You’re a learning professional who owns—or wants to start—your own business. The first question you ask yourself is: How do I make money? Because there are lots of reasons to go into business, but there’s only one reason that you stay in business: making enough money to cover expenses and compensate yourself. There are many business models that you can choose from, but there are several that are common among learning entrepreneurs.
Popular Business Models for Learning Entrepreneurs
Teaching is one of the most common ways that learning entrepreneurs make money. If you have classroom experience—or even if you don’t—you can charge individuals and organizations for your expertise.
If you live in an area where there is a high demand for the type of classes you offer, you can provide live, face-to-face classes, whether they are one-on-one tutoring sessions or small group sessions. In the age of video chat, using tools like Skype and Zoom make it possible to teach students from all over the world from wherever you want.
Elena Mutonono is also an online language teacher and offers a free Smart Kit for those who want to get started teaching online.
Technology isn’t just helping instructors teach live classes, it’s also helping them package and sell their expertise in online courses. With tools like Teachable, it’s easier than ever to teach evergreen, self-paced courses.
Some educators choose to start their own institutions, like academies, schools, and universities. This business model requires considerable startup and overhead costs, such as personnel, space, and other infrastructure needs that can support multiple classes and a high volume of students.
The Protocol School of Washington
The Protocol School of Washington “provides expertise in protocol, business etiquette and communication skills around the world using the highest educational standards.” They provide training programs in these subjects to clients all over the world.
Consulting and Professional Services
Consulting is providing expert advice to individuals or organizations who have a specific set of problems. You can offer consulting services in any field; some common types of consulting are:
- Learning experience design
- Curriculum design
You can also offer professional services in your field of expertise, meaning that you go beyond the consulting stage and perform the needs of your client. Example professional services include:
- Curriculum development
Consulting and professional services are usually billed by the hour (or word, in the case of writing and translation), although in some instances, you may choose to bill at a flat rate for an entire project. This is one of the most common business models for learning professionals because it is fairly flexible, meaning you can adapt this model as needed.
Untold Content is a writing consultancy founded by Katie Trauth Taylor, who holds a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, offering both consulting and writing services in the fields of government, healthcare, engineering, industry, and science.
Maybe it’s because I live so close to DC, but I’m including government contracting as its own separate business model because there are many examples of learning professionals who have succeeded in this sector, and because government contracting requires its own peculiar set of requirements.
Government contracting means that you earn revenue from government contracts. A government entity will put out an RFP (Request for Proposals) and you write and submit the proposal according to the RFP’s specifications. Non-government entities can also publish RFPs and the process can be similar. There is a LOT more that goes into this process, but if you offer services that can be delivered at scale to organizations, contracting can be a lucrative business model.
Information Experts, founded by Marissa Levin, is a communications firm that offers services in training, marketing, strategy, and UI design.
Whether it’s an information product or an app, many learning professionals package their expertise into products that users can consume. These products can be digital products (apps, downloads) or they can be physical products (books, tools). Products can be sold to individuals through online marketplaces, your own platform, or can be sold to schools, businesses, and other organizations.
Educator Dinah Zike created Foldables, which are 3D graphic organizers that help students retain information and feel ownership over their learning.
NoRedInk, founded by teachers, is on a mission to create better writers, and offers a Premium version of their product: a complete adaptive writing curriculum to students in grades 5-12.
Content: Blogs, Podcasts, Video
Learning professionals are drawn to content marketing like blogs, podcasts, and video because they want to share their expertise with the world. Learning entrepreneurs earn revenue from blogs, video, and other content from advertisements, affiliate earnings, sponsorships, partnerships, and promoting their own products within that content.
Go Natural English
Gabby Wallace started a YouTube channel to teach English to learners around the world. Go Natural English is now hugely popular and allows Gabby to travel the world while helping people reach their language learning goals.
Which of these Business Models is Right for You?
For some, there might just be one right answer to this question. For many others, however, the answer is probably: some combination of the above. If you create products, for example, you may also want to offer professional services. Or if you teach one-on-one classes, you may want to create a self-paced online course as an additional source of revenue.
The first step to deciding which business model is right for you is to explore the examples above and seek out additional examples. Think about your goals for your business as well as the type of work that you really enjoy doing.
How to make money in education: The most popular business models for learning entrepreneurs #edupreneur #teacherpreneur
All of the business models listed in this post warrant their own entry or even series of blog posts. Those will be forthcoming, but I’d like to write them in the order of importance. So… which business model do you want to learn more about? Send me your requests so I know which ones to focus on first!