Last year, I started hearing about and seeing some teacher friends doing this online gig teaching English one-on-one to kids in China. After finishing up my Masters in December, I found myself with more time than I am used to so I decided to check it out myself. I’m glad I did! Here’s a quick rundown and any of you fellow teachers or stay-at-home moms/past teachers may want to look into it. (P.S. If you do, use my referral link please! https://t.vipkid.com.cn/?refereeId=12271165&refersourceid=a01 )
What is it like?
You teach one-on-one classes via an online portal for 25 minutes. Curriculum is prepared by VIP Kid, so all you have to do is prep maybe the night before the class and know the target vocabulary, sentence stems, phonics patterns, high frequency words, etc that will be covered in the lesson. You may teach trial classes to kids trying out VIP Kid for the first time or major courses to kids already enrolled in it. Trials are a bit more challenging because you don’t know student’s exact levels and they may have never done the online thing before, so it’s a bit intimidating for them! There are levels 1-6 with Level 1 (Pre-VIP) being age based for kids under 5 years old. Currently levels 1 and 2 are interactive, whereas in upper levels, you and the student can write on the screen but much of the interactivity is through acting things out and props. Most of your students will likely be emergent English levels, so you have to be very energetic, speak slowly, use lots of TPR (Total Physical Response), and find ways to get the students engage. The goal in lower levels is 50% teacher talk/50% student talk. In upper levels, the goal is 30% teacher/70% student. Getting certified for different levels can take awhile. Initially after being hired, you may only be allowed to do trial classes until you’ve completed a certain number. I was invited to do the Level 1 kiddos based on my mock classes and I’m glad I did because a lot of my first classes were with this age group! Even after a couple months, I only have level 1 and 2 certifications. This may move faster if you teach more classes, but I primarily do weekends only and that works for me.
How much are you paid?
This part seems complicated, but once you figure it out, it makes a lot of sense. Essentially, you will receive a base pay per class between $7-$9. This is determined based on your experience, interview, and mock classes. Then for each class that starts and finishes on time, you receive $1 for the “participation incentive”. Let’s say you start out with a small schedule…for example, my base pay is $8. So when I complete a class, I get $9 total ($18 for the hour if I teach 2 classes). But then, if it is a short notice booking, meaning they booked less than 24 hours in advance, you get an extra $2. So now, I could be earning $11 per class or $22 in an hour. But if you teach a lot of classes in a month, there’s even more incentive! If you teach 30-45 classes within a month (even if they are no-shows), you get an extra $0.50 per class. If you teach 45+ classes, you get an extra $1 per class. Some people teach a LOT and so they bring home more money than I even made as a classroom teacher. But there are a few caveats…
Student no-shows: This is common with trial classes. If a student does not show up for a trial, you have to wait 15 minutes or until it is marked as no show. Then you’ll get only 50% of the base pay. You still get the participation incentive though, short notice if applicable, and it counts toward finished classes.
Teacher no-shows: VIP Kid is really hard on these. You can only have six no-shows during a six month contract period, or they can fire you. If you cancel with less than 2 hours to go or don’t show up, it counts against your six no shows and they deduct $10 from your pay. If you cancel between 2-24 hours in advance, it counts against you and you lose $2.
Taxes: You are considered an independent contractor when you work for VIP Kid, so none of your earnings are taxed initially which means you may owe a lot come tax time! You’ll want to consult with a tax professional to determine if you need to estimate and pay your taxes quarterly and how to file accurately. Don’t forget to set aside quite a bit of your earnings to pay Uncle Sam!
- Bachelors Degree (or Associates is acceptable if it’s in early childhood education)
- Native English speaker
- Experience teaching kids in some capacity from ages 5-12
- Computer with good Internet
- Criminal background check
I’ve read different things on who gets accepted and estimates that only 6-10% of applications are accepted. Talk up all teaching experience and even if you don’t have an official teaching background, if you’ve worked with kids at all, list everything you can on the application and you never know! It doesn’t hurt to try.
- Application: To sign up, go to the website: https://t.vipkid.com.cn/register. You’ll have to fill out a short application form where you need to highlight all the work you’ve done with children. Be specific. Then you’ll wait to receive an email and see if your application is accepted in order for you to move on to the next step.
- Interview/Demo Class: At this point, you’ll have to prepare for a demo class which is basically your interview. You can sign up for a time slot and do it with a staff member, or you can record your own and send it in. I opted to record my own at a time that worked for me (11pm at night :)), but I don’t suggest it. Here’s why: the first few minutes of the interview, the staff member will ask you a few questions about your experience and background, or if you’re recording your own, you just talk about it. This part was fine. The next 15 minutes, you will record a shortened demo class using the material they will send you via pdf. If you’re doing it with the staff member, they will pretend to be a 5 year old with limited English. This sounded strange to me, so I decided to do the self-recorded option when you have to pretend you’re talking to a 5 year old that isn’t even there. This turned out to be much harder! I recommend signing up to do the video interview with the staff member. **Wear an orange t-shirt for every video/mock class in this process, as this gives you little brownie points since it’s the company’s color! (I wore one inside out because it was the only orange one I had, but it had a picture on the front and no one ever said a word…)
- Teacher Training & Quiz: If you pass the interview/demo class, they will send you 6 hours of material to study and videos to watch to learn about the curriculum, teaching techniques, and more. Then you take a quiz, which you must get 80% on to pass to the next step. But you can take it multiple times, so it’s not too stressful.
- Mock Class 1: In a 30 minute video chat with a VIP Kid mentor teacher, you’ll teach a full 25 minutes just like you would with a kid. However, it is split up into two parts. The first 15 minutes, you will teach part of a level 2 lesson (material provided to you ahead of time so you can prepare). Then your mentor will stop you and give you feedback. The last 10 minutes, you will teach part of a level 5 lesson, at which point your mentor will give you additional feedback. **This mock class is super important, as your mentor will choose personality tags for your profile based on your teaching. Good personality tags associated with your profile will help increase your bookings! (Once you’re hired, you can email the support site FreshDesk and ask what your tags are. I was happy to see mine were the following: outgoing, enthusiastic, phonics and reading, body language and facial expression, speaking and discussion!)
- Mock Class 2, if requested: Following your first mock class, you will receive an email indicating if you are immediately hired or if they want to see you do a second mock class so you have more practice time.
- Sign contract/upload paperwork: If you’re hired, congratulations! At this point, you will sign and upload the contract, a copy of your bachelor’s degree, government issued ID, and teaching certifications (if you have any). You will need to fill out a W-9 form and upload your bank account information too, so you can get paid!
- Set up your profile for parents to see: You will upload a few photos of yourself and record a short greeting video that showcases your personality and maybe a prop or two. I put mine together on iMovie, put a quick intro slide with your name, perhaps some music behind it, and talked with my monkey puppet. Remember to talk slow and be enthusiastic! Parents use these to decide whether or not to book classes with you.
- FINALLY open up slots for booking and be patient! It can take awhile to build up bookings, especially in the beginning. I don’t open up very many due to limited time, but they’re still not fully booking yet.
How do I get booked?
The beauty of this gig is that you can open up as many or as few slots as you want. You can open slots from the app on your phone or online and if you check the little box, this means you’re willing to do a short notice class that can be booked in less than 24 hours. If you do this, make sure you’re paying attention to the app! I’ve heard of people that checked this box, went to sleep, and forgot to check in the early morning and missed classes, racking up teacher no shows and losing pay. 😦 I only ever do the 24 hour booking myself for classes that are after other ones I already have booked. I have a hard enough time waking up as it is!
Here is one of my previous weeks…I leave for work at 6:15am, so I only have time for one class in the morning during the week at 5:30am without waking up too crazy early. Your times will depend on your current time zone. I’m on Central Time because it’s Bogota time, so Beijing time is 13 hours ahead. It’s important to note the red and orange times. Red is Peak Peak Time (PPT) which is when most kids want classes and they’re likely to be booked first. Orange is Peak Time (PT), which is also highly sought after. If you have a boring weekend, this is a great time to maybe pull an all-nighter and make some cash!
Below you see an upcoming week. I only opened up Saturday and Sunday morning times. Only a few are booked so far and may fill throughout the week. I checked the 24 hour short notice box so that way they could still sign up Saturday morning if they so choose (and I get an extra $2 bonus!).
Support after being hired:
Even after doing tons of research, reading other blogs, and watching videos, I felt kind of lost after getting hired. This is where I was thankful for social networking! On Facebook, there are two groups in particular: VIP Kid Newbie Support and VIP Kid Teachers. These are great to ask questions, read others’ questions/advice, and learn! I also started following some teachers on Instagram to get ideas and support.
VIP Kid offers discussion forums through something called the Hutong (where you can also do challenges and earn coins to be redeemed for different things), something called FreshDesk where you can submit tickets if you have questions or problems, and they have lots of workshops and material to teach yourself. The workshops are taught by VIP Kid Teachers and you sign up for a particular time and it’s like a webinar workshop. I haven’t actually done any myself because the times don’t work out for me, but they seem helpful from clips I’ve watched.
Are you enthusiastic and interested in making some quick money working from home while wearing pajama shorts on bottom and an orange shirt on top?? Use my referral link if you decide to sign up! Thanks! https://t.vipkid.com.cn/?refereeId=12271165&refersourceid=a01