I may earn a commission (at NO cost to you) if you buy using links on this page. This helps keep content free on Project Untethered, so thank you for your support! (See full disclosure)
This guest post was written by Sam Fulmer, a traveling VIPKID teacher with tons of experience under her belt.
VIPKID has over 60,000 teachers, making it one of the most popular platforms to teach English online.
But is VIPKID worth it still?
It’s no secret that Teaching English online is one of the most popular freelance jobs for beginners to make a little extra moolah.
In fact, VIPKID helped me fund my travels in Mexico. And since it’s all online and you create your own schedule, it’s one of the best jobs for travelers.
But with so many teaching platforms, how do you choose? What does it take to be a VIPKID teacher? And what potential issues do you need to be prepared for?
Don’t worry, I got you covered. After 6 months with VIPKID, I can give you the inside scoop — including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- VIPKID Review
- What is VIPKID?
- How much money do you make with VIPKID?
- What is the schedule like for VIPKID?
- How many hours can I get with VIPKID?
- The VIPKID Hiring Process
- Interview Tips for VIPKID
- VIPKID Setup: What You Need For Your Classroom
- VIPKID Pros and Cons
- Final Thoughts
Update: Unfortunately, China has switched up some laws that have affected foreign English teachers, including those that teach for VIPKID. While this sucks, there are still millions of people outside China interested in learning English.
For now, you can still try platforms like Preply, Cambly and iTalki.
If anyone hears any updates on this China situation, please let me know!
So, you’re ready to start working online and want to know if VIPKID is worth it, right?
Well, I’ve been working as a VIPKID teacher for over 6 months, and I’m here to share my honest feedback.
There are tons of VIPKID reviews online, and many have contradicting info.
Many say it’s super easy to get hired and there are tons of options for raises in pay…
But I’m here to tell you that a lot has changed within VIPKID in the last year.
New teacher applications surged during the pandemic, making the hiring process much more competitive.
That said, if you follow my tips, you can still maximize your odds of getting in.
What is VIPKID?
VIPKID is an online English teaching platform that hires native English speakers to teach students in China.
While VIPKID is strict about only hiring native speakers from the US or Canada, there are plenty of other companies that hire English speakers from other countries.
Unlike some sites that pay you to chat in English, with VIPKID, you are actually teaching English lessons from provided lesson plans.
Check out these other guides for info on other English teaching platforms:
🇪🇸 Top Companies to Teach English Online to Spanish Students
✈️ How to Teach English Online to Adults While Traveling the World
🐟 Honest Palfish Review (After 2,500 ESL Classes Taught)
🇲🇽 How to Teach English Online to Mexican Students
🇯🇵 Best Sites to Teach English Online to Japanese Students
Is VIPKID a scam?
VIPKID is not a scam. It is a global education company that provides real jobs for qualified and motivated teachers. VIPKID utilizes its own curriculum, meaning all the lessons are planned out for you. Lessons are 25 minutes long conducted in an online portal that allows you to teach face-to-face with your students.
How much money do you make with VIPKID?
There are a couple of things that determine your base rate:
- Your credentials
- Your performance in the demo lesson
Many reviews of VIPKID have incorrect information about the pay scale. In 2020, VIPKID made significant changes to its pay scale when COVID-19 hit.
VIPKID advertised that you could make up to $22 per hour. In reality, it is between $16 and $19 per hour, with a base rate of $7 to $7.50 per 25-minute class (even for experienced teachers).
This huge change in pay caused an uproar with experienced teachers because it took away their ability to increase their base pay.
Despite the disappointment around the lower base rate, I decided to apply anyway, got hired, and started teaching.
I started VIPKID while living in Mexico City. The cost of living in Mexico is cheap, so I worked 20-25 hours per week at the beginning, which covered most of our living expenses.
I started part-time, but some teachers use VIPKID as their full-time job and work 40+ hours a week.
After working with VIPKID for 6 months, I have changed my perspective on whether or not I think it’s worth it.
More on that shortly.
What about VIPKID incentives and contests?
There are tier incentives that can add to your base rate.
1. Finished class Incentive and participation. Basically, this incentive is determined by the number of classes you teach in a month. It can provide up to an extra $3 per half hour. To earn any tier incentives, you have to teach 40+ classes a month. This may seem easy, but bookings with VIPKID can be inconsistent.
2. Bonuses, raffles, contests. VIPKID occasionally runs bonuses and promos that can effectively increase your take home pay. But these are periodic and not something you should bank on.
3. Teacher referrals. You can make extra money when you refer a teacher and they are successfully hired. For each new teacher you refer, you earn $100. This can be a good side income if you grow an audience of aspiring teachers on a blog, social media, or Youtube channel.
What is the schedule like for VIPKID?
This is where the not-so-fun reality of teaching with VIPKID comes in. It is something that has vastly changed my perspective around using VIPKID as a side hustle.
First, you have to understand how “hours” work in VIPKID.
There are specific hours called “peak hours” and “peak-peak hours” that teachers can teach in. You can open your schedule anytime during peak hours, but peak-peak hours are the most popular with students.
This can get a little confusing. But basically you will be teaching when the kids have free time — after they finish normal school or on weekends.
Remember, the students are in China, so we work on Beijing time.
- 6am – 9am EST (Daylight Savings), Monday – Friday
- 9pm – 10am EST (Daylight Savings), Friday evening – Sunday morning
If you are living in the United States, this means you will be working early morning and late nights. When I was living in Mexico I was on CST, which meant I was up at 4:30 in the morning and teaching late at night on the weekends.
If you live in the western hemisphere and are looking for typical nine-to-five hours, you simply won’t get it with VIPKID.
That said, I eventually came to enjoy working early mornings as it allowed me to have the entire day free for activities!
How many hours can I get with VIPKID?
I told you guys I would keep it real, and this is where I have struggled the most with VIPKID.
When you are first hired, VIPKID promotes you as a new teacher. They encourage you to open your schedule as much as you can so you can get bookings. In the first month (December) I was teaching 30 hours per week, and students booked every slot I opened in my schedule.
Then, the bookings slowed down.
This was partially because I lowered my hours to 15 per week (I was getting a little tired of smiling and singing, okay!?). But when I opened my schedule for 15 hours, students would only book 10 hours.
I experimented with opening up my schedule to 20-25 hours again, and they filled right up.
I couldn’t understand why my bookings were so inconsistent. Did I do something wrong? I didn’t have any negative parent feedback. What givces?
Turns out, it’s just how VIPKID is. Inconsistent.
After I finished my six-month contract, I wasn’t sure if it was worth signing up for another six months. In the end, I decided to give it another shot.
If you’re looking for consistent hours every single week, know that it may or may not happen.
I know teachers that work 40 hours a week and have no problem maintaining bookings. I am just not one of them.
In the end, I decided to keep my schedule open for 15 hours a week knowing every slot won’t get booked. This means I just have to supplement my income with other jobs.
The VIPKID Hiring Process
The VIPKID hiring process is straightforward and moves quickly if you meet all the requirements.
There are three requirements that you must meet to teach with VIPKID.
- Have the legal right to work in the US or Canada (cannot reside in California)
- Hold a Bachelor’s degree (in any subject)
- One year of experience working with children
As far as experience with children, it doesn’t have to be a classroom experience. It can be coaching, mentoring, or even babysitting. If you do have classroom experience, you’ll definitely want to share that along with any other teaching skills you have.
For reference, my background was in School Counseling. However, I know teachers who had careers that had nothing to do with children. They met the requirements through coaching sports teams or other non-professional kid-related activities.
After passing the basic info section you will be required to:
1. Record a short demo. The demo lesson can be recorded on your phone and only took me 20 minutes to complete. VIPKID gives you resources to use to help you prepare for the demo video.
2. Attend a virtual training. VIPKID provides a training session for teachers after they submit the demo video. This helps you prepare for the next step of the interview process — a demo mock class.
I know you saw mock class and panicked. Don’t! Outside of the virtual training, where VIPKID employees walk you through the mock class, there are TONS of youtube videos that show you exactly how to successfully complete the demo lesson and mock class.
3. Teach a mock class. For the mock class, an adult pretends to be your student, and you teach them for 10 minutes. After that, they give you feedback on the lesson and send you an email letting you know if you passed or failed. You are given two chances to pass the mock class, and you should prepare for both.
Watch Youtube videos and practice with your friends or spouse (my wife pretended to be a 5-year-old about 20 times — she was thrilled). If you don’t pass the first time, you can try again!
I passed the first time. I practiced a lot and still messed up a few times. But as long as you use the tools VIPKID gives you beforehand, you’ll do fine.
4. Sign your contract. The contract is six months long. VIPKID is strict when it comes to breaching the contract. Be sure to have reliable internet (tip: have an ethernet cord handy at all times). If you miss or cancel a class more than 6 times, they won’t let you renew your contract.
5. Take a TESOL course within the VIPKID platform. It is required by law that teachers have a TESOL certificate to teach students within VIPKID. VIPKID offers one for free and it doesn’t take long to complete!
6. Open your schedule and start teaching!
Interview Tips for VIPKID
Listen, once you start the interview process, you’ll quickly realize that everyone who works for VIPKID smiles…A LOT.
They also sing and use tons of hand motions called Total Physical Response (TPR).
Don’t let all of this animation and smiling scare you.
It’s important to demonstrate these skills during the interview, but know that it is okay to be a teacher who doesn’t get up and dance during class.
I keep my students engaged without going overboard by using props and smiles. Find a simple background (or make one like I did) for the interview, and stick to it.
Lastly, take the interview process seriously. VIPKID is looking for teachers who are willing to somewhat of an entertainer. Remember, you are teaching young kids with short attention spans. If you can’t make it fun and engaging, students won’t pay attention (and their parents won’t pay for more classes).
There’s no need to go overboard, but they are looking for someone who can be lively and make learning fun.
Give it your all during the interview process. You got this!
VIPKID Setup: What You Need For Your Classroom
You need a few simple things for your classroom to meet VIPKID requirements.
I started VIPKID while living out of a backpack and consider myself a simplistic teacher. That said, there are a few things you absolutely need to have.
1. Reliable internet. You need to have a reliable internet connection to teach, duh! You want at least 20 Mbps. Have an ethernet cable handy just in case you need to plug directly into the modem. If you are traveling, make sure you have some sort of mobile wifi hotspot for digital nomads.
2. Laptop with camera. If you have an external webcam, that is also okay. Again, if you are going to be teaching on the road, make sure to have a good laptop for digital nomads. If you’re teaching from home, you might be more comfortable on one of these laptops for online teachers — which aren’t all necessarily travel-friendly.
3. Mouse and headset. When preparing for your interview, you need to buy a headset with a microphone and a mouse (for your sanity). The microphone blocks out background noise, and the mouse helps you navigate the lessons better.
4. Appropriate lighting. Mayn stationary teachers buy ring lights to brighten their face during lessons (remember you’re teaching early or late). Since I was living out of a backpack, I just made sure the Airbnbs we booked had enough lamps and overhead lights.
5. Background. You will see videos of teachers with elaborate setups. This is not my jam. I went to a store and bought poster paper and sticky notes. I then wrote the letters of the alphabet on the stickies and made my own background (see above). Easy peasy. Best of all, it folds up nicely in my backpack.
6. Small dry erase board. These are lightweight and easy to travel with. Add in a couple different color markers, and you have the tools for endless games, entertainment, and lessons. This is my go-to prop.
VIPKID Pros and Cons
And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for…DUN DUN DUN.
Is VIPKID actually worth it?
You can find tons of negative feedback on the internet about VIPKID. I have had my share of negative experiences. But it’s also afforded me some pretty awesome experiences.
Let’s break down the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself. After all, a small inconvenience for one person may be a dealbreaker for another.
✅ Flexible schedule. Work as much or as little as you want! This is the main reason why many sign up for VIPKID in the first place.
✅ Work from anywhere. I’ve done it. And thousands of others are doing it and making ends meet while traveling the world. It’s an easy way to become a digital nomad with no experience (other than the ability to entertain kids and speak English).
✅ Almost no prep work. The lessons are laid out for you, and the more you teach the more you remember the material. That means less time spent before class looking it over. Even when I was starting, I’d only spend 5-10 minutes beforehand looking over materials.
✅ Low stress. Okay, maybe not for everyone. But it really is super simple. You wake up, teach the provided lesson plan, write student feedback, and that’s it!
✅ Community support. There are tons of Facebook groups and Youtube channels with fellow VIPKID teachers offering free materials and support.
❌ Burnout is real. You have five minutes between classes. If you are teaching two or more hours straight, you are stuck sitting and smiling for long periods of time.
❌ Bad behavior. It’s 4am. You’re barely awake, and a student is screaming at you and refusing to participate. Don’t get me wrong, some students are total angels. But bad behavior is more common than you think.
❌ Complicated travel planning. If you are booking flights, road trips, bus tickets, or activities, you better be sure you haven’t booked a class at that time. I have had to cancel classes due to last-minute flights being booked.
❌ Harsh penalties. Missing class or showing up late will cost you. Literally. You get charged $10 when you cancel a class. Even with emergencies or things outside of your control, VIPKID is very strict about adhering to the contract. Not only are there monetary repercussions, but parents can see your record for the past 30 days. If your attendance rate falls under 95%, your profile may not show up for parents booking classes for their children.
❌ Annoying parents. Some parents quite literally take control of the lesson and answer for their child on every single slide. This is a cultural thing you need to get used to. Parents want to be involved with their child’s learning. To them, it is showing respect.
❌ Inconsistent hours. Luckily, I wasn’t reliant on 20+ hours worth of income from VIPKID when I started teaching. Your income will fluctuate from week to week. This can be extremely stressful for teachers who are banking on making a certain amount to pay bills.
Overall, VIPKID is worth it. Apply, get hired, and see for yourself!
Everyone is going to have a different opinion, but ultimately what makes you happy may not make me happy. That’s okay!
I have experienced both highs and lows with VIPKID, and I plan on continuing to use it as a side hustle.
VIPKID isn’t the only platform in town. And teaching English isn’t the only entry-level digital nomad job to make money on the road.
That said, if you’re ready to give VIPKID a try, you can apply here.
Sam is short, sassy, and has always dreamed of stepping outside the 9-5 life. She feeds every street animal she comes across during her travels. She is currently teaching English remotely so she and her wife can buy a campervan and hit the road with their three furry friends on a roadtrip across North America. Follow their adventures at Lez Travel For Life.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Going Cheap Flights Newsletter - Get flight deals from your airport up to 90% off sent straight to your inbox.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).