Do you love to talk, and discover new things around the world? What if I told you that you could make money doing exactly those two things? I’m serious. Right now, you have the opportunity to turn your downtime into money just by video chatting with students studying English. The company offering this gig is Cambly, and I’ve got so much to tell you about them.
Overview of the Work
You may think that once you’ve seen how one ESL teaching company works, you’ve seen them all – but that’s not the case with Cambly. Cambly is the company where students sign in to talk with their tutors through an app on their smartphones, putting their conversational English skills to the test through real talk with real native English speakers.
Teaching with Cambly can be both easier and harder than working with those other online English-teaching companies. While they do provide materials you can use to teach lessons – from readings to activities – many students both expect and request a free conversation. Good conversationalists will excel at this opportunity, although you also need to be able to sustain and drive the conversation at various levels of English language skills. Be ready to keep your energy up and the conversation moving forward.
Cambly provides you with the flexibility to create your own schedule, but they can’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll be booked for calls. However, they have instituted a system of Priority Hours: tutors can sign up to be active during select hours, which makes them more visible to potential callers.
Access to Priority Hours depends on your availability and participation, so the more you work, the better your potential access to students. And once you start building relationships with various students, they’ll be able to book you in advance or even see when you’re online and available outside of those Priority Hours.
You only get paid for the actual time you spend in video chats with your students with Cambly, but they also offer their tutors some compensation for no-shows. If you’ve been booked by a student who then doesn’t show up for the call, you will still get paid for a portion of the time booked by the student (e.g., around 10-15 minutes).
The requirements to work with Cambly are very simple, making this company one of the most accessible to work with if you’d like to break into tutoring foreign students in English. The first requirement is that you be a native English speaker, and you must demonstrate that you can communicate well by speaking clearly (preferably with a minimal accent) and converse easily with others.
On the technical side of things, you must have a home computer that can handle video chat – that means having a webcam, a mic, and a high-speed Internet connection. Most laptops you get these days – even simple ones like Chromebooks – come with an integrated webcam. You may need to purchase an external webcam is you have a desktop computer.
While any mic would probably work for this gig, you may wish to invest in a headset that comes with a noise-canceling mic. It’ll help you hear your students better and help them hear you more clearly as well. It’s also generally advisable to make sure your computer is connected directly to your modem rather than using WiFi, in order to get the best speed and quality in your video streaming.
Cambly has a unique teaching system in which they pay you per minute – while you're chatting with your students, they'll keep track of your time and pay you 17 cents (USD) for each minute that you teach English online. Given that there are 60 minutes in an hour, you can conceivably make $10.20 per hour spent actively tutoring.
One of the great things about Cambly is that they pay you on a weekly basis. Each Monday, they issue Paypal payments so long as you've made at least $20. You have up to 10 AM (or 11 AM during daylight savings time) each Monday to earn, as well, so you can get paid same day for early morning Monday chat sessions.
What are People Saying About Cambly?
Once you start reading what others say about this tutoring opportunity, you’ll find there are two clear winners in the “pro” column for Cambly. The first, as expected, is their incredibly flexible scheduling. You work whenever you want to and, since their students come from all over the globe, you have the opportunity to connect with students at pretty much any hour of the day or night. Babeesh talks about some of the interesting people she has tutored in her review.
The other most popular aspect of Cambly is the sheer diversity of students you get to interact with through their platform. You’ll get to talk to folks from every walk of life – from business people to retirees to university students – from many different countries all over the world. And, since this job is mostly just talking casually with your students, you have the opportunity to learn as much from them as they do from you.
There seem to be a few main complaints that people have shared: tutors have reported that Cambly’s video chat interface can be buggy and result in semi-frequently dropped calls. There’s also not always enough work to go around – as with other English-teaching opportunities, Cambly sometimes over-hires and the enrollment of students seems to ebb and flow depending on the time of year.
You’ll also find that the quality of students can vary greatly – Cambly does frequent trial lessons, so not everyone you speak with will be invested in learning with you. All students are also permitted to rate their tutors, so if they don’t like something about you – even if it’s unrelated to your tutoring – you could be dinged by their poor opinion. Cambly also doesn’t compensate you for any extra time you spend with students outside of actual chat time – so if you’re following up with students in private messages or digging into materials for them to read so you can discuss it next time, you won’t receive payment for those efforts.
The Interview & Demo Process
To get started with Cambly, you fill out an incredibly simple sign-up form at their site – they’ll ask you to select a screen name for their platform (either your first and last name, or first name and last initial); provide your email address, phone number, and date of birth; and then select a password. If you’re uncomfortable providing some of this information to them up front, it does seem as if you can leave some fields blank (such as your phone number).
Once you submit this form, Cambly starts the screening process of all applicants with a connection test. They want to test your computer’s video streaming capacity by accessing your webcam and mic and then running a speed test to check video speed, audio speed, and packet loss. (Packet loss is the failure of some transmitted data – packets – to reach its destination, affecting your streaming quality. You need good streaming quality to tutor by video chat.)
Beyond the connection test, they’ll ask you to record a short video of yourself right on their website. This is a simple video in which you introduce yourself, tell them about your interests, and about any experience you may have tutoring or teaching people English. (They emphasize that experience isn’t required, however.) They really want you to speak spontaneously and casually – like you’re talking to a friend – since the opportunity to practice English in casual conversation is one of the larger parts of what Cambly is offering their students. If you don’t like your first attempt at this introductory recording, you can re-record it until you like what you’ve done and then submit.
And that’s it. They’ll let you know if you’re approved – you can get started right away when you are. There have been reports of people hearing back from Cambly within 48 hours to up to 6 months later.
Other Sites Like Cambly
If you’d like to try out another opportunity that’s more structured than Cambly, check out these similar gigs:
- Qkids – Qkids hires teachers who have a degree – or are currently enrolled in college and working toward their degree.
- SayABC – SayABC uses slick materials provided by National Geographic and their teachers instruct groups of 4 Chinese children at each lesson.
If you’re ready to apply at Cambly, head on over and get started. There’s no time like the present, and I’d love to hear stories from my readers who’ve started tutoring with them. Share your stories below.