Is something happening in China? What is wrong with my bookings?

Today I have seen these questions repeatedly on the ESL groups I am in.  I will say, last night/this morning was the worst booking frenzy I have experienced so far.  I had only 3 bookings and 9 cancellations!  What is happening in China?

Well, this week is the beginning of the “winter holiday” for Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.  This is similar to the time our kids get off in December for Christmas.  They usually have a week or two of pretty intense exams leading up to this time (so you may have already seen lower bookings recently) and then they get a few weeks off.  This is a time when many Chinese families travel for family reunions.  I must say from the little bit of travel that I did in China in a non-holiday time, one thing you can expect is delays.  I’m sure that parents err on the side of caution and do not book any lessons for the days surrounding travel.  Also, who wants to be taking an English lesson when the whole family is gathered for a family reunion.

That being said.  I still have several classes and based upon my experience on other holidays, my students will show up for class.  I have been the “entertainment” of the hour for the whole family a few times, and often a cousin or a friend may join my student for the class.  While the general policy at VIPKid is to only teach one student for a class, I feel that this time of year is a bit of an exception.  Imagine the family is gathering and your student’s parent is boasting about the wonderful experience their child is having with your classes.  Wouldn’t it be reasonable for them to book a class so their family members can see what a wonderful experience it is?  I see this almost as a super-effective trial.  (I do make a note to the Learning Partner, but I teach the class as usual and try to make it extra fun in case the observer is considering signing up).

Will this affect my income?  Maybe.  But I don’t suggest that you have all your eggs in one income basket.  This is a great time to take some time off (sleep in!) and relax.  The students will be back!  You may need to plan your budget accordingly in order to make the numbers work, but don’t stress out.  Things will be back on track very soon.  I also have found that I can open short-notice slots (often in the evenings) and get bookings.  I think parents don’t book because they know they are traveling, but when they get where they are going they realize that their baobao could in fact have time for some English.  I don’t like to do short-notice in the morning as much (I fully take advantage of sleeping in the few days that I can), but I do open slots in the evening.  During the last holiday, I had several nights that were fully booked!

When I saw today that I had a couple of days with absolutely no bookings, I closed those slots and have officially declared them “vacation days”.  I doubt that I will travel as I have been traveling quite a bit recently, but maybe I will take a short trip to visit one of my friends or just simply enjoy sleeping in!  I will also spend some time in these next couple of weeks working on my other income streams to help build them a bit, and I probably will even add in a few extra Uber hours.

So the most important take-aways:

  •  Enjoy the break!  Sleep in and rest assured your baobaos will be back.
  • Plan your budget accordingly.
  • If you are looking for a perfect vacation time from ESL teaching in China, this is it.  (That being said, I don’t think there is any way I would attempt to travel in China during this holiday!)
  • Open up short notice slots (especially in the evenings).
  • Things will return to normal soon!  Your students will be back (and you can have lots of extension conversations about what they did over the holiday).