ESL free talk comparison


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.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Note that the Official Kids Course (OKC) and regular teacher differ. The ‘regular teacher’ role is comparable to free talk type platforms like Cambly. The OKC role is more timetable related, comparable to platforms like DaDa. For further useful tips on PalFish read: A comparison of PalFish and Cambly platforms. […]

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