Once you get started in the world of teaching ESL online, you’ll quickly realize this is a BIG industry with a lot of players… and many teachers choose to work for multiple companies. I stumbled into online teaching through a VIPKID link on Facebook, and when I began I had no idea other companies were doing the same thing. I loved working with VIPKID and had zero desire to make life more complicated with a second company when I had all the success I needed with VIPKID, but something in November caused me to reconsider. So let’s do a quick pro/cons list of working for more than one ESL company:
- job security
- the online world has a lot less flexibility in some ways than real life jobs – you can’t simply explain to your employer that your basement flooded, or make up time later in the week when your kid’s dentist appointment goes overtime. If you are late or don’t show up, that’s a big black mark against you and with few direct avenues to work through any issues those contracts can be terminated pretty quickly. Unfortunately, in the online world you’re kind of disposable. Working for more than one company gives you a back-up if it all goes awry.
- fill up your schedule, especially when on-boarding
- It can take a while to fill up your schedule, especially when you’re just getting started. Some teachers swear by having a ‘backup’ company, and toggle back and forth between the two depending which one gets booked.
- find your sweet spot
- every company has a slightly different teaching philosophy, style and expectations. Teaching is not a one-size-fits-all profession, and just because I love VIPKID doesn’t mean it’ll be your sweet spot. Trying a few different companies may help you find your perfect fit.
- be exposed to multiple teaching styles
- There are at least 7 academically recognized approaches to teaching ESL. Each company will have its own methodology and emphasis, but finding your own groove happens when you learn how to teach from multiple sources.
- time management
- it gets difficult to manage your schedule, and in an industry where cancelling a class can ruin your career, you have to be super organized to make sure you don’t double-book yourself.
- set-up switching
- switching back and forth between two companies often involves swapping out your teaching background, switching your teaching platform, changing out your props and even changing your clothes – none of it is too difficult, but showing up to one company wearing the uniform of another is a definite no-no. Make sure you’re good with details before making this leap!
- mental preparation
- different companies require different teaching styles and while there is overlap, keeping mentally prepared for the different teaching matrixes can be taxing.
- building a client base
- In an industry where you are trying to build a client base, consistency and loyalty gets rewarded. You may be better off taking your time to grow a solid base of students in one company in the long run.
In all fairness, I’ve done both.
My preference is to choose one company and give it your best. For 10 months, I did that with VIPKID. I was up-to-date on their constantly changing platform, I was comfortable with their teaching rhythms and I built up a solid client base that kept me busy. I was working towards getting my one-year-anniversary raise and hustling to be qualified for some of their mentoring positions I hoped would one day be available for me.
So what happened in November to change my mind? Two things:
- The government of China’s new regulations prohibiting children from taking online courses after 9:00pm BJT.
- Daylight Savings Time.
It was the perfect storm. My sweet 5:00am-9:00am shift had not only been bumped back to a 4:00am-8:00am shift, but that last hour had been cut off. Now, if I wanted a 4 hour work day, I was looking at 3:00am-7:00am. I did it… for a month… and decided this was a bad idea. I had no energy for my own family, I was grouchy and I actually fell asleep at the dinner table one time! This job was always a way to BENEFIT my family, not cost them my presence.
The only solution was to cut back on my hours, or find another company that either worked outside of China or with adults.
Enter iTutorGroup. After researching various options (I did not include any companies that worked exclusively with children in China) I landed on iTutorGroup. You can see my comparison of the two companies here, but for now I do juggle the two companies. I try to keep them separated by times: 5:00-6:30am is for VIPKID (the primetime hours, and once DST ends it’ll be 5:00-7:30am) and iTutor gets 6:30am-10:30am. It’s not been a smooth transition and if I had my way, I’d be back exclusively with VIPKID but this is a good compromise that’s letting me keep my health and still make money.
Three months later, I quit iTutorGroup and am happily back working exclusively with VIPkid. A change in circumstances meant I was able to add evening shifts to my morning ones and get back into a groove that’s working for my family and I, I transitioned to short notice only and got my annual raise which means I’m making more per hour (double what iTutor was offering) and honestly, working for iTutor made me really grouchy but I almost always end a shift with VIPkid energized. That’s a big deal, too.