Make Money While (and for) Traveling
So I am CONSTANTLY being asked how on earth I’m able to travel so much/live part time in Barcelona. People are always saying, “You must be rich!” HAHAHA! I wish! Honestly, I don’t even have a savings account; I’m a terrible adult. My secret is actually just to have a job (or in my case, jobs) with lots of flexibility. I’ve written about VIPKID before, but since I’ve updated my website, that post is gone, so here is a new and improved version, especially for all my “Girls LOVE travel” sisters on Facebook - shoutout!
I’m also including my other random side gigs at the end, just to spark some ideas. Good luck, all you fellow nomads!
First of all, let me start out by saying, when I was first told about VIPKID, I thought it was a total scam. A teacher I worked with told me she was doing it, and that I should sign up. It sounded way too good to be true, so I ignored her. One year later, at the beginning of the next school year, she told me about it again. Well, she’d been doing it for over a year now, so I figured it maybe, possibly wasn’t really a scam, and checking it out couldn’t hurt. I’ve been kicking myself ever since that I didn’t start the day she told me about it!!!
(Ignore my silly faces, but here’s a screenshot of what the “classroom” looks like, and also a screenshot of the bookings page - you just click the boxes you want to “open” to be booked, and keep the ones you don’t want booked “closed.” I’ve also included a screenshot of my payment screen for last month, and that total is with taking a lot of days off for various reasons - I usually work a lot more. ‘Participation incentives’ are just money you get for showing up on time - $1 per class - and the ‘other incentives’ is for teaching at least a certain number of classes each month - 45 to get the most money - and for having new kiddos sign up - you get $5 extra if you teach a trial kiddo that decides to sign up with VIPKID.)
VIPKID lets me work from ANYWHERE in the world. Just in the past 3 months I’ve been able to visit 6 different countries, all while keeping that income flowing. The only tools you need are wifi and a laptop, and even now, there are companies like Tep Wireless to provide you easy access to wifi wherever you need it! (I found this review helpful when thinking about getting Tep.) I always pack a map I bought at dollar tree a couple years ago to use as my background, bring headphones if I’m traveling with others, and set up my “classroom” anywhere. (I once taught from a hotel bathroom, while my family slept on the the other side of the wall, and my map fell off the shower curtain in the middle of class. I just rolled with it, and the kiddo thought it was hilarious.) My favorite was in Cabo - I set everything up on the terrace of my bedroom, and got to watch whales breaching in the ocean as the sun rose, not too shabby! (See the photos below.)
VIPKID also lets me choose my own hours! It used to be that you had to open a minimum of 7.5 hours a week, but I noticed in my latest contract (contracts are 6 months) that this isn’t even a requirement anymore. I will say the hours are within what is available - ie. Chinese kids’ time schedule. This means that living in Kansas, the peak times to teach are from 4-9am, or Friday and Saturday nights. You are definitely free to open other time slots as well, but if kids in China are sleeping or in school, then those slots probably won’t be filled. I will say that there is an influx of bookings during Chinese New Year (January/February), and in the summer, so the hours can increase then. When I’m living in Barcelona (I’m there a few months every year), the hours are from noon-4pm - what a dream!! I could definitely work more hours than I do, but right now I stick to between 20-25 hours a week, and average close to $2000/month.
You know your schedule 2 weeks in advance. Basically you open up all the slots you’ll be available to teach, and every Monday, the parents in China book the classes for 2 weeks in advance. I love this so much because it allows me to better organize my own schedule and know when I will and won’t have free time. You are always welcome to open slots up last minute too though, and if a parent books within 24 hours of the class, then you get an extra $2 for that class!
All the classes are 1-on-1! I have friends who work for other online companies, and are happy with them, but they have more students in each class, which can be a pain. At VIPKID you always have just 1 child that you focus on, and many times his/her parent is sitting next to them to keep them in line (not that this is really ever a problem - all my students are SO GOOD). (Some people are intimidated by the parent being there, but honestly, you get used to it, and I actually like it because they can help if the kid gets lost or doesn’t understand something.)
All the classes are only 25 minutes! Some other companies have 50 minute classes, but VIPKID classes are all 25 minutes, and it is glorious! Last year I would always try to squeeze a class in between working out, and heading off to the public high school I worked at, and those 25 minute lessons really added up to some big money at the end of the month - couldn’t have done it if 50 minutes was the requirement.
NO PREP!!! As a former high school teacher, this is a big deal for me! Lesson planning was always so draining for me - it was like I had homework every single night! With VIPKID I don’t have to plan a single thing! As soon as a kid books your class, you get the lesson they will be doing (usually 2 weeks ahead of time). All the lessons are basically in powerpoint form, and you just have to go through the lesson, slide-by-slide with the kiddo. It’s mostly just you reading or saying something, and the kid repeating it - easy peasy! Also, since I’ve been doing this for almost 2 years now, I’ve taught most of the lessons hundreds of times, so I don’t even have to look at them before class anymore. This means if I have a class at 4am, I literally wake up at 3:35am, throw on some make-up, get some coffee, open my computer and go!
No grading! You don’t have to grade anything either! The only thing you have to do is send a little report at the end of class (within 12 hours of class) telling the parents what the kid needs to work on. For example, “Mimi did a wonderful job in class today! He did great with the vocabulary and reading, but I suggest he review his past tense verbs because he had a little trouble forming some of them.” The end.
Bonuses! I didn’t think about this until a friend once said, “My online job has game-ified my life!” Um, what?! Basically each month there are these special promotions the company does so you can earn extra money - it’s like some sort of game you’re always trying to “level up” at. For example, over Christmas, 5 minutes into each class a little gift box would appear, and when you clicked on it, a random number would pop up telling you how much extra money you were getting for that class - sometimes it was only like fifty-two cents, but sometimes it would be $5 - and this was for every class, so like 8 a day, for almost a whole month! They’re really good at always having some sort of bonus to earn, but beware, it gets addictive, and makes you want to work more and more and more!
You also get huge bonuses if you refer teachers…hint, hint, hint. Haha, so yes, if you click my link here, then I will get some money for you to sign up. But I would definitely still be telling you about it even if I didn’t get any money because it really is one of the greatest things to happen to me!
If you live in the United States, you have the whole rest of your day free to take on other jobs if you want. As I mentioned, I live in Kansas, so I’m done by 9am, though most days I finish by 7:30 so I can go substitute teach at local public schools. This means that by 3:10pm I’ve already worked 2 jobs and made lots of money for future travels!
The kids really are adorable, and it is super rewarding. Look, I’m gonna be totally honest, I’m not really a kid person. I taught high school and don’t mind teenagers so much, but I could never see myself as an elementary school teacher. Whelp, most of my students on VIPKID are between 4 and 12. But you know what? I love them! They are so sweet and respectful, and eager to learn, and I love learning about them and their culture. At Christmas and other holidays they send sweet little cards and videos and it’s just the cutest. I have so many regulars now, and I always look forward to seeing them.
No commute! You get to work out of the comfort of your own home (or hotel room, or airbnb, or patio, or…)! It is so nice not having to get stressed out in traffic!
You can work in your pajamas! Ok, so really you probably can’t, but really they only see me from the waist up, so I literally work in pajama pants and slippers every day - I just make sure I put on a nice top, some make-up, and I’m ready to roll! Business on top, comfy on bottom!
Taxes are not taken out. This is a big bummer. At the end of the year you get a 1099-MISC form for taxes instead of a W2. This means you are a freelance worker and are responsible for your own taxes. I just make sure I always set aside 20% of what I earn, and I’ve been fine. I did recently find out it’s probably best to start paying in quarterly, but I’m not sure how to do this yet - once I find out I’ll start though, because even though I’m planning on that money being taken at the end of the year, it’s still sad to see such a big chunk just vanish; I think paying quarterly would ease the pain.
In the states, the hours are super early. I am not a morning person. At all. I HATE waking up at 3:30am everyday, and it doesn’t get easier. (However, I also love being done by 9am. And I also love the hours when I’m in other countries like Argentina or Spain!)
I hear that it can be hard to build regulars. I honestly have never had a problem with this myself, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel I should mention it. Apparently some teachers have a hard time filling their slots, so they don’t make that much. My classes always book up immediately every Monday though, so again, I don’t really have this problem. I think trying to have a pretty regular schedule will help, and VIPKID also offers tons of workshops on how to increase bookings. Insert shoulder shrug emoji here.
Basically that’s it. For me, the pros far outweigh the cons, and this job has literally been a dream come true since it allows me to travel so much, and continue living part-time in my dream city, Barcelona (below).
I am by no means an expert, but I’ve had several friends go through the interview process and pass to become VIPKID teachers, so if you have any questions at all, or need help at any point along the way, please do not hesitate to contact me on here, via Facebook (Kelsey Beckman), or on Instagram (@kelseybeckman).
Also, since VIPKID does pay teachers for referrals, I really would appreciate it if you would use my link to sign up if you’re thinking about it! Click here.
Ok, so this is one of my other jobs. Once I close my computer in the mornings, I head over to one of the local public high schools and substitute teach all day. In Wichita Public Schools I make about $120/day to sub. I usually sub at the high school I worked at the past few years, so I know most of the staff and kiddos, and it is great! Here are some pros of subbing - so far I see no cons.
I get to pick my days/hours. If I don’t feel like working one day, I just don’t pick up a job. Maybe one day I only want to work a few hours, so then I just pick up a half day job. It’s that simple. Obviously there aren’t always options for half days everyday, but so far I’ve had plenty of options.
I get to choose where I work. I mentioned earlier that I’m not really a little kid person, so I don’t sub at elementary schools. Sometimes I sub at middle schools, but mostly I sub at high schools. It’s been interesting to see how each high school differs from the other, and I usually end up back at the school I’m most familiar with. I have greatly narrowed my options of where to work the more I’ve subbed, and even only being open to work in like 4 different schools, I have MANY options daily.
No lesson planning! Lesson planning was the bane of my existence before. It was a daily chore that I always procrastinated - well no more! I just walk in the room, see what’s laid out for me, and go.
No grading! I don’t have to grade anything either. Glorious!
No nights/staying late/coming in early. As a sub, I know exactly how long I will be there everyday, and it was the greatest feeling in the world heading out at 3:10 the day of parent/teacher conferences knowing that the teachers had to stay until 7:30pm.
I’m always learning something new. As a sub, I get to be in a lot of different classes I wouldn’t normally be in. For example, this week I subbed in a child development class, a social studies class, and a math class. I’ve also subbed for firefighting classes, shop classes, foreign language classes…basically every class that exists. I got to watch a cool documentary about Nicola Tesla in shop class one day, and a cool documentary about the French Revolution just a couple days ago. I also learned a ton about legumes in a cooking class a couple weeks ago. Did you know that great northern beans are really just the beans inside green beans?? Mind blown! I LOVE learning new things, so this is super fun for me, and I like to think it makes me a more interesting person ;-).
Sometimes I get to just read! There have been a couple times I’ve subbed during a test and I literally just sit and read all day - and get paid for it.
I don’t have to take anything personally from these kiddos! As a regular teacher I was super sensitive about student comments and things they said to me, but I’ve found that as a sub, I magically don’t care anymore! I don’t know if it’s because I probably won’t ever see most of the kids again, or what, but even when I got cussed out the other day, I was not upset even one little bit.
I still get to interact with high schoolers. Some people probably think this makes me a freak (WHO LIKES HIGH SCHOOLERS?!), but they keep me young, and I’m super entertained by them.
So this one is a bit more unique to my own situation. One of my high school friends owns a restaurant and I wait tables there. However, whenever I say, “Hey I’m leaving the country for a while” he just says, “Ok, let me know when you’re back.” Waiting tables (in the US, not really anywhere else) is a super fast way to make some money. If you’re willing to put up with the ridiculous bullshit clients spew at you constantly, then this is a great job. It’s especially great if you find a place that will let you come and go when you need (I realize this is rare though).
Do you have some special skill? I actually fell into giving private lessons quite by accident. A friend of a friend was wanting someone to teach her girls Spanish, and our mutual friend suggested me. I had tried to advertise private lessons before, but no one was interested. Now I have a sweet gig teaching Spanish to 3 cuties, 3 times a week.
Maybe you’re like me and feel like you don’t have any special skills? List out everything you can do that most people can’t. I didn’t fee like Spanish was that special because SO MANY PEOPLE speak Spanish, but voila, out of the blue I got some clients. (Just because a lot of people speak Spanish, doesn’t mean more people don’t, and probably the same with your skill.) I am always looking for someone to give me lessons in random things - accordion, wordpress, photo editing, ukelele - and it’s so hard to find people! Maybe you have a niche market that you don’t even realize, just put yourself out there and see what happens.
So that’s it for my secrets. What are yours? I know there are TONS of ways to make some extra money out there, but these are the tried and true methods for me that allow me to be nomadic. If you have a great money-making side hustle secret, please share in a comment below!