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Tutoring English Online with Cafetalk

Looking for a casual, conversational platform for interacting with students from across the world? CafeTalk, a Japanese teaching platform for everything from yoga to piano, might be your answer.

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Ah, the humble cafe. A place to meet, share gossip, celebrate, commiserate or just sip on a coffee. If you focus, you can hear the chatter of a busy seating area, the noise of an espresso machine, and smell the frothing milk. It’s a wonderful place to be - so no wonder online teaching platforms are hoping to evoke the spirit of a cafe. Specifically, CafeTalk!

With a real emphasis on conversation and casual, fun learning, CafeTalk is a Japanese online teaching platform offering lessons in everything from singing to using an abacus. A popular place for teaching online, English teachers around the world are finding a range of individual students to teach online one-to-one.

Somewhat unusually, CafeTalk has a points system for lessons, as opposed to dealing directly with currencies. Students will buy points for lessons, and tutors will accept these points and cash them in for real money. We'll cover how lessons are paid for in more detail, but this is a distinct difference between CafeTalk and other similar platforms.

How easy is it to get started on CafeTalk, what teaching requirements do you need to meet, what’s the application process like and can a tutor start teaching with just basic computer skills? Let’s explore!

CafeTalk: An Overview

Founded in 2010 and based in Tokyo, CafeTalk is a hub for online teaching in the Far East, especially when it comes to language lessons. Though there is a huge range of subjects on offer, with Japanese lessons proving particularly popular, there are lots of jobs for online tutoring buffs with specific skills in English.

Though CafeTalk’s interface and graphic elements seem quite casual and jovial, don’t get too comfortable; online lessons on CafeTalk are predominantly with adult learners who are determined to make progress. They expect teachers who are knowledgeable and as keen as they are!

As a Cafetalk teacher, you’ll have the freedom to create your own lesson plans and materials, which is great for those who like to teach with boundless creativity. The company promises to “let the world spice up your life”, so there’s a very clear identity and ethos to follow: make it fun!

While the company is Japanese and serves a great number of Japanese students for private online lessons, you will be teaching English to learners from all around the world. While you’re on the platform as a teacher, you may find something that interests you as a learner, be it Japanese lessons, yoga, piano or calligraphy.

What are the requirements to teach with CafeTalk?

Excited about meeting your first CafeTalk student? First, let’s explore the requirements you need to teach English online through this platform.

First off, there are some basics to cover. You’ll need to be over 20 years of age and legally permitted to work both at home and wherever you’re based. Strong communication skills are absolutely imperative. Teaching experience is preferred but not mandatory - don’t worry if you want to teach English online with no experience, you can still apply!

Now, for everything else:

Bachelor's degree

CafeTalk tutors don’t need to hold a degree to start teaching on the platform. That said, when advertising your services as a teacher, having a degree can make you more attractive to the average CafeTalk student looking for language lessons.

TEFL certification

You don’t need to have completed TEFL courses to be eligible for the CafeTalk platform. That said, we’d never recommend teaching English online without at least 120 hours of TEFL certification on your CV. 120 hours is the industry standard, and your certification should come from a high-quality, accredited TEFL course provider. Like degrees, having TEFL certification will make you more attractive as someone who wants to teach English on CafeTalk.

It may also help to have additional, Advanced TEFL certification on your profile. An additional course in teaching English online may really help you to find clients in the competitive world of online English teaching.

Native/non-native 

Unfortunately, you need to be a native English speaker to teach English language lessons on CafeTalk. If you’re not a native speaker, don’t despair! The TEFL industry is full of opportunities for non native speakers of English.

Technical Cafetalk Requirements 

To be a CafeTalk tutor, you’ll need to have technology that’s up-to-date and working well. The most fundamental requirement is a stable internet connection and either a PC, Mac or tablet available to you. Then, it’s all about having the typical tools for teaching online; a webcam, microphone and headphones (or headset) are required, and you’ll need to have a Skype, Zoom or Google Meet account, depending on the student's preference.

Teaching online through a smartphone is not permitted on CafeTalk, as is relatively common in the online ESL sphere.

Download our teaching English online guide

CafeTalk job description

So, what do CafeTalk teachers do, and how do they do it? Well, when it comes to teaching English on the CafeTalk online teaching platform, it’s pretty simple. What you need to do is get on Skype and conduct lessons.

Beware though, new teachers: you’re not just assigned online ESL students in a click or two. There is a process to gaining clients that’s methodical, as we’ll explore now.

Getting clients

Once you’ve set up your profile (we’ll cover how you do this later on), you’ll be available for teaching online. Students must review your profile and if they decide to book you for a lesson, they’ll make a lesson request. This will show up on your CafeTalk dashboard and you’ll also get an email.

If the date and time the student has picked suits you, you then click “confirm” in the dashboard. We’d then recommend that you send your students a short message before lessons begin - they might have questions or specific goals in mind!

Conducting the lessons

You aren’t going to be handed lesson materials or plans in advance, so you’re free to teach what you like to teach, provided it meets the learning outcomes suggested by the student. Typically, Skype or Zoom are the tools for actually conducting the lesson, which can be as short as 15 minutes, or as long as 120 minutes.

Feedback from students is encouraged by the company, so make sure you’re teaching English in a way that’s engaging, creative and meets the needs of the student. If you want to encourage a student to book more lessons with you, then you’ve got to impress from the off!

What happens after?

Once the lesson is completed, you can leave feedback and even a bit of homework for students. Encourage a student to take more lessons if it’s your first time teaching them. After this, you’ll need to make a payment request, though you can set auto-requests on - you need to have at least 3,000 JPY ($25/£20) to cash out.

How much does CafeTalk pay?

Now, to a crucial point: how much does CafeTalk pay? Their system of payment may seem confusing at first, but it’s quite simple. Firstly: you set your own rates, but there’s a caveat, as we’ll explain.

CafeTalk pay is based on a point system, in which 1 point is equal to 1 Japanese Yen. At the time of writing, a JPY is equivalent to $0.0070/£0.0055, so 182 JPY is £1 and 143 JPY is $1. You’ll find that other teachers on CafeTalk tend to charge between 1,500-4,000 points per hour, which is equivalent to $10-$28/£8-£22. This is before the commission; CafeTalk pays 60% of a lesson when you start, with the company taking the remaining percentage as commission.

Depending on lesson sales, your percentage share of earnings will increase, with the highest possible fee percentage being 85%. The rates are explained by CafeTalk, who also explains that CafeTalk pays into PayPal, Payoneer or directly into bank accounts, depending on location.

Application and Interview Process

If you’re now wondering how to become a CafeTalk tutor, let us show you. Though CafeTalk is a platform, there is still an interview process, albeit a more casual one than you might have with a company.

Let’s dive in!

Job application

So the first thing you’ve got to do is set up an account on CafeTalk, using your email address and a password of your choice. Then, it’s time to fill out your profile. The information you’ll need to share is:

  • Which subject you want to teach (you can choose multiple)
  • Your teaching experience
  • Qualifications
  • Basic information about yourself
  • Which languages do you speak
  • The kind of lessons you want to teach and the desired hourly rate
  • Tutor’s picture (as high quality an image as possible)

Once you've completed this, you'll be contacted for a short interview with a CafeTalk staff member, who'll run you through the rest of the application process.

Interview

The interview you’ll do with CafeTalk is a short and simple one. A member of the CafeTalk staff will get in touch to ask you some questions about yourself, and in turn, you can ask questions during the interview. The CafeTalk employee will give you a guide to the platform and make sure you know how everything works.

After this, you can book lessons on CafeTalk!

Cafetalk: Pros and Cons

Like any platform or company within the sphere of tutoring, English online jobs and TEFL in general, there are pros and cons to consider. Based on what you’ve read, you may have mixed feelings about it. So, here is our honest CafeTalk review, in the form of pros and cons.

Pros 

  • Easy to get started: There’s no complicated software involved with CafeTalk, you can do it all from a browser and it’s easy to get to grips with.
  • Friendly: CafeTalk, from both an administrative and customer side, is full of friendly people. The more relaxed vibe of the platform creates a more pleasant atmosphere.
  • Flexibility: Teach as and when you want to, it’s that simple.
  • Support from staff: With round-the-clock support from CafeTalk’s staff, you’ll never be at a loose end should you run into any issues. There are even free counselling sessions for both tutors and students.

Cons

  • Periods of quietness: While CafeTalk is popular, it’s not always the busiest, and it can be a bit of a battle to promote yourself and win clients - especially at first.
  • Pay structure: The CafeTalk points system is especially confusing for newcomers to the platform.
  • Commission: Initially, you’ll earn 60% of a student’s fee, with 40% going to CafeTalk. That’s quite a high commission, even though it can be reduced over time.
  • No non-native speakers: Unfortunately, you have to be a native speaker of the language you wish to teach. This means that even highly qualified non-native English speakers cannot teach on this platform.

Cafetalk Reviews 

If you’re curious about how CafeTalk is perceived, especially with its unusual payment system and more casual approach to lessons, wonder no more.

On Indeed, CafeTalk is rated 4 out of 5. A typical CafeTalk review will mention the flexibility and ease of use of the platform, as well as the excellent support staff. The pay structure is mentioned in many a CafeTalk review, however, with payment for lessons and the 40% commission coming under some criticism.

On Glassdoor, meanwhile, you’re more likely to see a negative CafeTalk review or two, with a general rating of 3.4 out of 5. While tutors like the students and the support, the pay is a problem, and some tutors just aren’t getting enough students through for regular lessons. 

Crucially, the performance of the Yen will feature in a typical CafeTalk review; at the time of writing, its performance against currencies like the US Dollar and Pound Sterling means that, if you’re paid in Yen, you’re getting paid less than you might elsewhere. Clearly, that's a situation that can change based on global economics, but it's not ideal.

Independent reviews of CafeTalk also tend to talk about the CafeTalk points structure and the unusual method of payment. However, there is a lot of positivity around the CafeTalk team, who provide excellent support, especially to new teachers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. How much does Cafetalk pay?

    CafeTalk tutors set their own rates for lessons, though the platform will initially take a 40% commission. This reduces over time. 

  • Q. How do I become a tutor on Cafetalk?

    Becoming a tutor on CafeTalk is as easy as setting up a profile and taking part in a short interview with a CafeTalk employee.

  • Q. Where is Cafetalk based?

    CafeTalk is based in Japan but teaches students from all around the world.