This Cambly review highlights the pros and cons of working for Cambly as a freelance English tutor. For those that have never heard of this business, Cambly is an online video chat service where you are connected to (mostly) adult speakers who want to learn English (or to improve their English conversational skills).
I would say the most represented countries are Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, China and Brazil.
Most students want to just have unstructured conversations although Cambly does provide basic (and in my opinion limited) lessons. You are paid $0.17/minute which comes out to $10.20 per hour of talk time.
What most people don’t know is that, whilst they were founded in 2012 by two former Google engineers Kevin Law and Sameer Shariff, who established the company in San Francisco, Cambly is currently a business run, funded and owned by Chinese investors, who are basically data/information gatherers for the CCP (China’s Communist Party).
You can verify the legitimacy of my findings via the relevant US Government website.
Coincidentally, this recently released video by Rebel Media highlights the foreign investment that’s being poured into American universities. Unfortunately, as it seems, foreign governments’ investment extends to other businesses in the sector too.
UPDATE: This review has been censored by Twitter (and led to the suspension without warning of Twitter account associated with this website). This is, most likely, due to the fact that Fei-Fei Li, an artificial intelligence (AI) expert, who allegedly has close connections with the CCP, was appointed to the board of Twitter as an “Independent” director in May 2020. Read Someone out there doesn’t like Twitter accounts critical of China
Unlike some other companies, Cambly does not restrict the number of hours that freelance English tutors are able to work on their platform. One can work as little as 1 hour a week or as much as 40 hours per week.
During your teaching hours, you meet some new and interesting people, and the schedule is really up to you. In theory, it is great as a ‘side gig’.
Freelance tutors are paid weekly, via Paypal, if their balance is US$20 or more.
Side Note: There should be more payment options besides Paypal, such as Transferwise, where they would be able to bank transfer your funds from a US account to another US account.
This website is unable to deal with the serious issues that affect their teachers. I worked on Cambly as a freelancer for just over a year, as a side gig whilst travelling, and I can only describe it as the most horrendous site for freelance teachers.
Middle Eastern students regularly flash their penises on camera during their 15-minute free trials – this has happened to me and to plenty of other teachers who made it known on Cambly’s Facebook Corner page and on other social media platforms. (Photo: Reddit post)
Personally, I had a South Korean “student” stalker (username ny2485) that went on a crusade of personal attacks, that ended up being reported to the Interpol and South Korean Police. When I reported it to Cambly, their ONLY action was to remove me from the site without notice or justification. An easy way to make the problem go away quickly?
On 2 April 2018, I was told by Cambly that, and I quote from their email, “based on your great work tutoring on Cambly, we’ve selected you for the Cambly IELTS tutor list (…)”.
On 2 May 2018 (a month later), and within hours of reporting this outrageous incident with the student to them, I received their standard email stating that my account was deactivated because I suddenly no longer met their “standards” as a tutor. They’ve never bothered to respond to the actual complaint I made against the student. My rating on the site was 4.89 out of 5.0 stars.
I later found out that it is common practice for them to deactivate accounts without notice or justification – as you can see from the attached photo from one of their tutors on Cambly Corner (their Facebook private group page).
As it seems, it is also common for them to remove you from their page so that they can impose on you their communist style censorship.
Independent Contractor status
Tutors are required to sign an agreement that states that they’re independent contractors. You’re not a Cambly employee, you work for yourself and they give you access to the platform, is the short version of the contract you sign.
YET… if you miss too many calls, your rating drops. If you cancel a priority hour within 12 hours of being due to start, they’ll sometimes issue a warning or suspend your account for 3 days, or worst yet, cancel your access to priority hours completely.
How do they get away with this? Are they an employer or a platform for independent contractors? You’re either an independent contractor or you work for them and, if they can do things like taking away access to priority hours, which is essentially punishment, then by nature this means they’re acting in the same way as an employer.
The Fair Work Commission describes work sham arrangements here.
The site went completely down once. The issues with sound are too frequent so as the ringer randomly turning itself off.
Although you are required to conduct an internet test before you can start tutoring, the system does not always work.
The five minute trials
I can’t begin to explain how stressful the five minute trial calls are. There’s obviously no vetting of students, or teachers for that matter.
Teachers are subjected to having students expose themselves, being openly flirted with, cursed at, laughed at and overall abused by some of the “students” that call in.
Tutors can choose the level of students they want to teach. I chose intermediate and up, which would supposedly eliminate beginners, however I still got calls from beginners, a lot of them. Imagine being connected with someone who can only say, “No English” and/or “what?”. That’s all they say!
In reality, there almost isn’t any. There’s no one to call, or even e-mail, with issues. You have to go to the support tab, send in a ticket and wait for them to get back to you. This can take anywhere from hours to several days.
Other than the tutor guide that they ask you to read and go by, you’re pretty much on your own, and learn as you go.
Most of the information in their “library” isn’t Cambly’s original material – it comes from other sites. If you look at the “class” materials, you can see that they’re using articles from other sites they put in their library for tutors to use. I have NO idea how they get around copyright infringement issues in a country outside of China.
Cancellation Policy and No-Shows
Students can cancel literally up until a minute before their lesson is due to start, and tutors get paid nothing for that lesson.
Teachers get paid $1.70 (the equivalent of 10 minutes of talk time) for no-shows, regardless of the booking length. For instance, if your student books a 60-minute call and he or she doesn’t show up, the tutor will only get paid $1.70.
Other Cambly review sites
Here are the Cambly scores on the two main review sites worldwide:
Indeed: 2.8 out of 5 stars
Glassdoor: 3.5 out of 5 stars
If you like working for practically nothing while being treated unfairly by clueless management on a system that has constant technical problems and abusive students, then this is the job for you.
The limited number of “glowing reviews” for Cambly online are from tutors that are desperate to increment their income. Cambly PAYS $20 PER REFERRAL
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