Welcome to VIPKid, new teachers!
Many new VIPKid teachers struggle with getting regular bookings (or sometimes ANY bookings) in the beginning. I get it. TOTALLY. I signed my VIPKid contract in December of 2017, didn’t have my first booking until March 2018 … and didn’t teach an actual student until May! Eek!
But don’t let that freak you out! First of all, my experience with getting started at VIPKid seems to be extremely unusual. Plus, I did just about everything wrong that it is possible to do wrong during my first few months. Now, I teach 3-4 afternoons per week, I have a bunch of regular students, and I teach pretty much whenever I want. So even though I had a really rough start, it has gotten A LOT better.
But … don’t do what I did! I want to share with you all of the mistakes that I made at the beginning of my VIPKid experience, so you can not make them. Learn from my mistakes! Don’t put yourself in the same frustrating and discouraging position that I did! Here’s what I learned (by making all the possible mistakes as a new VIPKid teacher):
Don’t sign your VIPKid contract until you’re ready to get to work
I signed my VIPKid contract … and then immediately went out of town for 3 1/2 weeks. Knowing what I know now, I would have just taught while I was traveling. But, at the time I was brand new, and that was too intimidating. So, I figured I would just get started when I got back. As a result, I didn’t even start to open up spots on my schedule until over 4 weeks after I had become an official teacher … and I think that hurt my bookings.
From the stories I’ve heard from other new VIPKid teachers, I believe there is some priority given to new teachers when assigning Trial class students. And I think I missed whatever period I would have had priority by not opening up any spots during that first month. So don’t do that. Wait until you’re actually ready to get started teaching before signing on the dotted line.
Learn how the booking page works
This is seriously embarrassing to admit, but for about a week after I was ready to get started teaching, I thought that I couldn’t because my booking page wasn’t “activated” yet. Yeah, that’s not a thing, as it turns out. I didn’t realize you had to “unlock” the page in order to open spots. (And the old error message when you tried to open spots without unlocking was not very informative.) I wasted several days waiting for my page to “be activated” when what I was REALLY doing was waiting until I figured out how the page worked. Oops. Don’t be like me. Just unlock your bookings page (upper right corner on the teacher website or VIPKid app) when you’re ready to teach!
Open ALL the spots … but not on all the days
The general advice you get when you first start with VIPKid is to open up ALL THE SPOTS so that you’re more likely to get booked. I agree. Kind of. (But not really.)
A lot of VIPKid teachers live in time zones where that they need to get up very early (or stay up very late) to be ready to teach at the most popular times. This is something you’ll get used to (or so I hear — I live in central Europe, so I don’t have this particular issue), and it’s totally worth it when you’re waking up to teach your way through a bunch of smiling, adorable kids while filling up your bank account. Waking up in the middle of the night for a no-show (which happens a lot more in the beginning) or worse, no bookings at all, is completely discouraging and frustrating. It can be easy to get burnt out before you’ve even started teaching if you’re getting up every day at 4:00 a.m. for no reason!
So, my advice is to start by choosing 2-3 days per week that you’d most like to teach. (To make your life easier, make them non-consecutive days, like Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Thursday and Saturday.) Open up ALL THE SPOTS you can and would like to teach on those days. But give yourself the other days to rest up, so you’re not endlessly chasing something that can be slow to get started. Also, since it’s only a few days per week, you’re giving yourself time to get other stuff done without feeling like you need to check your phone every 10 minutes. Once those days that you’ve chosen to teach are getting regular bookings, you can add in more days gradually until your teaching schedule looks how you’d like it to.
Don’t push that button!
Against the typical advice, I also suggest that new teachers NOT turn on the 24 hour option on their classes when they first start teaching. As an established teacher, this can be a great way to make a little extra cash (if you don’t already know, classes booked with less than 24 hours notice pay an extra $2 each), but as a new teacher whose schedule is mostly blank, it just makes you feel like you’re waiting around on the edge of your seat (often for no reason).
And then, if you do get booked, you’ll probably feel like you don’t have enough time to prepare and get set up for those last-minute classes as a new teacher. In the beginning, last-minute classes can lead to extra stress and not feeling like you’re able to put your best effort into it, which can also be discouraging. So I recommend that you wait for a while, until you’re pretty comfortable with quickly prepping for classes to start opening up those last-minute spots.
Don’t book back-to-back (at first)
This is another piece of advice that goes against what you’ll hear from most people. When you’re new, I suggest only opening up every other spot. (Or, alternatively, closing spots on either side of a booked one once you get a booking.) Why would you do this when it cuts down on your hourly income AND reduces your booking opportunities? Because time management is hard, students sometimes show up late, and even after a year, I still find the transitions between back-to-back classes to be one of the hardest parts of my day.
If you don’t have classes booked back-to-back, you can run long if you need to (but practice ending at the right time when you can, because there’s a rhythm to it that you’ll get used to). If you leave space in between classes, you’ll have time to leave class feedback while the class is still fresh in your mind. You’ll have time for a bathroom break. You’ll have time to get organized for your next class. Don’t worry — before too long you’ll get to a point where you can handle rolling right from one class into another. But until you’re at that point, do yourself the favor of leaving yourself some breathing room.
So, your spots are open and you’re super excited, but you’re not busy yet. What to do? Treat this like any other job and get busy using your time for your VIPKid career! Get certified! Take some workshops! Watch some videos on tips and tricks for teaching classes! Spend your time now, before you’re all booked up, becoming a better teacher. Later, once you’re super busy (which WILL happen!) you’ll be surprised at how hard it is to set time aside to get that next certification or take another workshop. Plus, having more certifications will only make you more attractive to parents who are looking for new teachers to try.
When I first started, I remember thinking “Yeah, yeah … LIGHTING. I’ve turned on every light in the house. It’ll be fine!” But … I kept hearing feedback about my lighting. The parents would make comments in their feedback, I heard about it in my certification mocks, and I even had a workshop teacher call me out once for my lighting!
Eventually, I got the message and bought myself a $9 ring light on Amazon. I regret only that I didn’t do it sooner. It really DOES make a huge difference in how I look on camera. In particular, it makes it a lot easier for my students to see my pronunciation. So … fix your lighting!
Ok, so let’s say you’ve got some classes on your schedule now. Congratulations!!! But you know what’s better than a few classes — a whole bunch! So, I’ve also got some tips for turning those first few classes into regular bookings with students who want to see YOU every week (or even more often)!
Talk to the parents (the only ways you can)
Never miss an opportunity to get noticed by the parents. If VIPKid runs a video contest (like the ‘Video Blizzard’ or ‘Ni How You Doin’’?): participate! But even better — when you get a student, use every opportunity to demonstrate to the parents of that student how thorough and attentive you are. Leave detailed and honest feedback after the class. Always mention that you hope to see their child in class again soon. Send an e-card (through the VIPKid mobile app) to the child after class. And, if you’re lucky enough to get a 5-Apple feedback — respond to it! Thank them for the feedback and reiterate your hope to see their child again soon.
I have no idea what the stats are throughout the company, but I know that the vast majority of my students are students that I’ve taught before. I don’t know that it’s the repeated contact with the parents that does it … but I don’t think it can possibly hurt. (Note: you can send an e-card even to a student who cancels or misses the class. Let them know you missed them and that you’re looking forward to your next class together!)
I see a lot of experienced teachers who scoff at the idea of preparing for class. If they’re able to still teach an AMAZING class without having prepared, then I’m impressed! But I can’t. I prep for every single class I teach. The parents are investing a lot in their child’s English education, and they deserve my very best effort for each and every class.
The day before I’m booked to teach, I take a look at my class schedule for the next day. First, I look at the student’s information, because even if I teach this kid all the time, I want to be up-to-date with how they’re doing and what they’re working on. Then, I go through the slides, make note of the lesson objectives, read the “tips” listed for each slide, and come up with a plan of how to teach each one. And finally, I make a list of the props I will need for the class. That’s it. It sounds like a lot, but it’s about 10-15 minutes of work per class if it’s a class I’ve never taught before, and around 5 minutes per class if it’s a class I teach a lot or have taught recently.
Watch the playbacks
Once you’ve taught a class, go in and watch it back (a playback will be created within a few hours of the end of your class). Watch at least part of it back, and critique yourself. Are you talking too fast? Do you and your classroom look engaging and inviting? Are you giving your student ample time to speak before jumping in to help? Are your pronunciation corrections clear and easy to understand? How do your props look on-camera? How’s the lighting?!?
Don’t be afraid to change things that aren’t working! If you see something that isn’t great, make it better! I know that I cringed the first few times I watched myself (is that REALLY what my voice sounds like?!?). But I’ve learned a lot about what I’m doing wrong (and right!) by watching those videos back. And that’s let me make some changes to become an even more effective (and busy!) teacher.
So, that’s what I’ve got so far! I’ve gone from teaching 0 students each month to booking over 80% of my open spots and having a TON of repeat students. I hope these ideas can help you, too! If you’re already a VIPKid teacher, and you’ve got any other hints for increasing bookings with VIPKid, let me know! And if you’re not yet a teacher, but you’re thinking you might apply, I would be so happy if you’d apply using my referral link or code (EMILY0294). Thanks, and happy teaching!
(All images in this post courtesy of VIPKid.)