Most people enter into the field of education because they have knowledge they want to share and/or they want to help students succeed in life. But, when it comes to starting or growing a business, it can be a challenge for educators. Oftentimes our teacher brains and hearts can get in the way of deciding what is good for our business. The teacher mindset and heart are certainly an important part of creating quality sessions for students, but this is just part of initial and on-going tasks that are required of educators in the “business” of teaching.
Unlike business schools, education degree programs are focused on subjects like curriculum design, learning theories, best classroom practices, etc. There are little to no opportunities for pre-service and in-service teachers to take classes on enhancing their business skills. It’s as if these two fields are completely different. Educators will typically come across business-like classes if they pursue certifications or degrees in administration leadership so that they will be able to tackle the finances and the essential communications required of principals, assistant principals, superintendents, etc., but for the typical classroom teacher, they’ve never been required to take a finance class, a leadership class, or a communications class. Whereas other jobs focus on career paths that are focused on job growth, climbing up through the ranks, teachers have to be self-motivated to seek out education careers beyond and/or outside of the classroom. Even though teachers are required to speak with so many different kinds of people, from so many different backgrounds, at so many different levels, and these teachers have to balance their budgets and fundraise money, so that they can create engaging classroom environments and lessons, their work has been so much disconnected from our nation’s business world.
So, as a teacher going into business for yourself, it is extremely important that you learn everything you need to know about building and sustaining a successful education business, like how to structure your business, what the market rate is for tutoring, the legal potential issues you must protect and prepare yourself for, how to market your services, etc. There are lots of free online classes, as well as certificate courses that you can find at a low cost. Whenever possible add team members to your business that will round out the skills that are needed to operate your business successfully. Hiring other teachers is great, but if and only if that’s what your business needs. A great teacher may not be the best person to make your legal decisions or to complete your taxes for you. Ask questions and seek out answers. There are some things that a Google search just won’t be able to answer better than someone in the industry, who has already paved the way for you. Know what type of business you want to create, why you want to create it, and all of the boxes you need to check to make sure you have a legally sound business, and so you can ask the right questions when the opportunities arise.
There will be moments when you will have to choose between your business and your heart. For example, you may have a program or student that is in desperate need of help, but who doesn’t have the funding to pay you for your time and services. You will have to really consider the opportunity cost of working with that student or program, and how this will impact your bottom line. Unfortunately, there will be times when you will have to say no, but on the flip side, you may be able to help a program find the funding they need, or barter with them for feedback and/or testimonials that you will be able to use to help grow your business. Teachers are creative problem solvers – use this to your advantage.
If you love teaching, but you are looking for some opportunities to grow in a new direction now, more than ever, is a great time to explore starting a tutoring business. This is a low overhead business option, and with so many low-cost options for connecting with students online, you may not even have to leave the comfort of your own home. If you have the passion and the drive, the sky’s the limit on what you will be able to achieve and how many lives you will be able to change for the better!