Remote Working with PalFish and Cambly – a comparison

‘ESL free talk teaching’


A wealth of companies have entered the online ESL industry recently, yet many of these offer similar models. Specifically, they expect teachers to follow set schedules which reduces the flexibility of working hours. PalFish and Cambly are unlike other platforms, enabling teachers to arrange their own remote working schedules. Further, both provide an opportunity to form friendships and learn about specific cultures whilst earning up to $20 per-hour. The majority of classes don’t involve preparation, therefore the platforms are more conducive to a healthy work life balance.

General Variations to the Remote Working platforms

PalFish enables teachers to apply their own pay rate (for free talk) and simply teach from their smartphone. Free talk conversations don’t need to be pre booked, teachers just switch their status to online. Consequently, calls can occur whenever the teacher and potential student prefer. You are encouraged to be flexible in opening up time periods and signing in to increase bookings. Read more on remote working in PalFish Free Talk – A specific type of English Teaching. Additionally, you can become an Official Kids Course (OKC) teacher so you agree to a greater level of timetabling. However, the course material is provided for you so there is little planning involved.

Cambly is used by English learners globally with prominence given to casual conversation and flexibility. Because Cambly is primarily used by adults, the ability to have more meaningful discussions is tempting for prospective teachers. You can log-in whenever you want meaning you manage your hours and schedule based on teacher demand (excepting reservations, see below). Additionally, for those who prefer to teach children, there is the Cambly Kids platform which is much like the PalFish OKC. Note that a requirement for Cambly is the use of a laptop as teaching takes place on the Desktop version.

👨‍💻 Work from the comfort of home by applying to PalFish and Cambly. Once hired you can send others your referral links and earn a commission (see ‘Pay’ section below). 👨‍💻

Ideas and questions for discussion topics

There are many enjoyable subjects you can talk about, dependent on student ability. These could range from small talk to grammar practice and homework assistance to preparing English Qualification Tests. Though the latter may involve some research for basic knowledge on the testing format. Moreover, some students prepare a discussion topic yet others want casual conversation, so being adaptable is important. Certainly, maintaining conversation is fundamental for free talk and in order to stimulate students you could use the following:

  • What would you like to practice today?
  • Why do you want to practice speaking English?
  • Where and when do you speak English?
  • Chat about travel, food, sport, study and hobbies. For example, tell me about your favourite meal. Describe the ingredients, how you prepare it and how it tastes.
  • Discuss education, employment, family, likes and dislikes. For example, talk to me about your family. Can you describe each person specifically?
  • Talk about your favourite movie, book, TV show. Who are the characters? Why is it your favourite?
  • Describe your typical day: what do you do in the morning, afternoon and evening? Talk to me about the activities you enjoy doing at the weekend.
  • Other questions such as: what do you want to achieve this year?

To conclude the class you could offer the student positive, constructive feedback on their learning and words of encouragement. Being attentive and building rapport will likely inspire a student to continue studying with you. Another way of doing this is sending the student a private message after the class. PalFish require you to do this whereas on Cambly it is optional.

Applicant Requirements

Applications on Cambly are straightforward as the only preconditions are being a native English speaker and having a stable internet connection. Because of the casual nature, qualifications aren’t as important in comparison to other online teaching platforms. PalFish have clear requirements – you must be a native English speaker, have a smartphone or tablet and a stable internet connection. Unlike Cambly, you must have a teaching certification like TEFL, TESOL or CELTA. The certification is mandatory for the Official Kids Course program but not for PalFish free talk.

Recruitment Process

Cambly has an easy registration process which only takes several days:

  • Make an account on the Desktop version of Cambly and complete some personal details.
  • Pass an internet connection test.
  • Make an introduction video and check the website for verification of your account.

PalFish free talk teachers undergo a very similar registration process to Cambly:

  • Make an account on the PalFish app, filling out some basic details.
  • Film a 30-second introduction video.
  • Submit your application and standby for verification (usually a few days).

For PalFish Official Kids Course you must complete a mock class along with the above before being accepted.


Cambly is an attractive option for its flexibility and remote working format, however, the pay rate is $10.20 per-hour which is less than PalFish. Though Cambly do offer payment assurances for booked priority hours even if the student cancels. Also, teachers will earn $20 if they refer someone that goes onto teach 10 priority hours. PalFish provide OKC teachers an approximate pay rate of $16 per-hour but some teachers generate up to $20 per hour. Further, there are bonuses for attendance and signing up students and teachers whilst free talk teachers choose their own rate. PalFish advise you start with a low rate before increasing it once you are more experienced and acquire students.

Remote Working – How do I arrange calls and classes?

Cambly classes are dependent on the time of day you sign-in so awareness of time zones is important. Cambly is popular in the Middle East and South America, therefore the quantity of calls is usually greater in these regions. The majority of new teachers obtain calls around half the time whilst online, however, the more you teach, the more this increases. Other ways to obtain classes are registering for Priority Hours and Reservations, whereby you make yourself available for advance bookings. Additionally, proposing a time for a regular student boosts your chances of teaching hours. Reservations are ideal for teachers wanting a degree of commitment and more of a fixed schedule.

PalFish provide a range of options for teachers scheduling classes:

  • Free Talk classes – select your own timetable and rate of pay.
  • OKC classes – teachers teach individual students regularly, opening time slots (minimum of 7 per week) for trial classes in the beginning. This is a good approach for attracting regular bookings.
  • Seminars – teachers teach between 1 and 6 children in each class and select the rate for each.
  • Live shows – webinar classes employed for marketing and engaging with prospective students.

Cancellation Policy

On Cambly there are no fines for absenteeism as teachers log-in and talk with no formal agreement set. However, should a teacher miss priority hours or reservations, they can be temporarily blocked from further bookings. On PalFish the cancellation procedure differs from OKC teacher to free talk teacher. Free talk teachers select their availability so cancellations are not relevant, yet OKC cancellations are treated with greater seriousness. Classes for these teachers are often arranged 6 months in advance and missing more than 6 might result in contract termination. Note, should a student miss a class booked in advance then the teacher would still receive full payment.

Conclusion to Remote Working roles

Cambly and Palfish are comparable on a range of factors and are very accommodating for remote working. In regards schedules, both are flexible but when comparing Cambly with the PalFish OKC teacher role, the former edges it. However, with salaries PalFish is more lucrative, if you’re an OKC teacher or obtain regular students if only hired for free talk. Relative to the industry, both companies have low barriers to entry, in particular Cambly. If you just work as a PalFish free talk teacher then the entry requirements are on par with Cambly. Yet, most PalFish teachers will choose both OKC and free talk roles due to the low starting rate on free talk. Above all, remote working and having the option of teaching style and were the key reasons I joined both platforms.

PalFish Free Talk – A specific type of English Teaching

Converse with a range of ESL students

I first started using PalFish Free Talk in late 2019 and to date it has been rewarding. Certainly I’ve found free talk teaching an enjoyable way to converse and interact with students. Additionally, you’re able to teach students of wider ages than the PalFish Official Kids Course (OKC) role. In addition to the student developing their English, free talk is often a learning experience for yourself.

What do you talk about?

You might choose to prepare material, yet usually I let the student decide which the direction of the conversation. This approach is beneficial, because you display adaptability and improvisation whilst helping students feel comfortable. Further, by focusing on relatable subjects, the conversations are likely to be more productive for the student. For instance, culture, travel, food, sport, university study and personal interests are subjects I frequently discuss. Additionally, I have had students request assistance with English tests like IELTS and TOEFL. Prior knowledge of these qualifications is useful in helping the student prepare, of which I continue to gain understanding. PalFish also allows teachers to design their own lessons for students to buy.

Assessment of Students on PalFish Free Talk

Though calls are ‘loose’ in structure compared with OKC classes, you could incorporate teacher led elements like appraisals. For instance, assessing pronunciation, conversational skills, vocabulary and intonation are good indicators of a student’s English level. Furthermore, you should write a brief review after the ‘class’ so the student has some feedback. I like to send a short message accompanying a review as this provides opportunity for scheduling a follow up call. Many students like to leave you a review, I’ve been lucky to receive some pleasing ones (below).

Examples of reviews and comments I’ve sent and received respectively.

Call format and Scheduling

An advantage of the free talk format is being able to choose audio or video call. I recommend treating each call individually as the preference of the student will differ. I relish the variety, for instance, using video call for visual displays or audio for referring to prompts. The appointment system is flexible and enables teachers to accept calls when they desire. Yet, students could schedule a class with you in advance (private message) or just call you spontaneously. Above all, ensure you display your availability so students know when they can call you. You can do this by toggling the ‘start tutoring’ and ‘stop tutoring’ button to the right of your profile picture.

Your Home Screen on PalFish – here my profile is offline as the ‘start tutoring’ button hasn’t been activated.

PalFish Pay Rates and Class Length Suggestions

As a free talk teacher you can select a per minute price (RMB) as your ‘standard rate’ and ‘trial rate’. To do this click on ‘Me’ at the bottom right of your home screen and then ‘Set your rate’.

Simply click on either rate and adjust it as highlighted in the next screenshots.

PalFish advises you set a low starting rate as I mentioned in my DaDa and PalFish comparison. Once you become proficient and develop a following, consider raising your standard rate. In addition, marketing yourself gives an opportunity to obtain more classes and earn more money. Certainly, making a good impression increases the chance of the student undertaking further classes with you.  

How long are PalFish free talk conversations?

Ultimately, call length is determined by the student as they essentially have an ‘e-wallet’ containing payment credits. My longest free talk has been 90 minutes but many students prefer a shorter time which is understandable. From the screenshot of my reviews you can see the call duration on the right hand side. Generally these average around 30 minutes, an optimal time to cover discussion. If you have free time, you could commit to a longer conversation and thus earn extra income. To reiterate, free talk is flexible so you can decide on appropriate class length to suit you both.

PalFish Lessons Feature – Frequently Asked Questions

Why create your own PalFish lessons?

English Teaching on PalFish is rewarding and enjoyable. PalFish lessons are just one of many features on the app. Become a PalFish teacher today – Apply here.

  • As a PalFish teacher, composing lessons is beneficial in attracting students. Further, teachers that have an enticing profile and created lessons are likely to gain more credibility. As a result, students are more inclined to call or book with you.
  • Teachers can sell lessons as ‘lesson packages’, providing opportunity to build an income stream. Unlike regular free talk, students can access lesson content in advance, inspiring them to learn with you.
  • Lessons are rewarding for the student in that aspects of the IELTS and TOEFL qualifications can be targeted. Lessons are rewarding for the teacher in that subjects of interest can be incorporated. Additionally, teachers can practice lesson planning and innovation within the ‘classroom’.

How to create PalFish lessons – 3 basic steps

1. On this main menu, select the lessons tab.
2. Click the cross in the top right hand corner and then ‘Create Lesson’.
3. Fill out the required details and click ‘Create’.

General Guidance and Suggestions

The screenshot at Step 2 shows the topics that PalFish provide to assist you. The ‘How to create a good lesson’ and ‘Lesson examples’ sections are particularly useful. Furthermore, using the template headings PalFish suggest ensures you incorporate everything in your lesson.

I advise including TOEFL and IELTS material like vocabulary, paraphrasing, grammar and interpretation. Moreover, you could use opinions, debate, knowledge areas, events and descriptions of places and people.

My final tip is to keep the lesson as free-flowing as possible. Likewise, lessons don’t have to be rigid in structure and can assume free talk style. My post, PalFish Free Talk details more information on this type of teaching.

Online English Teaching begins in South East Asia

Learning about the world of Online Tuition

I explored online English teaching once extending my Chiang Mai stay. Although unexpected, the opportunity has been both invaluable and rewarding. In addition, networking with teaching communities has unlocked further doors and broadened my horizons. With the flexibility of online English teaching, I’ve acquired projects like Betlocker, travelled and pursued personal interests.

An example of a PalFish Official Kids Course slide.

Why should you apply?

The demand to learn English, particularly from China, has contributed to a vast array of platforms entering the market. These platforms compete for teachers by creating appealing models with low entry barriers. As a result, many offer flexible hours and the convenience of teaching from home. Additionally, pay rates and referral programs to supplement your income are incentives for prospective teachers.

Application and Preparation for Teaching Online

Provided you have a TEFL Certificate or equivalent and have undergone an interview, the chances of being hired are likely. Companies differ as regard qualifications, some require a Bachelors Degree yet some expect teaching experience. Furthermore, teaching English online involves virtually no start up costs. If you have basic props and a background, then you don’t need to spend a great deal. As you become accustomed and start earning, you might consider flashcards, puppets and reward systems. For app based teaching, I recommend purchasing a tripod stand for phone stability.

The background ‘classroom’ setup in my apartment room for DaDa, formerly DaDaABC.

The importance of the TEFL Certificate

In November 2018 there were alterations to Chinese Education regulations. This meant companies required new teachers to have TEFL Certificate or similar. There are several websites offering the accredited TEFL for around $40. Take advantage of the Groupon deal I used as an introduction to teaching.

A Welcome Video example for Online English Teachers

For PalFish I recommend recording your video in portrait orientation as this is what you use when teaching.

A welcome video helps students and parents gain insight into their prospective teacher.

  • From experience of working for PalFish and DaDa, an effective video should between thirty seconds and two minutes.
  • Information like your birth country, interests, achievements and teaching experience are always engaging. Likewise the use of creativity, props and capturing your welcoming background.
  • The use of Total Physical Response (TPR) is beneficial for kinaesthetic learners. Apply to PalFish or DaDa through these referral links and start earning today. If you apply and are accepted, then I would receive a small bonus at no added cost to you.