Confession: I’m a full-on VIPKID sell out. Now on my third contract, I’m one of those online ESL teachers who obsesses about the color orange (the company’s “team” color), and talks about my online ESL students to the point that my family knows them all by name. I’m one of the ones who participates in all of the incentives and contests, and who lost her ever-loving mind when she finally got an orange VIPKID hoodie. I could go on to explain the way the company has turned my life on its head in an amazing way–but you will understand when you get on board, if you find that this online ESL job is right for you.
It’s not for everybody…
See, since I started working for VIPKID, I have been in contact with hundreds of online ESL teachers who are amazed that they have found such an opportunity. They love the freedom to work from home teaching English, set their own hours, be their own boss and build an online business for themselves. Like me, they love being in charge of their own destiny, free of any office politics or climbing ladders. But I have also seen some online ESL teachers who have a harder time adapting. I started paying attention to what they were saying about their experience and comparing it to my own. What I found, is that it all boils down to expectations. Some of the teachers had expectations for VIPKID to treat them as employees, while others understood what it meant to be an independent contractor. It makes all the difference to understand the role and evaluate whether it works for you.
Teachine ESL online is different from traditional teaching jobs
It can take some time to get used to being an independent contractor. In a sense, you are your own boss. You will manage YOU! In many traditional jobs, someone else manages the teachers, like maybe the principal or a supervisor. As online ESL teachers, however, we manage ourselves. The very best VIPKID teachers are absolute pros at self-management! After watching other teachers, and some personal growth myself, I have identified four key traits of self-management that can make the difference between fulfillment or frustration as a VIPKID teacher:
The four key traits to happy online ESL teaching
To be a successful online teacher, independence is crucial. A VIPKID teacher sets his or her own hours and is entirely responsible for being in class on time and prepared to teach. Since you are working from home, there is no other person between you and your student. For me, this idea is liberating. For others, who like a support team, it can be frustrating. It’s worth considering, before applying, whether you enjoy finding what you need within yourself, or whether you prefer to work for a company as an employee with a built-in support system.
VIPKID teachers have to be prepared to do the job. As solo artists, no one else will make sure anything is ready for you. It is entirely up to you how prepared you will be, both to teach, and to handle IT glitches, discipline problems, special ed concerns and difficult concepts. What will you do to explain that grammar piece to a non-native speaker who is waiting on the other side of the screen? Do you need to brush up on a subject before entering the class? Do you have backup plan for when your WiFi goes out? Do you need some new props, tools, or materials? It’s all up to you! You get paid for completing the class. But if you are unable to, even for good reason, you don’t get paid. It’s entirely up to the teacher to make sure that class goes off without a hitch and that the material is taught well.
Online ESL teachers have to solve their own problems. VIPKID, for example, is in China. They are up and working during class time when their customers are awake. By the time you finish your last class, they are in bed and cannot get to your urgent email till the next morning. For me, this means that most often, I need to be able to solve my own problems. I need to have the skills of scanning forums and interacting with other teachers to find solutions and answers. I may have to “wing it” with a solution that I come up with at the moment and be confident that I am making the right call on what to do in a difficult situation. It’s a great idea to ask yourself if you like solving problems yourself or if you’d rather work in an environment structured to help in that area.
To work remotely as an independent contractor, I’ve found that I need to be confident of myself and my performance when I don’t get validation from the company. Unlike a traditional employer/employee relationship, I don’t receive annual reviews, constructive criticism, or pats on the back for a job well done. If a teacher is not prepared for this, he or she may feel isolated and invalidated. The truth is, as independent contractors, our job is to show up and do our work. We will hear from the company if anything needs to be changed. If all goes well, however, we can go an indefinite amount of time with no direct feedback from the company about our performance. If I’m of the mindset that I must hear from the company whether or not I am doing well, I’ll drive myself crazy. Some introspection can help you discover as well, whether you would be able to function well in an environment that demands you get your validation from within.
Will you enjoy managing yourself?
Many of us have found that we enjoy independence, making our own calls, and not worrying about reviews, micro-managers, and office politics. These are the payoffs for being independent, prepared, resourceful, and confident.
Find out more!
Do you have what it takes? Please watch my video review Click Here of working for VIPKID where I go in more depth about the pros and cons, and what it’s like to be an independent contractor for an online company.
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If you use it to apply, I’d be happy to answer any questions for you that I can. You can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.