Experiences for English Language Teaching

Finding Online English Students

A few months ago, I was welcomed with a contract change with iTutorGroup – with the ‘take it or leave us’ approach. Thus, I decided to no longer accept this new agreement but this left me with no alternative subsidiary freelance opportunities. However, very recently, I decided to seek a different path for freelance work via the route of Preply.

For those that are unaware of Preply, it is a platform which connects language learners with language teachers. They offer support and have an environment to help online teachers tutor potential students – whatever the language, not just English. Tutors are expected to prepare their own lessons to suit the profile and aims of the particular student, while also selling lesson packages for the student to purchase with the tutor (more information about this later on in this post).

It is very different to online educational institutes located in South East Asia, whereby these organisations offer packages of language education and tutors deliver in-house lessons. There are advantages and disadvantages to both Preply as well as those online educational institutes and i

Advantages of Preply

1. Setting Your Personal Rate

Different tutors charge what they feel is appropriate

The biggest advantage of tutoring students via Preply, is the fact that teachers can decide on the rate to charge potential students. If you look at the profiles of different tutors on this platform, they are all offering essentially the same service but charge what they believe is commensurate to their experience, qualifications as well as skills.

Looking at the different tutors on the platform, you can see what they wish to charge potential students. Potential teachers for this platform need to think about what they wish to consider their personal rate. I would recommend looking at other profiles on the platform, look at their introduction videos and what they are charging students. This will inform you when deciding on your personal rate.

2. Schedule Flexibility

Another advantage of Preply is the way that you can change your schedule to better suit your commitments outside of tutoring online. If you have a primary source of income outside of tutoring online, then you can schedule your calendar to suit this commitment. For example, as I am currently committed to teaching full-time next month for the start of a University pre-sessional course, I have decided to schedule in my availability for evening tutoring.

One thing you need to consider is the time difference as some students will be located in their home country, not just in your country. So, if you wish to tutor students located from particular regions in the world, then you will need to consider their availability. Students from Asia will be a number of hours ahead while students from South America will be a number of hours behind from those teachers located in Europe. With my limited experience with Preply, I have noticed quite a number of potential students from Europe.

3. Creating Specialist Courses

What I also enjoy about tutoring with Preply is the way that I can market and plan specialist courses for students. I have decided to focus further on exam preparation courses (such as IELTS) or developing learners the opportunity to further their communication skills from B2 (Upper Intermediate) or above. Many of the messages that I receive from potential students include those that wish to prepare for IELTS or pass at a certain grade so that they can attend a higher educational institute in an English speaking country.

However, if you wish to teach General English or communication level courses, then this is a possibility. What I would say though is that you will be competing among many other tutors who offer the same service at a more competitive rate, so you may need to consider lowering rate. Thus, specialising to tutor particular courses will be more lucrative.

4. Monitoring Student Progress

If you were teaching for an online educational provider – much like iTutorGroup or DadaABC – you would be allocated random students and would not have regular students and be unable to monitor student progress over a period of time. However, with Preply, students who decide to book a packages of lessons for a number of months with you, can help you notice student progress with you being able to focus on supporting students where weaknesses exist. This is a huge benefit for those that wish to focus on teaching students that you wish to teach rather than being susceptible to being allocated unsuitable learners.

5. Free Webinars for Preply Tutors

A final advantage of tutoring via Preply is the opportunity to attend additional webinars or courses free of charge. It is for obvious reason the benefit for Preply (which I will cover shortly) to get registered and verified tutors to secure bookings with students. One essence of this is to support tutors by offering webinars and additional training so that tutors can offer students successful classes. I have attended a variety of webinars by Preply – to learn more about expectations from the platform – and it was invaluable, especially for offering trial classes for new students.

Disadvantage of Preply

1. Trial Classes & Commission

Trial classes are held for a minimum of 60 minutes and one major downfall for trial classes is the fact that students pay for the demonstration but teachers are unpaid. Preply mention that this first trial lesson is 100% commission – much like a finders fee – with nothing being paid to the teacher whether the trial is successful or not, while the student pays the full rate.

This can be slightly disheartening, particularly for teachers who plan their the trial lessons and students decide to not progress with the package of lessons. You have essentially spent the time before the trial lesson messaging the student, taught for an hour, sold your course and prompted the potential student to sign up, only to see that the student has not signed up and as a teacher you receive nothing.

Once students sign up for courses, you will receive payment for each lesson that you teach based upon the rate that you decide. However, there is still a commission that is still again paid to Preply for each class. Commission works out at around a third of your rate (33%) with at least a lower amount of 18% after more sessions that teachers have taught. So, despite charging $20 per hourly class, you will only receive $13.40 for each class taught. The best way forward is work backwards on the final rate you wish to receive and add in the commission rate that Preply will apply.

2. Selling Your Services

One thing you will notice once you have joined Preply is that you will become more than just a teacher. You will be required to sell your courses, build rapport and foster relationships. Teachers who have never experienced the business of selling lessons, may find it rather overwhelming pushing students to purchase courses.

It was naturally uncomfortable for me and I had to remember that I was trying to find students who wanted to take lessons with me. You have to overcome that natural unwillingness to push students to sign up, but during the trial lesson, you can demonstrate your ability as a competent and proficient English teacher, hoping that students would see this and sign up for your services.

During my first trial class, I was very honest with my student and told them that I was new to the service of Preply and that all I can do is offer my services should they wish to sign up for classes. The student signed up for a course and will commence lessons soon.

3. Planning Lessons

When you obviously offer specialist courses, such as exam preparation courses, for students, you will need to plan your lessons accordingly. This will take time and you will have to find possible resources, preparing PowerPoint slides and material for classes. It was suggested during one of the webinars that some successful tutors decide to pay for lessons once they have a substantial amount of regular students to alleviate this issue of time, and this seems like a suitable alternative.

One thing to mention though is that once you have created trial lessons which are suited for the student, then you will can just use this for future trial lessons. This is true if you are creating a six lesson, ten lesson or sixteen lesson IELTS or other general course. So that initial investment for lesson planning will pay dividends in the future when you have created enough material for future classes.

There are some great resources that Preply have created and are accessible once you have successfully registered as a tutor, but it is by no means a finished product. It only serves as a possible inspiration when creating lessons and you can incorporate some of those ideas for your lessons or courses.

Overall Opinion

My overall opinion about Preply is balanced. There is greater control by other online educational organisations that can drop you as a tutor, with next to no recourse (such as the iTutor fiasco). Preply is different as it is there to connect tutors with potential students. Obviously, there are standards to meet when creating your profile and delivering classes.

You are essentially working as your own boss with control on how much you want to charge and what specialist courses you wish to focus upon. What question emerges from this is: “How does this differ from creating your own course or portal?”. Many students are seeking English (or other language) tutors and are gravitating towards Preply.

If you wish to seek your own students and deliver possibly reduced trial classes (rather than pay commission to Preply), then you will need to target potential students. However, finding these students can be rather problematic if you website or course is relatively unknown. Therefore, using Preply to gain the experience of developing your own course and finding possible students (who may pass on great ‘word-of-mouth’) could help in the future in creating your own website or course.

I would recommend other language tutors to register, so they are able to build upon that experience in the future. You never know where it may lead, especially for English teachers who wish to develop and use their teaching skills if they have recently finished their CELTA course.

1 Comment

  1. In a way it’s not too dissimilar from any business with a profit margin. It just seems frustrating that students probably want to pay on the lower end but expect quality, and they don’t realise how much is going to the platform. On top of that we have taxes to pay as well on any earned income. Maybe not for me in the end Martin but thanks for this article, it’s a very good breakdown.

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