My two constant goals are pretty straightforward: get out of debt, and get out of the country. To simultaneously pay off student loans and travel the world, I use my main-squeeze side hustle:
After working with this company for just over a year, I have been able to pay back $10,000 in student loans while living in France.
This means that I was consistently paying back more than double the minimum payment, all while traipsing through Europe.
It’s doable people! (Check out my testimony for the details.)
And the best part about this side hustle is that it is currently accepting applications.
I recommend you read the rest of the post before applying to know what you’re getting into, but if you’re itching to sign up RIGHT NOW, feel free to use my referral code.
I’d be more than happy to personally walk you through the application process.
The One Side Hustle I Use to Pay Off Student Loans and Travel the World
1. THE LOGISTICS
VIPKid is an English language-learning company based in Beijing.
Along with hundreds of other teachers, I can vouch for its non-scammy nature.
And on top of my testimony, VIPKid was ranked #1 in Forbes’s 2018 “Top 100 Remote Work Companies Report.” Pretty solid recommendation.
The Job Description
As an Online English Teacher for VIPKid, you teach Chinese students 1-on-1 in an immersive classroom. Each class lasts from 25-28 minutes.
The classroom is essentially a Skype-like interface that VIPKid owns.
You can see your face, your student’s face (and any parent/sibling in the background), and the lesson that you’re going to teach.
The Contract Period
VIPKid hires you for a contract period of 6 months. Once the 6 months are up, you either get an email asking you to renew your contract for another 6 months, or not.
I’m now on my 3rd contract with VIPKid, and have no plans of stopping any time soon.
A huge point to note is that you’re only allowed 6 cancellations per contract period. While there are some exceptions, this means you shouldn’t book a time slot unless you’re certain you’ll be able to teach it.
There is no minimum number of hours you must work each week or month, so you are MOSTLY in charge of your schedule.
I say MOSTLY, because there will inevitably be a cut-off time, since children need to sleep (and so do you!).
Your hours will depend at least a little bit on your time zone.
When I started at VIPKid, I was on the East Coast, so I could only work until 10am.
(You can also work later at night starting at 8:30pm, but I’m more of an early riser.)
Moving to France was GLORIOUS.
Aside from the fact that I was in freaking France, I could work as soon as I woke up, all the way until 2pm.
But now that I’m back on the East Coast, my horse-drawn carriage having returned to its pumpkin-ly state, I’m back to early mornings.
Although the company is online, its communication is off the charts.
There are multiple ways to contact the company (from the email to the phone app), and they will respond to you within 24 hours.
VIPKid has also set up a sort of additional website called the Hutong, where teachers can enter forum discussions, earn tokens for doing certain tasks, and win prizes.
2. THE COURSES
The company provides the curriculum for you, which is based off of U.S. Common Core Standards.
The courses are essentially like PowerPoint slides, with instructions at either the top or bottom of the screen (depending on if the class is part of VIPKid’s older or newer course versions).
You have access to the lesson beforehand to be able to prepare. And while it used to take me an hour or so to prepare for my courses, it now takes me less than 5 minutes.
VIPKid has 6 different levels, which each correspond to the student’s English proficiency (and not necessarily their age).
VIPKid also has several different types of course sequences, with the most frequent ones being:
- Major Courses: This is the sequence of courses that every VIP kid goes through. Each level of VIPKid comes with 12 lessons.
- Trial Class: These courses are for students who are not yet in the program, but who are testing the waters. Oftentimes, you will be the first foreigner they’ve ever interacted with.
After each course, you are expected to fill out a little feedback form (what they covered in class, what your student did well with, what they can improve upon, etc.).
And again, each course lasts 25-28 minutes.
There is a difference between opening an hour and booking an hour.
You do the former, while parents do the latter.
This means you can open as many time slots as you want on your schedule (which you can do weeks in advance up until the hour before class).
But opening a class doesn’t automatically mean that you will get booked.
When I was just starting out, I had to open almost every hour imaginable (both early in the morning and late at night) just to get a few bookings.
But once you teach a few times and receive some positive parent reviews, the ball starts rolling pretty quickly.
Here are my numbers for my first month and a half at VIPKid, which is how long it took me to get consistent bookings:
Week 1: 30 slots opened; 3 slots booked
Week 2: 56 slots opened; 11 slots booked
Week 3: 42 slots opened; 10 slots booked
Week 4: 20 slots opened; 12 slots booked
Week 5: 38 slots opened; 35 slots booked
Week 6: 34 slots opened; 34 slots booked
And now, after a year of racking up more than 200 positive parent ratings, I pretty much know that any time slot I open will be booked.
3. THE STUDENTS
The website officially says the students are ages 4-12 (and that’s what the content is currently most appropriate for), but I’ve taught students as young as 3 and as old as 14.
Although this will largely depend on each individual student, the majority of these children are incredibly engaged and respectful.
I 100% chalk this up to cultural differences, because they clearly have a level of respect for teachers that is just not comparative to the U.S.
That being said, I have definitely had my fair share of students who make me want to rip my hair out.
I’m often asked: How do the students understand you if they don’t speak English?
I have multiple points to answer this question:
1. VIPKid operates on what’s called a flipped learning model.
This means that the children have a video or a PowerPoint or a workbook that they look through beforehand to become familiar with the course’s concepts, for example “less” vs. “more.”
Then, in class, we do certain activities to help them deepen this understanding of “less” vs. “more.” And as the English-speaking resource, I of course make sure the children are pronouncing everything correctly.
2. We are taught to use as little incidental language as possible
Incidental language is the little filler words that don’t add much to the meaning of a sentence.
When you cut out this incidental language, the only words that are left are usually the target words that the student has already become familiar with, thanks to the flipped learning model.
For example, when I go to a slide that says “Less vs. More” at the top, I DO NOT say:
“Okay, now we’re going to talk about less vs. more. Less is when you have a smaller number of objects. And more is when you have a bigger number of objects.”
Instead, I would say:
“Less” (*put my hands very close together to indicate that there’s not a lot going on here*), and get the student to repeat. Then, I would say “more” (*move hands very far apart to show the contrast*), and get the student to repeat again.
It’s minimal, but it does the trick almost every time.
3. The company strictly follows the Common Core Standards
On a normal basis, I can’t stand the Common Core. I think it takes WAY too much creativity out of school, from both teachers and students.
BUT, it works with VIPKid.
This is because a student is likely going to have at least more than one teacher, if not several. And if both of your teachers are telling you to pronounce something differently, you’re going to be confused.
For example, take the controversial phonics sound for “r.” You would think “r” makes the “ruh” sound, but this isn’t the case.
Instead, the correct sound is “errrrr.” If every teacher didn’t go into the “classroom” knowing the correct phonics sound for “r,” you would have a bunch of confused and therefore less motivated children (and pissed off parents).
But since each class is uniform, the students have a better understanding of what’s expected of them.
4. ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
To be eligible for VIPKid, you must have:
- eligibility to work in the U.S. or Canada (but you can be based from anywhere)
- a Bachelor’s degree in anything
- 1 year of traditional teaching OR mentoring/tutoring/alternative education
- certain tech requirements: fast Internet connection, headset with microphone, webcam (this last one should already be in your laptop)
It’s important to note that you should think creatively when it comes to mentoring/tutoring/alternative education.
I know someone who used her experience as a volunteer instructor for a high school band, and another one who cited her work as a volunteer mentor to children at her church.
5. THE APPLICATION PROCESS
This is where lots of people get scared.
The application process seems very long, and very intimidating.
But I got through the whole thing in one week (and have coached several other people through it as well).
Just remember, everything you do during the process is only going to prepare you for what you’ll be teaching.
There are several steps, and at the end of each one, the company will send you an email within 24 hours to let you know if you passed or not.
And the best part is, if you don’t pass, you can always try again.
So here we go:
1. Basic Info: This is pretty self explanatory. You create your account and fill in the appropriate info, easy peasy.
2. Demo Lesson: VIPKid provides you with a simple task (i.e. teach the letter P to a Chinese child), and you have 1 of 2 options.
Either log into the classroom at a designated time and teach the rather quick lesson to a Mentor Teacher (a well seasoned VIPKid teacher acting like a Chinese child).
OR log into the classroom when you have free time, teach the lesson to no one (you literally pretend that someone is there), and submit it. This is the route I went with, but in hindsight, you should opt for the Mentor.
This will better prepare you for later steps in the application process, and if you have a question, the Mentor is right there to help you.
3. Teaching Prep: At this point, VIPKid gives you a bunch of reading material and resources that will better help you understand what is expected of you for your Mock Classes, which come next.
4. Mock Class 1: This is where you actually teach a lesson to a Mentor Teacher (again pretending to be a Chinese child). You will of course be given the materials beforehand, and the Mentor will give you some tips for improvement during class.
5. Mock Class 2: Same as Mock Class 1, but with different materials, and a different Mentor. You will still be expected to implement the corrections that your prior Mentor noted.
6. Contract Info and Background Check: Celebration time!
You can officially submit your contract and your info for a background check.
And start opening classes!
If you want to get started on the application process ASAP, you can use my referral code to sign up. I’d be more than willing to share my do’s and don’ts to help you get through the process as painlessly as possible.
6. THE PAY
Saving the best for last.
I’ll be using quite a bit of math, so stick with me.
The website says you can make from $14 to $22 an hour.
I *technically* make $23 an hour.
How I Make $23 an Hour:
Based on your performance in the demo lesson as well as your prior experience, you will be offered a base rate pay of $7-9 PER CLASS.
I was offered $7.50 per class, so I started out making $15 an hour.
VIPKid is full of incentives, which is where all that extra money comes in:
For every class you teach, you are awarded another $1.
After teaching 45 classes in one month, every class you have taught/will teach for the month in question will also earn another $1.
So that’s 4 extra dollars per hour.
My total is now $19/hour.
There is one more incentive that I now have the privilege of using.
There is something called a 24-hour booking function. When you open a class less than 24 hours in advance, you are awarded an extra $2 to compensate for the less time you have to prepare.
Since I’ve been teaching for over a year, I now feel comfortable with whatever course they throw my way AND I know that whatever time slot I open will most likely be booked.
So, I now ONLY use this 24-hour booking function.
Which is how I make $23 an hour.
BUT (and this is a big but)
It’s important to note that VIPKid DOES NOT withdraw taxes.
So to be safe, I make sure to take out 30% from my monthly paycheck, and put it away for the end of the year.
30% is an insanely safe margin. Last year, out of all the money I saved for taxes, I was left with almost half of it.
Still, it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.
Here are some final thoughts on VIPKID:
- You are in charge of the hours you open
- There is a strong support system online
- The curriculum is made for you
- Most students come to class prepared and excited to learn
- You can work from anywhere in the world
- You can make more than $22 an hour (if you play your cards right)
- Your hours depend on the timezone you’re in, relative to Beijing
- It may take a few weeks before you’re consistently booked
- You’re only allowed 6 cancellations per 6-month contract
- The application process is, at first glance, intimidating
- VIPKid does not withdraw taxes from your pay
Having worked for VIPKid for over a year, I can say that the pros far outweigh the cons.
If you want to apply, (again) feel free to use my referral code! I’m happy to offer my insight and advice throughout the process.
And if you’re looking for another side hustle to help you pay off student loans and/or travel the world, check out some additional online gigs in 5 Legit Ways to Make Money from Home.
As always, if you enjoyed the post, share the wealth by sharing this pin: