AUGUST 2021 UPDATE
VIPKid stops selling foreign-based tutoring to students in China
On July 24, 2021, China issued a new regulation that bans out-of-school tutoring in core education. Soon after that, VIPKid announced it would stop selling online classes taught by foreign-based tutors in China in order to comply with this new law. You can still sign up to teach their students outside of China.
Are you looking for a career change? Maybe your old job has lost a little of its sparkle? Or maybe you just need a little extra cash to feel confident about pursuing your own dreams? If this sounds like you, VIPKid and the wider world of online English teaching may be exactly what you are looking for. Teaching English with VIPKid is a great alternative to the traditional classroom, and you don’t even need a teaching degree.
So if you’d like to learn more about a career that allows you the freedom to set your own hours, work from home, gain a sense of financial independence, and never (not ever!) put on real pants again, then follow along while I teach you a little about my experience teaching English with VIPKid.
I’m going to walk you through the application process and what to expect from your workday. I’ll also offer a few tips along the way to help you maximize your fun as well as your income.
Online teaching is an easy gig that often hardly feels like work at all. It has been my steady side hustle for the past four years. So follow along to learn how you too can start earning a full time salary while teaching from home without spending a single dime on new equipment or other startup fees. Let’s go!
My Journey: How I Started Earning $2000+ Per Month By Becoming Teacher Micheal
Over the years I’ve had a lot of jobs. And I mean, A LOT of jobs! I’ve waited tables, worked in construction, worked as a professional puppeteer, been a hired hand on a Lithuanian goat farm (true story!), and the list goes on and on. I am the ultimate “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”.
The reason for this is because I have always been most passionate about juggling and circus skills, which are not exactly the most profitable careers. And so, as a result, most of my adult life has been spent bouncing between odd jobs while I do my best to turn my juggling into a more sustainable career.
Now, if you’ve ever had more than one job at a time, you will already know that staying on top of multiple schedules can feel like its very own juggling act. You have got to be constantly checking your calendars and emails to make sure no conflicts arise. And your finances just never seem to be in order.
The first time I heard about teaching English with VIPKid, I had been working as a puppeteer with a Canadian theatre company. I was facing yet another four months of downtime between upcoming tours. For me, four months off meant four months without any income. I was all set to hit the bricks of my hometown in Canada with my resume to see if I could luck into a few extra hours at a restaurant or a local bar.
That’s when a friend of mine mentioned that she recently started working for an online teaching company called VIPKid. She told me that she was making her own hours, that the work was fun and easy, and that she was making better money than when she worked full time at a local bakery. For the first time in her adult life, she said she was able to work from home and she was finally able to start paying off her credit card and student loan debts.
I did a little digging because, let’s be honest, a job where you work from home and earn upwards of nearly thirty dollars an hour sounded a little too good to be true. Little did I know that there was already a GIANT community of online teachers who’d been doing this job for years.
At first, I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of any of these companies before. But then I realized that almost every single online teaching company is based out of Beijing, China. That means that the only way for them to get the word out about themselves is through online advertising (which I admit, I ignore) and old school word of mouth. What it essentially boils down to is if you don’t have a friend or family member who is already working as an online teacher, you might never know this world even exists. That said, once you do come across someone in the community, it can be a little difficult to get them to stop talking about it! Teachers regularly gush about their experiences, their students, and their newfound lifestyle.
Including me! Since I started teaching English with VIPKid, I have been able to focus much more on my personal passions, while also earning a steady income that provides me a great deal of peace of mind about my financial future.
🖐️ Do you have a gig work or side hustle story to tell? Do you have words of wisdom that might help others looking to make it in the gig economy?
Find out how we can collaborate to get your story out there. Get in touch!
What Exactly Is VIPKid?
VIPKid is a Chinese company that employs North American, native English speakers to tutor one on one with students living in mainland China.
🚀 The platform launched in 2014 and has since grown to employ over a hundred thousand contract teachers who log in daily to teach nearly a million Chinese students.
👧 Each lesson is one on one (one student and one teacher) and lasts twenty-five minutes. Lessons take place in the VIPKid classroom, which is more or less a Zoom video chat that incorporates a third window that contains something like an interactive PowerPoint presentation.
📚 The goal of each lesson is to help students develop their English skills. A strong focus is on reading and pronunciation. Each lesson is pre-generated for teachers. That means you are not responsible for anything other than showing up on time and making sure the student is working towards successfully completing their lesson objectives.
🇬🇧 All that is to say, you are there to help Chinese students learn to read and speak English.
🤔 That’s it?
That’s it. You are basically a tutor looking over their shoulder, making sure they are pronouncing all their words correctly.
How To Start Teaching English With VIPKid
Who Can Teach For VIPKid?
If you are legally eligible to work in the United States of America or Canada and you have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, then you are all ready to get started!
One of the great things about teaching English with VIPKid is that they are open to all different types of teachers with all sorts of unique backgrounds. The company honestly views it as an asset to have such a varied roster of teachers. Teachers who can draw upon their individual backgrounds (more on that later!). So whether you are a brick-and-mortar teacher with twenty-five years of experience working at a public school, or a recent college graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting who has a few extra hours on your hands, VIPKid wants you on their team!
The only other requirement is that you need to have at least one year of some form of teaching in your background. But don’t be turned off if you’ve never even set foot inside a formal classroom. Previous teaching experience could be almost anything.
Personally, my background is in theatre and circus. I have a Fine Arts degree but no special credentials beyond that. Several years ago, I spent a year teaching in South Korea. While VIPKid certainly values teachers who have these sorts of experiences, they are in no way a deal-breaker.
So if you have a degree in absolutely anything and a little experience in your back pocket, you are ready to click “Sign Up” today!
Do I Need Any Special Equipment To Start Teaching?
You will need a few things to get started. I’m going to wager that you already have most or all of the equipment you will ever need to be a successful VIPKid teacher. Have you got your checklist ready?
- A Computer or Tablet: this one is pretty obvious. VIPKid teachers connect with their students on the VIPKid app. The app is available and supported on all Windows and Apple devices. While you can install the app on a smartphone, you can’t actually teach on one (yet!). You will need access to a desktop computer, a laptop computer, or a tablet. Speaking of connecting with your students…
- A Reliable Internet Connection: VIPKid teachers connect with their students for short, twenty-five-minute lessons. And let me tell you, if one of you is experiencing Internet problems, that lesson is going to feel like it is taking A LOT longer. Remember those old Verizon commercials? “Can you hear me now?” Imagine that only significantly worse. PROTIP! In a pinch (or a power outage), you can actually link your computer to your smartphone’s cellular connection so you never have to miss a minute of class time.
- A Webcam: Pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t have a camera, how are your students going to see your smiling face? Most laptops and tablets already come with built-in cameras these days, so this one shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
- A Headset With A Built-In Microphone: VIPKid suggests a full headset for teachers similar to what gamers might wear. But honestly, a lot VIPKid teachers just use earbuds. As long as you have some combination of a microphone and headphones then you should be all set!
VIPKid teachers are also encouraged to reward their students for their good behavior and for meeting their lesson objectives. Don’t worry, though! You don’t actually have to go out and spend any money here. Rewards are almost always simple things like drawing a picture together, singing a song, or playing tic-tac-toe on a whiteboard. In my lessons, students LOVE to watch me juggle, so I always keep a few juggling balls handy.
Turning Your Space Room Into Your Classroom
When students show up for their lessons, they always want to be welcomed into a fun and unique classroom environment. But remember, they are only able to see what you allow them to see. You can actually achieve quite a lot with very little space or effort. Don’t think you need to have some giant, well-decorated office to start teaching. You can easily get away with something as simple as a map of the world taped to your bedroom wall.
I’m someone who loves to travel and over the years I’ve created DIY classrooms in some truly tight quarters. Once, I spent the entire morning teaching all my lessons from a hotel bathroom. A patterned shower curtain makes an excellent background, by the way!
There is truly only one thing that every classroom needs and that is a good source of light. Whenever possible, you always want to try and have a light source aimed directly at your face. Otherwise, you might find yourself teaching in the shadows. There are all kinds of lighting setups out there, including pocket-sized portable LEDs. You would be surprised just how good you can make things look with one well-positioned table lamp.
Okay, I’m Ready To Click ‘Sign Up’! What Happens Now?
So you’ve cleared yourself a little space in the guest bedroom. You have got your lamps angled to give you the perfect glow. Now what?
This… well, this is actually the hardest part about teaching English with VIPKid. I don’t mean to scare you off, but the application process can be a *teeny* bit of a chore. There is honestly nothing particularly difficult about it, but there is a bit of back and forth. And a LOT of waiting. Let’s start at the beginning.
👉 First things first. You start by filling out a basic information sheet about yourself. This will include things like your name, where you live, as well as your previous teaching experience.
👉 After you submit your form, VIPKid will then contact you about the next step in the application process. Typically, this comes in the form of a trial lesson. You can teach what is called a “mock lesson” to a VIPKid mentor or you can pre-record yourself teaching to an imaginary student (you read that right, you will be teaching a lesson to no one). For your mock lesson, VIPKid will provide you with a few slides to work with. All you need to do is prepare for what is typically a ten or fifteen-minute lesson.
👉 Based on your performance in your mock lesson, you may be asked to teach a second mock lesson.
👉 If they were really impressed, you will then be moved along to the final step in the application process. This is where you will attend a short web seminar on how to use the VIPKid app. This is just a short group video call where you will go over a PowerPoint presentation to help you become more familiar with all the different elements of the VIPKid classroom.
👉 After that, there’s nothing left but to authorize VIPKid to perform a background check and then you’re a VIPKid teacher!
Welcome to our noble fraternity. The official dress code is pajama pants.
The Booking Process
Once you’re ready to teach, you need students. Here’s how you get them.
How Do I Make Myself Available?
The best, and I mean in THE BEST part about teaching English with VIPKid is that every teacher gets to set their own schedule. Only want to teach two evenings a week? Perfect! Want to take a few months off over the summer for a holiday? It is entirely up to you!
Teachers choose what times they want to teach by building their own schedule on the VIPKid app. If you’ve ever registered online for classes at a gym or a yoga studio, the interface will look almost exactly the same.
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that just because you have opened your schedule, this does not necessarily mean that every available slot will be booked. VIPKid recommends teaching during particular hours of the day to maximize your chances of getting booked.
But not every slot will book every week. And particularly for new teachers, finding new students can sometimes feel a little discouraging. Hey, I get it! You’ve got your classroom all set up, you’ve got a few fun props, but the students just aren’t showing up. It can feel like you built a new restaurant, have all the food prepped, but just can’t seem to get any customers. It has been my experience that the first month in a VIPKid teacher’s career is usually the biggest challenge. But take my word for it, once you start getting bookings, it usually only takes a few weeks before your slots start regularly filling up.
Is there any way to speed up the process? I mean, who wants to wait on a steady trickle. You want a flood of students, right? Well, it all starts with the parents!
How Do Parents Find Me?
Bookings are typically handled by the students’ parents and grandparents.
Based on your performance in your mock lesson, VIPKid will assign a few keywords to describe your teaching style. These are words such as: energetic, serious, or funny. Based on what parents and grandparents know works best for their child, they will search for teachers who they believe will match well with their student’s learning style.
That said, once a student has taken your class, parents can choose to bookmark you as one of their favorite teachers. Once a parent “favorites” you, they will be able to see your schedule and become notified about changes in your availability.
After a few months of teaching for VIPKid, teachers typically start to see recurring students. I know that it only took a few months before my schedule was fully booked with regular students. Now, it is pretty rare that I see a new face in my classroom.
By and large, this is a wonderful thing. You get to know your students very well. You also gain a sense of stability by having a fully booked schedule. The only downside is that you can sometimes wind up stuck with a student whose behavior can be a little… trying, shall we say. That said, I usually find that even the most troublesome students tend to settle down after only a few lessons.
What Do Parents See On My Teacher Profile?
VIPKid has a standard profile form for teachers to fill out. This will include details such as your name, your home state or province, as well as a little background information.
Besides a little background information, you will also be asked to provide a few pictures of yourself, as well as a short introductory video. Once again, the best advice here is to keep it simple. Your video can be filmed in a matter of minutes using just your smartphone. As for what to say, remember, simple, simple, simple.
That said, keep it simple but make a good impression. Make sure you are well lit, speaking clearly, and smiling from ear to ear. Your video is like a movie trailer and it’s the best tool you have for advertising yourself to parents.
Money, Money, Money, Money! (Tell Me All About The) MONEY!
You skipped to the section first, didn’t you? 😄
I can’t say I blame you. Although, I highly encourage you to go back because you’re going to want to read about the time I taught on a toilet. That confused look on your face right now? That’s the price you pay for skipping ahead.
How Much Can I Make Teaching For VIPKid?
👉 Alright, so VIPKid assigned you your base rate. Let’s just say that that was $7 per student. And with a little Grade Three math, we know that winds up being $14 an hour. But wait! There’s more!
👉 Teachers also receive a small bonus for every class that they successfully complete. These bonuses operate on a sliding scale, which basically means that the more you teach, the higher your bonuses become. I’ve included a chart that shows the exact breakdown below:
To help you see just how this payment structure works here’s a simple VIPKid payment calculator you can use. Just plug in some numbers and it will tell you what your base pay is, how much you get in bonuses and what your hourly rate is.
➗ Go to the full page to view and use the calculator.
So now, just by teaching a few lessons with no hiccups (sleeping through your alarm is the VIPKid teacher’s most common hiccup), you’ve gone from $7.00 per class to earning $7.80 per class.
🎉 Wow! Congratulations on the raise. You’re now making an extra $1.60 per hour! Feel free to treat yourself to an extra scoop of ice cream. You’ve earned it!
👉 Also, students sign up for VIPKid based on their experience in trial lessons. These are lessons that are not part of the VIPKid curriculum. They are basically samples for parents to get a sense of how the program operates. If you wind up teaching a trial lesson, you will still be paid your regular rate. As well as whatever bonus you are entitled to. AND if the student enrolls, you will also be given an additional $5 for a job well done!
👉 There are also typically a few promotions throughout the year. During these VIPKid will offer teachers the chance to make a few extra dollars by completing various challenges. These typically come in the form of week or month long objectives where teachers try to meet a particular goal. These challenges are always optional, but they can be a fun way to add a little extra excitement to your workday.
👉 There is still one more way of making money with VIPKid and that’s enrolling new teachers. Once you become a VIPKid teacher, you will be given a personal code that you can offer to friends and family members. When another teacher signs up for VIPKid and uses your promo code, you are then given a one-time $100 bonus. If you are someone with a big, active social circle, recruiting new teachers to the platform can really pay off.
Which leads us to the elephant in the room…
Wait, You Earn Money By Recruiting? I’m Hearing Alarm Bells. Is VIPKid A Pyramid Scheme?
No. Absolutely not.
When you recruit a new teacher, you are given one hundred dollars but that’s where the perks end. Your rate of pay will not increase based on how many teachers you recruit or be impacted by the performance of your recruits. Additionally, you are under no pressure to recruit new teachers at all.
I know teachers who have been teaching English with VIPKid for years who have never recruited a single new teacher. The recruitment strategy just makes sense. The company is based in China and the easiest way for them to find new teachers is by positive word of mouth.
How Do VIPKid Teachers Get Paid?
VIPKid pays teachers through direct deposit.
Additionally, the company offers several different payment plans and encourages you to choose the one that suits you best.
- First, there is a traditional payment plan where you are paid for your time every two weeks.
- Second, there is the option of being paid once a month.
- And lastly, you can request that several months of payments be combined into one lump sum deposit.
The reason for all these options is because banks typically charge a service fee for International deposits. What that fee is exactly depends on your banking institution, so you may want to call and ask. I know that for me, the fee is $15 for every deposit.
The Life Of An Online Teacher
Now, let’s look at how an average day of an online teacher looks like. Later, we’ll also talk about some perks of online teaching and the negative sides of it.
What Does A VIPKid Teacher’s Day Look Like?
Well, that really depends on the teacher. And, almost as importantly, where they are in the world.
At present, VIPKid only offers classes to students living in China. This means teachers build their schedules according to the Beijing Time Zone.
This is because students enrolled in the VIPKid program still attend public school. And since they already have a full day of classes, teachers typically connect with their students either right before they head to school, or right before they go to sleep.
It can sometimes be a little jarring to see your student with the sun shining behind them. Meanwhile, you can still see the stars from your window. But this can actually be a fun way to engage with your students.
Now for me, I’m a morning person. I like to get up early, get my teaching done, then look forward to having the rest of my day for myself.
Besides money, what are some of the perks of teaching English with VIPKid?
I already mentioned that being able to build your own schedule is the biggest perk, but there are a few others that may not be immediately obvious.
If you look back at the equipment list I provided at the beginning of the article, you’ll notice that none of these items are large, heavy, or hard to come by. In fact, with the exception of an Internet connection (which is not at all hard to come by these days), all of them could easily fit into your backpack. I also mentioned that the toilet I taught from was located in a hotel room. Do you see where I’m going with this yet?
Travel! That’s right, you can absolutely take your classroom on the road. In fact, if you want to go on vacation but can’t afford to miss an entire workweek, why not pack your laptop and teach a few classes from your hotel or AirBnB?
As long as you can find an Internet connection (remember, you can always use your smartphone’s data!) you are really only limited by your imagination.
Over the years, I have traveled the world and I have often brought my students along with me. Just because you have to be a Canadian or an American citizen doesn’t mean you have to be in Canada or America to teach. I have really cut into the costs of traveling by squeezing in a few lessons here and there on my downtime.
But if traveling is not your thing (or if say, you’re in the midst of a global pandemic and traveling isn’t exactly in the cards) there are still plenty of reasons to get excited about a new career in the world of online teaching.
When a friend of mine was pregnant with her first child, she started teaching to earn a little extra money before the baby arrived. Then, once the baby got onto a reliable sleep schedule, she came back to teaching English with VIPKid. It allowed her to keep earning a steady income while staying at home with her new child.
I also have plenty of friends who are in school or are pursuing careers in the arts who need a reliable side hustle to keep on top of their bills.
Whatever your situation, VIPKid and the world of online teaching can be an excellent way to start earning extra income or add a steady income source to your life using only the skills and equipment already at your disposal.
What about the negatives? Are there any downsides to Teaching English with VIPKid?
Alright, let’s be real. No job is ever perfect. So I might as well prepare you for a few (and there really are only a few) things that I don’t love about the job.
👉 The first is a bit of a double-edged sword, in that this is something I sometimes love, and other times I find challenging. Once you are hired and teaching, there is typically very little communication between you and the company. There is no one constantly peeking over your shoulder. No one is sending you emails about your performance. Honestly, after some of the jobs I have had, this is pretty refreshing.
The downside is that if you do have an issue that needs urgent attention, it can sometimes feel like you’re yelling into a void. You might not always get a response right away. And when you do, you might find that you didn’t exactly get what you were looking for.
👉 Also, it’s pretty likely that at some point you might encounter your own technical problems. Maybe the power goes out at your house. Maybe your computer decides to restart and update just before a scheduled lesson begins. When this happens, you might find yourself in a similar boat. If you can reach someone at tech support they might be able to help you. If not, you might wind up missing your class.
I will say that VIPKid makes it easy to reach out to The Firemen. There is a button built right into the classroom interface. You can also reach them through the app on your phone. But getting a response can sometimes take longer than the lesson itself.
👉 The other downside relates to something I just mentioned: missing a scheduled class. If you sleep in or don’t make it to class for whatever reason, VIPKid takes it very seriously.
I will say that VIPKid is much more forgiving when teachers encounter technical problems (maybe your microphone just isn’t working that day). For those instances, you just don’t get paid for the lesson, but you won’t be further penalized in any way.
👉 This is also probably the best time to address something that traditional, brick and mortar teachers will likely be wondering about. I frequently hear that this part of the job is by far the thing they hate most about teaching: the parents.
For the most part, I have had nothing but positive experiences dealing with the parents of my students. It’s often the case that they will sit beside their student during their lessons (usually just out of frame). As you hear them repeating after you and encouraging their child, it can sometimes feel like your teaching two people instead of one. Then, there are the parents who sit directly beside their children. You will get to know them almost as well as the students themselves.
But there’s a catch coming, isn’t there? You wouldn’t have put this in the negative section if there wasn’t a catch on the way.
👉 Another way that parents choose their teachers is to check out the teachers’ past reviews. After completing a lesson, parents are encouraged to rate the performance of their teacher on a scale from one to five. Maybe it’s time to revisit that restaurant metaphor because this is where you start feeling like you’re getting Yelp reviews.
Parents don’t always review, and when they do, they are often very generous. Almost everyone I’ve encountered is only too happy to give their teacher a five apple review (VIPKid uses apples instead of stars). However, there are always a few parents who are never quite satisfied and who may give you a poor review.
While one or two bad reviews won’t make much of a difference, you’ll want to make sure they aren’t adding up.
I would like to add that if you think a parent was being particularly harsh with a bad review, VIPKid offers you the opportunity to contest a negative review. Sometimes they will agree and wipe a bad review off your record. I’ve also seen bad reviews taken away because parents simply had the grading scale backward (meaning they thought one apple was the best).
👉 Besides the two tech-related issues and, of course, the parents, the only other downside I’ve encountered is one that all prospective teachers (and, honestly, everyone else) should keep in mind. And that’s burnout.
Because you will be making your own schedule, it can be tempting to always try and squeeze in as much work as possible. Have a night off? Why not teach a few extra lessons. No weekend plans? Let’s open up a few teaching slots!
This may work for some people. I’ve found that I really do have a limit on exactly how much I can teach before my body and brain start to push back. Let’s be real, the only reason you’re reading this article in the first place is that you want to make a little extra money. But take it from someone who has made this mistake so you don’t have to: start slow, challenge yourself and test your limits, but don’t try to take on too much too soon.
Avoid burnout by setting an achievable schedule and slowly building up if you find yourself wanting to teach more lessons. Even a few extra classes a week can start to become exhausting pretty quick, so make sure you pace yourself. After all, one of the big perks of this job is just how fun it can be. So make sure you’re prioritizing your money, while also leaving plenty of room for fun!
Besides VIPKid, Are There Any Other Online Teaching Companies?
There are honestly dozens out there and there seem to be new ones popping up every day. VIPKid is definitely the largest platform with the most students and teachers, but there are also other similar companies. Gogokid, Skooli, iTutorGroup, DaDa, and Whales English for example. There are dozens of companies available, each with its own requirements. Some don’t even require a degree.
Each of these companies offers something different, but the job (and the pay) are usually pretty similar.
I teach for VIPKid, but I also teach a few lessons a week for Gogokid. Part of the reason why is because I like to know what other companies are offering. Some months Gogokid might be offering better incentives than VIPKid or vice versa. Having the freedom to go from one to the other can certainly have its advantages. I also just like the change of pace. Sometimes it can get a little boring teaching the same lessons over and over (and over and over and…). Having two platforms to choose from is a great way to avoid a sense of monotony with the workday.
Additionally, if basic English lessons don’t sound like your thing, there are now several online teaching companies that focus entirely on native English speaking children. The biggest of these right now is definitely Outschool.
If you do not already know someone who is working as an online teacher, the job description can seem a little too good to be true. That’s how I felt four years ago, right before I started my own online teaching journey. Since then, I have been fortunate to earn steady pay while teaching thousands of children across multiple different platforms.
Is the job perfect? Not exactly. But it absolutely allows me the freedom to pursue and focus on my own career and passions without having to sacrifice any energy on the stress of worrying about my next paycheck. Whether you’re looking for full-time work or a bit extra to help you save money or pay off debt, teaching English with VIPKid can meet your needs.
If you’ve stuck with me from the beginning of the article (first of all, thank you!) you’ll remember that I began by saying that I have worked dozens of different jobs over the years. Since I started teaching with VIPKid though, I haven’t once handed out a resume or gone looking for a better gig.
I don’t expect I’ll be teaching with VIPKid forever. But while I build my own business and focus on my own creative projects, VIPKid is the ideal side-hustle for me!
And whether you want to start earning a full-time salary or just a few extra bucks on the weekend, I strongly encourage you to check them out. There’s no commitment and no upfront costs so you absolutely have nothing to lose! And who knows… You might find your new perfect job or the ideal side gig that will allow you the freedom to start chasing your own dreams.
Either way, you may not have known an online teacher before today, but you do now. So think of this as me extending my hand and welcoming you into the fun, exciting, and profitable world of online teaching! 🥰
Do you have any questions about teaching English with VIPKid? Let us know in the comments!