If you are a native English speaker, then you already have an incredible resource that you can use to make money. There are many English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students in the world that wish to perfect their English-speaking skills. However, they require the help of a native speaker to understand English language nuances and pronunciations.

In the past, ESL students needed to sign up for classes and work with instructors in face-to-face arrangements. Nowadays, with the advancement of mobile technology, ESL instruction can occur via smartphone using different mobile apps.

What that means for you is that you can now earn money as an ESL instructor directly from your smartphone. That’s right: Thanks to the continued advancement of smartphone technology, you no longer need a computer to make money as an ESL instructor.

You can download specific ESL mobile apps to your smartphone and use them to tutor students via video and/or audio chat. Your tutoring time is compensated by the minute and, depending on your skill level and past experience, could grow to as much as $45/hour.

So, which apps pay you for ESL tutoring?

1. NiceTalk

This learning platform was created in China and is supported by both Android and iOS systems. Once you download the app, you generate a short interview video that assesses your English-speaking capabilities. Following approval, you can start accepting student requests.

In the case of NiceTalk, most of the students will be native Chinese speakers who arrive via the app’s video chat function. You need to work with your phone to make sure it can accept video chat requests and stream them at a normal conversational pace.


NiceTalk pays you a defined amount of $10/hour for your talking/teaching time. Keep in mind that most of your conversations will not last an entire hour- luckily, NiceTalk also pays by the minute. The app will also tack on bonuses to your account if you work with students during peak hours, which in the case of Chinese students is 11 pm- 6 am.

As a new user, you’ll receive a $10 bonus just for signing up with NiceTalk. You are able to cash out of your account once you reach $20.

2. PalFish

PalFish enables you to set your hourly rate from as low as $4.80 to over $45 per hour. Incidentally, your pay is denoted in yuan, not dollars. However, the app will convert your pay to your local currency upon cashing out.

There is a short verification process that you’ll need to undergo before you can start working with students. That process involves writing a 200-word description of you and your teaching style and posting a photo of your face. You also need to post a voice recording so that students can discern how you speak- and more importantly, if you speak clearly enough for them to understand your words.


Unlike NiceTalk, you aren’t stuck earning a specified rate per hour or minute; with PalFish, you can set your own rates and earn as high as $45/hour. Also, there is no set payout minimum.

3. Cambly

This app pays 17 cents/minute or $10.20/hour. You work as little or as much as you wish, and any money you earn is automatically sent to your Paypal account twice a month. You can also sign up for two-hour shifts, which guarantees a certain amount of money for your time. Payments are made once a $20 threshold is reached.


Students can peruse tutor profiles and ‘ping’ those tutors that they want to interact with. If the tutors are otherwise occupied and/or miss those ping(s), they are redirected to other tutors. You can opt to pick up the pings that are missed by other tutors for extra money.

Once you register with Cambly, you will be prompted to fill out your profile and record a video. The more teaching experience/certifications you can list on your profile, the greater likelihood you’ll have of being pinged by students for tutoring.

Students can also leave reviews on how well they thought you tutored them. If you accumulate a lot of positive reviews, you’ll increase your chances of being pinged.

4. SkimaTalk

This app will pay you $15 per each completed hour (as opposed to minute) and the chat sessions are conducted over Skype (which is available as an app for your smartphone). SkimaTalk even offers you a range of lesson plans so that you have a template to go by during your sessions.

Just like with Cambly, your students can leave reviews about you and your teaching style. Good reviews will lead to more students.

To get started, use your Facebook account or email to register with SkimaTalk. Fill out your profile information, including both your photo and a descriptor of your teaching style, any applicable experience, etc.


SkimaTalk will then assess your English reading abilities with a 19 question test. Assuming you pass, you’ll be able to start accepting and talking with students almost immediately.

The Bottom Line

As with any tutoring or teaching platform, you will do far better if you devote some time and effort into developing lesson plans and outlining your teaching style rather than just relying on students to find you. Also, be sure to ask for reviews from those students that you have in-depth and good interactions with.

While ESL tutoring probably won’t replace your full-time job income, it can supplement it fairly well.

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Join the Discussion

  • Charles Michael Jones
    Charles Michael Jones

    Hello, nice article.
    I work for Cambly as a Tutor and just to let you know, you CANNOT use it as a mobile app for teaching.


  • Dr. Good
    Dr. Good

    Hi everyone,
    If somebody’s still thinking whether to try work for it, here’s the only experience i had working for them:
    After i earned certain amount (on the app system) , i’ve claimed the money to Paypal account (the only way to receive money from the app, no other ways). I haven’t finished the procedure of claiming completely, due to the need of changing Paypal account to another one. Then the money has been returned to the sender (NiceTalk) as they’d notified me in advance. The customer service representative said ‘there’s no problem if i want to receive the money on another account – then once i changed it, let the customer service know. So i did, i’ve changed my paypal and then tried to open NiceTalk app, and that never happened anymore. Now, when i try to log in to my account again, the app says: “Your account has been suspended”. When contacting customer service regarding this issue, the completely another representative (Jelly) replied, saying that they’ve paid to me, and now, to make my existing account accessible for me again, i have to create completely new one. No one even notified me that if that soon my account’s gonna be somehow “suspended”. Recently they’ve sent me payment to claim again, which doesn’t work at all. I can’t claim my money for a month already. Dear NiceTalk, you were certainly going to have a great future with this app, but don’t only think about the customers as learners of this app (those who pay for tuition), i suggest to think about the customers as teacher too (those, who use it as teachers). Otherwise, my complaint won’t be the last complaint at all.

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