Have you ever wanted to get into Online Tutoring but didn’t know where to begin? We chat to one TMS member who’s earning quite the sum of money each month helping others with their education via the Internet.
Many years ago there was a site called Edufire. It was an online platform for people to teach others over the internet using their ‘virtual classrooms’. I’ll be honest and say I did not make any money from the site, which is probably why, when I got my full-time teaching job I left them.
Skip forward a few years and I was unemployed and decided to go back to Edufire to really ‘make-it-work’ only to find ‘boom’ it was gone. It had failed and disappeared from the Internet.
That led me to look for other places where I could use some of my skills. You’ve probably heard of fiverr.com. My first gig on there was ‘practice your English for 45 minutes for $5’ which I offered on Skype or on Googlechat (which are free platforms). I very quickly realised that 45 minutes is a long time to hold a one on one conversation, especially after fiverr take their dollar….then paypal take their fees – it quickly adds up to something silly, which is why I now offer 30 minutes instead.
With fiverr I usually start with the student on there and then offer them the option to pay me directly through paypal. If they’re happy with that it means I get paid slightly more, if not we carry on with fiverr and their custom builds my positive feedback and I still get something so I’m not too upset, although the 2 weeks waiting sucks.
There are online sites that are specifically for tutoring. Some are there to help you connect with tutees in real life (e.g. Tutorhunt, childcare.co.uk etc) but there are charges with childcare.co.uk if you want to contact people and with Tutorhunt your potential tutee needs to pay for your contact details after you’ve agreed to meet. These are mostly for physical tutoring. Tutorhub.com shows promise but there’s no easy way to search for students and I’ve yet to have any work from it. Thetutorpages.com also list online tutoring jobs, but I find their tutor jobs list a bit of a pain to use (I’ve yet to find how to search of a specific area or subject), I also don’t like how my tutoring profiles seems to have reset to basic. FirstTutors.com offer the option of you saying you’ll tutor online, they are very strict on qualifications and replying to emails though.
There are also some other sites that you use on your phone, Nicetalk and Enkulu both have apps you download and when a student wants to talk to you they essentially call you if you’re logged on. You get paid for how long you chat with them. Enkulu has a computer interface as well, whereas Nicetalk is mobile only. I haven’t got beyond the downloading and registering stage with either of these companies yet, but that’s mainly because I don’t have much free time at the moment and would rather ‘pre-book’ work.
My best paying student is the one who I see very irregularly and I help her understand the bits of her BTEC work she’s stuck on. This is someone I know in the ‘real world’ though who moved over to Skype as it’s more convenient when she’s stuck at 10:30 at night rather than me heading over to her house (especially as she’s 17 and lives with her parents)
You can tutor almost anything (just make sure it’s within whatever site’s rules) I’ve seen, Yoga, many languages, origami, confidence classes, and lots of academic ones.
My subject specialism is Science, especially biology and geology, so why am I doing English conversation usually? Mainly because if I was teaching a specific lesson for science I would charge a lot more for it and have to do a lot more preparation. Sometimes a student may ask me to talk about a certain topic (e.g. going to the shops) but that doesn’t require much prep.
What you need
For the English conversation I’d certainly recommend a headset with an inbuilt microphone, any good quality headphones and/or microphone will work though. If you’re teaching something that needs visuals then a webcam, some students like to see your face when speaking to them (it helps them to see facial expression when you’re talking too).
A web connection that’s not going to let you down – if Youtube plays fine, you’ll probably be fine, if it drops a lot then that’s not going to go down well. To be safe my computer has a wired connection to the router.
If you’re doing something like Yoga then a good view of the space is a must, you don’t want your pupils to just see your arm or back.
What to expect
Expect to speak to people in strange and crazy time zones, from all over the world, you’ll see their faces or just hear their voices. Some won’t work because their internet connection will be terrible; a lot of the English conversation people are actually fine with their English. They just lack confidence!
What happens when you first get started that you didn’t expect
There were a couple of things I didn’t expect when I first started tutoring online. I really didn’t expect people to want to be up crazy hours talking to me, but I’ve had students who are awake at 11pm their time, wanting an hour’s session despite having work at 5am. I also didn’t expect the level of English that you get, there’s a lot of Americanisms in foreign English teaching but most students are fairly competent, as I said earlier, they just need some confidence and occasionally pronunciation tweaks. I once had a ladies husband book lessons for her and he said her English was very poor, so expecting the worse I logged on…only to find myself speaking to a lady who’s English was fine.
Some of the pitfalls
If you’re going to use the webcam it’s a good idea to have a decently lit (I have a desk lamp) and clearish area. You can see wardrobe doors and a bookcase on my webcam, the last thing you want is something someone from another culture might find very offensive, nor do you want to advertise you have something valuable in your home. Standard internet safety procedures apply!
I have a disclaimer on my fiverr gig that says “I will not discuss sexually explicit, racist, homophobic, religiophobic and similar offensive topics and reserve the right to terminate the conversation with no refund if this should continue happening after one warning.” As of yet I’ve never had to act on it, I think having that on there and also marketing as for practising conversational English stops most potential problems.
If you’re using fiverr, make sure you make the person agree with you when before buying the gig. I have a 20 day delivery time on the gig to give lots of options but it’s so much easier to arrange in advance. I once had to cancel an order because of this and it dinted my rating!
Another thing I’ve noticed is that because it’s not ‘real’ you can quite often get students not come back, or they only need you for a little while. Remember with academic subjects you’re going to have a slump over holidays.
What you can expect to earn.
I earn about £3 for 30 mins conversation; science can be anything up to £25 per hour. You can set your own rates but look at what others are setting to get a rough idea.
Enkulu pay 0.117 USD per minute Nicetalk also pay per minute about 0.17 USD.
Other services charge various fees, one site I use charges the pupil £23 and I get about £17 which isn’t too bad as they provide a virtual classroom too, which I feel is worth it as you can draw in there as well as chat and exchange files.
What will keep you going in the long run.
– Make sure you keep logging into your profiles so students can see you’ve been active recently.
– Don’t be late
– Don’t abandon your students (if you can’t make an appointment make sure to email them/message and give an opportunity to cancel or change times – if you’re worried about forgetting use something like Google calendar which will email you and do an alert on your phone….or put an alarm on your phone!)
– Be friendly, but maintain a slight professional distance.
– Remember that $5 to you isn’t much but minimum wage in somewhere like Pakistan is about $200 so if someone were paying to have 4 lessons a month that would be 10% of their wage.
– Positive reviews go a long way on many of the sites, make sure to be polite and ask for a review on whichever site you’re using before logging off.
Sometimes you can build up a loyal cadre of students you get to meet some very interesting characters, my students have come from include: Poland, Russia, Spain, Dubai and Jordan. Those $3 that eventually get into your PayPal account do add up.