The second I graduated college, I crammed all my possessions into my backpack and flew across the world. I explored Northern Thailand for a bit, poked around Myanmar, and spent a month in Vietnam. Then I took my TEFL Heaven course in Krabi, taught English in Bangkok, and (after a few more detours) found an apartment in Chiang Mai.
Point being, I move around. A lot. So I need a job that can move with me. Teaching online allows me to travel while still making money—freeing me to pursue my writing dreams on the side.
Online teaching is a great way to make sure you have a steady flow of cash coming in every month. It’s part-time work so unless you live somewhere with a low cost of living you should pair it with another part-time job, but it’s definitely a great little gig. You can choose your own hours, work in your sweatpants, and chat with adorable Chinese children every day.
VIPKID classes are half an hour each. They’re one-on-one Skype sessions in a “classroom” complete with a powerpoint, pen tool, and star-reward system. You just click through the powerpoint, spending about a minute on each slide.
You can access the powerpoint in advance online, but I like to flip through it on the mobile app. I spend about 40 minutes prepping and gathering props for new lessons. Most of my lessons are repeats, though, so I can just pull the right props out of my magic box.
You don’t have to be an artist to come up with great props. White boards are super useful and students respond well to realia (real objects being shown). I just go overboard because doodling keeps me sane.
It took me about a month to get regular classes, and I’m still getting more bookings every day. Right now, I teach about four classes a night on weeknights and ten classes a day on weekends. #Hustling
You don’t have to give up your weekends if you don’t want to, though. You can open as many or as few half-hour time slots as you want. You can also close time slots at any point, as long as they haven't been booked yet.
Still, the goal is to get consistent students, and students tend to book the same time every week…so consistent hours help, even if they're not necessary.
Students also tend to book classes about four weeks in advance, so you want to have at least a month’s worth of class slots open at all times. The “hottest” slots are “PPT” slots: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Beijing time, when students are home from school. This is pretty early in the States, so you can get some work in before the rest of your day takes over!
Altogether, it’s a pretty flexible, low-commitment setup—which means you can take time off for adventures or Netflix whenever you like.
VIPKID offers teachers $7-$11 USD per half hour class—so $14-$22 per hour. But really, that number is higher. You get $1 for showing up to class on time and $1 per class for completing 45+ classes. Your TEFL certificate should give you an extra boost for your initial contract, but let’s just say you botch the interview and start at $7 per class. If you teach 45 classes on time, you’ll make $9 per class…or $18 per hour. That’s way better than Starbucks.
You also get an extra $2 if a student books your class last-minute, and $5 if a trial student signs up with VIPKID. Sometimes, a student cancels late and a new student books their old slot last-minute…and you get paid for both classes.
The hardest part about teaching online is just getting started. But VIPKID loves TEFL-trained teachers, so if you’re reading this blog you probably have or will have a leg up there! Still, I’ve never liked interviews and VIPKID’s was especially arduous. But I got through it and so can you!
The process involves a few different steps. First, you submit your résumé and application. Then, you sit down with the training materials and teach yourself how to teach. And then, the real work begins.
For the first step, you get a choice. You can either schedule a Skype date or submit a video of you teaching an invisible, silent child. I chose the latter. It was a weird experience, but I got to record and re-record until I felt happy with it. Plus, it wasn’t an interview. Always good in my book.
Great! You’ve successfully taught an absent child. Now you get to teach an adult pretending to be a child. Got anxiety? Me too. But you don’t have to be perfect—just energetic and engaging. So have some fun with it!
Congrats! You’re a teacher! Now record a video selling how awesome you are. This is important, because parents and students watch these videos when deciding who to book. So, once again, be energetic, smiley, and fun!
You’ll learn more about all of these steps in the training phase, but I hope this gives you a sense of what to expect. Basically, there are a lot of steps, so don’t burn yourself out prepping too hard for any of them. Read the training materials, watch some tutorials, and prep a few props. Then breathe, smile, and be ready to adapt!
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