Being frugal is all about saving money.
Whether you’re looking to put away a little extra each month for your retirement, pay off your mortgage quicker, or just free up some more spare cash to spend on the things you enjoy, we could all do with a little more money in the bank.
But saving money doesn’t just mean cutting down on expenses – it’s about maximizing your earnings too. And that doesn’t have to mean grinding away in an office for hours on end, either.
There are plenty of jobs that you can do from the comfort of your own home to add a sizable chunk onto your paycheck at the end of each month, one of the most lucrative of which is online English teaching.
If you’re a native English speaker, and you have a degree (in any subject whatsoever), there are literally hundreds of online English teaching companies out there just waiting to sign you up.
With so many to choose from, it’s important to shop around and choose the right company for you. After all, why settle for less than the very best?
To that end, we’ve put together a review on one of the most popular, stand-out employers in this arena – SayABC.
Who are they, you ask? Let’s take a look with our full SayABC review.
What is SayABC?
SayABC is a fast-growing online English learning platform based in Beijing. Like most Chinese teaching companies, they cater to 5 to 12-year olds, as this is the age range during which children are most receptive to learning a new language.
They offer their own interactive learning platform to connect native English-speaking teachers with children. These teachers then deliver lessons via an audio-video feed, using the platform’s own learning materials.
They’re also partnered with National Geographic and backed by tier-one investors in China, so they’re one of the more well-established online ESL companies out there and are growing rapidly.
This growth means they’re constantly looking for new teachers and are accepting applications all the time.
Whilst all that might be somewhat helpful, though, it’s not what you really need to know if you’re considering working with them. No, what you really need to know is if they’re a good employer, and what they can offer you – the employee.
There are lots of ways to get that kind of information: scouring Glassdoor reviews, checking Facebook pages, speaking to existing teachers… all of which take a lot of time and searching around on the internet.
Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work already by taking all of the above, extracting the important stuff, and condensing that information into 5 basic pros and cons, listed below.
Once you’ve read through the points below, you should be able to make a balanced decision as to whether working for SayABC seems like a good option.
To start with, let’s talk about everyone’s favourite topic – the pay.
SayABC Pay & Incentives – Pros and Cons
If you’re money-motivated, SayABC won’t disappoint. They advertise a pay rate of up to $21 USD per 40-minute class, which they pay on the 15th of every month.
If we translate that to an hourly rate, it works out as $31.50 per teaching hour. To put that into perspective, consider the fact that a lot of teaching companies out there pay just $10-15 per hour.
Compared to this, the rates offered by SayABC very respectable indeed.
Before you get too excited, though, remember that this is unlikely to translate to an actual hourly rate. It doesn’t take into account the time between your classes, and there are a few other catches besides, but more on that in the next section.
In addition to your basic pay rate, you can bag yourself an extra $8 every time you successfully convert a trial class student to a regular student. If they sign up after your class, the bonus is added onto your next paycheck. Now consider the fact that you can have up to 4 students in every class… that’s right, you do the math.
In fact, don’t – we’ve already done it for you. Four students multiplied by $8, plus the basic pay rate of $21 works out as a maximum potential earning of $53 for a single 40-minute lesson
Of course, we’re speaking in hypotheticals here, and such an occurrence would be unlikely to happen often, if at all.
There is also the standard referral bonus that most online ESL companies offer to teachers who recruit successful applicants.
It’s not all that great, but, if you have friends or family who you think would be interested in applying, it can be an easy way to earn some extra cash.
Remember those catches we mentioned earlier? Well, the $21 basic pay rate that’s advertised is actually inclusive of a third financial incentive – a $6 per-class bonus for attendance.
To qualify for this, you must have zero absences and be on-time to 9 lessons in a row. If you miss one lesson or arrive late, you lose your bonus for that batch of lessons.
As it’s based on attendance, new teachers aren’t eligible for it straight away, meaning that for the first few weeks of employment, you won’t be paid the advertised pay rate.
Whilst this isn’t something to worry about in the long term if you plan on being punctual, it does mean that a more honest and transparent description of the basic pay rate would be to say that it’s $15 per 40-minute class, plus incentives.
Nonetheless, whichever way you look at it, that’s still a good rate of pay. It’s also worth mentioning that you can take this income on the road, and that paycheck is likely to go much further in countries with developing economies.
Combine your SayABC income with our frugal travel tips, and it’ll send your potential to make savings through the roof.
SayABC Class Sizes – Pros and Cons
There are four students in each SayABC class. This is unlike many other online ESL platforms which only offer 1-1 classes, and, whilst this does come with its own unique set of challenges, it also comes with a ton of benefits.
Firstly, it creates a much less intense learning environment. In one-on-one classrooms, your focus is exclusively on one student, and that’s a lot of pressure – on both you and the student.
When there are four students to work with, you can switch your focus between them, giving the others time out of the spotlight and the opportunity to learn from each other, as well as the teacher.
In this way, the students can feed off each other.
The more advanced students can model language for the less advanced students.
They can also interact with more than one person and in a way that mimics real-life a lot more convincingly, which is always advantageous when it comes to learning languages.
Teaching four students at once also eliminates the awkward silences which are prevalent in one-on-one classrooms. If one student clams up and won’t respond, the others can jump in to help.
You can play more classroom games; singing songs becomes more comfortable, and classes end up going much quicker as you don’t have time to sit watching the clock. You basically have three extra teaching assistants to help you to get through the class.
What’s not to love?
That’s one way of looking at it. The other side of the same coin is that you need to have four times as many eyes and ears to deal with four times as many students.
It really comes down to your perspective, but a lot of teachers feel that these larger class sizes can make classroom management much trickier.
It’s certainly true that, if you’re unlucky enough to have a lesson with a challenging student, they have the potential to make your life much more difficult.
The behavior of one student can be a distraction for the rest of them and can occasionally ruin the entire class.
And if lady-luck really isn’t smiling down at you, and you happen to have four challenging students in one class, prepare for utter chaos.
Fortunately, that’s unlikely to happen all that much – students in online ESL classrooms tend to be very well-mannered, disciplined and hardworking.
SayABC Hiring Policy – Pros and Cons
One of the biggest compliments teachers give to SayABC is in regards to their hiring policy.
The uncomfortable truth is that, in the ESL industry, many teachers experience discrimination based on their race or nationality.
This isn’t the case with SayABC, which has one of the most inclusive hiring policies out there. Teachers of all ethnicities are welcome as long as they’re native English speakers.
They’re also much less restrictive than other online ESL companies when it comes to accents. A lot of employers in this industry won’t accept applicants outside of the US, as they require a North American accent.
In contrast to this, SayABC accepts applicants from Africa, America, Australia, England and more.
They’re also more flexible when it comes to education.
Whilst most ESL companies require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree, SayABC are happy to accept applicants without them, as long as they can prove their teaching skills are up to par and hold a teaching certificate (TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, etc).
SayABC are looking to employ real, effective teachers. As such, they prefer applicants with at least a year’s worth of teaching experience.
This is a more stringent requirement than most other online ESL companies and might be off-putting for applicants with limited experience or those who are looking for an entry-level position
They also have very strict technical requirements and require you to have a stable internet connection with download speeds of at least 20Mbps.
20Mbps is easily achievable in well-connected countries, but if you’re planning on teaching remotely from countries with developing economies, it can sometimes be a struggle to find accommodation that is suitable.
SayABC Class Booking & Scheduling System – Pros and Cons
Another aspect of SayABC that teachers love is the flexibility the job affords them. Teachers don’t have to commit to a regular schedule when signing their contract like they do with many other companies.
For regular classes, you only need to commit to a fixed 5-week schedule, and trial class slots can be booked as little as a day in advance.
This is especially beneficial to teachers that are working whilst traveling as it allows you to adapt your schedule around your trips and excursions in a way that fits your lifestyle.
Class bookings are also determined by a computer system which takes into account your availability and the student’s availability. This means that the parents or students don’t choose their teachers – they’re assigned them by the system.
This takes a lot of the pressure off the teacher as your booking rate isn’t directly tied to your performance, and you aren’t in competition with the other teachers.
A final point worth mentioning here is the cancellation policy – SayABC really is a diamond in the rough here. If you’re booked for a class but need to cancel due to sickness or any other emergency, you can do so without penalty, as long as you give at least 24 hours notice.
This is rare in the ESL industry (where most employers dish out severe penalties for cancellations), and is one of the biggest pros of working with SayABC.
The one catch to this cancellation policy is that you will lose your bonus, as it’s tied to your attendance. If you get into the habit of accounting for this money and incorporating it into your monthly budget, that loss can really hurt.
Not having a fixed contracted schedule also comes with some disadvantages.
Whilst it affords you increased flexibility, the upside of this is that you’re also not guaranteed to be fully booked during the slots that you choose to open up, and, if you’re sat around during your schedule without any classes booked, you don’t get paid.
The general consensus amongst SayABC teachers seems to be that your schedule is likely to be pretty empty during the first 2 weeks or so of your employment.
Fortunately, after that, things start to pick up, and you’ll likely be booked for more than 75% of your schedule after a few weeks. After a few months, you’ll probably be more or less fully booked.
Your working hours are also limited to Beijing peak times, which means early-morning starts for many teachers across America who are in EST time zones. If you’re not a morning person, this could be a problem.
Say ABC Platform & Classroom Materials – Pros and Cons
SayABC has some of the best classroom materials out of all the ESL platforms on the market. All lessons are prepared for you, meaning very little planning or preparation time is required for the teacher.
A simple glance over the material before the lesson begins should suffice.
The platform is well-structured, with an integrated reward system to keep students engaged and enthusiastic. Whenever the courseware contains songs, the teacher can play the audio from the virtual classroom.
This is different from many other platforms, which leave the teacher to guess the tune, causing some very awkward situations.
The lesson material itself usually makes sense – which is more than can be said for some other platforms out there – and often comes with beautiful images and videos from National Geographic.
The subject matter also often focuses on global values, which ensures that the students are culturally sensitive and don’t just learn about other languages, but other cultures too.
As with most online classrooms, tech issues are your worst enemy. SayABC is no exception in this respect, and their platform has frequent tech issues which can cause headaches on a semi-regular basis.
The stress of these situations is amplified by the language barrier when communicating with support staff, but these communication difficulties are common to all online ESL platforms based in China.
After all, you’re communicating with management on the other side of the planet, who aren’t native speakers and don’t always fully understand the problem you’re trying to communicate.
How to Join SayABC
If you’re interested in teaching for SayABC, you can start by applying online here. Once you’ve applied, the whole recruitment process can usually be completed in as little as a few days. The process looks like this:
- Apply online
- Complete a 30-minute interview or self-record a teaching demonstration in advance
- Sign your contract and create your teaching profile
- Start teaching!
Programs Similar to SayABC
If SayABC isn’t quite right for you, there are a few other online teaching companies that offer similar rates. Here are five of the best available:
- Magic Ears
All of these companies have the potential to pay $20+ per hour, including bonuses. They’re also similar to SayABC in terms of their hiring processes and job responsibilities, but might differ slightly on things like class sizes, booking/scheduling and platform materials.
VIPKID is perhaps the most well known of them all, but they only hire citizens of the US and Canada. If you’re not from there, consider one of the other options mentioned above instead.
Whew – that’s a lot of information to digest. If you’re still awake at this point, congratulations. You now know all you really need to know to decide whether SayABC sounds like a company you’d like to work for.
If you’re not quite sold on SayABC, don’t give up the search just yet. There are plenty of other online teaching jobs that are perfect for a side hustle. We’ve written about them in detail here, so check that out for some more inspiration.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our full SayABC review. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!