by Patrice Palmer
As a language teacher, I am sure you share my delight when new words are coined and become part of the English language. Words such as “edupreneur” and “teacherpreneur” are two great examples. There are several definitions for edupreneur/teacherpreneur:
“Teacherpreneurs are classroom experts who teach students regularly, but also have time, space, and reward to incubate and execute their own ideas – just like entrepreneurs!” (Berry, 2015)
“They manage their own incomes, colonize and create new learning environments, create their own content and taste the kinds of artistic satisfaction that only freelance, independent teachers can experience… They are free to do what they love; teach, share, inspire, write, create. Many edupreneurs work online, where they can build up massive networks of students and teachers. They can choose to do voluntary work, make a difference, publish inspiring work on their websites and still earn a healthy living.” (Guigan, 2015)
The definition that I like to use is from Kiana Porter-Isom (2015): “A classroom teacher or school based leader who is both educator and entrepreneur; an educator who works a flexible and/or freelance schedule; and/or an educator with a “side hustle” that supplements their income.”
So why did I become a teacherpreneur? I have had an incredible 20-year career in Canada, including 7 years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years of age in a variety of programs such as EAP, ESP, language programs for new immigrants, and Business English. However, like many ESL teachers in Canada, I have been piecing together several teaching jobs in order to earn a full-time salary. I used to worry about whether or not I would have work for the following semester so, like many teachers, I overloaded myself. At one point, I had 6 part-time jobs! I started to feel worn out and realized that it was time for a change. I also craved variety and wanted a creative outlet.
The real reason why I wanted to become a teacherpreneur is because of my dream to relocate to Costa Rica in 2017. Earning an income from online work seemed to be sensible, so more than a year ago I started teaching an online course in a TESL program to see if I would like it, while still working as a classroom teacher. When I discovered that I enjoyed teaching online, I took on another course teaching academic writing for a university. This gave me the courage to leave my teaching position at a college last December to become a full-time teacherpreneur. Every semester now I teach two to three online courses which is a nice, steady source of income.
Working from home is very different from working full time at a school. Instead of travelling to a school (and in the past it may have been two different locations in one day), I now only work from home. I have time to read in the morning, catch up on emails, check out social media, have lunch/coffee with friends, and continue to find ways to be creative, on my own terms. I have found that I have more energy and creativity, but at the same time working from home requires discipline and good time management skills.
As well as teaching online, I am writing online courses for other people managing some social media accounts for entrepreneurs, and developing my own online courses and materials. There is so much variety to my job now, which I really love. Here are some of the projects that I have completed since January 2016:
- I’ve designed and developed a 10-module online English course for students in Saudi Arabia;
- I’ve written an online course on Anger Management for a psychologist and another online course on well-being related to positive psychology;
- I’ve evaluated an ESL/EFL website for students to improve their listening skills;
- I’ve designed a one-day lesson plan for a trainer in Spain to teach presentation skills;
- I’ve been writing bi-monthly blog posts for two ESL/EFL websites plus for my own blog;
- I’ve been working as an instructional coach providing service to teachers around the world;
- I’ve written an e-book A-Z Guide: How to Survive and Thrive as a New ESL Teacher.
I also have time to travel at any time of the year. For example, in April I attended IATEFL conference for the first time as it would normally fall on the exam week at my college. I will present at a TESOL conference in Costa Rica in July and teach report writing in Guyana later this fall. For me, working from home and travelling means all the freedom that I did not have before.
Words of advice
- Before you take on the challenge of becoming a teacherpreneur, think about what you really LOVE about teaching English (e.g. curriculum design, academic writing). Personally, I have always loved the process of writing lesson plans (reading, researching, browsing online resources to find the right clip art, an image or a quote), and so most of the work that I do now relates to writing. Once you narrow down what you really love, it makes it easier to find this kind of work and you will be happier in the end.
- It takes time to find freelance work so if you are considering becoming a freelancer, plan well in advance. Start by setting up an account and profile on freelancer.com or golance.com and then bid on projects that match your skills.
- Learn how to brand yourself and boost your reputation online. There many online resources that can help you with branding. The key is to differentiate yourself from others in terms of your skills, experience, and niche.
- Learn all you can about social media. Set up accounts on Linkedin to start. This leads to the next point.
- Connect, connect and connect! with people online. For example, I connected with a materials writer in the UK on Linkedin and then she recommended me for the Saudi writing project.
- Talk to other freelancers and get all the information you need before making this decision. Find out how they got started and how they get work. You might think that other freelancers wouldn’t share, but there really is a sense of collaboration, not competition.
The quality that I needed the most to become a teacherpreneur or freelancer was courage. The classroom provided a sense of comfort in that I knew what I was doing. Venturing off on my own means that I have had to learn a lot of new skills such as email marketing, design, and social media. I am solely responsible for my “pay cheque”. Despite a huge learning curve, I am glad that I made this leap from the classroom to my home office, and I would be happy to help anyone who has questions about making this change.
- Berry, B. in Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2015). The Era of the Teacherpreneur. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/era-of-teacherpreneur-heather-wolpert-gawron;
- Guinan, S. (2015). Edupreneurs – Creating a New Wave of Disruption in Education. Retrieved from http://www.wiziq.com/teachblog/edupreneurs-creating-a-new-wave-of-disruption-in-education;
- Porter-Isom, K. (2015). Edupreneur Today. Retrieved from http://www.edupreneurtoday.com/.