So, we’ve covered some ways that bilingual folks can make some money on the interwebs, mainly through translation. If you haven’t gotten to take a look at those resources, then I recommend this article on how to get started as an online translator and this article on four places you can look to start your translation gigs.
However, recently my attention has turned to iTalki (not because it sounds like Takis), a site where you can speak to actual native speakers of the language you are trying to learn. Not only is there a learning opportunity here but there’s also an EARNING opportunity from iTalki. So today, we’re going to review iTalki as a possible online gig. I will make a separate review on iTalki from a learner’s perspective, but since this site is dedicated to helping online translators (and bilingual home workers), I decided to cover this first. So without further ado, let’s find out what it’s like to work for iTalki!
What is iTalki?
iTalki is a website based from China that was started in 2007. Its main thing is connecting people learning a language to teachers through a video chat. Since practice is a crucial component in learning a new language, iTalki gives learners an opportunity to have real conversations with people who speak the language they are learning.
iTalki has grown exponentially since their original founding over ten years ago, with millions of users and thousands of teachers. Their website teaches over 100 languages including even endangered languages.
For teachers, iTalki offers two ways you can teach for them. There are the professional teachers and community tutors.
Community Tutors? Professional Teachers? What’s the Difference?
I’m glad you asked.
So community tutoring seems to be the route most teachers take on this website, as their requirements are more lax than professional teachers’.
Professional teachers are… well… you guessed it, actual teachers. They are supposed to have preplanned courses for their students to learn from. Those who want to apply to be a Professional Teacher on iTalki have to upload not only planned out courses they intend to use but also lesson plans, lesson materials and certification.
iTalki wants their Professional Teachers to be legit, so they want proof that you have experience teaching people another language and that you know what you’re doing.
iTalki also has an option for people to become Professional Teachers in the English language, but they state on their website that those who want to do this must show an English teaching certificate that has no less than 120 hours of courses/training.
Community tutors are for students who want a more casual/conversational learning environment. This is where many go to practice their conversational skills. Community tutors will generally engage in conversation with their students in their selected language. To be a community tutor, you have to be proficient in the language you are trying to teach, be at least 18+ and agree to use iTalki according to the terms and conditions laid out by the website.
Now just to set the record straight, I didn’t apply as a professional teacher. I decided to join as a community tutor.
Great, So How Do I Apply?
You can apply by creating an account on iTalki and applying here. They will ask you to have a few things ready:
1. A display name: make sure you’re not displaying your whole name but also make sure you’re not using an online screenname or a name that makes you indistinguishable from others. For example, if your name is Jane, Ms. J is a perfect display name.
2. Skype or Google Hangout ID: iTalki connects students through these two programs usually, so you will have to create an account for either of these if you haven’t already. Make sure you’re not revealing any personal information publicly on your account and that your internet connection is good.
3. Where you’re from and your current residence
4. Name, address and phone number
5. Languages and how competent you are in each one
6. A profile picture: Make sure it’s a professional-looking photo. You don’t have to be wearing a suit or a fancy dress, but use something that you’d upload on LinkedIn.
7. A written introduction: Talk about yourself and why a student would want to pick you as their teacher. Feel free to dive into teaching methods and background info.
8. Video introduction: iTalki will ask you to upload a video introducing yourself and what you can offer as a teacher. You are required to speak in the languages you have listed yourself as proficient in. This introduction video will be visible to prospective students, so make sure you put in actual effort in making it.
9. Training or experience documents: This is only if you want to be a Professional Teacher on iTalki. Community tutors don’t need to provide this.
Pay varies from teacher to teacher. There is no salary guarantee and tutors have to set their own rates. While the going rate is about $15-20 dollars an hour, I’ve seen a wide range of prices. Some charge $5 an hour (which is ridiculously low in my opinion) while others charge as high as $80 an hour.
Pay also depends on how many students you get.
Of course, there are various factors that go into how many students you get, including your prices and your skills. Choose a price wisely.
Keep in mind that iTalki will take a 15% cut of your earnings. This might sound like a big amount but other platforms usually take upwards of 35% from your earnings. Also remember that iTalki does much of the business grunt work, meaning all you have to do is find students and teach them.
Pros and Cons
With any job, there will be its perks and its downsides.
In my experience, I thought that teaching for iTalki was not only flexible but also a rewarding experience. I was able to set my own hours and that was really helpful especially when I had other things to take care of (like the kids, other jobs/gigs, etc).
Furthermore, being able to set your own price is pretty great too. But of course, you have to choose your prices wisely. You don’t want to charge too high of a price, but you don’t want to sell yourself short either.
The languages that iTalki offers are endless. If you can think of a language, chances are someone on iTalki is looking for someone to help them learn it.
Finally, I liked the fact that you didn’t have to give iTalki any money other than the 15% cut they take from your earnings. Oftentimes other platforms will have fees, take larger cuts or have tiered membership structures that you have to pay your way through. iTalki keeps it simple, not just in their user interface but their business model too.
Sometimes it can be really hard to find students because of how competitive the site is. If your teaching language is one that’s widely spoken, there will undoubtedly be plenty of other teachers trying to teach that language too. This can be a tough challenge for beginners and sometimes it can be really discouraging.
However, I encourage those of you who signed up to keep persevering. While there are plenty of teachers on iTalki, there’s even more students, so you’ll find at least one who is wiling to learn from you.
It also helps if you offer something unique, like conversational practice on topics that aren’t normally covered by other teachers (keep it appropriate though).
Another issue is that if you’re a more introverted or camera-shy person, this might not be the best job for you to pick. In order to be a good teacher, you have to be outgoing and proactive with your students.
There’s also the prospect of student no-shows, where someone books a lesson with you but doesn’t show up for whatever reason. It can be annoying, but remember that there are plenty of other students using the site who will show up to your lessons when you book them. iTalki has millions of users, so don’t let one or two no-shows discourage you.
Overall, I enjoyed working for iTalki. I am generally an outgoing person so I found it to be fun talking to students while making money. The platform that iTalki offers is not only a flexible and simple one but also very effective for both teachers and students.
It can be hard finding students sometimes though. I’ve seen people make comfortable livings off of iTalki, but if you’re just starting off, that might not be possible just yet. I’d recommend looking at other gigs so that you will have another way to earn while you are waiting for your next booking.
I would also say though that if you’re not the kind of person who wants to talk to random students through a webcam for an income, this is probably not the gig for you. But don’t fret, there are still other language-based gigs you can turn to online, like freelance translating!
In my next article, we will take a look at iTalki from the perspective of the learners.
To apply to iTalki as a teacher, visit https://teach.italki.com/