I have been teaching online with Verbling for around 10 months and overall I am very happy with the service I receive from them and the ability to teach classes at a time convenient for me.
Verbling is the second online teaching platform I have used and I found the sign up process and set up very easy (more information below). It is a great way to make additional money and I believe a few people do it as a full time job.
So lets have a look at how teaching online with Verbling could be the way you swap your empty hours into cash.
How It Works
Teachers set an hourly rate and Verbling takes a 15% commission from every lesson booked. There are also other classes which have lower commission rates which I’ll go into later.
Teachers then chose their available time slots and students can then search to find a class. Classes are done online via Google Hangouts and afterwards feedback is given and money transferred to the teacher’s account.
Every Monday payment can be requested by the teacher via numerous methods such as Paypal. Teachers are then responsible for notifying the relevant authorities to make tax payments etc.
It sounds easy and it really is but I want to go into more detail to show you how you can start your online teaching career.
Is It Only For English Teachers?
Certainly not – you can teach any language on Verbling! In fact if you speak a language which only has a few teachers you can charge a higher rate.
They website is also in multiple languages so easy for you to use if English is not your first language.
Before You Start
Before you start teaching online with Verbling you will need to invest in some equipment. Most importantly you will need a headset / microphone and a great internet connection.
Many students say their previous teacher had awful internet and kept disconnecting. I have 20MB internet and haven’t had a problem with it during any of my classes. I also have backup in that my phone has 4G internet which can be used if there is a power cut etc. If you are using shared internet or very basic broadband then be aware that you might not be able to offer quality audio/video which students demand. You may think that you will just offer audio lessons only but 99% of students want to see you whilst you teach. Also teaching online I use a lot of videos, screen sharing and document sending which requires a higher connection speed.
Having a good headset / microphone is important for several reasons. Firstly it provides a better quality of audio to the student compared to using the built in microphone in your laptop. Secondly it will make you look a lot more professional and most students will expect you to use one. The headset also means you don’t have to worry so much about the quality of your computers audio hardware as you can buy a very good headset for under $50 which will soon be paid off after a couple of lessons.
After having these 2 items ticked off you need to think about your environment. Most teachers, myself included, teach at home. I use my open plan office / living area to teach so have to keep it tidy. I am very aware of the lighting, furniture and decorations around me. These little things make a big difference – students are not going to be impressed by seeing your dirty laundry or last night’s pizza in the background. If you live in a studio apartment then you will have to think of a way to make the environment as good as possible – I know I wouldn’t want to show my bed in a lesson, it’s just not professional.
Another aspect to consider is noise. I live in a corner unit apartment so I have one neighbor but they are at work during the time I teach. Maybe you live in a big apartment block with noisy neighbors. Your students don’t want to hear background noise so you need to teach at quiet times or consider finding another location.
Finally you need to consider your schedule and if you have enough free time to teach online. You need to set a weekly schedule but you are free to amend it if you have a holiday or just have other plans. Be aware that a single no show for your class will leave your reputation in tatters, as will constantly asking students to change the time they have confirmed with you. Think carefully and be realistic with your time – do you want to teach at midnight and can you teach with only a 30 minute gap before you need to be half way across the city for another job…
In order to sign up click this link to the teacher sign up and submit the required information ( name, location, email etc). You will then have to submit your qualifications to verify that you meet the teaching standard required. I have a CELTA but most TEFL courses or a B.Ed will be accepted as a teaching qualifications. If you do not have these there is a chance you will not be accepted.
It took about 3 days to become accepted and start teaching online with Verbling. I actually feel this is a good system as it means that only qualified teachers are online and as such you can charge a higher rate than other teaching sites. After you have singed up you need to create your profile.
Creating Your Profile
There are hundreds of people teaching online with Verbling so you need to create a great profile to stand out from the crowd. Luckily there are many things you can do to attract students via your profile.
The main tool you have is your video introduction. You need to record a video between 1 – 2 minutes long which includes information about you, your teaching style and the classes you offer. Teachers without video introduction get fewer students and miss out on potential earnings. Have a look on Verbling at some of the other teacher’s videos to get some ideas but to make the perfect video I recommend you:
- Introduce yourself for about 30 seconds (include your name, nationality, where you live, how long you have been teaching.) This allows students to see who you are and get to know a bit about you. Many students are looking for a teacher from a certain country and want to listen to your accent to see if they understand you.
- Include the lessons that you teach ( Business English, Exam English, Conversation etc) Students have a reason for learning English and need a teacher who can help them. If you are an IELTS teacher you need to say this, in the same respect you shouldn’t say that you teach a type of English if you cant. Students will quickly realize if you cant teach Business English or have no idea about the CAE exam – don’t lie.
- Mention a few different activities you offer in classes. Teaching online is different to teaching in a classroom and you will have to think of new ways to make dynamic, interactive lessons. If you’re a computer pro then you will be able to have fully interactive classes with great materials. If you aren’t too confident then you can mention that you will offer role plays, video analysis or just plain conversation.
- Sell yourself! remember students will look at many videos before making a choice on their teacher so you need to compete. Give the students a few reasons why they should chose you. Maybe there is something about you which makes you better than other teachers – your experience, qualifications or technical abilities.
- Speak clearly and not too quickly. Remember you are speaking to language learners of all abilities – you want them to understand your video. Complete beginners might not understand everything but I made my video suitable for intermediate + learners. Grade your language and speak clearly.
Once you have made your video you need to upload it to YouTube and submit it to Verbling for verification which takes around 24 hours.
After your video there is a written section where you can include the same information as in your video about yourself, your classes and any extra information you want to include. It is a good idea to use simple language here as potential students might give up on you if they don’t understand what you are saying.
Your Teaching Schedule
As I said above one of the best things about teaching online with Verbling is that you can chose the hours you work. You need to set a weekly schedule which will be available for students to book but you also have the flexibility of changing it if you have holidays etc.
A great feature is that Verbling uses your location to sync times between students and teachers from different parts of the world. This means all times are in my local time zone and the students have the time in their time zone – no need to try work it by yourself.
I pretty much keep my schedule the same every week and have around 4 hours a day I am free to teach. I also can add extra hours if I have extra free time. It is important to note that students can book up to 12 hours before a class so you need to check your emails for lesson bookings everyday.
Students are able to amend lesson times and dates (up to 12 hours before class) so you need to be aware of this. If you as a teacher need to change you need to write to Verbling to give them the reason for the change – I guess in the past a lot of teachers changed classes which isn’t great for students. I have only needed to change one class in the past and that was by an hour and the student was fine with that. I would urge you to be realistic with your schedule so you don’t find yourself needing to change lesson times.
When students are searching for a teacher they can chose teachers who are available at specific times of the day – so if you are available all day then you have a greater chance of getting students.
Who Are The Students?
I reckon I must have taught around 20 different nationalities from Japanese to Peruvian.
Students have many reasons for learning English but the most common I have experienced is students taking the IELTS exam or looking for a conversation partner.
I would say you should be aware of cultural differences of your students as you could cause embarrassment if you offend someone. Another issue is the internet quality your students have, for example students in China can suffer from poor connection and may often disconnect.
I would say my average student is at a mid to advanced intermediate level. I have had a couple of beginners but to be honest it is quite rare to meet someone who can’t talk for the duration of the class.
How Much Money Can I Make?
Another good thing about teaching online with Vebrling is that you are free to chose how much you want to charge per lesson. All prices are in USD and payments are made by students to verbling who then make weekly payments to teachers via PayPal or other similar electronic payment methods.
Bear in mind Verbling takes a 15% commission from every class (except one special type of class – more on that below). So if you charge $10 an hour you will get $8.50 after the commission payment.
In order to set your prices you should look at other teachers and see how much they charge. For example I looked at other teachers from the UK and saw most charged around $15 an hour so I put my starting rate at $13. You also have the option to offer a discounted pack of 5 /10 lessons. I normally offer a $1 discount per class based on students booking a package.
The price that you charge can also affect the number of students you get. As a new teacher you should charge a bit less than the going rate to get a few reviews – after a while you can push the rate up. I normally increase my price by $1 every couple of months and haven’t had a reduction in the number of students I teach. Another benefit is you can keep your lower rate for current students and have a higher rate for new students.
The most expensive teachers charge around $26 an hour but need a lot of reviews and experience teaching online with Verbling to demand those rates.
Right now I charge $20 per single lesson or $19 if students buy them as part of a package. It isn’t a fortune but when you consider my travel time and cost is zero it makes it sound a lot better.
Will I Get Enough Students?
So now you have an idea about the money you could make but are worried that you won’t get enough students.
To be honest at the start it will be a bit slow – that’s why you need the lower rate to attract students. When you get a few positive reviews you will start to get new students.
Verbling promotes teachers on it’s homepage and if you have lots of spaces on your schedule you are more likely to appear at the top of their list. I used to have a lot more messages from potential new students in the past as now my schedule is usually pre-booked by existing students so I don’t have many spaces left.
Overall I would say the first month was quiet and after 3 months I was filling around 75% of my available time slots. You can never guarantee the hours you get but I have always had a decent number of students to make it worth my time.
Types of Classes
There are a few different classes available.
Trial – A 30 minute lesson set a $6 which students can take just to meet a teacher and come up with a lesson plan. It is optional whether you offer trial sessions. Although a lot less than my normal rate I do accept trial lessons as i get around 60% of students booking full lessons afterwards. Some people are time wasters and have no intention of booking a full lesson but it’s still money I get to keep after the class. There are also instant 5 minute trials which are free for the students and you wont get paid. I did this for a while and had problems that students couldn’t connect and in the end it wasn’t worth the effort for me – not a single student booked a real paying class.
1 Hour Class – This is the standard class on Verbling. A 1 hour class where the topic is agreed before meeting the student. You have the option to make different packages to advertise on your profile such as business, exam prep etc to help you prepare for the class. Students can also just book a standard class for conversation or grammar practice. If I’m not sure about the students needs I will send them a message and ask.
Tandem Class – This is a class where two students have a lesson together with you. It means friends can learn together and they split the cost of the lesson. As a teacher you pay less commission on these classes so you make more. You do need to submit a lesson plan to be accepted for tandem classes though.
I was feeling quite nervous before my first class even with plenty of classroom experience. After 10 minutes I was relaxed and calm and now find it easy talking with new people and existing students. Remember your student might be feeling the same, don’t let nerves hold you back!
So you have all your profile set up and you get your first booking – what do you need to do? Actually Verbling has a great article for first time online teachers with a checklist – click here
The process involves clicking a link to start the session which loads Google Hangouts (Google’s version of Skype). All classes must be done via Google Hangouts and will only be confirmed if the system recognises you have used this system.
At the end of the class you simply hangup the call and everything is done.
I was always worried about the activities I could do when I started teaching online with Verbling. I thought I would be limited to just talking to my students but in reality there are so many great activities you can do:
- Screen share videos/ pictures / documents etc
- Role play activities
- Drawing on the screen and creating pictures
- Virtual tour of your house / school etc
The screen share is my most valuable tool as I can show students different media to make the class interactive. I can share a quick YouTube video for us to discuss or use as the theme of our class. I could show the student examples of a grammar point and then send them the document after class. I’m able to go through slide shows together.
After a few lessons you should come up with a few ideas and techniques which you can use. Don’t rely on the same method every class, you need to keep things fresh.
Finally, remember that a good old fashioned conversation can work just as well as an interactive session. You have the chat box if you want to make a few notes for key vocab / student mistakes etc.
Another benefit of teaching online with Verbling is the fact that they pay weekly and via Paypal. You need to request payment yourself but it has always arrived in my Paypal account within 10 minutes of doing so.
I only teach around 8-12 hours a week so I don’t make a fortune but it is fantastic for making a few extra bucks. As I said there are some people working full time. If you live in a low cost country and get enough hours then for sure it could work full time.
I also like that if a student doesn’t show to a confirmed class you get paid in full.
The one thing I don’t like so much about teaching online with Verbling is having to use Google Hangouts. In my opinion Google Hangouts is inferior to Skype. Skype is easier to use, looks better and has more options than Google Hangouts.
I guess the reason Hangouts is used is because they can build it into the website and have more control over content and can block email addresses, phone numbers etc to keep all communication on Vebrling. That is fair enough in my opinion but I wish there was a version of Skype they could use.
Automatic payments would be nice too. Sometimes I’m busy on a Monday and forget to withdraw. An automatic payment would be easier for me but again it only takes a minute to do it online.
Teaching Online With Verbling
As I said at the start I am really happy with the service I get from Verbling.
It allows me to turn my free time into money. It’s also interesting to speak to students from all around the world and discuss many new topics.
If you have some free time and want to top up your income then seriously look into, I’m glad I did.