Thinking of applying to teach ESL with VIPKID? Maybe you’ve seen posts on Facebook from teachers claiming that they make $1000 a month teaching from home in their jammies, and you can too if you’d just PM them for details. It seems like an ideal gig for brick and mortar teachers looking to supplement their income or for a stay at home parent hoping to work while their kids are sleeping. Is it really? Or, too good to be true? Start here with this list of FAQ to see if VIPKID would be a good fit for you.
What is VIPKID, exactly?
VIPKID is a company that contracts Americans to teach English online to Chinese school children. Students generally range from about 3 years old up to 12 years old. Teachers follow a series of PowerPoints, occasionally supplementing with extra conversation, props, rewards, and games. Teachers use the VIPKID platform, and IT and parent issues are all dealt with by VIPKID. You just log on, teach, fill out quick feedback, and go on with your life. No lesson plans, grading, etc.
Seems legit. How much do I get paid?
You might see a lot of comments on Facebook or other social media promising upwards of $1,500 a month with VIPKID. Is that possible? Meh, maybe. But the payment system is a little tricky, and there are a few things to keep in mind before mentally calculating your potential earnings. First, base pay is $7-9 per 30 minute class. After 30 classes per month, you add another $.50 per class to all classes taught that month. After 45 classes, you bump up to a $1 extra. If you are scheduled for a short notice class (within 24 hours), you add $2 for that class. If a trial student signs up after you teach them (more about that later), you add an extra $5 for that class. So, your potential earnings range from $14-22 per hour. Second thing to keep in mind is the available hours. You are working morning/evening Beijing Time, plus their weekends. You have to be available when the demand is there, otherwise you won’t get booked. That means a 4 AM wake up or an occasional all nighter. Keep that in mind when adding up your potential paycheck. Payment for the month gets directly deposited into your bank account by the 15th of the following month.
Pretty good! So, I could easily work 2-3 hours per day and get a substantial paycheck, right?
Maybe. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are not guaranteed any bookings. You are an independent contractor. The way it works is, you open up times when you are available to work, and either the VIPKID sales team or the clients schedule a class. Since parents won’t know you when you first begin, most new teachers rely on the sales team to book trial classes. Some new teachers get booked immediately, some do not. While there are many theories as to why some teachers are successful from the start, it’s clear that some new teachers do everything right and still get off to a really slow start. Don’t quit your day job (at least not right away)! Which brings us to our next question…
$20 an hour is more than I get teaching at my brick and mortar school. And I would have to deal with administration, parents, lesson plans, etc. etc. Maybe I should just quit and do VIPKID full time?
Nooooo! At least, not at first. Maybe down the line, doing VIPKID full time might work for some people. However, you are an independent contractor with very little control, and that’s a risky spot to be in if you are relying on that income alone to pay the bills. Remember, this gig isn’t offering any benefits, and you will owe taxes on this income.
Yes, VIPKID will send you a 1099, and you will need to pay taxes on this income. Many people set aside about 30%, but it’s different for every situation. You need to talk to a CPA to know what’s right for you. On the plus side, you can write off things you buy (like props, rewards, etc), but again…a CPA is the only one who can really answer these questions for you.
Ok. Still sounds pretty good. What are the requirements for applying? I’m not a classroom teacher/don’t have an education background/never taught ESL/whatever.
Requirements are fairly straightforward. You must be American or Canadian, a native English speaker, have at least an undergraduate degree, and have some experience working with kids. They are fairly flexible with what that experience can be, but it must be something.
I have a graduate degree/twenty years of classroom experience/etc. Am I an obvious choice? Will my pay reflect my professional achievements in the field of education?
No. It probably won’t hurt, but it might not help at all. One thing that’s hard for some applicants to wrap their head around is that their outstanding achievements in the wonderful field of education don’t really matter in this context. You aren’t teaching in the traditional sense, and VIPKID is a for-profit company. They will hire you if you are good at doing what they want a teacher to do: energetically walk the students through their set curriculum.
Ok, I’m really not that perky or creative. Should I pass on this?
Not necessarily. You do have to maintain a certain level of energy to be engaging in an online teaching environment. These are young kids, and you are just a face on a computer screen. However, you might have seen some pretty overly obnoxious youtubers giving tips and tutorials, and you definitely don’t have to be *that* crazy. You probably do need to go a bit out of your comfort zone during the interview process, but you can generally mellow out a bit once you get a good feel for your students.
Commenters on social media want me to use their referral link. That sounds scammy.
Anyone promising tons of easy money for little to no work is scamming you, so scroll past those guys. But no, VIPKID isn’t a MLM scam. Established teachers get a referral bonus if someone applies using their referral link and makes it through the referral process to teach a class. Basically, it’s an incentive for teachers to help mentor new teachers because the process can be a bit confusing. Help from the company is half a world away, and the language barrier can be tricky. It is nice knowing that, if you sign up with a referral link, you don’t have to feel bad about bugging the mentor with questions since they are getting a bit of cash to do it. But, it’s not free money. Anyone making exaggerated claims is probably just trying to get that referral fee. If someone promises you $1000 a month right off the bat…nope. You can use mine (here; code 065HH8), and I’m happy to answer questions honestly, plus help you with set up and lighting and whatnot. However, if you have a personal friend already with VIPKID, that would be the ideal way to go.
I applied for VIPKID, and I didn’t get the job. Should I try again?
Maybe! Some people seem to have good luck with waiting six months and trying again. Other people attempt to re-do the application with a different email address. However, it might just not be a great fit for you. I would re-evaluate before investing anymore time, energy, or money into VIPKID.