I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) at a language center in Vietnam, but I work online at VIPKID on my days off. As you might guess, teaching in-person classes and teaching online are different in a few critical ways. In this post, I hope to highlight the positives of working online because they really do outweigh the negatives.
Above all, teaching online means flexibility regarding both time and location, which is an invaluable benefit for travelers. VIPKID is a fun job that works around you—all with a competitive hourly wage of up to $22 per hour!
I know what it’s like to search for online jobs and sources of passive income online and come up with nothing that either a) fits your qualifications/lifestyle or b) pays well enough to be a worthwhile use of your time. As far as gig economy jobs go, you really can’t ask for more than what VIPKID has to offer.
Note: If you apply to become a VIPKID teacher with my referral link, pass the interview, and teach a class I will earn a referral bonus for coaching you through the process! If you’ve already started the process but do not yet have a referrer, you can add me (CARLY0102) and I will get in contact with you to find out how I can help! Click here to skip to the bottom of this post and make sure you meet VIPKID’s four basic teacher requirements.
Despite the commission, all opinions expressed in this post are my own. These are the honest reasons I love working at VIPKID.
Benefits of teaching English online with VIPKID
1. VIPKID fits into my schedule and helps me diversify my income.
I moved to Saigon, Vietnam to teach English in January 2019. When I arrived, I had a job all lined up and I expected just to teach in-person classes to Vietnamese kids here in Vietnam. I never imagined I would end up teaching on an online platform, but it’s helped to stabilize my teaching income while allowing me to rebuild my savings.
As you might expect, moving abroad costs of a lot of money. Setup costs included my plane ticket, apartment deposit, transportation (in Vietnam’s case, a motorbike), business visa expenses, essentials like pots/pans, and more. It adds up quickly. Even after a couple of months’ paychecks, I was still depleting my savings. My partner and I were assigned only about 20 paid teaching hours per week. We needed to find side income somewhere.
Filling out my teaching schedule with VIPKID
Classes at my language center in Vietnam are paid hourly and assigned on a week-by-week basis. The school assigns a seemingly random number of hours and classes from week to week. If I finish a few classes at the same time I could go from 26 to 12 hours per week (a difference of over $250 per week) without any new classes to replace the ones I lose.
Now that I work at VIPKID, when the language center gives me my new schedule every Saturday, I can hop onto the VIPKID teacher app and fill in the gaps with VIPKID teaching hours instead!
I feel so much more secure knowing that, one way or another, I can fill my schedule from week to week. Between my school and VIPKID, I now work about 25 hours each week—plenty to live a great life abroad in Southeast Asia. Plus, I can work even more hours with VIPKID if I ever want to!
2. Competitive hourly wages
I initially assumed that online teaching jobs pay less than teaching in an ESL classroom in-person. It surprised me to learn the difference in pay is not much at all!
VIPKID pays $21 per hour. My in-person language center pays about $19 for beginner teachers. But putting aside money for taxes brings my hourly income down to about $17 per hour—$2 less than I make at my language center.
The difference is that, with VIPKID, teachers are responsible for their own taxes because they’re considered “independent contractors.”
From my research, I learned that I should be setting aside about 20% of my VIPKID paychecks for taxes later on. I only work about 10 hours per week max with VIPKID, so I probably won’t actually owe that much but with taxes, you always want to be on the safe side.
In short: When you get your first VIPKID paycheck, remember to set aside a good chunk so you aren’t hit with any big surprises during tax season. Please research or hire a professional to determine how much you should be saving for taxes.
One more thing I love about VIPKID’s pay system: if the student doesn’t show up, I still get paid.
The first time the student didn’t show up for an online lesson, I wasn’t sure what to do. I started Googling and quickly found my answer. Yes, I needed to wait for the full scheduled 25-minute lesson with my camera on, but even if the student never showed up, I would still get paid!
Because I have wireless headphones, I can leave my “classroom” (really just a decorated wall in the corner of my kitchen) and finish my dishes and make more coffee while I wait. Of course, I would rather actually teach the student since no-shows are ineligible for any extra bonuses on top of their hourly wage.
Still, it felt pretty nice to get paid while finishing up some housework and getting ready for my next few lessons!
3. Wherever you go, your classroom follows.
You can work anywhere you like with VIPKID. I teach from my apartment dining room table in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. But when I go home to visit my family in America for a few weeks, I can take my classroom with me! At the same time, I get to set my own hours so I definitely don’t need to work if I don’t want to.
Lots of travelers use VIPKID’s flexibility to their advantage. Many use VIPKID to travel the world slowly, hopping from one wifi-friendly Airbnb (register a new account at Airbnb and get $40 off on your first stay) to the next every month. Check out these Facebook groups for all kinds of tips. (Ex. How to get an internet speed test for your Airbnb reservation, stories from teachers visiting their students in China, packable props, etc.)
Another huge advantage of location independence? No commuting! This saves so much time and frees me up to teach even more classes. I open the app on my laptop, click, and… that’s it! I’m in the classroom.
One last thing: Did I mention I get to work in an orange t-shirt and my comfiest pants?
4. You get to work with students one-on-one.
It’s a personal preference, but I prefer to work with students individually instead of in a classroom setting. There is so much more room for me to individualize my lessons and therefore really get to know the student.
For example, if I learn that a student really likes Pokemon, we will use a Pokemon rewards system or even use Pikachu to model pronouns. I can also talk to them about their school, their pets, and their family—anything that brings language learning to life!
Bonus: Easily managed classroom discipline
One of my favorite things about the online learning environment: you only need to deal with one naughty student at a time, max.
You never need to chase the kids around or raise your voice like you may need to do in a real-life classroom with 15+ students.
At worst, you have a student who is playing videogames and not really listening to you. In that case, you can let the parents know in the comments and then they will likely help supervise their kid during the next lesson—not bad!
5. Working for VIPKID is honestly pretty easy.
VIPKID has its own curriculum designed for online learners and teachers. Students engage by circling answers or dragging objects around on interactive slides. The lesson contains almost everything you need, but most teachers use a few basic props to help.
Once you teach a few classes and have the most essential props (whiteboard, letter flashcards, rewards system, and misc. flashcards), preparing takes almost no time at all. I prep for maybe 5 minutes per lesson. Mostly, I glance through the materials and set out the props I need in the order I’ll be using them.
Aside from easy prep, good students make the job especially easy. I would say about 75% of the students I’ve taught are pretty great! Others are distracted or didn’t express much joy for for learning, which can be demoralizing, but that can happen in any classroom.
When I connect with a student, the lesson absolutely flies by and it doesn’t feel like a job at all. They’re the ones you make you think, ‘Wow, I’m making money and having fun at the SAME TIME?!’
If you meet the basic requirements and you like to work with kids, you should definitely apply to work for VIPKID! Here are the three things you need to get an interview:
- You must be an American or Canadian citizen. Unfortunately, that’s just how their business is set up. There are a few different online teaching platforms for non-Americans.
- You must be fluent in English.
- You need a few years of experience working with kids. Babysitting and other miscellaneous kid-related activities count. Don’t feel bad about playing up your experience.
- You need a bachelor’s degree. You don’t need a major in English, teaching, or any particular subject. (Mine is in journalism and photography.) A bachelor’s degree in anything will work!
Please use this link to add me as your referrer. (If you’re adding me after you’ve already applied, please enter CARLY0102) I would be honored to help you get started earning a second income stream while having fun on VIPKID!
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