This guest post was written by Cassie Bailey, an experienced world traveler who funds her trips teaching English online.
So you want to travel long-term, but every work abroad job in your skill range has totally inflexible hours? Well, that’s the dilemma I was in.
I mean, didn’t inflexible hours defy many of the reasons I was hitting the road in the first place? And whilst I did obsessively save for travel beforehand, I didn’t want to totally obliterate those savings if I could help it!
I was keen to find a job with flexible hours which I could do online from anywhere in the world. However, my skills didn’t fit in with many of the online jobs available.
First, I looked into teaching English online to children, but it wasn’t quite the right fit for me.
I was seeking flexibility. And when you teach children, you usually need to commit to some sort of regular schedule.
That’s when I discovered I could teach English online while traveling to adults.
While teaching to adults often pays less, it was exactly the laid-back job I’d been looking for.
Now I can log on to teach at any time, and get paid by the minute to chat to people around the world with companies such as Cambly.
Not bad, huh?
While I still work full-time when living long-term in expensive countries, this is the perfect setup when living in budget destinations.
I’ve taught conversational English from private hostel rooms in Chiang Mai, Indonesia, and beyond.
That said, I know plenty of people who teach English to adults to make some extra dollars around full-time work abroad jobs too.
Best of all, the flexible hours mean that when you’re truly too tired from the daily grind (or from exploring), you can choose to simply not log in when you don’t want to.
How does teaching English online to adults work?
While many people choose to teach English to children online through companies such as VIPKid or Qkids, this isn’t for everyone.
Firstly, this form of work includes lesson plans and required teaching goals, which can feel overwhelming (even if some companies provide them for you).
I also didn’t want to lug around puppets and wall hangings many of these companies ask tutors to have.
Also, I knew my anxiety wasn’t up for dealing with fussy parents potentially butting in from behind the camera!
And finally, many of these jobs do require you to have an accredited TEFL – the Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification.
The great thing about teaching conversational English to adults is that you can start working at any time, even if you’re already on the road. The only requirements are:
- Excellent WiFi
- A laptop with a good quality webcam (here’s a list of the best travel laptops for digital nomads)
- A good headset
Cambly is a company which allows you to teach conversational English to adults all over the world.
I have spoken to people in China, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and beyond—as well as people who have recently begun living in English-speaking countries and just want to perfect their pronunciation.
There are three main ways to work with Cambly:
#1.) Log in for a casual chat
Firstly, once you have been accepted, you can literally log in any time you are free. Students simply click a button and can start talking to you.
You’re paid by the minute, so you can get on with other projects and emails at the same time – though I’ve never waited long for a call.
And don’t worry – there really is NO PRESSURE while teaching with Cambly. As long as you are interested in other people, you’ll enjoy the work. It’s actually been an amazing way for me to find out about other cultures from the people who live there.
If you’re looking for how to become a digital nomad with no experience, this is it. I honestly can’t think of anything easier.
Most of the students have been very interesting, kind, and easy to talk to—though having a few generic questions lined up if you don’t strike a common ground is worthwhile.
- Where do you live?
- What are your hobbies?
- Do you have any pets?
- What are your favorite things about living in your city?
#2.) Priority hours
You can also sign up for priority hours. When you click on the available ‘Priority Hours’ in the Cambly calendar, you are guaranteed to get paid for 15 minutes even if nobody calls you.
Using the calendar also means students can directly book to speak with you. I often had interesting students book messaging me to check when we could chat again—they are always my favorite people to talk to again and again.
#3.) Cambly Kid’s Program
Finally, you can sign up to the Cambly Kid’s program.
I haven’t used this yet as I prefer working with adults. But basically, it’s a reservation system where you open up your calendar, and students can book 30-minute sessions with you. Unlike platforms like VIPKid and Qkids (which focus on Chinese kids), the Cambly Kid’s program works with children all over the world.
Pay for the Kid’s program is $6/class (or $12/hour). This is less than other platforms like VIPKids, but it is also much more casual and does not require a TEFL certificate or any experience.
And if you think about it, the ability to make an extra $50 per day online in a few hours with no experience or training—that’s pretty good!
That said, a good TEFL certification will make you a better teach and open up higher-paying opportunities for you.
If you’re serious about teaching English and want to become the best teacher possible, I recommend this TEFL course (this is the course I took). If you just want the certificate and aren’t too worried about developing your teaching skills, here’s a budget TEFL course that’ll get the job done for less than $100.
By the way, PalFish is another company that offers fully flexible hours, and get this—you don’t even need a webcam.
To teach in their Children’s program, you need a TEFL certificate. But they also have a FreeTalk program that does not require a certificate.
You simply sign up for the app. If you’re accepted, once you select ‘Show Online’, students from China can select to voice call you.
I have also had good experiences taking calls with PalFish, and the advice in this post could apply to either company.
For insider tips on how to work for Palfish, check out this full Palfish review—written by a teacher earning over $4,000/month on the platform.
What does a day in the life of an online English teacher look like?
I was last teaching English to adults in Chiang Mai in January 2020, before the pandemic really took over.
I was living in a small private room in a budget homestay – and by budget I mean… I had no windows and a mattress on the floor, but the host was super friendly!
In the mornings, I’d have a slow morning heading out for coffee in a nice café and spending some time blogging. (I don’t earn money from blogging yet, but it’s always part of my routine!)
Unless I had other plans or got super into my writing, I’d head back to teach for a couple of hours.
After this, I’d hop over to my favorite vegan local Thai food stalls to get delicious $0.80 spicy local lunches.
Then I’d squeeze in another couple of hours in the afternoon before relaxing in my room.
I was actually recovering from a major depression burnout at the time—not uncommon with neurodivergent travelers—and teaching English online to adults was the perfect, relaxing job to keep my funds slowly increasing while also allowing me to rest.
How is the work/life/travel balance?
That said, this job is probably even better for busy, healthy travelers who can fit in a few hours of teaching here and there around day trips and activities. If you want your work/life balance to be ‘Life First’ as you teach English online abroad, then this is the job for you.
It is worth noting that the price of flexibility does come with lower wages than some other companies. If you prefer a “work hard, travel hard” approach—where you grind for a short period of time to pile up your savings, then leave on a work-free adventure—this might not suit you as much.
In this case, you could consider doing a job like Cambly as an ‘add on’ if staying at WorkAways, or adding it as an additional side hustle along with another location independent job. (Here’s over 100 other travel job ideas).
How to find work as an online English teacher while traveling
When signing up for English-teaching jobs online, take the application process SERIOUSLY.
Honestly, I have seen so many applications where information has not been filled out correctly or not given the attention it deserves. Treat your application as seriously as you would when applying for any other job!
Thankfully, applying is easy, and you can quickly fill out a form online on their website.
If you need to upload a video, make sure you are smiley, polite, and speak slowly.
Film your introduction video with good light and wear a headset to show you will treat this job like a professional.
You don’t need any qualifications to apply for a job teaching conversational English with Cambly. However, a TEFL certification, an undergraduate degree (in any subject), or teaching experience is certainly a bonus. Higher-paid jobs will nearly always require an undergraduate degree in any subject and a TEFL certificate.
You don’t need to be a native English speaker, but you do need to be completely fluent. I have met English language teachers from all over the world, but they did always have one thing in common—excellent pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
How much do online English teachers earn?
How much you earn will depend entirely on the hours that you put in. You may choose to do a mix of regular classes with one company a few days a week, then use Cambly for extra dollars on the days you want to keep your schedule more flexible for traveling, exploring, or relaxing.
CAMBLY: This informal job pays around $10.22 USD/hour, If you sign up with Cambly Kids, the pay is $12.00/hour. You are paid by the minute and receive payouts every Monday via Paypal.
Teaching English online (with a TEFL): Wages usually begin at $20 and involve tutoring children. Many experienced teachers often earn $30-$40 an hour, such as those tutoring students for their IELTS (English speaking exams) and teaching Business English to professionals.
This can also be done online while traveling, though it would require expert experience and a copy of certifications. Teaching platforms usually take a cut of your pay. So once you build up a reputation, you can start earning way more by building up your own list of private clients.
PALFISH: On PalFish FreeTalk, you can expect to earn a minimum of $12.70 an hour, but many experienced tutors are earning closer to $30. The PalFish Official Kids Course pays a minimum of $8.00 for each 25-minute class.
Each platform has different methods they use to send you your payments. If you’ll be traveling abroad as you teach, it can be helpful to open up a bank account for digital nomads to save money on international transfers.
What’s your favorite part about teaching English online while traveling?
Without a doubt, speaking to people from around the world is the biggest bonus. As a solo traveler, it feels strange that people are PAYING to talk to me!
Many times I have spent longer talking and laughing with strangers from around the globe than I have with my own loved ones. I have learned so much from the generous students who opened up their lives to me, and this has given me a better understanding of the world.
What do you wish you would’ve known when you first started?
Not to be so anxious!
Guys, Cambly is truly informal.
That said, I definitely wish I would’ve known to write out a list of “emergency questions” to ask in case we ran out of things to talk about. That was a lesson I learned pretty quick!
I’m Cassie, a solo traveler currently based in Auckland, New Zealand. On my site cassiethehag.com, I talk about solo traveling through my favorite destinations, alongside frank discussions of my struggles with ADHD and mental health. I got my TEFL certificate in London in 2017 and have been teaching English online on-and-off since then.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).