Updated January 2018
Teaching English online is becoming very popular. It’s a great way to move abroad without the stress of lining up a job first. You could even bounce around different countries until you find one you like, earning money along the way. Aside from traveling, it provides the opportunity to simply work from home. More and more online teaching companies are popping up every day. How do you choose the best one? In this article, we go into detail about what it’s like to teach with VIPKID so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you. You’ll learn about the company, the job itself, pros & cons, and the application process.
About the Company
VIPKID is a Beijing-based online English teaching company, paving the way for online language learning. Started in 2013, it has grown exponentially over the past year. In January 2016, they had a few hundred teachers. Now, they have grown to have over 20,000 teachers and over 200,000 students, and they don’t plan to stop growing anytime soon. They have become so popular that many investors are lining up to chip in. Even Kobe Bryant has invested in the company!
VIPKID’s mission is to provide children in China an American elementary school education. Their one-on-one immersive program is based on the US’s Common Core State Standards curriculum. Children from the ages of 5-12 years old are able to have classes with a native English speaker without having to leave the comfort of their home. They use a flipped classroom method that has been proven to increase student’s understanding as well as foster critical thinking skills. As people who used to teach in China, we know critical thinking is rarely taught in Chinese schools.
VIPKID is becoming more and more popular. They have had write-ups by multiple news organizations. Read this article from Bloomberg Technology and this one from the South China Morning Post. They’ve even been ranked Forbes #1 work from home job in 2018.
Ready to apply? Click this link.
- American or Canadian
- Bachelor’s Degree in anything
- One year experience teaching or working with children
- A TEFL or TESOL helps but is not required
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There aren’t many VIPKID requirements. Because their curriculum is based on the American Common Core State Standard, they only hire teachers with a North American accent. You don’t have to be based there, but you do have to submit a scan of your passport to prove you’re from there.
You must have a Bachelor’s Degree in any field and at least one year experience teaching or working with children. This can include working at a daycare or summer camp and can even include babysitting. You also must be very high energy. It requires more effort to excite the students than teaching in a conventional classroom.
The pay is $7-9 USD per class with the potential to earn a $2 bonus per class. That makes the earning potential $11 per class. Classes are 25 minutes each, scheduled in 30-minute time slots because you have to put in feedback for the parents when the class is finished. The extra 5 minutes gives you time to do this while the class is still fresh in your mind.
Your base pay is calculated based on your previous experience plus your interview and demo. They offered me $8 per class when I was hired but other people who I’ve referred have been given $7.50 at the start. The company deposits your salary directly to your bank account by the 15th of each month.
Contracts are 6-months long so working for VIPKID is not a long-term commitment. You have the ability to earn a $.50 raise after two contracts if you successfully complete the raise criteria. The criteria include teaching a certain amount of classes in the 12 month period, getting a certain percentage of high ratings from parents, and the number of cancellations you have.
You set your own schedule and the parents book the teachers. You will make a profile for yourself that has all your information plus a VIPKID teacher bio that you write and a video the parents can watch.
The company suggests you open up 15 time slots (7.5 hours) each week as this will provide more opportunities for parents to book your class. Previously this was a requirement but now they’ve changed the wording to say it’s a suggestion. There is no limit to how many time slots you open up so you could potentially teach up to 50 classes every week!
Start your application process by clicking here!
VIPKID Peak Hours
As the kids are school-age, VIPKID happens after school. The peak times for classes are from 6pm-10pm Beijing time every day as well as 9am-10pm (all day) Saturday and Sunday. Beijing time is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST) and 12 hours ahead during Daylight Savings Time (EDT). This is what the time looks like in different time zones….
VIPKID peak hours in:
- EST 5am – 9am; EDT 6am – 10am
- CST 4am – 8am; CDT 5am – 9am
- MST 3am – 7am; MDT 4am – 8am
- PST 2am – 6am; PDT 3am – 7am
On the weekends and in July and August, you have the option to teach more hours as the kids are not in school. There are many teachers based in the US who go nocturnal during those times and teach through the night to maximize their earnings. We’re hoping to be in Europe next summer so we can capitalize on the extra summer hours and still feel like normal people.
VIPKID PPT vs. Peak Hours
VIPKID’s classification of class times can be pretty confusing. PPT stands for “peak peak time.” Those are the hours they have the highest demand for classes from students. They are 7pm-9pm Beijing time. It’s 4 time slots on the teaching schedule. Peak hours are inclusive of all the times that are in high demand, 6 pm – 10 pm. They will often reward teachers who open slots during the peak peak times (PPT) so it’s in your best interest to teach as many as you can.
What You’ll Need
- Computer (desktop or laptop) – I recommend the Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 laptop. Writing on the slides is much easier thanks to the touchscreen. It’s portable and easy to travel with. Check the price on Amazon
- Headset – VIPKID recommends the Logitech H151; Check the price on Amazon
All you need to do the job is a computer, headset, webcam, and microphone. They can’t legally require you to do anything as we are independent contractors, but they will love it if you show up to your interview and mock classes wearing an orange shirt (their brand color) and a headset.
The company makes all the lessons as PowerPoints – one of the many reasons why working for VIPKID is great. You don’t have to prepare any lessons yourself. You simply need to familiarize yourself with the PowerPoints.
VIPKID has designed its own teaching platform on their website. It’s a sophisticated video chat similar to Skype. There is a box to upload the PowerPoint lesson where it’s visible to both the teacher and student, two smaller boxes for the video so the teacher and student can see each other and a chat box where you can type messages to the student. It looks like this:
The mouse turns into a pen allowing you to write on the slides. There are teacher directions on the bottom of each slide telling you exactly how to teach the content.
The most essential props to have are:
- Whiteboard with dry erase markers – Find the best price on Amazon
- Puppet or stuffed animal – a monkey is great because they often appear in the lessons. Check out this one; it’s cute and affordable.
- Rewards cards/game – this caterpillar token board is perfect
Having props makes the class more engaging. There is an internal reward system of giving stars but it’s more fun to show the student’s race car zipping around the track every time they do something great.
Sound Good? Apply Here
Need more convincing? Keep reading for the pros and cons.
We believe that the pros seriously outweigh the cons when working for VIPKID, but Sasha and I want to give you an honest snapshot of all the ups and downs of the job. We came up with a pros and cons list to show you exactly what we enjoy and dislike about the job.
- Set your own schedule
- Flexible schedule
- Work from home (or the road)
- Travel without taking time off
- Supportive company
- Many options for support
- Easy and fun
- Great intro to the world of ESL
- Kids are adorable
The first reason VIPKID appeals to so many people is that it’s a flexible job you can do from anywhere you have an internet connection. We absolutely love the control we have over our schedule. It enables us to hunker down and teach more when we’re stationary and book fewer classes when we’re on the road or have visitors.
It’s also pretty awesome that you can do the job so long as you have space and an internet connection. In our first year, we worked from Bali, Las Vegas, Austin, and Mexico City, just to name a few places. When we are actually living somewhere, having a 5-second commute to work is pretty amazing!
Another awesome thing about this job is being able to take time off to travel or do whatever else you want very easily. It’s very easy to schedule travel time around classes. For example, you could bust your butt one week, then take 4-5 days off to go on a short trip, then jump back into it.
This is what we have been doing the past few months as we’re traveling around South America. We were able to take a few days off to check out the Casa en el Agua off the coast of Colombia. Just last months we went to the Galapagos Islands for a week without having to ask permission from anyone. We just simply let our students know in their class feedback.
If you’re like us and can’t accept 2-day weekends and only two weeks off per year, this job rocks!
One concern a lot of people have when starting this job is whether there will be any support. While there were complaints from teachers in the company’s first two years, they’ve got a great support system in place now. They listen to their teachers. All the new support systems they’ve implemented over the past year were a result of teachers’ requests.
They’re usually quick to respond to issues by e-mail, the “firemen” (helpers during class) are always on point, and the weekly newsletter always addresses a lot of issues. On top of all that, there are multiple Facebook groups for teachers where they can share triumphant moments, get advice, and ask questions about anything.
When searching for information about working for VIPKID online, you’ll come across posts with titles like “Scam or $18 Per Hour?” After receiving many paychecks, we can assure you that it’s the latter. In fact, both of us average $21/hour thanks to the bonuses. Add in the potential for referral bonuses and all the other incentives they throw in, and it works out to be a pretty good deal.
Did we make more at some jobs in China? Sure. We also had to spend hours crammed on the Beijing subway to get there, had to plan our own lessons, and had huge classrooms of kids to deal with. We’ll take the slight pay cut for the ease and flexibility of this job.
Speaking of ease, at the end of the day this is a pretty simple gig. Show up with your orange t-shirt on, load up the lesson, and spend 25 minutes cruising through it with one student. It seems like it was all a bad dream when we look back on the times we had to create our own PPT lessons to last 1.5 hours with a room full of lazy college kids.
Working for VIPKID is also fun. You get to bring in toys and other props, make silly voices, sing songs, and play games. Happy kids = happy parents = happy company. As a teacher, you play a big part in keeping that harmony.
The Students Are Great
We can’t talk about VIPKID without mentioning the stars of the show – the VIP kids themselves. One of the best parts about working for them is all the adorable little emperors and empresses you get to meet. Before long, you’ll start having regulars who book your class on a weekly basis. Soon you’ve got a whole crew of xiao peng you (little friends) who will brighten up even your darkest day.
Finally, working with VIPKID is a great intro to the ESL world. Many people are interested in taking an English teaching job in places like China or South Korea, but that’s a huge commitment. Before signing a year-long contract, going through all the red tape, and spending $1,000 or more on a flight, give it a try for six months with VIPKID. If it goes well and you like it, you’ll be better prepared for that first job and you’ll have experience on your resume to boot.
Now that you’ve read about how awesome it is, let’s get started on the application!
- Time (depending on where you live)
- Student cancellations / No Shows
- Strict Teacher Cancellation Policy
- Must be done at specific time and place
- Extremely dependent on the internet
- Hours are not guaranteed
- Can be tiring/repetitive
Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and that’s the case working with VIPKID, too. To begin, the time difference can be pretty rough. For example, during the winter months, a teacher on Pacific Time will be facing peak teaching times of 2-6 AM. Ouch. This is a deal-breaker for many potential teachers, and it’s totally understandable. We’re planning on basing down in Europe next year so we can teach at more “normal” hours.
Not surprisingly, the company wants to be as flexible as possible for parents and their kids. Sadly for teachers, that means a lot of classes cancel at the last possible minute. If a parent cancels on you 25 hours before the class, there is no penalty and you most likely have a slot that goes unbooked.
On a similar note, trial classes often don’t show up at all. They only pay you half for that. This can be frustrating and is definitely something to consider. When it comes to teachers canceling classes, they’re a lot stricter.
This is a part-time job. That’s a very important thing to keep in mind. While we have heard of teachers who somehow manage to work 30-40 hours a week, the only way to do that is to either work every day or teach ten hours/day on the weekends.
If you’re in the US or Canada, there’s no way this can work out to be a full-time job at normal hours. You can become nocturnal and/or completely sacrifice your weekend, and even then you still won’t really get full-time hours. Regardless of your hours, you’ll still be an independent contractor, which brings us to the next point.
As an independent contractor, you’re responsible for paying your own VIPKID taxes. That means you get the added joy of more tax work. If you’re American, you have to fill out a W-9 form.
If you will owe the IRS more than $1,000 at the end of the year, they expect you to make quarterly payments. No matter where you live in the world, you’ll still owe the 15.3% self-employment tax to Uncle Sam. Trust us – we tried to figure out a way around this and there isn’t one.
Disclaimer – we are not tax experts. Discuss your situation with an accountant.
VIPKID Cancellation Policy For Teachers
The VIPKID cancellation policy for teachers can seem like it’s a little strict. You’re only allowed 6 cancellations in a contract period. Your contract is terminated on the 7th offense unless it’s a catastrophic event (see below). One perk is that you can bundle three classes into one cancellation. For example, if you have 6 classes one day that you need to cancel, you will only be charged two cancellations.
If you cancel your classes more than 24 hours before they are supposed to start, VIPKID only charges you with a cancellation. A cancellation within 24 hours of the start time will result in VIPKID taking $2 per canceled class from your paycheck. If you cancel within 2 hours, they take $10 per canceled class from your paycheck.
In my first contract, I had a lot of cancellations. I believe I had 5 total, very close to the maximum. It was mostly due to me adjusting to teaching online while transitioning from living in Bali to being back in the US. I once had to cancel a full week of classes because I was so sick, I couldn’t speak because of a massively swollen gland in my throat. Thankfully, I was able to work it out with the company.
As long as you are honest, communicative, and can show proof of your issue the company will do their best to work things out with you.
Catastrophic Event as Defined by VIPKID
Over the last few months, VIPKID has introduced new policies called “soft” and “medium” cancellations. These cancellations do not pose a risk of your contract being terminated. They are only in cases of serious illness, disaster, birth, or death. The company will determine the type of cancellation on a case-by-case basis based on your particular circumstance and supporting evidence.
These new policies are further proof of how VIKID really listens to their teachers. Neither of these policies were in place when I first started teaching with them in May of 2016. They are constantly growing and changing in order to improve the experience for everyone.
Unlike other online jobs, you have to teach your classes at a specific time and place. Parents book the classes and expect teachers to be there. This usually isn’t a problem, but obviously, stuff comes up. Your internet cuts out, you get sick, etc. This isn’t a job you can just do when you feel like it. You have to set your schedule in advance and then stick to it.
This shouldn’t be a problem for most of our American and Canadian friends living in the cozy first-world bubble, but if you’re working with VIPKID from developing countries, this can be a concern. You need a reliable, relatively fast connection to avoid the dreaded “Teacher IT” and to make this job happen.
Unstable Hours At The Start
One thing lots of teachers complain about is the unpredictability of hours. This is especially true when you’re just starting out. Parents choose their own teachers for classes, primarily based on your profile and your reviews. If you don’t have any reviews, you might see a lot of empty time slots to start. During China’s biggest holiday – Chinese New Year – you’ll also see your hours slip substantially as they’re all traveling and visiting family.
Finally, the job can be quite tiring and repetitive. Sure, it seems super easy – you wake up, pour some coffee, sit down at your computer, and speak English for 25 minutes. Do this six times in a row, though, and you realize how draining it is. You’re teaching little kids and you need to keep them excited, which means being very active, smiley, and encouraging.
We’ll get a good night’s sleep and get up to do our three hours of teaching and then crawl back into bed immediately once finished. It can also be quite repetitive. Most of the students are in Level 2, which means you end up teaching those classes over and over. If we had $1 for every time we’ve said “The big pig is in the hut,” we could take a nice luxury vacation for a few weeks!
At the end of the day, the pros seriously outweigh the cons. At least for us, having the flexibility and a job that pays $201/hour with potential for bonuses makes it well worth dealing with the time difference and paying our own taxes. After all, we originally wrote this post from Puerto Vallarta and now we’re bouncing around South America.
Working for VIPKID makes this all possible and we’re incredibly happy with our choice to do so. Apply today! Quit dreaming about working remotely and having more freedom in your life, and just go for it. We’ll buy the first round when you decide to come join us on a beach somewhere.
VIPKID Application Process
Click this link or any of the other links in this post to go to their website and create your own login. After that, you’ll be able to enter all your personal info and previous experience. As you’re not uploading your resume right off the bat, be sure to type out all your relevant teaching experience in the space provided. If you pass that stage you will be invited to book an interview + demo which you can do in person, or you can record and send to VIPKID.
Once you have scheduled your interview, they will send you the necessary materials for your demo class. The interview is an hour long with 10 minutes of the hour for the demo. Do not go over the 10 minutes! That is a huge factor in deciding whether or not to offer you a job.
If you pass the interview, you will then schedule a mock class with a Mock Class Mentor – someone who has been teaching for VIPKID for a long time and understands what to look for in a potential hire.
In the hour-long mock class, you will go through a full 25-minute class with the evaluator pretending to be a 5-year old Chinese student. They will take notes on your performance. Halfway through the class, they will stop you and offer advice on things you did well and what you can improve on. Then you will continue the class to see if you can implement their critiques.
They are not on a quest to find perfect teachers. They are looking for teachers willing to accept constructive criticism and then implement the advice given.
After your first mock class, you will either pass and be able to sign your contract and start opening classes or you will be invited to book a second mock class or attend a “Kick-Off Meeting.”
What the Heck is a “Kick-Off Meeting?!”
The “Kick-off Meeting” is a two-hour information and experience-sharing session with 10 VIPKID teacher applicants led by an experienced VIPKID teacher. They provide information that VIPKID believes is most beneficial for new teachers.
After the meeting, applicants can be sent straight to sign their contract with VIPKID and start teaching as soon as they upload their documents! Teachers will then be certified to teach trial classes for their first 5 classes. Once they’ve gotten their feet wet, they will be sent information on how to attend the Major Course Level Certification prep workshops and get access to all of our Major Course students to start building their client base.
In short, the Kick-Off Meeting is a way to secure your place with VIPKID!
What are you waiting for?! Apply now!
This post contains my personal referral link which will earn me a commission if you become an active teacher. You will have this same opportunity when you become a VIPKID teacher. As a way of saying thanks, Sasha and I will coach you through the full application process and answer any questions you may have!
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