students or post it on your profile.
Italki will provide you and your student with contact information so that you can add each other to your preferred communication channel when a student requests a session with you.
Once you’ve started teaching a student, avoid the urge to make an offer outside of Italki to save money on their commission.
It’s in your best interest to build a profile with a large number of satisfied students so that you can attract even more and better students.
Also, considering the time you’d spend scheduling and rescheduling by yourself, it’s just not worth it.
On a teacher’s market, you want to grab a student’s attention and provide information on which they can make decisions.
Here are my tips to write a profile that attracts students.
Avoid the urge to say too much about yourself.
Your presentation should concentrate on your students and how taking lessons with you would help them.
Your message would be much more compelling if you choose to talk to a particular audience, just like any other type of company.
Avoid the desire to appeal to everyone and everybody, as this will make your message boring and uninteresting.
Whether you like it or not, your profile’s video is definitely the most important aspect.
As a consequence, it should look professional. You don’t need to be a licensed videographer to do so.
Here are my tips:
- Make eye contact with the camera
- Have a neutral background or add “marketing” elements
- Speak slowly, loudly, and clearly
You’ll be asked for your full name and a “display name” during the online application.
This does not have to be your actual or legal name, but it should be something you want your students to refer to you by.
My recommendation is to include your first name as well as one or two words that describe your niche or help you stand out.
For example, my display name is “Stefano the polyglot”.
With hourly rates ranging from $6 to $40 USD and tutors providing anywhere from 10 to 100 lessons per month, it’s up to each instructor to decide their goals.
On Italki, you won’t get rich, but you can easily make some extra cash or even make a living.
Italki gives teachers a lot of freedom and charges a fair commission for the support and promotion it offers.
You have complete control over your prices, availability, and class schedules.
You can reschedule a lesson as many times as you want as long as you do so at least 24 hours ahead of time.
Please keep in mind that your counterpart is under no obligation to approve or respond to your letter.
Try to stick to the scheduled time, and if you do reschedule, leave a note explaining why.
Generally speaking, classes in languages spoken in countries with a high cost of living are more expensive.
Many tutors, on the other hand, live overseas, and digital nomads prefer to live in countries with lower living costs. They may be able to consider lower rates.
You can find teachers with a wide variety of rates if a language is spoken in many countries. An English teacher in the Philippines, for example, is much less expensive than one in the U. S.
In any case, don’t let other tutors’ rates discourage you from raising yours.
Teachers are not charged anything by Italki. It only takes a 15% fee for every class you teach (excluding trial lessons).
As a result, there are no entry barriers to new tutors entering the market.
You can make a living on Italki if you market yourself well and create an appealing profile with a large number of students.
Many teachers, on the other hand, teach as a side job. Some community tutors even do it for fun.
Italki is the best place to teach and learn languages online.
It has the largest database of teachers and students.
It also has the best system overall.
Except for trial lessons, Italki takes 15% of every lesson marked as completed by students.
This percentage remains constant over time and is unaffected by the amount of lessons taught.
This is the lowest commission among similar websites that I’ve seen, and it’s justified by their excellent service.
You can set lessons of 30, 45, 60, and 90 minutes.
The 60-minute lesson is required, while the other lengths are optional.
I’ve never seen a teacher deliver a lesson that lasts more than 60 minutes.
No, Italki credits don’t expire.
You can redeem your balance or transfer it to your student’s account at any time.
Italki allows teachers to choose which program they want to use in their classes.
The most popular is Skype.
Italki also has a “virtual classroom”, but it rarely works and I don’t recommend it.
As with any business, you need to market yourself.
Teachers are notoriously terrible at this, and many of them flame out as a result of an inordinate amount of poorly compensated classes.
Pay attention to what your students have to say about you and fine-tune your profile to attract motivated students.
Beginners, particularly those learning a foreign language for the first time, should start with regular, short lessons. Let’s say each session is 30 minutes long.
As a student, I just take lessons that last 60 minutes.
Except for 60-minute lessons, which are required, teachers can choose the duration of their classes.
Yes, Italki is safe both for tutors and students.
Since all takes place online, the worst that can happen is a personality mismatch.
In case of particularly annoying people, you can always block them
Teaching online is a fantastic resource that can be done part-time or full-time. It’s a lot of fun, and you’ll get to meet students from all over the world.
Italki has rapidly risen to the top of the list for English students searching for an online English tutor. Italki is NOT an online school, but an online marketplace for freelance teachers to list their own prices and services.
The fact that there are so many students is a plus. Italki can assist you in finding paying students, and you can set your own schedule and prices as an Italki teacher.
On the downside, there are a lot of teachers on the platform.
Since this is an online marketplace, students may have to choose between you and other language tutors, so make sure your profile stands out.
Make sure you have a unique profile, a video that focuses on how you can help the student, and an area of expertise. If you just teach generic lessons, you’ll be competing solely on price.