Hey hey! It’s been awhile since I wrote a post about SIDE HUSTLING…and you know I love a good side hustle. Lately, I’ve been extra focused on my virtual assistant company, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a something going on the side – and right now it’s tutoring ESL students on Italki!
I mentioned Italki a little in the first post I linked above and in my review of how Italki works as a language student. I am actually tutoring on Italki to fund my own lessons in German and Spanish. A side hustle doesn’t always have to be about paying bills.
I’ve tutored off and on with Italki since early last year, and it’s one of the easiest and most fun side hustles I’ve tried. If you speak English well and enjoy talking to people from around the world, then meet your new side hustle. Yes, you can actually get paid just to have conversations with people. This post is the step-by-step ULTIMATE guide to tutoring on Italki!
(Side note: You can tutor ANY language on italki, so if you’re multilingual, don’t limit yourself to just English!)
For the purpose of this post, I am using “teacher” and “tutor” interchangeably.
So let’s get started…
#1. Get an account.
First, you need to sign up for a free account on Italki. Once you have a regular account, you can apply for a teaching account.
As a teacher, you will be an independent contractor, set your own rates, and decide your hours. It’s free to become a teacher, and Italki only takes 15% of what you make for each lesson.
You can use Skype or another chat program to meet with students, and you have the option of chatting by video or with audio only.
Unless you have a degree in teaching English as a second language, you’ll want to choose the “community tutor” option instead of the “professional teacher” option. Anyone can be a community tutor, but Italki requires proof of a language teaching degree to work as a professional teacher through their website.
Here is what a teacher profile looks like:
It displays my profile, intro video, lessons and rates, and history of lessons I’ve taught and my feedback scores.
#2. Figure out your teaching style and niche.
Before you fill out your teacher profile, you’ll want to consider the types of students you want to teach. It’s tempting in the beginning to market your services to EVERYONE to get the most students possible, but if you’re going to make this a serious side hustle, or even a full-time gig, you need to have a niche.
Some possible teaching niches include:
- Age groups – children, teenagers, adults.
- Aspects of the language – grammar, conversation, idioms, accent reduction.
- Language for certain settings – business, medical, legal.
Take whatever you’re good at it or whatever interests you most and specialize in that. To be honest, I’m still finding my language niche, and I’m going to need one when I launch a language-related project with a friend later this year, but for now, I mostly teach beginners through immersion and more advanced learners who want to understand English colloquialisms. I am unique because I have a huge library of resources – audio, blog posts, language sites, news sites, YouTube channels, textbooks – that I use with my students.
As a student of other languages, I’ve met with teachers who specialize in casual conversation, but don’t really teach grammar at all. Really, that’s all that is required of a community tutor. Other tutors are more formal and tutoring on Italki is their full-time job. They come to a session equipped with textbooks, lesson plans, and homework.
Most Italki teachers are inbetween. Find what you’re comfortable with and create your profile with your ideal student in mind.
Need more niche ideas? Check out Lindsay Does Languages’ post on online teaching niches.
#3. Do an intro video.
Italki requires you to create an introduction video to help potential students get to know you before they book a lesson. The video doesn’t have to be long, but you do have to show that you speak English as a first language or at a native level. (This is a requirement for any language you teach, so if you’re planning to teach more than one, speak them ALL in your video.)
Your video is a place to showcase your personality and talk about how you teach. Tell them what you specialize in. Some teachers even do a quick demo lesson in their videos.
Here is my current teacher video, which is very short and, as you’ll see, doesn’t really showcase my niche, so I need to improve my video to better reflect the students I want to work with. This is the place to showcase your niche and style – don’t waste it!
You can find many examples of teacher videos in different styles with a quick Youtube Search for ‘Italki Teacher Video.’
#4. Create your schedule.
Once your video and teacher profile are approved, you can set your availability.
On Italki, you are 100% in control of your schedule. I have found that the more open my schedule, the more students I get. Flexibility is key to filling up lesson slots. If you are working this as a side hustle around a 9-5, your kids’ schedules, or other commitments, your time may be more limited and you might have to spend more time marketing yourself to get more students.
Right now, I only have minimal hours available per week, and out of those slots, usually 3 fill up. Because I am only doing this to pay for my language lessons, pulling in around $30 a week to put toward that goal is plenty for me. You may be working toward a much larger goal, like a vacation, a part-time income, or the ability to become location independent. In that case, set your rates and hours accordingly.
Another thing to take into consideration is your students’ time zones. For example, if I want to teach students in Europe, they are around 6 hours ahead of my time, while students in China are 12 hours ahead of me. That means that if I want to teach them during THEIR evenings, I have to be up and teaching lessons at 5AM my time. Consider, not only your niche, but what part of the world you’re marketing your lessons to.
#5. Market yourself on Italki and off.
An open schedule with many available times will attract students, as will logging on often. Teachers are ranked in searches based on how recently they logged on. You can also gain prospective students’ attention by answering questions in their ‘answers’ forums.
However, if you really want your side hustle as an English tutor to grow, it will help if you advertise outside of Italki as well. Having a language-related blog is one of the best ways to get your name out there. For example, a German teacher I worked with advertises her Italki lessons through her blog Do You Speak Deutsch? and also provides helpful information for German learners.
For inspiration, check out 22 Actionable Marketing Tips for Independent ESL Teachers.
#6. Get feedback, testimonials, endorsements.
Each time you meet with a student, they will leave you feedback. Some students leave just a star rating (out of 5 stars), while others will take the time to write a more detailed comment. This information is displayed publicly on your teacher profile.
When you set up your profile, you will also have the option to set up endorsements such as “patient,” “teaches grammar,” or “supportive.” Students can endorse you for different traits after their lesson.
Choose 1-3 of your favorite feedback comments as testimonials to display on your profile! You can also contact previous students for testimonials to use on your blog or in other advertising.
#7. Build up a clientele of regular students.
Tutoring on Italki works best if you have a number of students who meet with you regularly. Some students who need to learn English for a job, university program, or upcoming trip will take lessons as many as three times per week! Most will want to meet weekly or biweekly. A group of regular students can create a steady income from tutoring on italki.
To retain students, make their experience great. Meet them on time. Follow-up and answer questions. Provide resources or websites for them to practice between sessions. Students enjoy working with teachers who are patient, relaxed, and helpful.
I’ve been working with one of my German community tutors for over a year because she talks to me at the level of German I speak, teaches me new vocabulary, answers questions, and practices specific topics when I ask for them. Adaptability and friendliness go a long way!
BONUS: Try Instant Tutoring.
Once you have taught a few lessons and have received good feedback from students, you’ll have the option of applying for instant tutoring. Instant tutoring allows you to turn your immediate availability on and off to make yourself available to students who want to practice without pre-scheduling a lesson.
Instant tutoring sessions are half an hour long and you can charge slightly more than your normal half hour rate for instant lessons. I’ve made up to $30 IN ONE DAY through instant tutoring – with my VERY limited schedule! This type of tutoring has some additional rules, so make sure to read them carefully before making yourself available to students.
Learn more about teaching with Italki on their teacher support page.
If this guide to tutoring on Italki was helpful or if you have questions about my experience as a tutor, leave me a comment below!