So you’re interested in this whole online teaching business as you read all these amazing stories about VIPKID teachers who teach and travel the world.
What’s the catch? What’s the real story? Is this whole teach and travel the world powered by VIPKID too good be true?
5 Tips To Help You Teach and Travel
Teaching English online is an easy and effective way to quickly become a digital nomad, particularly if you can land a position with VIPKID. As I write this post now, I’m sitting in a cafe in Seoul South Korea before my next move to Ho Chi Minh city Vietnam where I’ll take up residence for the next 6+ months as my home base. I’m moving to Vietnam with a couple of friends where I will continue run Teach and Go from in addition to my part time teaching position with VIPKID.
So what makes VIPKID so special and uniquely qualified to enable any young person (or young at heart person) to travel and work abroad? Easy, it is simply the fact that you can get the hours in way you can’t in the United States. This combined with the lower cost of living, your money can actually go much farther.
Here are my 5 tips to help you succeed as an online ESL teacher living abroad.
1 – Slow Travel
Your students come first, as such you always need to make sure you’re providing a quality experience for your students. Unlike a programmer, web developer or professional blogger you need a quiet space and strong internet at a specific time of the day, every day.
A web developer for example can complete their work at any time during the day, they can do it from a cafe or a work space, but you as an online ESL teacher NEED a quiet space that you can make into a classroom.
I’ve found the best way to achieve this is to simply slow travel. That is, get a long term visa and stay put in one place for at least 6 months and then schedule mini trips during your 6 month stay. What I normally did when I lived in Thailand was that I would teach 20 hours a week every week but then when I wanted to take a trip somewhere I would then only teach 8 hours one week and free up the rest of the week for travel.
For example, I would normally teach Monday to Friday and then do a few classes on Saturday. When I had a trip coming up, I would only teach Monday and Tuesday one week and then Friday and Saturday the following week. This would then give me almost 10 days of travel while at the same time not having to take a week off.
It’s too stressful to be on the move every 3 or so months with your class commitments always lurking in the background. This is why before you head out to make sure you’re going to stay in one place for at least 6 months. Having to teach English from a hotel room, always worrying about internet and noise is no way to teach. You always want to provide the best experience for your students as possible so get an apartment, have a home base and then slow travel.
2 – Your Phone is Your Best Backup
Any responsible online teacher will have backup internet at the ready. This becomes more essential as you travel and live abroad. I can’t tell you how many times using my phone as a mobile hot spot has saved me. In countries like Thailand and Bali the internet simply goes out randomly for an hour or two due to a storm, construction or perhaps a mishap with the power lines.
Don’t get me wrong, the internet is reliable in general but it’s not as reliable as it is in the United States. Only one time during my recent return home for 6 months, ONE time, did the internet go out resulting in me needing to use my mobile phone to teach class.
Thailand on the other hand, this would happen every two or three weeks. The internet would simply go out. So unless you want to stress yourself you need to be prepared for this.
Setup your phone as a hot spot before you need it. So when you get your sim card for your unlocked phone buy a data package that has a few gigabytes. 10 VIPKID classes take up about 700 MB of data so it’s not actually that demanding. Make sure you have a sim card that you use strictly as backup and not as your daily driver.
You don’t want to burn through your data through daily use and then need it and not have it for when your internet stops working.
Simply go through the process of turning your phone into a hot spot using this guide and you should be good to go. When the internet stops working all you’ll have to do is fire up your phone, turn on “hot spot” with the click of a button and your laptop should automatically connect.
3 – You can teach a lot on the weekends
Now I know you’re traveling but don’t forget that you have a job to do and that you’re not on vacation. With teaching online and ESL in general, the weekends is actually when most students attend extra class, not just after school Monday to Friday.
What this means is that you as an online teacher can get 8+ hours on both Saturday and Sunday because the students are available at these times, yet most online teachers are not as those based in America are sleeping. Why? Well, 1 pm in China is 1 am in the United States.
So it’s actually not unreasonable to pickup 10-16 hours on the weekend alone if you choose to be aggressive about it. What I normally did was take one Saturday every month and have my own little “short notice Saturdays” where I would teach 8 hours of short notice class.
It was totally worth it for multiple reasons. First is the short notice pay, you get $2 extra per class. So at 8 hours, that alone is a $32 bonus. But what would often happen is that you would have a trial class booked which would then be cancelled and then rebooked. You would get paid for both classes for one time slot. 50% pay for the cancelled trial class + the $2 bonus and trial class you taught + a $2 bonus + a $5 bonus if the students parents sign up for VIPKID.
So most short notice Saturdays I would easily earn $50-100 as bonus due to all the booked/cancelled/booked time slots. I would also have a lot of the trial classes convert which VIPKID pays their teachers an additional $5 bonus for. My short notice Saturdays would regularly net me an extra $190-250 dollars for my paycheck.
4 – Passive Income
As an online teacher you have an opportunity to earn passive income through referrals. If someone signs up through your link to an online teaching platform like VIPKID, you can earn anywhere from $50 to $100 per signup. Some VIPKID teachers make hundreds of dollars extra each month simply by signing new teachers up.
I meet one teacher for DADA who was making over 1k extra a month simply from referrals. One referral a month is nice, but when you get to the point where you’re making an extra $1,000 now were talking. How did he do it? By simply being an active member in numerous Facebook groups.
5 – Research Visas Before Hand
A lot of newbie teachers who have never traveled and lived abroad before make the mistake of thinking they can just move to say, Thailand or Spain and live there for 6 months to a year. You can’t. Most countries you actually can’t stay in for longer than 3 months on a tourist visa. So if you want to slow travel like I suggest, you need to plan this out first.
For Thailand, they have a 6 month long visa but you’ll need to have $7,500 in your bank account for more than 6 months. Conversely, you could go to Thailand on a 3 month tourist visa and then plan on going to a neighboring to apply for another tourist visa. You can do back to back tourist visa no problem but you’ll start running into problems if you try to do more than 3.
Vietnam, the country I’m moving to currently provides Americans with a 1 year tourist visa. Regardless, do your research into the various visa requirements so you can plan your long term trip.
So there you have it, those are some helpful tips to help you prepare if you decide to teach and travel with VIPKID. It’s actually not that difficult as it may seem. I know travel and moving abroad can be a big deal if you’ve never done it before but you can totally get setup in a week in a new country.