I spent a year teaching for VIPKID and have since answered countless questions from friends about my time with company, so I thought I would chat a bit about my experience with VIPKID.
How I found VIPKID
Last year, one of my resolutions was to find a job. I didn’t know what that was going to look like. I hadn’t worked full time since my son was born 12 years ago and I was missing employment. Then, as is the case with most resolutions, I quickly forgot my plan and didn’t make a huge effort to make anything happen. I kept my eyes open, I mildly updated my resume, and quickly gave into the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Then I was served a Facebook ad for VIPKID, over and over again. You might have seen it. Teachers wearing bright orange, using overexaggerated facial expressions, with the promise easy income from home, on your own schedule. I love nothing more than a good internet rabbit hole, so I started researching. I read Reddit forums, Glassdoor reviews and blog posts, and I watched countless YouTube videos. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that this was a legitimate work from home job, and that there were both people who were thrilled with their jobs and people who were disappointed. To me, it sounded like every job in the world.
The VIPKID Application Process
I started the application process, which starts with an interview and a short demo lesson via webcam. There are other interview options, but I liked the live option (and if you go through the process, this is your only chance to negotiate your base pay.)
After the interview, you teach a mock class with a current VIPKID teacher serving as a mentor. It took me FOUR mock classes before I passed. This was hugely discouraging. I’m a former classroom teacher and I felt like I was *so close* every time, only to be told that I needed to try again. I ended up taking a long break from the application process. It was on December 30th that I scheduled one final mock class for New Year’s Eve and I passed! I’ll admit that it was important only to me that I get this done within the calendar year, but it felt great to meet that deadline.
What is VIPKID?
Let’s jump backward a bit. VIPKID is online, one-to-one English immersion instruction for children. There is no lesson planning as the lessons have already been created in a powerpoint format. Both the student and the teacher are on camera via dual web-cams. Classes are 25 minutes long.
I am a former middle school teacher, with experience teaching English language learners, so this appealed to me. I liked the chance to teach again along with the ability to set my own schedule. At this time VIPKID does not require that their applicants have a teaching certificate however, you will need to have a Bachelor’s Degree and be eligible to work in the United States or Canada.
What does VIPKID pay?
VIPKID payment sounds confusing, but I promise that it is not.
Teachers are paid per class a base rate of $7-$9. This adds up to $14 – $18 per hour. However, teachers are also paid a participation incentive simply for showing up on time. (NB: You need to show up on time, every time, or you run the risk of your class being canceled, so this incentive is basically a given for every class that you teach.) VIPKID has changed it’s incentive formula, so the more classes you teach both over time and within a month determine your pay. This post is a great breakdown of the new VIPKID incentive structure.
Additional payment incentives are available and VIPKID sends regular emails about currently available incentives. Everything is broken down by category in the teacher portal so you can keep track of your payment in real time.
What It’s Like to Work for VIPKID
My contract was signed on a Sunday and I immediately opened classes. This was serendipitous because Sundays are the day that parents are able to sign up for new classes for the following week. I received my first booking that very day.
Many teachers report going weeks and even months without classes. I am sure that this happens, but I can not speak to this. My intro video was short, well-lit, and edited just enough to be interested without being distracting. I added as much information about my education and teacher experience as possible. I also think I just got lucky.
How long does it take to get a full VIPKID schedule?
Within about a month I had a full schedule. This means different things for different people. At the time I was only opening 16-20 classes per week. I toyed around with different teaching times and found that I prefer working mornings to evenings, even though that means I’m awake VERY early on the days that I teach.
There are no minimum hours required by VIPKID, which is great. This makes it truly flexible as you can adjust your teaching schedule based on your personal schedule.
What do I do while I’m waiting to be booked?
Take workshops! VIPKID offers so many great workshops that are free to attend. There are workshops for just about everything and in my first month with VIPKID I was taking as many workshops as would fit into my schedule.
VIPKID doesn’t have an official training process. Once you’re hired, you’re eligible to teach classes. Since I am a person who likes a lot of information, I loved that the workshops answered questions that I didn’t even realize I had, showed me clips from inside of actual VIPKID classes. Workshops made me feel like I was a part of a community of teachers at all different levels.
Join Facebook Groups cautiously. There are many VIPKID Facebook groups, in addition to the official VIPKID Facebook group. These groups have been an invaluable resource in finding information, support, humor, and again, a community of teachers.
However, like most large Facebook groups and online forums, these groups have their bad apples. If you’re going to join a VIPKID Facebook group, remember that the search function is your friend. It’s likely that your question has been asked before. It’s likely that your question has been asked 100 times before. Search for answers before freely posting and you’ll find your experience to be much more enjoyable.
Set up your classroom! I am a bit of a teaching minimalist, so I don’t have bins and bins of props. I have a couple of reward systems, a few props that work for the majority of my classes, and I rely on my sparkling personality to do the rest. (This is funny if you knew me when I was a classroom teacher and I was referred to as the teacher who never smiled. That was only partially true.)
Even if you’re a prop minimalist, you will still need a “classroom.” Take a look at my post of items that every VIPKID teacher should have.
The Downside of VIPKID
There is no guarantee of a minumum number of classes, since you are an independent contractor. If VIPKID is your sole source of income, you need to be able to ride that wave. Bookings dip near Chinese holidays and when students have exams. However there are times when bookings can surge as well.
For me, the teaching hours available with VIPKID are both a pro and a con. I love working before my kids are awake, leaving me with the rest of the day free. I strongly dislike hearing my alarm go off at 2:30am. Once I’m awake I’m usually fine, but the first five minutes are rough. I give myself a little bit of extra time to get ready, make a cup of coffee, and listen to a podcast all as a bit of a reward for being awake. If you live in the Eastern time zone, I am endlessly jealous.
VIPKID Cancellation Policy
The cancellation police at VIPKID is the source of quite a bit of discussion. In a nutshell, you’re allowed 6 cancelations per 6-month contract, although no more than two cancelations will be recorded for any one day, regardless of how many cancelations you have in that day.
There are ways to ensure that the cancelations don’t count against you, but you’ll need documentation. You will see a lot of complaining about the cancelation policy in VIPKID forums or groups but personally, I don’t think it’s unfair.
VIPKID needs to hold its teachers accountable, and this is a challenge for a company that will never meet the majority of their teachers face to face. Their clients are the students, and it reflects badly on VIPKID when teachers don’t show up.
By giving teachers a limit of 6 cancelations within a six-month period, this allows teachers to cancel classes when something might arise, but discourages teachers from canceling classes regularly. Again, in the case of a serious issue, you can submit documentation and your cancelations won’t count against you.
Is VIPKID a MLM?
VIPKID offers incentives to teachers who refer teachers who are eventually hired. VIPKID is not a MLM, but it can definitely present as one when you see people battling to have their referral link clicked in the comments of a Facebook post.