VIPKID: Is it a scam? Is it too good to be true?

You’ve heard about this VIPKID teaching online, and it probably is popping up on your ads. If you’re like me, you are skeptical.

Many of my friends lately have been scammed with “work at home” jobs that in the end, cost them more money than they earned. They will call it a “failed business venture” or “more work than it was worth.” With these stories in mind, I assumed that VIPKID was aiming for that same audience- people who wanted an easy job that they could do whenever they wanted, and make a disproportionately high income.

So I tip-toed into the job, not announcing it publicly until I had dispelled all my fears and concerns. I have worked as an online teacher for 1.5 years now, and can honestly explain the positive and negative aspects of this field.

Is it a scam?

The short answer is no. It is not a “get rich” scheme. There are no promises of wealth or advancement. It is also not a pyramid scheme. There is no “down line” or “building a team.” There is no initial “investment” or start up fee.

In short, you are an independent contractor, like a tutor. You do not work for VIPKID, you are a contractor that they hire for a six-month contract. Your contract is renewed every six months.

These were my biggest concerns. I did not want to spend a dime on this job until I knew it would actually make me money. So all through the interview and training process, I chose not to invest any money into gear or teaching materials. I didn’t want to be someone who dropped a lot of money on the front end, only for it to not pan out.

Is it too good to be true?

This answer is more complicated.

1. You have to do the work… or you won’t get paid.

This is not a source of “passive income.” You have to do the work to get paid. You are paid by how many classes you teach. If you don’t teach, you won’t get paid. This job is not for the lazy or unmotivated people, looking for an easy income. It requires you to teach during very early hours, and exert a lot of energy.

2. You have to plan ahead for taxes… or you’ll regret it on Tax Day.

This is something that may easily be forgotten, especially if you’ve never worked for yourself as an independent contractor. There is no one taking taxes out of your paycheck. You need to do this on your own. It may make you feel like you are making less, because you see your income before taxes are taken out. It’s up to you to do your own research about taxes and plan accordingly.

3. You get control of your schedule… mostly.

This is one of the best parts of online teaching. You can choose your availability. You open the time slots you’d like to teach, and close the ones you don’t want to teach. If you’ve been working a regular teaching or office “nine to five” style job, it feels like an immense amount of freedom.

But of course, there are some caveats.

  • It is run on Beijing time, resulting in available times that are not normal working hours in the US. The “prime hours” range between 3-9am, depending on your time zone.
  • Once you open your schedule and a Chinese parent books a class with you during that time, there are consequences if you cancel the class. Too many cancellations, and your contract will not be renewed.
  • Not every time slot that you open will be booked, especially in the first few months of teaching. You have to build up your client base.
  • Your schedule is at the whim of Chinese culture. Meaning, during seasons of holidays in China, your schedule will not be full because families are traveling and celebrating.

4. You get paid well… for an online job.

It is true that you will make around $20-25/hour. That is not exaggerated. There is some variation based on your base pay, how much you teach, and if you get bonuses. But generally, teachers are happy with their pay.

However, if you are looking to match your salary that you’ve been making at a contract public school teaching job, or office job, you will probably be disappointed. It is possible to make $40k in a year with online teaching, however, it is very difficult. You can find people who do it on YouTube. It requires a complete commitment to the job, working very unusual hours. And there is no benefit package, insurance, pension, or retirement.

What’s the summary?

Basically, online is a fantastic gig, if you know what you’re getting into. Go into with lots of research, eyes wide open, and low expectations. Consider it a hobby at first, and you’ll be happy with the outcome. If you expect it to replace your income immediately, you’ll be disappointed.

I hope this is helpful to you! It has been the perfect fit for me and my family. I’d love to help you get started if you’re interested. I went into it with no advice or support, and I wish I had met someone who was willing to answer questions. All the best!

-Laura

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