Despite what many who work outside of education are so fond of arguing, we educators know the sad truth about teacher salaries. Unlike teachers in other leading education systems the world over, American teachers are underpaid for their education, expertise, energy, and time. Given that reality, it is often desirable – and even necessary – for teachers to generate side income. There are many excellent ways to do this, some of which will result in a nice steady drip of income, others of which could lead to the accidental birth of a Fortune 500 company. Let’s take a look at some of the best approaches out there.
(Note: We’ve chosen to focus on jobs that will directly call on your skills as a teacher, rather than a side job that could be more generally done).
Teachers work hard outside of the classroom to create teaching materials that will resonate with their students and promote deep learning. When something really works, why not share that with the world – and make a little profit while doing so?
Chances are, you’re already familiar with Teachers Pay Teachers, one of the first and still the biggest online marketplace for teachers to sell their materials to other teachers. Getting started can be as simple as uploading a worksheet you’ve already created, or as complex as designing graphics, researching ideal price points, and marketing the items in your store. Whichever approach you choose, the site offers numerous internal discussion boards upon which experienced sellers offer their best pointers.
Other marketplaces you might want to check out:
You might not think there are any downsides or caveats to this idea, but there are a few. First, if you’re of the belief that teachers should share their experience, knowledge, and resources freely, this idea may strike you in the wrong way.
Secondly, famous stories like that of Deanna Jump, the Teachers Pay Teachers educator who made over a million dollars on the site, may be more difficult to emulate as marketplaces become flooded with material. Differentiating yourself means dedicating time and energy to design and marketing.
Lastly, some districts, like Seattle Public Schools, are now restricting teachers from selling materials created on district time.
Online instruction is exploding right now, creating plenty of opportunity for teachers who want to teach a course after school hours or in the summer when there is more time. Many school districts offer online courses directly to serve the needs of students who can’t attend class for any reason, who want to get ahead over the summer, or for those who are simply interested in learning more about a certain subject.
Outside of school districts, there are numerous online education sites looking to hire teachers in the primary and secondary school ranges. K12 is one such site, though teaching for them is more akin to a regular teaching job just taken online, so it may be best saved for the summer months. Connections Academy offers a similar model, as do The Keystone School, and K12 International Academy, amongst many more. The Flex Jobs online teaching section often has interesting online teaching postings as well.
And of course, if you have a subject you’re passionate about outside of the K12 range, there are excellent sites upon which you can teach that skill as well. Skill Share is a prime example, as are Udemy, Lynda, Course Birdie, General Assemb.ly, and Udacity (if you have tech skills to share).
Just as you can teach and sell worksheets and lesson plans online, so too can you create and sell courses. The benefit of this approach is that you can put in an investment of time and energy up front, and then focus on less intensive marketing efforts while your course sells indefinitely. The more courses you offer, the more revenue streams you’ll create.
Great sites for this include Gumroad, Digital Chalk, WizIQ, and many more. Learning Revolution offers an in-depth breakdown of online course marketplaces here.
Teachers have long turned to tutoring to generate extra funds. You can start simply by tutoring any students from your class who may need outside help. If you are a subject area specialist, you might let other teachers know that you are open to accepting students who are struggling in that particular area. If you’re really gung ho about going this route, it’s a great idea to meet with principals and learning coordinators within your school district to introduce yourself, let them know what it is you do, and offer yourself up for referrals. It also can’t hurt to post an advertisement on a site like Thumbtack so that parents can reach out when they’re looking for help.
If you don’t want to bother with finding students yourself, you could join up with either a local tutoring company or a national chain like Sylvan. These companies will pay you less and will make you sign a non-compete agreement, but if you’re strapped for energy and time, it will be a relief having the business side of things taken care of for you.
Alternatively, you could look to online venues and tutor from the comfort of your home. These are particularly popular for test prep courses, but opportunities span across the subject and discipline areas. Tutor.com and InstaEDU are two of the most popular sites, and it seems like new marketplaces pop up every day.
Yes, writing a book is never an easy or quick process, but it may not be as labor intensive as you think, as long as you choose a subject about which you already have a fair amount of knowledge. Have you, for example, developed a radical new teaching method that any teacher within your subject area would benefit from learning? How about compiling your lessons and worksheets into a more formal kind of textbook so that you’ve put together a course, rather than selling your materials one by one? Or how about writing down your lectures to be read on the go?
The deeper within the how-to genre your eBook falls, the quicker it will be to construct – all the more so if your topic fits neatly within your day-to-day subject area. With self-publishing tools like Create Space, you can sell your eBook on Amazon, or you can either sell or give your book away for free as part of a course you post on a site like Udemy.
Have you noticed a pressing problem in the classroom? Are you convinced there is a technological solution just around the corner? Starting your own Ed Tech may sound like an intimidating prospect, and it is incredibly labor intensive. But as, we explored in our recent article on Teacherpreneurs, you, as a teacher, are the person with your fingers right on the pulse of education, and you are the person best poised to solve the problems you encounter every day.
Yes, starting an Ed Tech can be a full-time job, but there are teachers like Christopher Hull and Peter Helfers, who we interviewed for that Edupreneurs article, who work on their company, Otus, while continuing to teach. Doing so, however, is much easier with an Ed Tech professional as a co-founder, and when the district will allow you to go down to part-time.
If you can stand looking at another set of student papers, there are schools that outsource their grading – particularly those with large, overwhelming class sizes. Of course, scorers and proctors are always needed for district and state exams, as well as for standardized tests given through ETS, Pearson, and other large providers. To find out about and apply for these jobs, you can reach out to these companies or districts directly, or keep track of opportunities on sites like the Higher Ed remote job board.
If you’re passionate about education and also love to write, there are many education sites that are looking for teachers to write articles for them, ranging from thought leadership pieces to instructional how-to ideas. Sites you might consider pitching to include Ed Week, Edutopia, Teach Thought, The Atlantic, and the NY Times Education section, as well as countless other smaller time sites and blogs. (As of the publication of this piece, Edudemic is currently closed to outside submissions. Sorry about that…)
From giants like Pearson to wacky outsiders like Shmoop, there are a plethora of curriculum companies out there. While each will have a core of in-house curriculum writers, most are always on the hunt for teachers to create curriculum for them on a contract basis. Check the providers directly for jobs, as well as job sites like Indeed, Ed Surge, and Virtual Vocations.
We’ve focused a lot in this article on online options for spreading your passion and expertise, whether it’s related to what you teach every day or to another subject entirely. But there are plenty of ways to pass on this knowledge in person. Both community colleges and even private universities often offer one-off courses to returning students, and some are open to pitches from the community. Museums are much the same. If you are, for instance, a Biology teacher and an amateur paleontologist and are obsessed with dinosaurs, your local museum may very well be open to hosting a course. If not, why not organize a seminar yourself at your local library?
If you specialize in a certain subject, there are many alternative ways to put that knowledge into use. A foreign language teacher, for instance, could work in their offtime as a translator or lead summertime camp trips to another country. English teachers, on the other hand, would do well to take on ESL students, from young children to adult professionals looking to further their careers. A shop teacher could teach courses in or start a Maker space, while an art teacher would do well to sell their goods on Etsy.
Last but not least, don’t forget this classic teacher side job: coaching sports teams on the side. Yes, this one is labor intensive, but it can be as rewarding as they come – kind of like teaching.
Like anything, teaching on the side requires an investment of time and energy – something that, as an educator, you may very well have in limited supply. Still, these opportunities can be rewarding in every sense, and there are many different ways to go about it. Why not experiment with a few until you find the one for you? In the meantime, we’ll all keep our fingers crossed for movements to increase teacher pay. Few professionals, after all, deserve it more than you do.