Exactly one year ago, I sat through my very first lesson on Preply. I was unsure if this adventure would end sooner than it started, but 12 months later, here I am, still talking about it. Sit down, relax and read the story about the time I was questioning my solo venture when suddenly an online teaching platform accepted me as one of their tutors and allowed me to continue my quest of teaching ESL all by myself.
A year ago, on this unfortunate day for humanity, ironically, I had a little personal celebration – I taught my first lesson on Preply. The student believed in me and allowed me to practise my online teaching on a new platform, which I wasn’t entirely sure how to use. I remember being very nervous and spending hours researching how to teach on Preply. The trial lesson was a success, and I even made a post about my trial lesson style, My very first trial lesson on Preply. Even though my trial lesson style has changed a bit, I still use this lesson plan template in the first lessons.
A year in numbers
Before I get into more details talking about my overall Preply experience and students, let’s look at some numbers. By the time this post is posted, I will have taught 543 hours on the platform. I’m proud to say that all of my lessons were rated 5 stars. Seven of my students were kind enough to write 5 stars reviews, which I proudly display on my blog as testimonials.
Preply allows tutors to set a notice period for trial lessons. My notice period has always been 24 hours, giving me enough time to learn about new students and prepare appropriate demo lessons for their levels. Until recently, regular students were able to book lessons with a minimum of 2-hour notice. This is wild, especially if you taught a few hours in a row and had no time to prepare. It’s been changed, and now tutors can decide the notice period for regular students. All this introduction is only to say that I’m proud to say that despite this crazy requirement, I did not miss even one lesson in the last 12 months. There were a few close calls, but thanks to clear communication, my regulars knew not to book lessons without at least a 12-24 hours’ notice.
My profile is currently available for everyone to see and book a trial lesson. My current position amongst the other ESL tutors is 23. I don’t know what it depends on, but I see that I am usually somewhere between 20 and 60. At the moment of writing the post, my profile has been viewed 7949 times. Since I was booked only 26 times, this gives me a conversation to trial 0.33% (the average is 0.29%). Considering my current hourly rate, I am happy with how things are going. I can’t imagine teaching more than 25 hours a week at a miserable rate. Sometimes less is more!
As mentioned before, in the last 12 months, I taught 26 trial lessons (+ 2 hours this week, but since I don’t know if the students will sign up for more, they are excluded from this calculation). Preply takes 100% commission for trial lessons, regardless if the trial lesson was a success or not. Many tutors are obviously, and rightfully so, not too happy about that. In order to please the angry mob, Preply agreed to shorten the trial lesson time from 60 to 50 minutes. Still unpaid, of course. Based on my calculations, Preply made (so far!) $516 just from my trial lessons.
Out of all 26 trial lessons, 18 of them were successful. There’s one surprise that needs to be mentioned in this data. One trial lesson was cancelled before it happened! My success rate is 75%, which puts me at ease, as I’m usually able to convince the students to carry on learning with me. The most upsetting part of this data is that 100% of the students told me they wanted to continue lessons in the future, but 21% never messaged me back and just disappeared without saying a word. To be honest, there were two occasions when I knew that despite saying yes, I wasn’t going to see them again, as there was no chemistry, and I was glad that they ended like this.
At the beginning of each month, Preply “rewards” the best tutors with a Super tutor badge. To qualify for this prestigious award, you need to fulfil a list of requirements. It’s always nice to be noticed and rewarded in some way, but my biggest issue comes with one of the points – the number of trial lessons in the last 90 days. This suggests that you need to invite new students all the time, even if Preply is not your full-time gig. However, no one rewards us for the longest student retention, which in my humble opinion, is way more admirable than having a high rotation of new students.
Well, it’s not entirely true. You do get rewarded with a celebratory email every time you hit a teaching milestone. It’s a picture of a tutor and a student with a sign saying Happy Preplyversary and some confetti. What a feeling!
I looked at the list of all my students and checked how well I did in attracting and retaining students. In one year, I had 26 students, and 18 of them booked another lesson with me. I tallied the number of lessons I had with each one of them, excluding the trial lesson, and checked how many of them still actively attend the lessons.
As seen above, three of my students were motivated to learn English last year! One of them is a corporate student (= a company pays for English lessons) and clocked 87 hours so far. Thanks to his determination and taking lessons three times a week, he jumped from A2 level to B1, and I think that in no time we will be dipping our toes in B2.
Five of my students did between 26-50 hours. Four of them are still active, taking 1-2 classes a week, so I think they will be joining the 50+ hours bracket in the next month or two. I realized that after passing the 25 hours threshold, students are more likely to stay for longer. As seen in the 11-25 hours bracket, four out of five students are inactive. Only one of them informed me about his 25 hours limit and said goodbye after hitting this milestone. The others kind of naturally fizzled out.
I must admit that I didn’t have many new students between September and December. This could have been because my profile was hidden from May to August and it needed to be picked up again by the algorithm. This can be also because of the price increase. Since January, things are looking much better and I’ve been getting one trial lesson a week. This should explain why most of my students are in the 0-10 hours bracket. Two of them are inactive and stopped attending lessons after a few hours. The other four are new and active, taking one hour a week. All new students are subscribed and their lessons are automatically paid for at the end of each month.
Types of students
What about the types of students you get to teach on Preply? Of course, it depends on your description and the type you are looking for. I was very clear in my description about the age of my students being 15 and up. I never enjoyed teaching YLs and even less so, teaching them online. I have had this kind of experience before, and I’d like it to stay in the past. In the beginning, I was approached by one parent who sent me a message before booking a lesson with me, so I had time to clarify that I didn’t teach children. This situation repeated, but with a parent who booked a class without telling me that the lesson was for their child. After chatting, we decided to keep this trial lesson, but I talked with the mum, and as expected, this class was not successful, as the woman was looking for a tutor for her son.
My Preply student demographic is predominantly Slavic. Many people look for a teacher who can understand them before they book a native-speaking teacher. Six of them are currently on a B1 level, and the other six are on a B2 level. The next big group consists of three A2 level students, two C1 level students and one A1 level student. In the last 12 months, two of my long-term students moved up from an A2 to a B1 level, and another one advanced from a B1 to a B2 level.
Let’s talk about money
After teaching on Preply for five months, I wrote a post Preply – So…when does it get good?, in which I discussed my average earnings and how they have changed over time. I think that it might be interesting to look at the full picture and see if it’s worth teaching online or on a language platform.
Preply is a “free” platform which is known for its high commissions. Five commission rates can be checked on Preply’s commission model. The lowest commission is 18% which is applied after 400 teaching hours. It took me about 10 months to get to that level. I downloaded my earning report and calculated how much money I made and how much money was taken through commissions and trial lessons.
In the last months, I got $6608.28 through 1:1 lessons and $543.6 through group lessons (a total of $7151.88). I paid indirectly $1863.52 through 1:1 lesson commissions and $516 through free trial lessons (a total of $2379.52). If we think about it as a percentage, over one year, Preply kept 25% of my earnings. Considering that they provide the platform and I didn’t have to do much to obtain students, as they find and book me without any further contact, I will let you decide if it’s a lot or not. Of course, these calculations do not include any additional fees on my side, for example, taxes, Microsoft Office, or Zoom (as Preply sometimes fails and I need to have a safe space to attend to my students).
However, it’s not all about the money! I wanted to see if I can work less for more. That’s why I compared my monthly earnings to the number of hours worked.
As you can see, the earnings are not even. There are some good months followed by some dry spells. It comes as no surprise that the slower months coincide with holidays and my days off, for example, a family trip in September and Christmas in December. On average, I got $600.32 a month, which if you know the Spanish market, is more or less what you can expect when working at a private academy (many Spanish language academies don’t pay for preparation time, extra meetings, or commute). February hasn’t finished yet, so this value will change, but at the moment of writing, this is what the statistics looked like. I mentioned before that my goal was to increase my hourly rate, so let’s see how this value has changed in the last year.
First of all, the number of unpaid trial lessons has significantly dropped. Last year in March I taught 10 hours for free. This and high commission rates meant that my hourly rate was $6.38. The rate has an increasing tendency which is promising. Since I’m currently on the lowest commission rate, with regular students, a much higher hourly rate (my rate has tripled in the last year) and only a few trial lessons, this rate is currently at $18.01 per hour.
So what’s next?
For the time being, I’m sticking to 1:1 classes and occasional group lessons on Preply. I believe that it may be possible to make Preply your only or main source of income, but to do so, you must charge high hourly rates and therefore be an exceptional tutor who everyone wants to learn with. The other option is to live in a relatively low-cost country. I know that I wouldn’t be able to carry on in this way without a second stable income and, of course, other sources of revenue, for example, other private students, PDF sales and the blog. Preply is a great tool if you are looking for some extra cash, but you need to consider that the money will not appear overnight. It is a long and tedious process, which may be rewarding (many tutors didn’t succeed on Preply). It gave me a platform and engaged me in some exciting projects like group lessons and creating my group courses. However, before you commit, do some research as many other online teaching platforms may be a much better fit for you.
Let’s see if, in the next 12 months, I still will be teaching on Preply. If yes, you can count on another annual Preply report.
3 thoughts on “One year on Preply🎊”
Ooof… so after 500+ hours of work, you’ve just about managed to raise your rate to average 18 euros an hour. I know the platform finds the students for you, but I still think this is exploitative. It’s not so much the 25% cut they take (though that’s not good), but the way it’s so hard to charge a high rate in the first place.
I’d love to put a link to this post in the comments on a Youtube video I did about Preply recently- let me know if that’s OK with you? Here’s the link so you can see the video- https://youtu.be/x1fOxcnruYU Would love to hear your feedback on the video too as somone who’s extensively used Preply.
Yes, it’s incredibly hard to raise the prices of existing students, so you are stuck with some people with low hourly rates 😔
I watched your video and of course, feel free to put the link on Youtube. I think people should understand how Preply works and enter the platform while knowing that the first few months will be a lot of free hard work.
I agree with you about the trial lessons working both ways. I had two instances in which I didn’t want to continue teaching the students. I guess tutors should be grateful for what they get🤷🏼♀️
My mistake when I started working on Preply was desperation and past experience. I used to teach at a private academy in Spain and had a few private students over there. My boss took 50% commission 😵so when I heard 33%, it didn’t sound too bad.
Thanks, Joanna. 50% is criminal, frankly…. I think there was a time when it could have been really hard to find clients oneself as an individual, so it was maybe worth paying a commission, but with the rise of social media and the easy availability of platforms like Zoom meaning you can find them anywhere in a compatible time zone, that’s just not the case any more. Having said that, of course, marketing does take time and energy.