At the end of last year, I decided to raise my italki rates considerably. However, I felt bad about suddenly charging my current students 8 -10 US$ more per hour and tried to find a solution.
Other teachers group their students meaning that a student who already started to learn with them two years ago may book a different course at a lower price. It’s a possibility but I don’t like it very much.
I came up with an idea which seemed to be brilliant at first but turned out to be a nuisance for me. What I did was offering my students to pay me directly and keep their current rates or book informal tutoring at a slightly higher rate while continuing to work as before, with material and homework.
A handful of my students chose to book their classes directly with me. I did this for February and March and already realised in February that it wouldn’t work as I had expected it.
So now, I’ve decided to undo everything and teach exclusively on italki again. Here is why:
5 Reasons why I prefer to teach on italki
1. Problems with payment
My plan had been simple: Students book their lessons directly with me, I send a payment link and they pay as soon as they receive their confirmation email. It’s just a simple click after all (a paypal.me link). With some students, this worked well. Unfortunately, not with all of them. I had to send reminders or they needed changes. Well, all this turned out to be very time-consuming and annoying for me.
2. Rescheduling is easier
Rescheduling on italki is simple, I just have to confirm the rescheduling request. With private students, I need to check my calendar, find a time which works for both of us and double-check with existing italki lessons because sometimes, my Google calendar doesn’t synchronise instantly. Again, time-consuming.
3. Priority booking for students who pay less doesn’t make sense
I had offered private students to book their lessons for the month to come between the 1st and the 14th and would open italki slots on the 15th. So basically, those students who pay less had the advantage of being able to choose freely among my available time slots and those who pay more are left with less choice. After thinking about it once again, it doesn’t seem fair to me.
4. New students do keep coming
That was probably my biggest learning. My fears that I would suffer from a lack of students and a loss of income were totally unfounded. I still offer 28 – 30 hours of bookable slots a week but I don’t need to be fully booked anymore. That’s actually good for the students, too because it gives them the opportunity to reschedule lessons without having to move them weeks from the original date. And it’s really like this that the majority of those students who pay more now have a different kind of motivation and are more reliable. I actually have very few rescheduling requests at the moment and if they come, the student usually provides a reason which gives me the good feeling that they respect me and my time. I’ve talked to some other teachers and they all had similar experiences.
5. Handling two calendars is a nuisance
I used calendly for private lessons. Yes, calendly synchronises with my Google calendar and so does italki. However, until now (ironically they’ve just changed it), calendly only offered the possibility to set up up a weekly schedule which was then valid for the whole month. That’s fine as long as I’m in the same time zone. But I am not always in the same time zone. In March, I’ll be spending two weeks in Peru and two weeks in Portugal, so I had to ask my students to tell me their preferred times by email. Then I had to update my Google calendar while making sure that I don’t have two students at the same time. Last not least, I needed to open my italki slots for March, once again making sure that I wouldn’t offer slots that were already taken by private students. All this took a huge amount of time and was really painful.
Conclusion: italki is worth the 15% it charges as a commission
So if want to raise your prices and are thinking about asking your current italki students to book with you privately to keep their old prices, think twice if you really want all that hassle.
During these two months of organising lessons privately, I’ve really learnt to appreciate italki’s booking and rescheduling system. I took it for granted and now I’m thankful for it. And it’s worth the 15% commission fee because it makes my life so much easier and saves me some headache.
But what if italki disappears one day?
Well, at the moment, this isn’t very likely. Sure, in today’s fast moving online world you never know. However, it wouldn’t mean that you lose touch with your students. You can still contact them through Skype and perhaps you have their email addresses, too.
Apart from that: Face difficulties once they appear and don’t try to anticipate all possible catastrophes. That’s my motto at least.
Bonus tip: Don’t open italki slots months in advance
All in all, my changes were much too complicated. I mean, I had sent a 4 pages document with explanations to my student last December. I would never do that again.
However, one thing I did resulted in exclusively positive results: I don’t open time slots months in advance anymore. I open them on the 15th of each month for the month to come. Yes, I have to do this manually for the whole month but it has two crucial advantages:
- Students book their lessons more consciously because they are aware that rescheduling has limits now. Before, I had some notorious “reschedulers” as I’d like to call them. Means they bought a package, chose their lesson times more or less randomly (that was my impression at least) and then rescheduled, sometimes from October to December or January.
- I’m more flexible with my time. By the 15th of each month, I normally have a clear idea where I’ll be spending the month to come and can adapt my availability accordingly. This is especially important for digital nomad online teachers who switch between different time zones.
Would like to hear your experiences and comments, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.