The Complete Guide to Teaching Online with Palfish


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Fancy the opportunity to make money without stepping foot out of your front door? An increasing number of people are working from home these days, and online teaching is one of the most common ways of doing so. 

Palfish is currently on a hiring spree, and are in search of teachers who can be part of their Official Kids Program. They are also hiring teachers for adult classes too.

If the online teaching world is something you’d like to dabble in, then read on. This guide breaks down everything you need to know about how to get hired by Palfish, what they pay, and what a work schedule as a Palfish teacher could look like. 

Palfish Overview

Founded in 2015, Palfish is an educational platform that connects ESL teachers to those who want to learn English in their free time, or just have conversations with English speakers. The platform continues to grow, providing teachers with plenty of opportunities to use Palfish as a little side hustle or as a path to teaching online full time.

Although based in Beijing, China, you can teach with Palfish from anywhere in the world, though you will have to work around Beijing time.

The Palfish platform is an interactive app with lessons delivered on compatible iOS/Android phones or tablets. Palfish is predominantly conversation based, with students phoning ‘online’ teachers (known as Free Talk) to help correct their grammar and pronunciation, rather than learning something class-based.  They also offer Official Kids Courses to children aged 3 – 12.

There are two types of Palfish teaching roles – regular teachers and Palfish official course instructors. Every Palfish teacher is a regular teacher, but when you teach on the Official Kids Course, you’re known as a Palfish official course instructor. 

What are the Requirements to Teach for Palfish?

Everyone joins the platform as regular teachers, and therefore all applicants must meet the Palfish regular teacher requirements. If you then wish to become an official Palfish course instructor, you can fill out an additional application with stricter requirements. 

Regular Teacher

Apart from holding a TEFL certification, the requirements for being a Palfish teacher are pretty straight forward.  There’s no need to hold a degree or be a native speaker, but you must be fluent in English. They do ask that you have some experience in English teaching, but they don’t speculate how much. Other than that, you just need to be passionate about teaching, and bring some enthusiasm and energy to the role. There aren’t even any time commitments! 

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Official Course Instructor

Requirements for applying to be a Palfish official course instructor, in order to teach on the Official Kids Course, are stricter. Similar to regular teachers, official teachers must have a TEFL certificate, but they must also be a native speaker with a neutral accent. Experience teaching children is preferred, as well as a minimum time commitment of at least 10 hours per week.

Technical Requirements

On top of the teaching requirements, Palfish teachers must have the right equipment to run a class:

  • A compatible iOS or Android phone/tablet
  • The Palfish iOS/Android app downloaded to their device
  • Stable WIFI connection (test your internet speed here). 

No minimum connection requirements are stated on the Palfish website, but having a decent connection will ensure that your lessons run more smoothly. If you want more hours, you want to make sure your students book in with you again, especially if you’re a regular teacher where the hours are less predictable. 

How much does Palfish pay?

Similar to the requirements, the pay for teaching with Palfish depends on whether you’re a regular teacher or a Palfish official course instructor. 

Palfish Official Course Instructor

These teachers are paid a set rate of up to $22 an hour when they teach on the Official Kids Course. They are also entitled to the following bonuses:

  • Around $0.75 for turning up on time
  • Around $30 bonus when a student buys a Palfish package after a trial lesson you have taught 
  • Around $30 bonus for a month of perfect attendance 
  • Around $15 reimbursement for props purchased

When official teachers teach other courses like Free Talk, they receive the same pay as regular teachers. 

Regular Teacher Pay

Regular Palfish teachers set their own rate of pay. Palfish claims that, on average, their regular teachers earn approximately $10 – $18 an hour, with some teachers earning more than $30 an hour. Bear in mind when setting up your rate that it’s done per minute, as per Palfish’s teaching model.

Obviously the higher your price, the more you’ll earn. But it’s recommended that you think carefully when setting your rate of pay as many students can be price-sensitive, especially with new teachers. So, if you’re a new teacher and have little experience, the best way to get students is to have a rate that’s not too high, but not too low either! Once you have become more established on the Palfish platform, you can raise your rate.

How does Palfish Pay you?

Palfish payments are made monthly and only if teachers hit the payment threshold, which is currently set at 200 RMB (around $30) a month. 

For those living in China, Palfish pay directly into a Chinese bank account. If you live outside China, Palfish pay through Payoneer, and charges fees of $3 per payment. Similar to PayPal, you can then withdraw the money from Payonner into a bank account. 

You get paid in RMB, so your earnings will then be exchanged into USD, based on current exchange rates. If you live outside of America, or in a country which doesn’t take USD, you may have to exchange the pay again. 


Palfish takes a 20% commission on all Free Talk lessons. The more you earn, the more you pay in commission. Annoyingly, this is pretty standard protocol for online teaching marketplaces. There is no commission for the Official Kids Course, as these rates of pay are tiered and standardized. You also don’t get charged a commission for live streams. 


Palfish has a pretty strict penalty system in place. These only apply if a teacher has made an appointment with a student and fails to show up, or cancels the lesson within 3 hours for a normal appointment and within 24 hours for an Official Kids Course appointment. 


For tax purposes, similar to all other online teaching companies, teaching for Palfish means you are an independent contractor. You are therefore responsible for submitting your earnings and paying taxes. This may sound complicated, but there is plenty of helpful advice out there on this with the IRS website offering guidelines for American independent contractors and HMRC website for those from the UK.

What is the interview process for Palfish?

The first step to applying to Palfish is to download the app straight to your phone or tablet, from either the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad or Google Play for Android. Make sure to download the teacher version.

Once the app is downloaded, you need to sign in with your phone number and enter the verification code Palfish sends to you. 

The next step is to select your gender, create a username and password, and add a profile picture. 

You should then be able to set up your profile which is what the students will see and read about you. Every applicant, regardless of whether they want to be a regular teacher or an official teacher, fills out the same profile page. Once your profile is submitted and verified, you can then apply for an official teaching role. 

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Check out the Palfish guidelines for some useful tips and advice. 

The profile includes the following information:

Text Introduction

This is your chance to introduce yourself. You should write about your education experience, English teaching certificates, work experience, teaching style, any teaching achievements you have, and hobbies. Try to keep this all relevant to the job!

Audio Introduction

This is where you record a 30-second voice introduction. You can talk about your teaching philosophy, hobbies and other interests. It may be good to mention how you can help students with their pronunciation and speaking skills – don’t just spend the 30 seconds talking about yourself! Make sure to be in a quiet space and focus on clear and precise pronunciation – your students will hear this and will choose teachers that are clear and easy to understand. 


Select your nationality and upload documents to verify. 

Teaching Certificate

Upload any teaching certificates you have. A TEFL/TESOL certificate is part of the requirements, but if you have another teaching certificate on top of this, you can upload it as well.

Account for Salary

This is where you add either your Chinese bank account details (if you live in China) or your Payoneer account details. 

Auto-reply Message

Here you record an auto-reply message. This is what the students will receive when chatting with you for the first time. You could say hello and goodbye in Chinese (Mandarin) to add something a little unique and personal for your students!

Once this has all been completed, click the green submit button at the bottom of the profile page. It’s important to note that you can’t reapply for Palfish, so try to get it right the first time!

Palfish Verification Process

It can take up to 2 business days for Palfish to verify your account. Make sure all your profile information is filled out correctly. If you don’t hear back from Palfish after a few days, try contacting them to find out more about your application. Palfish will send you a message with your application result. 

If you’re successful, you should be able to start teaching right away. If you wish to become a Palfish official course instructor, so that you can teach on the Official Kids Course, you need to pass a Palfish interview.

Becoming a Palfish Official Course Instructor

Once your profile has been submitted and verified, you can then apply to become a Palfish official course instructor on the Official Kids Course. You click on the blue ‘application’ icon on the Palfish app and it takes you to an application page for the Official Kids Program. You fill out the two sections, and a Palfish representative will be in touch to set up a mock interview.

The interview involves teaching a 25-minute mock lesson to a Palfish representative who will pretend to be a 6-year-old student. You’ll be given slides in advance to use in the lesson so that you can practice. You and the student will be able to see each other as well as the slides during the lesson.  

It’s worth setting up your ‘classroom’ or background behind you, making sure that it’s child-friendly. Your teaching style should be enthusiastic and positive – remember the ‘student’ is only 6-years-old so you need to keep them engaged and speak slowly and clearly. Using props can also be a big plus! 

Check out this video for a more in-depth guide and helpful tips on how to pass your interview and teach English online with Palfish.

What is the Work Schedule for Palfish?

One of the benefits of working with Palfish means flexible hours – you can work as much or as little as you want. 

Lots of online teaching companies require you to be available at certain times and set your schedule well in advance. This isn’t true of Palfish. You don’t need to set a schedule, you can just go online when you’re free, click on “Start Tutoring” and wait for students to call. You can set a schedule if you’d like, and have specific appointment slots open. 

There are no minimum hours for regular teachers. Official Kids Course teachers, however, are required to be online for 10 hours a week during peak China hours. Not having some of these slots open means that you won’t get students. 

How to set up your appointments and teaching schedule on Palfish:

Palfish courses can be broken down into 4 different types:

Official Kids Course

This is the program Palfish are really pushing on the hiring front. Once accepted on to Palfish, you can apply to be a Palfish official course instructor and teach this kids course. These one-to-one lessons are for children aged 3 – 12 and are 25 minutes in length. They use Palfish official course material, so there is no need to lesson plan. Lessons are regular and scheduled in advance and the pay is set by Palfish.

Free Talk

These are one-to-one individual calls to students wanting to improve their English, either as audio calls or video calls. These calls can be scheduled or teachers can just be online and take calls as they come in. 

Lessons tend to be more conversation based, but teachers can plan and create more specialized lessons if they wish to. There is no curriculum or time restraints, the lessons/phone calls can go on for as long or as short as the student and teacher choose. Students choose their teachers, so you need to make sure your profile is top notch to encourage being picked. Everyone can teach on the Free Talk program and pay is set by the teachers themselves. 

Live Streaming

This works just like any other live streaming – you talk to the camera and it live streams to anyone who wishes to listen! This is something Palfish offers that is different from other online teaching programs. It gives you the opportunity to broadcast to a large group of students (there is no limit) on a topic of your choice, informative or random. 

You can either charge students to watch or just use the live streams to gain publicity on the platform – they can be a great way to gain a presence and reputation among the students. Students can pay to watch replays, which is even more income! Every teacher can live stream.


These involve teaching English to classes of 2 – 6 students and can be about any topic. Palfish ask that seminars include pictures to help guide the discussion. Rates are set per person who attends. All teachers can lead seminars.


You can teach daily either by scheduling classes or by signing in and being ‘online’. The vast majority of students live in China, so you need to keep the timezone in mind. You may find students online at all times of day/night, but the peak hours are as follows (these hours are on Beijing time):

  • Monday – Sunday, 6pm – 9pm
  • Saturday – Sunday, 9am – 10pm 

Teaching online often relies on having a good set of regular students, who you have the opportunity to get to know and form a relationship with the hope they will keep coming back for more lessons. The more you build up your reputation and ‘following’ as a Palfish teacher, the more hours you could work and the more money you could make! 

Understanding the Palfish Teaching Platform

Palfish works as an interactive app on your mobile or tablet, providing a platform for audio or video calling, setting up a live feed, creating lessons and seminars and setting up a schedule. It also offers teachers the chance to follow other teachers and students, set rates of pay, check rankings and hours worked. There is also a ‘moments’ feature which allows teachers and students to post messages or lesson ideas, or anything related to the ESL world, for others to read, watch or follow. 

The following video takes you through how to navigate the app and how all the features work. It may be titled ‘quick introduction’ but, be warned, it is actually quite long! It is very insightful though!  

A quick introduction to Palfish app:

Palfish Reviews

Becoming a Palfish teacher is a great way for ESL teachers to earn some extra cash on the side or to use as a full time job, without having to move to another country or even leave your house! Plus, the requirements aren’t too strict to join!

The biggest advantage of working for Palfish is the freedom. The flexibility of the job means you can work as many or as little hours you like, whenever you’re free! There isn’t any need to schedule hours in advance, you can just show up, click ‘Start Tutoring’ and wait for the calls to come. However, if you would rather schedule hours, that’s an option too! Teaching on the Official Kids Course means scheduled, regular hours and a more reliable stream of students. 

Furthermore, the class length is flexible too, so the lessons/calls can be as long or as short as you like – unless you’re teaching on the Official Kids Course, which is fixed at 25 minute lessons. You can also make some extra income through live streaming, running seminars and selling lessons you have created! 

The interactive app appears pretty straightforward to navigate, and you don’t need to go out and buy any extra technical equipment, it only requires a compatible phone or tablet. You just need to download the app, fill out your profile details and two days later you could be cleared to start taking your first call! 

The disadvantages are the 20% commission for all Free Talk calls, but once you have established yourself on the platform, built up good ratings and a ‘following’, you can start charging more per minute. Plus, the commission doesn’t apply to live streams or the Official Kids Course, so there are other opportunities to make up for this downfall!

Another thing to consider is that you’ll need to spend some time building up your reputation so that you have a steady stream of students. To do this, you’ll need to create an alluring profile and dedicate some time to promoting yourself, maybe through live streaming or sharing ‘moments’. The more you engage with Palfish and make yourself visible, the more success you will have with teaching. You also won’t be able to set a high hourly rate until you are more established.

Again, another long video, but this one talks you through all the pros and cons of the Palfish program:

If you do fancy joining the Palfish team, you can sign up today, it’s that simple! Download the app and start teaching online!


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38 Responses

  1. My phone was stolen the day that my application for PalFish was accepted. That is why I wasn’t able to open the app until today, Sept. 30. I was accepted Sept. 28, 2019. How will I resolve this matter? Thank you so much!

      1. Hello. I uploaded my TeFL certificate in the TeSOL box then I accidentallty pressed save. I cannot delete it. What should I do?

  2. Hi there, I was wondering what TEFL course you recommend to get the best out of teaching for PalFish? Would a 20-40 hour basic TEFL be sufficient or does it need to be 100 hours plus? I look forward to hearing from you, thank you

    1. Hi Elle – if you’ve never taught before then you should really be doing at least a 120hr course (iTTT has some affordable ones). If you’ve got some teaching experience and are just trying to get the cert as quick as possible then a 40hr one should work.

  3. I was about to apply for the Kids Course job at Palfish so downloaded their app in advance.However,shortly afterwards,I received a message informing me that BOTH my mobile,(Samsung A2016),and ipad 2,weren’t compatible with the Palfish app so now I cannot use then to be interviewed/commence teaching.As I cannot find details online or directly from them,can you tell me what models/year of manufacture for phone/ipads that I need?Many thanks!

  4. hey Emma, I’ve tried registering for the app from Kenya but when I input my phone number, I’m not receiving any verification code, any idea why this is happening?

    1. Hi,
      If ever I won’t pass the interview or demo. Would there be any chance to do the demo again?
      Thank for the reply 😊

  5. I was just wondering if there were a time deadline to complete the interview once offered one,(I have been offered one ) I see you can select a slot a week in advance.
    The reason I ask is I’m not ready just yet with my props, background, etc and hadn’t also realized how quickly you could potentially get lessons assuming you pass the interview.
    Many thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Emma!
      Thank you so much for this post, it was very informative and helpful! I was wondering if you might help me. I entered my phone number in the app just to register but there was some kind of error. I didn’t receive the verification text after many attempts. Is there any way you could help me start the process? Thank you!

      – Danielle

      1. Hi Danielle – unfortunately, we are not associated with Palfish (we just wrote about them) so you’re better off directing your questions to them.

  6. HI THERE. i realise that my palfish application did not get accepted in the first go was because of the tefl tesol application. if i do my palfish authorised tefl online teaching course through the website, then can i RE APPLY my application?

  7. Hi there I have 12 + years teaching and working with children . I’m currently obtaining my TEFL license . Can I still work with palfish ?

    1. Hi Helen,

      I’ve just set up my teachers profile after my Palfish application was accepted. Now looking into applying for Palfishkids Teacher and preparing for the mock interview . I downloaded the palfish app via bluestax on my laptop as thought would be better to teach on than my I phone.I assumed that it’s possible or is it easier to use the Palfish app via I phone? I’m reading not compatible on laptops?

      Thank you,

  8. Hello!
    I have been teaching in a Primary school in England for many years & also worked as a special needs teaching assistant.I have a degree in education & hold qualified teacher status.I am interested in applying for Palfish.Do you still require me to complete the TEFL course?
    Many thanks🙂

  9. Can I speak mandarin as a translation so kids can fully understand the meaning of the word in english ?

  10. Hi, I am wanting to teach with Palfish but a little unsure about how to do lessons. Am I able to talk about just anything with the students such as the alphabet and colors? Or is there a certain structure I’m supposed to follow?

  11. Hi there! If you’re rejected for the official kids course, can you still teach on the free talk platform?

  12. I was rejected at PalFish because they couldn’t verify my TESOL certificate (there is no certificate number). My school will help me to verify it. Is there an email for PalFish?

  13. Hi,

    I passed my interview process. When I needed to do my boot camp quiz, I passed. However there was a technical error (many teachers experienced the same day). I had no idea it was a technical issue and used up my 5 chances to take the quiz in the first module. I kept reviewing the information and getting the same mark. However it has still failed me and won’t let me progress to the OKC. Please help 🙏

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