What education-related job options are out there for a teacher in 2020?
After leaving the classroom in 2015, I got my first taste of nontraditional education work as an hourly Home and Hospital tutor for a nearby school district. A year later in 2016, I started my first virtual job as an online teacher with VIPKid.
Since then, I’ve become passionate (or obsessed?) with online education work.
Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of online teacher jobs, side hustles, and activities. Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past 5 years include:
- Getting complacent and put too much stake in only one online education opportunity (VIPKid)
- Not starting earlier with creating an online “teacher brand” (website, blog, a network of other online teachers, etc.)
- Spending all my time doing live work and spent very little time pursuing non-live work, semi-passive work, or the all-illusive “passive income”
Not relying 100% anymore on just “live” online teaching has especially important. Despite having taught over 4,000 online classes, it can be extremely draining as an introvert to be “on” for long periods of time.
2020 was the year that I lost my primary source of income as a Mock Class Mentor with VIPKid. It also was the year that I decided to step up my game and try out 8 different opportunities for online teachers.
The jobs and activities in this post are not with school districts or traditional schools. Rather, they are through online companies or independent work.
How does someone do 8 “jobs, side hustles, and activities” at a time?
It’s not as crazy as it sounds (usually).
When I started doing online teacher work back in 2016, I was only working with VIPKid to get my “feet wet”. Honestly, I didn’t even though that companies like Teachers Pay Teachers existed or that tutoring online independently was an option!
Now that I’ve been doing nontraditional education work for several years, I’ve started gradually adding on more online teacher jobs & opportunities.
Also, all of these opportunities are extremely flexible and don’t require any minimum hours. I usually spend at least a few hours a week on each endeavor. Some weeks or months during 2020, I didn’t do anything related to one or some of these activities.
My teacher-entrepreneur dream: To eventually establish a teacher “brand” that includes a mix of:
- live online teaching and non-live work
- primarily education-related
- at least 50% of the work coming straight from my brand and not relying on any specific company
Read on to see my honest experiences with different online teacher jobs and activities in 2020…
…as well as how you can get started on any one of these if you’re interested!
They will be organized in terms of live work, live/non-live work, and non-live work.
Note: This post contains some affiliate links and I may receive compensation from the company if you apply to a company using the link. If an online teacher uses my link and contacts me, I provide coaching and resources related to the company.
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8 Online Teacher Jobs, Side Hustles & Activities – My Experience in 2020
Status: No longer a mock class mentor; still teaching but backing away a bit
A little over 4 years ago, I started teaching for VIPKid only 2 hours in the morning. It was my first venture into being an online teacher and helped me get comfortable with nontraditional education work.
Up until now, I’ve taught over 4,000 classes!
From 2017 – September 2020, I was also working as a VIPKid Mock Class Mentor (MCM). Between teaching students and mentoring adults, I devoted most of my time and energy to VIPKid. What initially was a side hustle became my main source of income for 3 1/2 years. In that time, I taught over 4,000 lessons and mentored over 2,300 prospective teachers.
In September of this year, VIPKid downsized the mock class team significantly. Along with many other mentors, I was one of the MCM’s to not be offered a new contract.
Ir was initially devastating to no longer be part of the team. I deeply enjoyed the work and this position provided relatively steady income over the years. However, I appreciate having had the opportunity to work with many adults. Hopefully, I can continue to mentor teachers in the future in some capacity.
VIPKid has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years. For example, 2020 brought on pay structure adjustments and an influx of new teachers. Since I want to spend time on work I have more control over, I’ve been working fewer hours with them for now.
Despite earning a lower hourly rate overall, I plan to continue teaching with VIPKid in 2021 due to:
- Their pre-planned curriculum – at this point, I can jump in and teach without planning ahead of time
- The familiarity and fun features of their online classroom
- Short notice bookings (that pay $2 extra per class)
- Regular students that make the work not feel like “work”
Overall, I think the company still has a bright future. It can be a great start for prospective online teachers to look into. Their training materials are also excellent and have helped me and other teachers learn core online teaching skills and pedagogy!
Interested in VIPKid? You can check out my FAQ, apply here (NOTE: this is a referral link and I may receive some compensation from the company if you use it), and then contact me. If you use my referral link to apply and contact me, I’ll provide coaching and answer any questions you have throughout the application process.
Status: My back-up online ESL company
I started working with GoGoKid almost 2 years ago when they were just beginning as a company. As an online teacher job, it’s very similar to VIPKid in structure, student base, and pay. They both allow you to teach 25-minute, 1:1 ESL lessons to students in China. GoGokid differs from VIPKid in that they are a smaller company overall. They also offer additional incentives that VIPKid doesn’t anymore (like potential holiday bonuses).
Nowadays, I don’t open classes with them often as I’m devoting more time to the other opportunities from this post. However, since there are no minimum weekly hours required, I still renew my contract every 6 months. That way, I have a back-up plan in case I’m not able to teach with VIPKid for any reason.
Interested in learning more about GoGoKid? I’ve also created prep materials for GoGoKid’s recorded demo (NO LIVE MOCK anymore as part of the interview process). You can also apply here (NOTE: this is a referral link and I may receive some compensation from the company if you use it) and as my referral, I’ll provide coaching and answer any questions you have throughout the application process.
Status: Not there yet but looking into it for 2021
In 2020, I’ve seen more people in the online teacher world talk about tutoring independently. I’ve been thinking about whether want to try tutoring any students online not through any company.
I used to tutor students in-person back in 2016-2017 and enjoyed setting my own rate without a company taking a cut. At this point, I’m reflecting on if it’s personally something I want to pursue or not.
For now, I did purchase an ESL online curriculum for $30 from Dan at ESL Kids Curriculum. He’s taught 1,000’s of students and his ESL curriculum is extensive. The lessons can be used either for independent tutoring or companies like Outschool. I’ve already used the lessons with 3 ESL students!
In 2021, I’m going to look deeper into independent online ESL tutoring for adults.
Live and Non-Live Work
Status: Carefully trying it out and enjoying it so far!
After hearing about Outschool for almost a year, I took the plunge and applied earlier this year.
Outschool lets you offer 1:1, group, and flex classes in a large variety of academic, extracurricular, and social topics.
Most Outschool class offerings are taught live via Zoom. The only Outschool classes that involve no live teaching are flex classes. Flex classes instead promote only asynchronous learning that occurs through videos, discussion board posts, etc.
As the sheer process of teaching on Outschool can be daunting, I’ve taken my time and:
- Applied around April 20th
- Listed my first class in early June
- Taught about 16 private tutoring sessions over the summer
- Created and have run 3 flex classes
It is possible to build up to working full-time on Outschool and their stated average (as well as the rate of many teachers that I know) is $50/teaching hour:
I am treating this role as a teacher side hustle and only working a little bit at a time. I want live teaching at a company to be part of the pie, but not the majority of it. I’m also developing flex classes that can take longer to get steady enrollments initially. Hopefully, they will provide semi-passive income later.
Interested in learning more about Outschool? Check out my FAQ, info on how to list a class, and my good and the bad with my first Outschool class. You can also apply here (my referral link) and contact me if you’re considering teaching on Outschool and want guidance with the application process, teaching your first classes, and more!
Non-Live Work for Online Teachers
Status: Basically dead
I started working for this then-brand new education company in Dec. 2019. I made educational videos for Butterfly in January and February for $10 a video ($15 for special videos).
Their plan was to allow teachers to launch subscription channels to post our own educational videos. If this idea were to have panned out, teachers would’ve received income for each student subscriber we had.
However, after March, we were told that operations were paused primarily to the negative impacts of COVID-19.
We haven’t heard anything new from the company since then. The last time I checked, their website was taken down.
As such, I’m assuming that the company is dead.
The feedback and experience I got with making educational videos for them prepared me for making educational videos with Outschool (and hopefully beyond)!
Selling Educational Products (Teachers Pay Teachers, Boom Cards, Etsy, selling from my website, etc.)
Status: Slowly coming along
Teachers Pay Teachers
Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) is a marketplace where teachers can sell worksheets, Boom cards, and other educational materials. While some teachers use their TpT store as a side hustle, this online teacher job can provide significant passive income vs. having to actively teach online to earn money.
I made a TpT account last year and only put up one free product so far. It has been downloaded about 150 times.
I’ve brainstormed and made some draft products for months and months now…
I’m finally ready to post my first paid products in less than a few weeks!
Update 12/13: I finally posted my first paid TpT product! It is a set of printable Spanish word match and coloring pages. I am adding a list of my TpT and eventually Etsy products here.
From 12/13 to now, my winter word match and coloring page set has been purchased twice. I posted about it on my teacher Facebook and Instagram to help it get more visibility.
Over the past 2 months, I’ve also been making Boom Cards. I’m only using them now in my Outschool flex classes, but the goal is to eventually put some decks up for sale as well.
Boom cards are interactive, self-checking “cards” that let you upload pictures, audio, video and more! They are very easy for students (even young ones) to use.
Boom cards can be sold on both the Boom cards website as well as TpT.
I’m looking to also put some worksheets on Etsy that are oriented towards homeschoolers and adults. I’ll update here when I get around to that! 🙂
Products From My Website
From my website, I am offering the service of creating personalized Outschool cover images for teachers. When selling products or services directly from your website, you don’t have to pay a commission fee the way you do on other websites. However, there is more effort on your part with advertising and bookkeeping.
Interested in selling products on Teachers Pay Teachers? These teachers and resources have been helpful in preparing to sell:
- TpT Tips and Advice Facebook group
- Jillian Fernandez and Terrific Selling Tactics on Instagram
Status: The “heart” of me as a teacher & teacher-entrepreneur (but not itself a money maker)
I knew going into blogging that it can be rather difficult and time-consuming to make a blog profitable. As such, I currently view blogging as an “activity” rather than a job or side-hustle for now.
To me, this blog and website (along with my social media accounts) allow me to express my many thoughts about teaching online. They are also the foundation of my teacher brand.
In 2020, I’ve posted 15 blog posts with an average word count of 1,500! It takes me a long time to write blog posts, but I’ve found that longer posts do better overall.
The caveat with longer posts is that it still needs to contain valuable information and not just fluff to pump up the word count. In 2021, I hope to blog more often and learn more about SEO.
Just like blogging, my teacher social media accounts in 2020 have been an “activity” for connecting with others and self-expression. I don’t currently view social media as a teacher side hustle or online teacher job, but it is a core part of what keeps me motivated to do teacherpreneur work!
To help establish my brand online and eventually advertise my educational products and services, I have an Instagram, Facebook page, Pinterest, and Twitter account. I post most often on Instagram and love the online teacher community there!
Both blogging and social media can potentially bring income, such as:
Having a teacher Instagram or other social media account can potentially generate income through sponsorships, traffic to your products, etc.
With my blog and Instagram, I was approved for an Amazon Associate account. However, I was not approved for the Amazon Influencers program. Amazon Influencers has unspecified eligibility requirements regarding social media influence.
With Amazon Associates, I was able to meet the requirement of 3 products purchased by others with 180 days.
So far this year, I’ve made 20 cents from an affiliate purchase of markers (lol).
Although there are other ways to get educational sponsors even with only 1,000 Instagram followers, I have not pursued ways to make money with social media at this point.
I do post referral links occasionally on my blog posts and social media accounts, but it is not the highlight of my brand.
This year, through Instagram, Facebook groups, and other social media, I’ve referred 2 people to VIPKid, 1 to GoGoKid, and 1 to Outschool. Like many other online ESL teachers, I have a bittersweet view of referring teachers and try not to “oversell” a job that is great for some people and not so great for others.
Overall, it’s been easier to stick through the highs and lows of online teacher work by having close connections with other online teachers.
Social media can have its negatives though, so here are some ways that I am careful about my teacher social media use.
Online Teacher Job Honorable Mentions
In 2020, I also looked into the following opportunities:
- Zebra English: They are another online ESL company with slightly higher pay than VIPKid and GoGoKid. I applied in June right before their hiring freeze and was not hired, but they may be hiring again. More info can be found here (not a referral link).
- Your Teachable Moment: This company allows you to teach live classes to adults! I’m potentially interested in trying it out in 2021. If you’d like to teach adults online, you can find more info here (not a referral link).
It’s been easier for me to try out these different opportunities this year since I’ve been at home more often, but trying any one opportunity has still been a slow process for me.
Do these online teacher jobs, side-hustles, and activities provide part-time or full-time income?
Any one of these 8 opportunities, especially when combined, can potentially provide full-time income with determination and persistence. I know dozens of online teachers who make several thousand a month, and I plan on posting how much I made from these endeavors soon.
Subscribe for a 2020 income update in a few weeks!
However, part of the risk with online teacher jobs such as these is that while they are very flexible, there’s always the risk of potentially dramatic income shifts if an online teacher or “teacherpreneur” puts too many eggs in one basket.
I was making a modest full-time income over the past few years from mainly relying on my online teaching and mentoring positions with VIPKid. Now that my mentoring “egg” is gone, I’m trying to create several streams of income and not put too much stake in one company.
I still love teaching with VIPKid, making flex classes with Outschool, etc., but I’m only going to spend a small amount of time towards these endeavors vs. work I directly control, such as creating teacher products and building a teacher business that I own.
I’ve currently filed an LLC for my teacher brand The Introverted Online Teacher to hopefully eventually create a sustainable teacher business that I can control.
Which teacher side hustles have you tried out this year? Which ones are you interested in learning more about?
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- Want to know more about teaching ESL online with VIPKid, Outschool, or other companies? Check out my FAQ on VIPKid and Outschool. If you’re not sure where to begin, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for free resources and guidance.
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The Introverted Online Teacher
Thank you for sharing your candid experience! I appreciate your honest and balanced assessment of these various streams of work/income.
Thanks Caroline! It can be hard to know whether an unfamiliar opportunity is a good fit or not, so I figure I’d try a bunch out to know for sure! 🙂
This is all really great information. I think we’ve all got to rethink what normal teaching looks like, so thank you for giving a breakdown of all of these!
I’m glad to hear it was helpful! It’s hard to know what the future looks like for education as a whole, but I think having a variety of in-person and virtual options moving forward will be beneficial for both teachers and students