Being a teacherpreneur can be exciting, scary, and nerve-racking all at the same time.
Building something from scratch can take some time. As a teacher, your passion is in the classroom, which means you’ll most likely start off as what we call a sidepreneur, or someone who is an entrepreneur “on the side”, meaning on the side of their full-time job. And, because you love what you do and love working with kids, you might choose to never leave the classroom (I’ll never push anyone to leave the classroom!)
This phase of building you idea can be extremely difficult: balancing your passion for being in your classroom, while pursuing another passion on the side. If you’re in this situation right now, you know what I mean. You’re probably feeling torn most days, worn out, and maybe even beat down. It’s not easy working 9-10 hours a day and then coming home to put in another 5 hours on your side project.
Even if you might have plans to leave the classroom some day in the future to pursue this other passion of yours, for most teacherpreneurs, building your idea on the side is the best path to success. One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen entrepreneurs make is going full time with their new project before they’re ready.
Whether you’ve just started your side business, or you’ve been doing the sidepreneur thing for a while, here are 8 tips to help you as you chase your dream on a part-time basis.
1. Don’t be afraid to wait.
I know how you feel: you’ve got this passion burning inside you and it’s all you want to do. And it’s really tough to balance everything you have going on. But it’s okay to wait. Wait until you can honestly layout a financial forecast that supports not only your personal income, but also the necessary expenses of your business. More importantly, wait until you believe that you can truly make more of an impact by going full time.
It is much better to wait an additional 6-12 months, than to have to look for a new job 6 months after going full time too soon.Failure is one of the most important parts of being an entrepreneur. Expect it. But more importantly, embrace it and learn from it. Click To Tweet
2. Make sure it works.
Make sure people want what you’re offering, and that it solves the problem(s) you believe it will, the way you believe it will. Next, make sure your systems are effective and efficient. One of the benefits of building this on the side is the security of knowing you have a steady paycheck. You can take risks and test ideas until you have all the systems in place and have proven your concept works.
3. Record your systems.
Speaking of testing and proving systems, make sure you document every system and process you use. As your business grows, it is essential to continue to follow the processes that got you there. Create step-by-step guides and flow charts to ensure you can easily replicate those things that helped you prove your concept and grow.
Document everything from how emails are handled to what steps are taken to resolve customer complaints. Be sure to include processes for accounting as well as marketing, production, and delivery of your product or service.[scroll down to keep reading]
4. Use this time to fix problems.
As I mentioned before, building a business on the side gives you the stability of a steady paycheck, so you can focus on shaping your brand, proving your concept, and building an audience. But one of the biggest advantages of having that other source of income is that you can take the time to test things and work out problems. And believe me, you will have problems. You will make mistakes and you will hit road blocks. Just remember that right now, you can recover from most problems, which gives you the opportunity to hit those roadblocks, find a way through or around them, and put that process into your systems. All of this gives you a much better chance of success and survival.
5. Plan around big goals.
Let’s face it, managing your schedule can get crazy when you’re limited on the time available to work on your business. One of the most common problems we have as sidepreneurs is getting caught up with the little things. Fact is, a lot of these things can wait. Take a couple minutes each day (or a few extra minutes at the beginning of the week) and layout your 1-2 most important goals for that day (5 if you’re laying out the week).
Then, build the rest of your schedule around those goals by filling in available time with those smaller tasks like updating the “our team” page on your site, or fixing that spreadsheet design. Build your schedule around the tasks that move your business forward.
6. Love your customers
People want to work with people they know, like, and trust. They buy from the same. When you’re trying to build your business on the side, your available time for sales calls can be extremely limited. If your business is B2B (sells to other businesses), you’re most likely going to be in your classroom while your potential customers are available, making it pretty difficult to get ahold of the right person to make a sale. Because of this, referrals can be the lifeblood of your business.
When you make a strong connection with a client/customer/fan, and they truly believe in what you do, they’ll be more than willing to connect you with others. This can be the difference between success and failure as a startup. Treat every customer you have like your only one, and make sure they know how much you appreciate them. Then ask them for referrals and treat those folks the same way.
7. Build your team.
Find the right people to surround yourself with, and then invest in them. When you’re part-time, doing everything seems like the only option, but it’s also darn near impossible. Do not be afraid to hire some help if you can budget it out. The fact that you have that steady income gives you some financial cushion to invest in a couple key team members that might be able to handle important tasks during the day, while you’re unable. A good place to start is with freelance help, from sites like upwork.com or freelancer.com.
Once you find the right people, invest your time and energy into making them understand their value. Treat them like gold and make sure they are compensated both financially and emotionally. A loyal team member is more valuable than almost anything in your business. As your business grows, so should your compensation to these people. Treat them right and show them you care, and your team will lea you to full-time.
Just as important as your team members are your supporters and those in your network. Make a list of the people who may be able to help guide you along the way, or who might have connections to people that can open doors to opportunities. And never forget the power of your support system. Make sure the people you will turn to when you fall know wha you’re doing and why. Their support will be crucial when you hit the inevitable challenges of this crazy journey.
8. Expect failure.
One thing that takes a lot of part-time entrepreneurs out of the game is the fluctuation in success. As a new business, you’re going to have more ups and downs than the newest coaster at Cedar Point. Keep your focus on the long-term and don’t get emotional about that big account you just locked in, or the other one you just lost.
Picture a chalkboard with a line going up and down across it (like a roller coaster). Now picture a straight line traveling straight across the same board, in the center. Those who get too excited about a win or loss, are more likely to fail in the end. Those who travel that straight line and don’t let either affect them too much, are much more likely to succeed. Failure is one of the most important parts of being an entrepreneur. Expect it. But more importantly, embrace it and learn from it.
No one thing on this list is going to be the deciding factor to whether your new venture fails or succeeds. Nor is any one of them going to be the piece that takes you from part-time to full.
What all of this is supposed to do is help you understand that being a part-time teacherpreneur is possible. Keep these 8 tips in mind as you continue on your journey. Take advantage of the stability your job offers, and don’t panic when your business doesn’t grow as quickly as you had hoped. Stay focused, stay patient, and stay true to what you believe, and you’ll make it.