Teaching English online has become a massive industry. The growth was already rapid over the 2010s, but with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic forcing students of all kinds to study from home, it’s never been easier or more practical to pick up language skills from the comfort of your own home.
If you know anything about language tutoring online, there’ll be a few names you’re more than familiar with. Most likely, you’ll know Preply - and with very good reason. Founded in Ukraine in 2012, Preply has grown exponentially, along with the entire online teaching industry in recent years.
Preply has expanded significantly, now offering Russian, English, French, German, Spanish and Italian lessons, and connecting online tutors with over 800,000 students. To serve those students, some 185,000 tutors have signed up to teach, with competitive pay rates and the ability to set one’s own hours.
There’s good reason, then, for so many tutors signing up to use Preply. A big factor in the platform’s popularity is the ease with which a tutor can sign up, have a verified profile and, in no time, start teaching. For students, the ease of access is a major plus, and with reviews and profiles being a significant part of the experience, it’s easy to pick the right tutor for them.
One of the more accessible platforms for online tutoring jobs, we’ll get into the specifics with Preply before long, but the headlines are: you don’t need to be a native English speaker, you don’t need teaching experience, and you can even do it without a degree. The real proof of your value as a tutor comes in the form of reviews, how you set your fees, and whether or not you’re actually engaging with your students.
So, Preply: one of the biggest online tutoring platforms worldwide - what can it do for you and your TEFL career?
From its humble Ukrainian beginnings, Preply has grown at an incredible rate. Now with employers across the world, and headquarters in the USA, the company’s status as possibly the most well-known online tutoring platform is, at this point, well-established.
What sets it apart is the very obvious cues it’s taken from social media. Connectivity and ease of function are at the heart of the Preply tutoring experience. It’s really simple to set up a profile - all you need to do is provide a headshot, some information about yourself, your strengths as a tutor, and your availability. Obviously, clarity of voice and accents are important factors in how students pick tutors, so a 2-minute welcome video is a must for any Preply profile.
With ‘Edtech’ (educational technology) booming in the 2010s, and especially during Covid, there was a battle for space in the hearts and minds of students and tutors alike. Preply’s advantages, along with functionality, come in the form of who can teach on the platform. There’s no upper age limit, which means that retirees can happily tutor at their own convenience. You can set your own hours, so there’s no minimum - everyone likes a week off now and then!
Payment is taken in block bookings, as opposed to single lessons, which sets Preply apart from most other platforms of this type. There is also a 100% commission for trial lessons, which is something we’ll cover later on. Tutors are encouraged to bring like-minded colleagues to the platform, through the Affiliate Programme.
It’s a simple enough system for any language tutor. So let’s get into what you need to start teaching English online with Preply.
If you’re computer literate, and you have the skills to teach English online, the chances are you’re already more than capable of tutoring on Preply.
Compared to other online teaching companies, the requirements to teach through Preply are considerably less strict. We’ll get into specifics, but it’s a service that definitely benefits the newer TEFL teacher, or even those who are perhaps testing the waters for a career move.
Let’s get into the specific requirements you’ll need to teach on Preply.
You do not need a degree of any kind to become an online tutor on Preply. This means that students can earn extra income through teaching on the platform, as well as those who are considering career moves into teaching later in life.
Of course, if you do have a degree - especially in a language or teaching-related context - you can put it on your profile and, inarguably, it’ll be attractive to potential clients. Do you need a degree to teach English with Preply, though? No, you don’t.
This might be surprising, but just as you don’t need a degree, you don’t need to have TEFL certification either. Again, anyone can sign up to be a tutor through Preply.
Just like with a degree, though, it’s all about having a profile on Preply that inspires excitement and confidence in potential clients. Having a TEFL certificate with at least 120 hours of training - the industry standard - is unquestionably going to attract tutees, because they’ll be confident in your abilities as a TEFL teacher.
To really make the most of Preply, and build the client base you want, having a TEFL certificate makes a considerable difference. Put yourself in the shoes of clients who are on your profile; a TEFL qualification looks better than nothing.
You may not need a TEFL certificate to get started, but we’d certainly recommend it.
So, no degree? No TEFL course on your CV? Surely you need some teaching experience to get started on Preply and attract students?
Well, interestingly, no: you don’t need teaching experience to teach English online with Preply. In fact, the online English teaching sphere is a great place to gain experience, and there are other online teaching platforms that don’t require a lengthy curriculum vitae full of schools.As ever, though, experience does help. Just like a degree and a TEFL certificate, having some experience on your Preply profile is going to draw more clients in. It’s just that simple. That said, however, there are plenty of examples of inexperienced teachers setting up profiles on Preply and other tutoring services and quickly becoming popular and sought-after English teachers.
We’ve heard cases of English teachers using online platforms to get to grips with lessons before embarking on in-person teaching. For example, ‘I Taught English Abroad’ guest Ellie Rayner used Covid-enforced waiting times before moving to Japan to her advantage, by teaching online. Though she had no experience beforehand, the opportunity of using online platforms was a major advantage when in-person classes began.
One of the most frustrating barriers we see in English teaching is when, online or ‘IRL’, non-native English teachers with all the requisite skills and qualifications can’t find work because they aren’t from English-speaking countries.
Preply isn’t like this. It doesn’t matter where you’re from; if you can teach English to a high standard, build a client base and get paid to teach, you could be from anywhere. Language students who use Preply might have preferences, but broadly speaking, you can teach English online whether you’re from an English-speaking country or not.
You will need a level of computer literacy. To set up a profile with Preply, you’ll need to be able to upload a picture of yourself, as well as a 2-minute video that covers some of the content of your lessons. This is a chance to sell yourself as a viable tutor, and win over clients. After five days, your profile should’ve been checked over by Preply staffers, and you’ll be able to set up lessons.
Of course, you’ll need outstanding communication skills to truly make the most of the Preply classroom environment. This stands to reason, as it’ll be on you to interact with potential clients, arrange lessons, maintain relationships with students and present yourself well to the rest of the Preply community. Communicating well leads to income.
In terms of equipment, you’ll need a computer (obviously), a microphone, headphones, a stable internet connection and, of course, a webcam. You’ll also need to keep your computer up-to-date with software, and an environment free of distracting noises or images.
Finally, you need time. Availability is everything for Preply teachers, so make sure to commit to what works for you. If you’re wanting a part-time tutoring experience, make sure to mark your availability as such. If it’s more full-time work you’re after, then give yourself time to build up a client base, spend some of your downtime studying teaching techniques or sharpening your skill set in some other way, and be patient.
Here, we come to a very important point: how much can you actually earn teaching English with Preply?According to Preply, the average hourly wage for a tutor is $18.30/£14.37. There are, though, significant factors which influence how much you’re able to earn, even though you set your own hourly rate.
Firstly, your availability. Theoretically, the more you teach, the more you can earn. If you’re able to make yourself as available to clients as possible, you’re going to see more income - that’s just how it is. How many hours you're able to do dictates your income - minus a commission that Preply takes.
Secondly, qualifications and certificates matter when setting your hourly rate. Language tutors can charge more for hourly lessons if they have qualifications, for example, a TEFL certificate, a teaching certificate, a degree, or even a master’s degree. Language tutors dictate the hourly rate, so teachers who have a more distinguished academic background may see fit to charge more. If not, undercutting can risk causing problems with other tutors, and that’s something best avoided, no matter the online platform you're using.
Experience also counts. It’s fairer to demand a higher hourly rate if you have demonstrable tutoring experience. Having a history of successful teaching means you can very fairly demand a higher price from Preply students for your time and skills.According to Preply, the most popular tutors “earn up to $550 a week” (£446), which translates to around $2,200/£1,784 per calendar month, provided a tutor can stick to the agreed timetable. Preply lessons are paid for in blocks, and there are subscription platforms on Preply for easier budgeting.
Preply charges a commission for lessons taught. A trial lesson - which every new student is entitled to - sees Preply receive a commission of 100%. That commission drops down to 33% on subsequent lessons, then to 18% after a certain number of hours. Essentially, the higher the number of hours you teach, the lower the commission goes, meaning you can bank most of your earnings. Beware, though - setting a higher hourly rate in the wake of higher commissions might scare off students.
There is a Preply Affiliate Programme which can boost your earning potential. Through this programme, you can use a unique referral code, bringing other tutors to the platform, and by proxy, generating income for Preply. By bringing in new business, Preply rewards you with bonuses, based on the performance of your code.
So, how does a tutor apply to become a member of Preply? It’s all about setting up a profile, which should include:
Within 5 business days, you’ll find out whether you’ve been accepted to use the platform, and if you have, congratulations - you’re a tutor!
The good news about the Preply interview process: there isn’t one. Once your profile has been approved, you can get started teaching students right away!
There are some key things to consider before you get started tutoring on Preply. Here, we’ll break it down into individual issues, and how you might address them:
Making sure you have a webcam, a reliable computer and wifi connection, headphones and a microphone is imperative. Ensure your computer allows regular software updates and has plenty of memory.
Really think about your availability. Lesson plans are booked in blocks of 5, 10, 15 and 20, though students can ask for shorter sessions. It’s a commitment, so be absolutely sure you can definitely carry out all the language lessons you're promising.
Be realistic about your fees for language lessons. You set them, so ask yourself: if I was a student, what would I consider to be reasonable? Again, qualifications and experience count here. Don’t be afraid to charge more if you’ve got good reason to do so. However, underselling yourself can cause a ripple effect with other tutors, while over-charging can obviously turn students off.
Once you have a profile set up, see what other English tutors charge, and calculate an average hourly rate. That’s surely the best way of knowing what your lessons are worth within that particular marketplace.
So, now we know how it works, and how easy it is to get started tutoring through Preply, what are the pros and cons of the international tutoring giant? Is Preply legit, do online tutors get a fair deal, and do new students get the best experience for learning a foreign language?
The joy of Preply is that you don’t need qualifications or teaching experience to get started. Fine, you might not be charging a great amount at the start, but as a way of getting into teaching English, specifically teaching English online, it’s hard to beat. Simply making yourself available and attractive to clients means there’s regular work to be had, degree or no degree.
Working from home is, obviously, a major boost. One of the joys of teaching online is that, regardless of age or physical ability, you can make a living from the comfort of your own home. Native speakers and non-native English speakers alike can find work from home, and charge as much money as they deem to be fair. Additionally, the flexibility of setting your own hours means you can set your life up around your work on the Preply platform - not the other way around!
The demand for tutors online is enormous, and Preply is one of the big hitters. Provided your profile looks right, you will find students who need your teaching skills. That means regular work, and there’s an excellent infrastructure in place to ensure payments go through, you’re being advertised effectively, and there’s a steady stream of students for you to work with.
Lots of international students and lots of teachers - native speakers or non-native speakers - is surely a good thing, but the competition can be fierce on Preply. According to some reviews, teachers found it took time to build a client base of Preply students, and with the company taking 100% of the first commission, there’s real pressure to impress from the off. Some reports suggest that it takes as many as 400 lessons to bring the commission down to around 18%. That's a lot of future lessons and much more tutoring to think about from the off, if you want this to be a career.
Secondly, the idea of “just anyone” being able to teach on Preply can seem like a good thing, but it isn’t always. From a student’s perspective, any tutor can say they’re “certified” without having to prove it. If you’re a tutor, and you have qualifications, you can just say that - but you don’t need to actually upload a degree certificate or relevant qualification. This means there’s competition from teachers who dictate their own lesson plans and claim to have qualifications that they just don’t have. Is that entirely fair? You decide.About lesson plans - Preply won’t provide lesson plans for you, and while that allows a degree of freedom (and can be seen as a tick in the ‘pro’ column), it does remove something of a safety net if you’ve got lots of clients and you’re new to teaching.
While you can earn extra through the Affiliate Programme, and bring new tutors to the platform, that has some very clear negatives. For students, it means potentially more unqualified or underqualified tutors to the service, and for tutors, it might mean extra income in the short-term, but more competition overall.
Finally, the block booking system means that while yes, there is the normal flexibility of an online tutoring job, it can be hard to get out of your obligations on Preply.
Preply has generally positive reviews on Trustpilot, with a rating of 4.1. 75% of their reviews are 5-star reviews, which talk about the flexibility of the platform, immediate payment and a robust support network. One such 5-star Preply review claims “..for someone who wants to teach online and begin in the market this is probably the best most structured website I have personally come across.
However, there are some negative Preply reviews, which refer to the 100% commission fees for trial lessons, and issues with the subscription model.
Glassdoor, meanwhile, has similarly positive reviews from current or former employees. Again, the flexibility and earning potential are mentioned as positives, with 83% of respondents stating they’d recommend Preply as an employer. On Indeed, the average Preply review is less kind, at 3.2 out of 5. The payment model, specifically the trial lessons, comes under scrutiny through both review sites from tutors on Preply.
Online tutors set their own fees on Preply, meaning that they can charge as little or as much as they want to, and tutors teach as much or as little as they want to. However, there is a 100% commission for trial lessons, which reduces to 33%, then 18% incrementally.
No, it’s not hard to become a Preply tutor. All you have to do is set up a profile, and describe your skills as a teacher.
To become a Preply tutor, you need to set up a profile, have a reliable computer and internet connection, a webcam, a microphone and headphones.
You don’t need any qualifications or teaching experience to teach English on Preply.