How to Set Up a Teaching Business

If you have a passion for sharing your knowledge and experience with others, there are plenty of opportunities to establish a teaching business that can reach prospective students within your own community or across the globe.

Identify what type of educational platform you want to have. If, for example, your objective is to open a traditional school, you're going to need far more money than if you plan to engage in a distance learning curriculum that can be run online from the comfort of your own home or operated in a workshop setting out of a local community services center. We're going to focus on a teaching model that starts small, requires only a small investment, and can be grown incrementally as your exposure increases.

Identify what it is that you want to offer in your teaching curriculum and whether the instruction can be effectively conveyed to the learners via written communications or if it involves materials or machinery that must be demonstrated in person. If, for example, the classes revolve around creative writing, this could be handled via email homework assignments that are submitted for critique. However, it would be as hard to remotely impart the requisite guidance in music, the performing arts or auto mechanics as it would be to measure the learner's grasp of the core principles if these tasks weren't done and observed in person.

Determine whether the teaching business you want to launch is something that you can do as a solo act or whether you'll need to bring in additional instructors. If, for instance, you're a published writer and want to teach distance learning classes about the genres you are already well versed in, you can probably run the whole show by yourself and never even leave the house. If you want to establish a school or a resources center that offers instruction in all aspects of the performing arts, however, you would need to bring in qualified instructors who can put the students through their paces in acting, dancing and singing as well as buy or lease a facility that can serve as both classroom and studio.

Research your competition. If your teaching business involves a brick and mortar facility, you need to be aware of who is already doing something similar, what fees they are charging for instruction and how your own teaching enterprise offers a unique slant. This is also the time to research whether your teaching business might qualify as a 501(c)(3) charity under the definitions of the Internal Revenue Service (i.e., you're going to be teaching independent living skills to young adults with autism).

Draft a formal business plan. Whether your teaching business is going to be run out of a home office (e.g., online instruction or private tutoring) or through a leased community space, your ability to attract financial backing from a bank is going to depend on how solid a business growth strategy you can put together. The website of the Small Business Administration (see Resources) can help you identify the elements that go into the development of your business plan. These include such things as expenditure projections, staffing, supplies and equipment, insurance, student fees and marketing. The SBA also advises on the steps to follow to acquire a business license, get a federal taxpayer ID number, and establish your corporate identity with the Office of the Secretary of State.

Recruit like-minded instructors to participate in your curriculum. (If you plan to work alone, you can skip this step.) Unless you have the working capital to afford a full-time faculty, it's more likely that you'll attract part-time instructors who are available to teach one or two nights a week or intensive workshops on the weekends. Their fee for participation would be a percentage of the total fees charged to students. (This is always a good incentive for instructors to do some aggressive recruiting of students for their classes.) A sample split of fees for an online class is usually about 60 percent that goes to the instructor and the remainder going to the administrator for managing the website, marketing and processing payments. A sample split for a course taught in a leased facility is often 30 percent to the instructor because the bulk of the balance is not only going toward the administrative costs of running the business but also toward rental of the space, prorated utilities, and-if the class is taught at night-security guard fees.

Design a professional website for your new teaching enterprise. This will be a vital component of your marketing strategy, and its colors, fonts, layout and use of graphics should be consistent with other tools such as business cards, brochures, post cards and portfolios. Your website should include information such as the types of classes being offered, the fees for classes, where and when instruction will take place and a biography about yourself and your fellow instructors.

Start getting the word out that your teaching business is about to open its doors. In addition to telling family and friends, you'll want to announce the news via the weekly newspapers and community newsletters, drop off a stack of fliers or brochures at local coffee houses, libraries, cafes, beauty and nail salons, gyms, college campuses, apartment complex bulletin boards, grocery stores and anywhere else that your targeted clientele typically congregates. Ask people you know who work in offices if they could put out some of these materials for you. If you have the capital to afford it, you may even want to buy mailing lists to targeted zip codes or industries such as real estate, health care and film.

Evaluate the success of your teaching enterprise by asking students to complete questionnaires regarding their experience and the quality of the course content. In addition, always ask if there are new classes they would like to be able to sign up for in the future.

Tip

Affordable Marketing Tools (see Resources) is a great place to start if you're looking for mailing lists that won't cost you a small fortune. If you're new to designing promotional materials, take a look at online print shops such as Vista Print which allow you to either work from existing templates or upload original images. Vista Print also offers its customers an affordable mailing service (see Resources). If you're working with outside instructors, always ask to see a preview copy of their curriculum materials and an outline of the topics and skill sets they plan to address.

Warning

If you're subcontracting with other instructors, never work without a written agreement that specifies the pay they will be receiving, the subject matter for which they'll be responsible and the amount of advance notice they need to give if they no longer want to teach for you (this is usually 30 days). If you're going to be teaching or tutoring out of your home, make sure that your insurance coverage is up to date. You'll also need to check with your city or county as to whether your property is zoned for commercial enterprises.

    Warnings

  • If you're subcontracting with other instructors, never work without a written agreement that specifies the pay they will be receiving, the subject matter for which they'll be responsible and the amount of advance notice they need to give if they no longer want to teach for you (this is usually 30 days). If you're going to be teaching or tutoring out of your home, make sure that your insurance coverage is up to date. You'll also need to check with your city or county as to whether your property is zoned for commercial enterprises.

    Tips

  • Affordable Marketing Tools (see Resources) is a great place to start if you're looking for mailing lists that won't cost you a small fortune. If you're new to designing promotional materials, take a look at online print shops such as Vista Print which allow you to either work from existing templates or upload original images. Vista Print also offers its customers an affordable mailing service (see Resources). If you're working with outside instructors, always ask to see a preview copy of their curriculum materials and an outline of the topics and skill sets they plan to address.

Resources

About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.