This week, I started a new job: teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for a company called VIPKID.
For those of you who have never heard of this company, here’s the gist: VIPKID, created in 2013, is an online platform that allows Chinese grade schoolers (aged 5 to 12) to take 30-minute ESL lessons from an english-speaking VIPKID teacher. The CEO, Cindy Mi, created the company to provide more opportunities to Chinese children to learn english accessibly in a fun, low-pressure way.
Since I just finished my first week of teaching (I taught a total of 12 classes, or 6 hours), I thought I’d make a Pros & Cons list about teaching for VIPKID. Here we go!
Cons of teaching for VIPKID:
You have to have a bachelor’s degree.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I wish it wasn’t the case, but that’s their one stipulation – so there it is! I figured I’d better put it at the top for anyone who doesn’t want to read any further!
The hours are a little funky.
Considering that I live in the U.S. midwest and all my students live in China, there is a 13-hour time difference. That means my “peak hours” (the hours that are most likely to be booked if I open them), fall between 6 and 8 in the morning. I can also wake up earlier, or teach as late as 9 a.m., but for the most part, early morning is the best way to get booked consistently. On weekends, when the kiddos don’t have school, I can also work evenings – starting at 8 p.m. So basically it’s morning and evening, if you live in the U.S.! For me, this is also something of a pro – because it allows me to work while my toddler is asleep. However, getting used to waking up at 5 a.m. this week was really difficult! Hallelujah for Melatonin, which helped me fall asleep earlier than normal.
The slots you open may not always be filled.
This week, I opened up a total of 16 slots, and only 12 were filled. However, as the week went along and I started gaining good feedback from parents (they rate us from 1 to 5 apples), more of my slots started getting filled. A note on this: you’re also more likely to be booked if you turn on the “24 Hour Booking” function, which allows students to book you less than 24 hours in advance. I personally will probably wait a couple more weeks to use this function regularly, once I have more of a handle on the material.
I only had two technology issues my first week – one class was cut short when I was randomly booted off the VIPKID website and unable to get back on for a few minutes. The other was when a student’s webcam wasn’t working, so we simply did our best and went on with class anyway! Obviously, technology issues are just part of the game with a job like this. My best advice is not to freak out, and give yourself grace when things go wrong (and also, if you have access to Google Fiber… use that!! Faster internet will make everything better!).
Taxes, taxes, taxes.
*insert eye roll* TAXES. They’re the worst no matter what. But as a VIPKID Teacher, you’re technically considered an “independent contractor.” That means that at the end of the year, you’ll be responsible for paying taxes on all your paychecks. I’ve been told by other teachers to simply set aside 20% from each paycheck, the MOMENT I receive it. I’ll probably put that 20% in savings until tax season, so it’ll at least be accruing some interest. This definitely isn’t the worst thing in the world, considering that the pay is so good (we’ll talk more about that later), but it’s certainly something to be aware of!
Now let’s move on to the pros!
Pros of teaching for VIPKID:
You get to make your own schedule!
This is my favorite part!! Each week, you simply go into your schedule and open up slots for the upcoming weeks. If you have an appointment or go out of town, simply don’t open up any slots for those days (although you could take your job with you!). This week, for example, I had to drive my mom to an appointment – it was so relieving to know I could simply not open my 7:30 slot, ensuring I’d have enough time to take her without rushing. SO CONVENIENT.
The pay. is so. GOOD.
Okay guys let me be honest here, this is one of my favorite parts of this whole job. Basically, when you apply and go through the interview process, you are given a “base pay,” which is your pay per 30-minute class. I believe this base pay can range anywhere from 7 to 11 dollars (if that’s wrong, please correct me in the comments!), based on your experience and how you do in your interview. For example, my base pay is 8 dollars per class, or $16/hour (pretty good, right?). BUT IT GETS BETTER. You can earn an extra $1 per class, JUST FOR SHOWING UP ON TIME. Um yeah VIPKID, rad. I can do that. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. You can also earn an extra $1 per class for teaching at least 45 classes a month, which breaks down to about 12 classes per week, or 6 hours. Again: very doable! BUT WAIT, I’M NOT DONE. Remember that “24 Hour Booking” function we talked about before? Any major course class that is booked using that function, earns you an extra $2.
AAAAAAAAND: you also get $$$ in the bank every time someone signs up and puts you as their referral. And I’m not talking about chump change, either. It’s anywhere from $50 to $100 for each successful referral (meaning your referral makes it through all the stages and gets hired on). You get extra bonuses too, if they teach a certain number of classes their first week, sign their contract within a certain number of days, etc. etc. etc. Basically it’s #perksperksperks.
So let me break that down: Let’s say your base pay is $8 per class. Counting all the bonuses above, you could feasibly be earning $12 per class, or $24 per hour (not even including your referral bonuses!). Talk about rad!!
Basically, your job as a VIPKID teacher is to keep your students entertained – essentially, trick them into learning without them realizing it! Things I’ve done include singing with puppets, using princess magnets as rewards, making ridiculous faces, jumping around like a monkey, and putting on a fake mustache. And that was just my first week! Starting my day with two hours of pure silliness puts me in such a good mood for the whole day. And seeing my students grasp new concepts is the icing on the cake! Which brings me to my next pro…
No lesson planning!!
Can I get an “amen” from all the teachers in the room?! VIPKID provides all the lesson plans for you. Essentially, there is a specific curriculum that VIPKID students follow. They start at different points, depending on their English abilities when they sign up. Within 24 hours before teaching a class, you simply log in, view the PowerPoint you’ll be going through with them, and make sure you understand what the focus of each slide is (at this point, I usually lay out the props I’ll be using as well – things like puppets, flash cards, and my white board). As if that’s not easy enough, at the bottom of each slide you’ll find “teacher instructions,” telling you exactly how to present the slide to your student.
Preparing for each 30-minute class takes me between 5 and 10 minutes, but according to my cousin-in-law (who has been teaching with VIPKID for over 2 years), this time decreases as you continue teaching, because you’ll often be revisiting the same PowerPoints continually.
It allows you to work from home, even as a full-time parent!
This is easily my favorite part of being a VIPKID teacher. Even as a full-time mom to a wild toddler, I can put a couple hours of “work” in per day, and make a very reasonable income. It feels really good to have my own side hustle – especially one that provides a consistent inflow of money and puts a smile on my face. 🙂 Considering the price of childcare, I have felt so overwhelmed at the prospect of even finding a job that would allow me to do more than “break even” at the end of the week. This way, I don’t have to find a sitter, but I can still make some extra money by just waking up a couple hours earlier. Worth it, in my book!
All in all, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind working early mornings or weekend evenings, can handle being goofy on the job, is responsible enough to set aside money for taxes, and wants to make a genuine difference in the life of many children – then this might just be the job for you!
If you want to apply to become a VIPKID teacher, click HERE, and then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can coach you through the application and interview process. Your success on those two stages will determine your base pay – so don’t hesitate to ask for help! It’s what I’m here for! 🙂