The Job That I Never Knew I Needed
Welcome to the first post of 2019! I’m less than 10 weeks away from meeting baby number 3, but I’ve also been busy “birthing” another project, which started out as a research topic, but has turned into something much bigger than what I expected. It has been a pleasant surprise. Let me tell you more about it here…
Besides momming full-time, I also moonlight as a freelance writer, more specifically as a personal finance writer. One of the most frequent questions and topics I get asked to write on are “how can I save/make more money?” While it might seem easiest to simply cut things from the budget to create more margin, many families have already shaved as much as they can off their expenses, and their only option is to bring in more money somehow. If a change in career or a raise at work is out of the question, this is where the ever-growing list of side hustles can be a great option.
Side hustles can range from anything from selling things online to driving for Uber to selling your services such as graphic design, photography and writing. The list is truly endless as to how you can make a bit of extra money. I’ve written extensively on various side hustles, and one that has grown in popularity recently is teaching English online. Teaching English has been around for as long as the language has existed, however teaching solely online is more of a recent phenomenon, as there was never a great platform to do so. But with more advanced technology, highly sophisticated and interactive platforms have been created to simulate an intimate classroom experience for teachers and students. These platforms allow for high-quality streaming with very little lapses or freezing during class making a comfortable learning environment for students. While a few years ago, there were only one or two companies that specialized in teaching English online, today there are dozens, if not hundreds.
I have been asked on more than one occasion which companies I would recommend to someone interested in teaching as a side hustle. Since I am a writer, and thus a researcher at heart, I wanted to do my due diligence before recommending just any company. So instead of simply regurgitating what other bloggers have recommended, I decided to sign up and try the teaching platforms myself. Once upon a time, I used to be an ESL teacher in a brick and mortar school both in Asia and Canada. I taught over 500 elementary school kids each week in a public school in South Korea. Each class in the school would shuffle into my classroom to get their weekly dose of English lessons from a native English speaker. I also taught the Korean-English teachers during the evenings to help them improve their pronunciation and speaking skills.
After a couple years of teaching abroad, I came back to Canada to pursue my Masters. I also worked part-time at an ESL school in Victoria, BC to high school and college aged students from all over the world, including Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Taiwan. Fast forward ten years and 2.5 kids later, I decided to try out my hand at online ESL teaching for the sake of writing an article. I researched at least a dozen different ESL companies, but I narrowed the finalists (the ones I was interested in applying with) down to two companies. For me, it came down to reputation, technology and pay. There’s always new companies popping up, but I wanted to apply for companies that have a solid reputation of being a credible company for both students and teachers. For instance, does the company have a decent curriculum for students? Do they pay teachers on time? Secondly, I looked at their technology. Are there many issues with their teaching platform? Is the classroom interactive for the student and user friendly for teachers? Thirdly, since I want prospective teachers to get the most dollars per hour for their time and experience, I sought out companies that had the most competitive pay. Typically, teaching children in Asia will get you the most dollars per hour, while teaching adults or non-Asian students will get you less. Simply put, there is lots of demand in places like China, Korea and Vietnam to learn English, thus parents are willing to pay the big bucks for their kids to take lessons.
I narrowed it down to VIPkid and Gogokid. VIPkid is one of the largest ESL companies in the business. They have been around since 2013, and the technology and curriculum reflects it. It is rich and very user friendly for both teachers and students. Due to its longstanding status, they currently have over 30,000 English teachers across Canada and the United States. This seems like a lot, but keep in mind their student base is over 200,000 users (as of 2017). It has since grown due to their expansion to South Korea and Vietnam in 2018.
Gogokid is a much newer company and has only been around for about a year. They have grown quite quickly though due to their marketing efforts in recruiting both teachers and students. As of today, they have more than 4000 teachers and are hiring hundreds more weekly. They have a very impressive curriculum and online teaching platform considering how new they are to the ESL scene. However, what has attracted most teachers to them is the pay. They have hands down one of the most competitive compensation packages, especially for new teachers. Firstly, there is a $300 signing bonus after your first 30 days as a teacher (UPDATE: This will end on January 31, 2019). The starting hourly wage is higher than most ESL companies, including VIPkid. Of course, the more experience you have as a teacher, the more you will receive from any company. But if you are newly starting out as a teacher in the ESL world, Gogokid will get you at least an extra couple more dollars per class than any other company. They also have a ton of bonuses and incentives teachers can earn, which are very generous. For instance, I received an extra $120 USD the last week of December for simply opening up extra time slots to teach. It didn’t matter if I taught or not, they paid me just for opening up my schedule.
As you may have guessed, I have since been hired by both VIPkid and Gogokid. I started teaching with both companies in December 2018 and it’s been just over a month since I jumped into the online teaching world. It has been a wonderful surprise. What started out as a research experiment has turned into a rewarding and fun experience that I still can’t believe I get paid for. For the one week of December I worked, I made just over $350USD which was closer to $500 Canadian after our favourable exchange rate. For the month of January, I am tracking closer to $1500 USD, which will be around $2000 CAD after the exchange. This is pretty decent considering I work before the kids wake up and a couple of evenings a week after the kids are in bed. This makes it the perfect “side hustle” for parents who need to be present for their kids during the day, or people who have 9-5 jobs. Best of all, I don’t have to commute anywhere. I simply wake up, throw on a presentable cardigan (PJ pants are totally acceptable since students can’t see you from waist down) and head to my quiet home office with my laptop and headphones. I finish teaching just as my kids get up, and Bob’s your uncle! It has truly been such a lovely way to start my mornings.
Teaching at 6am might seem early, but you get used to the quiet of the mornings, and start to look forward to it. I’ve obviously had to adapt my bedtime routine. I’ve been getting to bed between 9-9:30pm to ensure I have a decent night’s sleep, but waking up early has made me much more productive during the days. I’m not going to name all the benefits of waking up early (because there’s just too many), but I can assure you, from someone who is not a “morning person”, it’s been a game changer in all the best ways.
So, will I be continuing with this “research experiment”? Well, if I have it my way, I would really like to. Aside from the financial benefits, I have been enjoying starting my days earlier. I start off with a cup of tea and read my devotionals before my first student shows up. It also has given me a sense of peace over my day having started with filling my own cup before tending to others. But of course, things could change once baby arrives. My schedule will no longer be mine to control, especially in the mornings and evenings. Life with a newborn means constant feedings and fewer hours of sleep. That is all to be expected, and frankly I welcome it. I’m one of those odd mums who actually loves the newborn stage. There’s never a time they will be that small, fragile and dependent on you, thus I want to soak that up. I also know babies eventually find a rhythm and I will sleep again. I will also be able to better predict when baby needs to feed, which can help me establish a regular teaching schedule. So the short answer is, I would very much like to continue to teach, but only when the baby and I find a good routine, perhaps a few months down the road.
What I hope I have conveyed in this post is that online ESL teaching is a totally legitimate job, where you can work as little or as much as you want. So if you’re looking for a side hustle where you will actually be paid for the time and effort put in, this might be the right gig for you! If you have any questions regarding how much you get paid per hour, what my schedule looks like and how to get hired (that is a process in itself!), then I welcome any and all queries. You can leave a comment in this post, or e-mail me here. One of the benefits of mentoring others through the process of getting hired and trained as a teacher is that I can earn a small bonus. I want to be transparent about that. I too used mentors for both companies and it really helped make the whole process seamless. If interested, my referral links to apply are below. I will most likely continue teaching for at least another month, but will slow down as I get closer to my due date. I will however be happy to mentor other teachers and continue to blog about my teaching experience over the coming months. In the meantime, tell me would you ever consider teaching English online?