I admit it, I’m one of those annoying people that came out of lockdown with a new ‘skill/qualification’. While I couldn’t go to work at my day job as a preschool teaching assistant, I decided to use the time to get my 120hr TEFL qualification to teach English as a second language online. I’ve now been working online with Cambly Kids for a month and I’m loving it!
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Teaching English Online
Originally my goal was to apply for Palfish, anddddd I failed. I’ve been a teaching assistant for 7 years and yet I couldn’t pass the demo lesson. The feedback was that I wasn’t a native English speaker (I’m British…), I didn’t have a TEFL (I do) or they didn’t like me, so I guess they just didn’t like me. During my interview I was so nervous, my heart rate was 160, it’s hard to teach a lesson to NO ONE. You have to pretend there is a student on the other end and reward them, correct mistakes etc.
So I had to come up with a plan B. I could have stayed with Palfish and tutored on their ‘free talk’ platform, but then apparently they’ve made it harder for new tutors and have taken away the ability to have reservations. It would be a case of sit and hope that someone decides to ring you.
Teaching on Cambly Kids
When I first started looking at online tutoring companies, I had knocked Cambly on the head. Everywhere I looked advertised it as mainly a platform to tutor adults. All my experience is with kids, so I didn’t think I would be suited to it. The rate was also less than the UK minimum wage, which without blowing my own trumpet, I thought I could earn more than that elsewhere.
BUT THEN I discovered that they had a kids course platform which pays more like £8.80 an hour, rather than £7.30 an hour. I signed up for both the regular Cambly as well as Cambly Kids. Thinking that hopefully I would be teaching mainly kids but would have the adult platform to fall back on.
The Application Process
Because the rates are lower, the requirements to tutor on the platform are less. A lot of the online English tutoring platforms are after teachers that have a Bachelors Degree. Unfortunately I don’t have one, I just have a whole heap of experience, along with my newly acquired TEFL certificate (Teach English as a Foreign Language). In theory Cambly doesn’t need anything. You just have to be a native English speaker and knowledge of the ins and outs of the English language.
The application is super easy. Especially for the regular Cambly. For the kids course you have to do a demo class. Instead of it being like an actual reservation where you have to turn up like a class, you simply have to record a video and upload it. I liked this way because if I didn’t like my first recording I could simply do it again, so I was more relaxed!
There’s also not really a proper lesson as such. You get given a PDF of a bunch of slides that you have to interpret. It’s a little tricky because they don’t actually come up on screen or anything, so it’s not like how the lesson would normally appear. In actual lessons both you and the student can draw on the slides etc. They also say that the video should be between 3 – 5 minutes…3 minutes is far too short to do an introduction and get though something like 8 slides. My video ended up being around 7 minutes long and I went through around 60% of the demo slides.
I screen grabbed each slide and saved it onto my iPad. In my demo class video I then used my iPad as if it was the actual lesson screen. I had it next to me and would act out things like ‘circle the cat’ against the ‘real’ slide. That way I didn’t feel silly trying to teach something that no one could actually see. I used a few props, simple things like stuffed animals that I had, coloured pens that could represent colours etc. And thankfully less than 24hrs after my upload, I was accepted as a Cambly Kids tutor. Hooray!
Navigating The Platform
Cambly works best on Google Chrome and you have to use either a laptop or a desktop computer. There is an app but this is mainly for the students. Not tutors. I use a MacBook Air and just downloaded the Google Chrome browser. It’s quite good because I can have all my teaching bookmarks in Chrome and then all my personal and blog related bookmarks in Safari.
Before tutoring, you have to pass an internet speed check. This needs to be done EVERY time you log on. You can then set your reservation slots. Cambly is a global platform so you could get students from anywhere in the world. Depending on what time you log on, you’ll get different nationalities. I’m in London GMT and being logged on during day time hours (currently 9am until 2pm), my students tend to come from: China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Oman and UAE. I’ve heard that working GMT evenings or day time hours in the USA, you’re more likely to get South Americans. It’s amazing the different range of people that you get t meet.
You can receive calls several different ways.
- Become visible – simply hit the green button and wait for calls. People can choose you from a list of tutors currently online. You may also receive ‘unassigned calls’ which are just people waiting for calls/any tutor.
- Priority Hours – Not going to lie, Priority Hours (or PH) gave me major anxiety. You can sign up to work 1hr blocks. During the hour slot, you have to answer every single call that comes your way. People can book these slots but then you’ll receive random calls. You don’t know who you’re getting and the student doesn’t know either. They may just want a chat, but they may want extra help with something. I only did 2 PH and that was enough for me. I received calls mainly from adults and I was a little bit out of my depth, I’m much better with younger kids. On the other hand, some tutors don’t like receiving calls from kids and prefer adults! Many tutors on the regular Cambly rely on PH to make their money. You get paid for 15 minutes, even if you don’t receive a call during the hour. However if your rating drops below 4.7 (out of 5) then you don’t get access to many PH, so it’s best to try and get as many regular students that will make reservations instead.
- Reservations – I work purely on a reservation basis. Cambly Kids CAN ONLY MAKE reservations. They can’t just ring. They have to make a reservation. I choose how I want to open my schedule. Most of my slots are open for Cambly Kids only, but then I have a few slots open for ‘anyone’. I can open and close the slots whenever I want. I tend to open for 5 hours a day and I’ll keep an eye on my current reservations. When I hit 5 back to back lessons, I’ll close a slot to give myself a 30 minute break. Originally I had a ‘set’ lunch break but I found that it was actually a popular slot so now I change it depending on my back to back reservations. The majority of my reservations are completely filled with CK (Cambly Kids). I have a couple younger students that I tutor who have regular Cambly accounts, which is why I leave a few spots open for them.
You can combine reservations and Priority Hours. So even if you have a reservation you can sign up for a PH too. That way if the reservation is a no show, you still might be able to bank some talk time.
I gave the rough hourly rate but you actually get paid per minute. So 2 back to back lessons will give you a full hour of pay. If you have a no show, you are paid for the first 10 minutes and then you are free to log off or not answer the call if they do then ring late (unless you are on a PH). As mentioned, if you are on PH you get paid a minimum of 15 minutes even if you don’t get a call come through. However you are expected to be online during the hour you signed up for.
You get paid every Monday evening in US dollars to a PayPal account, as long as it’s over $20. For example, if you work Monday morning, that will then make the payment that comes through Monday evening. From there you can transfer it into your bank account. If your bank isn’t American, what you actually end up getting paid will depend on the exchange rate. You are also treated as an independent contractor/freelancer, so you are expected to do all your own taxes etc.
Teaching on Cambly Kids
The benefit of teaching on Cambly Kids is that you get lesson slides to teach. This hopefully means that you don’t have to experience any awkward silences, where you have to try and make conversation! Lessons last for 30 minutes and it’s fairly easy going. If you don’t finish all the slides it’s not the end of the world. You can kind of interpret them however you want to. Some lessons finish really quickly, so it’s a good idea to have some ideas for time killers at the end of the lessons. If a student loses interest in the slides, you can freestyle too. I’ve had parents ask me to focus on various areas instead of sticking to the slides, like work on phonics or reading.
I use an iPad which is a LIFESAVER. I have various apps and website tabs open and my camera roll is FULL of flashcards that I made myself using Canva. Things like: ABCs, numbers, conversation starter pictures, sight words, phonic flashcards, opposites. Sometimes I’ll get through a lesson and be like right, I need a picture that represents ‘stripes’ for example. I make one up in Canva on my laptop and then airdrop it to my iPad and put it into an album. Some people swear by the ‘screen share’ function. However I find that if a student is using an iPad themselves, then screen share doesn’t work. It’s not ideal trying to show things through the tiny video picture, rather than the main lesson screen, but you have to make use of what works.
When you are part of both Cambly and Cambly Kids you can create 2 versions of your profile. Such as 2 different introduction videos, 2 different mini bios etc. However to boost myself towards a younger audience, I changed my profile picture and I created teaching videos aimed at kids.
- Can work whenever you want. You have the choice of 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.
- Get paid weekly.
- Don’t need a degree.
- Meet students from all over the world.
- Relaxed atmosphere.
- The Facebook groups are BRILLIANT. The tutors are so friendly and everyone supports each other.
- You can teach from anywhere in the world as long as you have a decent internet connection.
- CK lessons are provided so minimal preparation is required.
- It is slightly lower paid compared to other companies. But then it is easier to apply.
- Sometimes there are tech and connection issues, which can be a bit of an inconvenience.
- Some free trial students on PH can be a bit shady (but there is a ban or hide feature).
- If you have back to back reservations, 30 minute lessons can be a bit of a struggle. It relies on every single student turning up bang on time. Some companies have 25 minute lessons, so you get 5 minutes between each for a quick toilet break or just as a cushion for a late arrival. If one student turns up late, then you may have to cut their lesson short if the next student arrives.
1st Month Stats
My first week was pretty slow. I did 2 Priority Hours and had around 1 reservation each day. Even though I was open for 5 hours, I was only required to be online during the reservations or the PH. I did go ‘visible’ on my first day but I didn’t receive any calls. I wasn’t surprised considering I was a newbie.
Week 2 I had around 3 or 4 reservations a day. Week 3, I had more like 5 reservations a day and week 4 I was 80% fully booked. Looking into week 5, I currently only have 1 spot remaining and I think that it will get filled at some point.
For me to be on the same as what I was earning as a teaching assistant in the USA, I need to average at 7 lessons a day (3hrs 30). With my current 5 hour schedule, when I’m fully booked, I have 9 lessons a day. This gives some wiggle room if I get a no show, which does tend to happen, annoyingly. I obviously have the freedom to work as much or as little as I want. 5 back to back lessons is about my limit before I need to have a 30 minute break to go to the toilet before doing another 4. It is pretty exhausting, as for the kids course you need a fairly high energy level for every single lesson. Whether you are on lesson 1 or lesson 9, you need to be very enthusiastic! I’m hoping to increase it by an hour or so eventually, but then I do have my 2 websites that I still work on too!
At the end of week 4 I’ve:
- Had 120 chats/lessons
- 2356 minutes of talk time
- Met 39 students
- And made $493.12 (not awful considering I didn’t work much during the 1st 2 weeks).
If you want to tutor on Cambly and found this post useful, this is my referral code/link! https://www.cambly.com/en/tutors?referralCode=kylie213
Need a 120hr TEFL Certificate? Get yours from the International Open Academy here!
Any questions? Let me know!