Many people think VIPKID as a second job is too good to be true…Is VIPKID worth it?
With all the economic uncertainty (and general uncertainty) in the world right now, you may be looking for a new way to make money.
Bonus points if that new way to make money is from home.
Teaching English online is a popular side hustle. For many people, including myself, it’s even served as a primary source of income.
But, one Google search has likely shown you that there are many MANY online teaching platforms. Which one should you choose?!
Even if you’ve just dipped your toe in the online ESL waters, you’ve likely heard of VIPKID.
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You’re curious and beyond ready to start making money online, but…is VIPKID legit? Is it a scam??
After this post, you’ll know if taking on VIPKID as a second job is right for you.
This honest 2021 VIPKID review:
- Tackles whether or not VIPKID is a pyramid scheme
- Gives the ONLY advice you need to get through the rigorous hiring process
- Provides helpful tips for getting bookings as a new teacher
- Answers this all-important question:
Is VIPKID worth it?
What is VIPKID?
VIPKID is an online teaching platform where Chinese children learn English from native speakers.
Launched in 2013, VIPKID is a giant in the online ESL game. The platform has more than 500,000 students and 60,000 teachers from the United States and Canada, according to Wikipedia.
Utilizing its own curriculum and online-classroom portal, VIPKID facilitates 25-minute English language lessons. The online-classroom portal features video chat which enables face-to-face interaction between the student and teacher.
Can you actually make money with VIPKID?
Yes, you can actually make money with VIPKID.
Since 2017, I’ve personally made tens of thousands of dollars with VIPKID.
Less than $500 of that has been from referring other teachers, so NO, VIPKID is NOT a pyramid scheme.
It’s a legitimate way to make money online.
In fact, when I first moved to Mexico, VIPKID was my only source of income. Thanks to the affordable cost of living here, I didn’t even have to work full-time.
If you are interested in making VIPKID your full-time job, it’s certainly possible. I’ve read about people living in the U.S. who teach 40+ hours per week and earn a respectable income.
How much do you really make with VIPKID?
Updated Oct. 2, 2020, to reflect the new VIPKID payment system
Starting on Aug. 1, 2020, VIPKID started the process of transitioning all of the existing teachers on its platform to the newest version of its incentive pay system.
The New Service Fee Structure has been in effect for all VIPKID teachers hired since Dec. 2019.
This new pay system is significantly different that VIPKID’s previous pay structure. I left the company before the transition but have updated this post to reflect the changes.
The New Service Fee Structure factors in the number of classes you have taught since starting with VIPKID. Your “lifetime number of qualifying finished classes” will place you in one of 10 tiers.
Your tier determines how much extra incentive you earn per class. This incentive is on top of the base pay rate which is determined when you’re first hired.
For each 25-minute class, you earn a base rate that ranges from $7-$9 USD.
Your experience level and demo lesson performance determine your base rate. When I was first hired in 2017, my base rate was $8 per 25-minute class.
Under the previous pay structure, your base pay rate could increase over time. However, under the new pay structure, there are no longer base pay raises.
In this post, Online English Teaching does a great job comparing the two systems and provides examples of how it works for both new and experienced teachers.
The big takeaways from the new VIPKID pay structure are:
- If you teach fewer than 163 classes/month, you will earn less under the new system.
- To earn any tier incentives, you must teach more than 40 classes/month.
- Experienced teachers (Tier 7+) who teach more than 181 classes per month will benefit the most.
Again, I have not worked under VIPKID’s new pay system myself. If you continue reading this post, you will hear firsthand from a new VIPKID teacher who has only taught under the new payment structure. She gives her opinion as to if VIPKID is worth it for new teachers.
Personally, had I still been with VIPKID when the new pay structure was implemented, I don’t think I would have continued teaching with the company.
It’s clear that the company has implemented this new system as a cost-cutting measure. The overwhelming majority of VIPKID teachers will earn less money under the new system.
To find out how much you will earn under VIPKID’s new pay structure, check out Online English Teaching’s new service fee structure calculator.
How many hours can you get with VIPKID?
Of course, how much you really make ultimately depends on how many hours you can get with VIPKID.
Unlike other language teaching/learning platforms, VIPKID has set hours for when teachers can work. These hours are noted as “peak hours” and “peak-peak hours.”
Since the majority of VIPKID’s students live in China, teachers work on a Beijing schedule. Here’s how that breaks down:
- Peak Hours
- 8:30 p.m. – 10 a.m. EST
- Peak-peak Hours
- 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. EST
- 9 p.m. – 9 a.m. EST (Friday night through Sunday morning)
You can open your schedule for booking anytime during peak hours. Peak-peak hours are the times most popular with students.
If you’re living in the United States, teaching with VIPKID means early morning and late nights. Those hoping to work full-time won’t be able to structure their schedule like a normal 9-to-5.
But, it’s possible to get a lot of hours with VIPKID.
I read about one guy who regularly taught for 13 hours per day. That meant he was pulling all-nighters with just the five-minute break between classes.
When VIPKID was my primary source of income, I taught 25 hours per week. For months, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and had my first class at 4 a.m.
I was teaching four or five hours per day six days a week. With incentives, that came out to around $2,000 USD per month (note: this was under VIPKID’s old pay structure).
If you’re motivated, you could definitely work more than that.
But, don’t underestimate the schedule. Teaching late at night and early in the morning isn’t for the faint of heart.
Personally, I found it very difficult to teach 25 hours per week while living a normal life. It’s ultimately why I decided to scale back my hours with VIPKID and seek other sources of income.
Does VIPKID hire everyone?
So, here’s the rub: VIPKID has strict requirements for the type of teacher they’re looking for and a very rigorous hiring process to weed out everyone else.
In short, no. VIPKID does not hire everyone.
To pass the “basic info” portion and score an interview, here are the VIPKID requirements you need to meet:
- Be a native English speaker
- The company prefers a North American accent.
- Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
- What you majored in doesn’t matter
- Be eligible to work in the U.S. or Canada
- You can teach from anywhere in the world (I worked for VIPKID while living in Spain and Mexico), but you must be LEGALLY allowed to work in the U.S. or Canada.
- As of Dec. 2019, VIPKID is no longer hiring teachers from California due to a bill that was passed there.
- Have some experience working with children
- Don’t worry, formal teaching experience isn’t necessary.
- Motherhood, babysitting and tutoring all count.
- Have a reliable internet connection and appropriate tech
- Your internet connection should be at least 20 Mbps.
- To teach, you need to have a laptop or desktop with a camera (external webcams are fine too) and a headset with a microphone.
If you’re hired, you will have to submit to a background check. VIPKID uses a third-party service for this.
You don’t need to have a TESOL certification to apply, but before you can start teaching, you will have to complete VIPKID’s TESOL program. It takes about 10 hours to complete and meets the Ministry of China’s requirements.
If you already have an ESL certification of some kind, you’re good to go.
Smart demo, mock classes, TESOL certification: Teacher Tina has the latest about the 2020 VIPKID hiring process.
What kind of person does VIPKID hire?
Teaching English online is a lot different than teaching in a classroom.
If you want any chance of keeping your student’s attention, you have to bring the energy.
After you pass the “basic info” portion, you’ll be asked to either record a demo lesson or do a 30-minute live interview.
Whichever option you choose, you really need to go all out. This is your chance to show VIPKID that you are a high-energy teacher that can keep students’ attention in an online classroom.
Seriously, don’t hold back. If you think you’re acting crazy, then you just MIGHT be doing enough.
- Use TPR.
- Smile till your cheeks hurt.
- Make funny faces.
- Sing your heart out.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking VIPKID is hiring teachers.
They’re looking for performers who can deliver their curriculum in a fun and engaging way that keeps students coming back.
VIPKid Classroom Setup: What You Really Need
If you’re going to be a performer, you’ll need a stage and props.
While I definitely was one of the more minimalist teachers during my teaching English online days, there were a few items that I deemed essential for my VIPkid classroom setup.
When it comes to teaching English online, your internet connection is everything. Instead of relying on your WiFi alone, purchase a cheap Ethernet cable so you can plug directly into your modem.
I thought the click pad on my laptop was enough until I started having wrist and finger pain. If you don’t want to have to ice your hand after you finish teaching, pick up a wireless mouse to use with your laptop.
But, don’t stop at just the mouse. For maximum comfort, use a mouse pad with a gel wrist support. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.
After a poor internet connection, the biggest parent complaint is bad audio quality. It could even hold you back from getting hired by VIPKid in the first place.
Stop negative feedback in its tracks with a headset. This headset with a microphone is affordable and will help hide your bedhead during those early-morning classes.
With all the time you’re going to be spending in front of the computer, you want to be as comfortable as possible.
This sturdy ergonomic computer stand will help you maintain good posture.
Ring lights aren’t just for selfies! These handy rechargeable video lighting clips easily attach to your laptop and make having a bright VIPKid classroom on a dark morning a snap.
Some teachers really go all out with their VIPKid classroom backgrounds, but if that’s not your style, then the easiest way to decorate your background is with a kid-friendly map.
I tacked a map similar to this one on the wall behind my desk using poster putty.
Many VIPKid teachers swear by a dry erase board as their go-to prop.
Personally, when a student and I finished a lesson early and needed to kill some time, I opted for games with flashcards. Here are some of my favorites:
The Only VIPKID Advice You Need to Get Hired
Because I’m not a particularly high-energy person myself, the mindset shift (teacher vs. performer) helped me not only get hired but go on to teach for three years (very successfully) with VIPKID.
When I sat down at my computer to teach, I imagined I was flipping a switch. It was my cue to get into character.
Then, for the duration of my 25-minute class, it was balls-to-the-wall energy.
At times, I felt ridiculous. But, my students loved it.
I consistently received positive feedback from parents and never worried about bookings. My teaching schedule was full from almost day one.
Over the years, I’ve given this advice to many other VIPKID hopefuls including my boyfriend.
It took VIPKID rejecting him twice to finally listen to me. His third time applying he BROUGHT THE ENERGY and passed the demo lesson and mock classes with flying colors.
You can find lots of VIPKID advice online about pacing, what your background should look like and how to pronounce the letter “m.”
But, compared to energy, those things are all minor. The right feedback and they’re fixed.
If you do nothing else during your demo lesson and mock classes, you need to show VIPKID you have the energy and enthusiasm to be the face of their brand.
Is VIPKid worth it for new teachers?
Okay, I kind of went off on a little tangent there, but I feel very passionate about what VIPKID is looking for when they’re weeding out candidates during the hiring process.
Let’s jump back into whether or not VIPKID is worth it. Specifically, is VIPKID worth it for new teachers?
Some people are worried about working for VIPKID because they believe it’s impossible (or, at least, very difficult) to get bookings as a new teacher.
Because it’s been a while since I was a new teacher with VIPKID, I talked to my boyfriend’s sister, Julie, who signed her contract in Feb. 2020.
She has only worked under VIPKID’s new payment structure.
Julie is a few months into teaching now and really liking VIPKID. She’s especially grateful for the job since the state where she lives is currently under a shelter-in-place mandate.
Since starting, Julie said she’s had consistent bookings but hasn’t been able to get more than 20 hours per week. Usually, she teaches between 16 and 20 hours per week.
To date, the most she’s taught in a single week is 22 hours.
With VIPKID being her only job at the moment, Julie would like to be teaching between 30 and 40 hours per week. She’s opening enough time slots, but they have yet to be booked.
During the week, Julie teaches until midnight and wakes up early for bookings during the peak-peak times. On the weekend, she sometimes teaches in the morning but tries to take at least one day off.
In Julie’s opinion, VIPKID is worth it for new teachers. Although she would like to increase her bookings, she is happy teaching 20 hours per week and said the money is enough for her to live on.
7 Tips to Make Sure VIPKID Is Worth It
So, recent-hire Julie said she thinks VIPKID is worth it for new teachers, especially with the current economic situation in the U.S.
She had some advice for new VIPKID teachers looking to make the most out of their first few months with the company.
For new people getting started, I’d say to take the quizzes to get certified for more than just one level and for the trial courses. Being willing to be flexible with hours and time when you first start is helpful. Then, make a schedule with the hours you want later.Teacher Julie, started with VIPKID in Feb. 2020
Furthermore, Julie said getting consistent bookings with the same students (“regulars”) is the key to success.
I couldn’t agree more with Julie about the importance of “regulars.” When it comes to getting bookings, they are your bread and butter.
The best ways to keep students coming back are teaching your heart out in every single class and leaving positive, upbeat feedback.
Here are more of my top tips for teachers to help ensure VIPKID is worth it for you:
#1: Start teaching ASAP after signing your contract.
Last year, VIPKID hired one of my referrals, but she wasn’t able to start teaching right away. She opened her first time slots a few months after signing her contract but was never able to get any bookings.
I’d never heard of this happening to anyone else, but I think VIPKID stopped showing her profile to parents. Just to be safe, open your first time slots as soon as you possibly can after signing your contract.
#2: Open as many time slots as possible.
Julie touched on this, but I wanted to reiterate how important your initial availability is. Consider doing a teaching blitz when you’re first starting out in order to get yourself on the radar and accumulate parent feedback.
If nothing else, make sure you open time slots for peak and peak-peak hours.
#3: Have a backup plan if your internet goes down.
Teacher no-shows are a killer.
Not only do they hurt your standing as a teacher (parents aren’t going to book you again), but you have to pay a $10 fine when you miss a class without more than two hours notice.
For a VIPKID teacher, there are few things more stressful (and infuriating) than waking up to see that your internet is out.
When you teach a lot of classes, this is bound to happen at some point so you want to be prepared. At the very least, you should have enough data on your phone so you can use it as a hotspot in a pinch.
#4: Set multiple alarms.
On the subject of backups, set multiple alarms to make sure you wake up. Sleeping through your classes will hurt your standing and result in fines. That $10 per class adds up.
Not to mention, you could get fired.
VIPKID’s policy states that teachers will be dismissed after six teacher no-shows. If you slept through an entire morning of classes, that’s two teacher no-shows right there.
When you start waking up early, your body is going to go through an adjustment period. Try to establish a regular bedtime to make it as easy as possible on yourself.
#5: Spend time on your intro video and profile.
When parents are deciding whether or not to book you, all they have to go on is your intro video and profile. Without a lot of feedback from other parents, it’s essential you use these to make a good impression.
For both, keep the language simple. Copy and paste your profile into Google Translate to see how it reads in Chinese. Your intro video doesn’t need to be elaborate. Just be sure to speak slowly and clearly.
#6: Make a feedback template.
Strictly speaking, VIPKID discourages its teachers from using feedback templates. But, as long as you’re not leaving identical feedback for every single student, you’re fine.
I made templates for major courses, different trial classes and unit assessments.
After each class, I would customize the feedback for the student with what we covered, what they did well and what I wanted them to work on at home. No matter how the class went I ALWAYS kept the feedback positive and upbeat.
Having feedback templates will save you time, and the less time you spend on VIPKID stuff outside of teaching the more VIPKID is worth it.
#7: Don’t go crazy with props.
It’s easy to go overboard with the props. While it’s really lovely to want to prepare something special for each and every student, it’s just not practical if you want VIPKID to be worth it.
As with the feedback, any time you spend on VIPKID outside of teaching decreases your hourly rate.
I was a prop minimalist. In addition to a few laminated reward systems, the only props I used on a daily basis were my ABC flashcards and animal finger puppets.
A big smile and even bigger energy are better than any props.
More Posts About VIPKID as a Second Job
- VIPKID 101: How To Start Teaching English Online
- 5 Reasons You’ll LOVE Working For VIPKID
- How to Quit Teaching English Online & Start Freelance Writing
Is VIPKID Worth It? Final Thoughts
Before rendering my final verdict on if VIPKID is worth it, I wanted to share a bit about my experience with the company.
Since I’m no longer actively teaching, I can be totally honest…
I started teaching with VIPKID in Feb. 2017 when I was living in Madrid. Since I was also teaching English as an auxiliar de conversación, VIPKID was just my side hustle. The money mostly went toward travel.
When I moved to Mexico in Oct. 2017, VIPKID was my primary (read: only) source of income. I was teaching around 25 hours per week, and because of the inexpensive cost of living in Querétaro, that was more than enough.
If it weren’t for my job with VIPKID, I wouldn’t have been able to move to Mexico. It was my “full-time” job for more than a year.
While I’ll forever my grateful to VIPKID for the vital role it played in my being able to live abroad and work for myself, in the end, it just wasn’t sustainable.
It was impossible to live a normal life while waking up at 3:30 a.m. six days a week to teach.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, I lived in constant fear of my internet going out or sleeping through my alarm. Too many teacher no-shows and I would lose my job. That would have most likely meant having to move back to the U.S.
In Sept. 2019, I taught my last class with VIPKID. I was finally earning enough money freelance writing that I could say goodbye to the early mornings and internet speed tests.
It was a relief.
VIPKID as a Second Job vs. Full-Time
All that being said, when someone asks me “is VIPKID worth it?” I tell them yes…
But, it depends on your situation.
In my opinion, VIPKID is only suitable as a full-time job if you’re living in Asia or Europe. Otherwise, the hours are just too difficult.
Under the new payment structure, you have to teach A LOT of classes for VIPKID to be worth it. In my opinion, there are better options for a side hustle.
Of course, if you really need a paycheck and can only work remotely, VIPKID is worth it regardless of what timezone you’re located in.
I think it’s a good fit for parents that need a way to make money from home in off-hours.
You can teach while your child is sleeping and not have to pay for childcare. Just make sure there’s someone who can tend to your kid if they wake up since you won’t be able to leave in the middle of class.
If you’re one of the many people stuck at home right now and in need of work, VIPKID is definitely worth it.
You probably won’t want to teach for them forever, but it could be just the ticket to get you through these tough economic times, jumpstart your travel fund or allow you to move abroad.
Got questions about VIPKID? Leave a comment below.