Tips for a Successful Teacher Side Hustle

While it’s always been common for teachers to have side jobs such as giving grinds or guest lecturing, in the last 10 years there has been an explosion in the number of teachers who have developed online “side hustle” providing everything from resources for teaching, to teacher planners, to interview preparation. It can be a handy way to make some extra money, especially from resources that you may already be making for your own use, and it can also be very rewarding to help other teachers and students.

Personally, as a 2012 entrant to the teaching profession, I endured the worst of the cuts to new teaching entrants’ salaries, and found that the extra income generated from my online store was vital for me to be able to make ends meet. The current cost of living crisis will now have many teachers looking to see if there is a way that they can generate some extra income. Having started out as one of many sellers on a resource sharing website, I now run my own successful website, and below I will share some tips and advice which I feel is important for teachers who want to start a successful side hustle.

My top tips:

  1. Have a product niche

I focus on creating extremely comprehensive and high-quality editable planning documents, planning templates, and sample completed plans for primary school teachers. I do have a few other resources, but this is what I am best known for. Choose an area that you have expertise in and that you are good at, and focus on creating resources in this area rather than trying to do a bit of everything. For instance, if you know a lot about autism and have experience working in an autism class or with autistic students, this could be your niche. I know many teachers find written preparation for teaching extremely tedious and difficult, and I seem to have more of a tolerance for it than most, so this is why I focus on this area! Some teachers are extremely creative and create the most beautiful looking teaching resources and thematic teaching packs. This is not my strength, so I don’t create resources like this.  

  1. Make products that are excellent quality

If you want to sell resources, and expect teachers to pay for them, they have to be professional, free of errors, extremely high quality, and have taken considerable time and effort to make. Teachers won’t buy something that they could just make themselves in minutes. Good reviews are extremely important when you are staring out so that other customers know your resources are worth buying and that you are a trustworthy seller, so focus on quality resources.

  1. Offer some resources for free

Offering some resources for free will benefit the entire teaching community, and it also means that potential customers will be able to see the quality of the products that you are offering. I have an extensive free resources section on my website that I am adding to all the time. These resources did take time and effort to make, but ultimately, I want to make teachers’ lives easier so I am happy to share as many resources as I can for free. Some would argue that all teachers should upload and share ALL of their resources freely, but the reality is that I have spent literally thousands of hours creating the resources on my website and there is no way I would be able to spend this much time on them unless I was being renumerated. I get messages all the time form teachers telling me how much time, stress, and overwhelm my resources have saved them, so I am thrilled that I have been able to provide them and feel they offer great value for money. There are also considerable expenses involved in running a webpage, advertising, accountancy fees, subscriptions to software etc. and product sales need to cover these costs.

  1. Have a helpful social media profile

I also try to provide as much helpful advice as possible and answer questions, through my blog and social media pages. Social media is an important way of getting the word out there about your products, but if you want to grow a following, you have to offer more than just the constant promotion of your products. There are a LOT of pages out there, so don’t just add to the noise. Try to set up a profile that shares something of real value, be it advice for teachers or insights into your own teaching and useful tips. Below is an example of a series of posts that I did on my Instagram and Facebook pages which aimed to give a concise explanation of current issues in Irish education to teachers. 

  1. Legal matters – Staying out of trouble!

I have seen many teacher sellers inadvertently breaking the law with up their side hustle and they can get themselves into all sorts of hot water without realising it. The most important things to be aware of are not infringing on copyright, being tax compliant, advertising rules, and rules around the type of products that can be sold. 

Copyright:

  • Be extremely careful with the information and images you include in any products you sell. For instance, if your school uses a particular planning template or set of plans, you cannot edit them and then resell them as your own. You should also be aware that as per the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2002 “Where an employee creates the work as part of their employment, the employer is the owner of the copyright in the work, unless an agreement to the contrary exists”, so resources that you are creating for your own teaching need to be different to ones you are selling online. 
  • Be careful with the images you use in your products. For instance, Bitmoji do not allow the character you create to be used for commercial purposes, so you cannot use it as your social media profile image. Likewise, much clipart or even images from a Google image search are subject to copyright, so to stay out of trouble you must either draw or create your own images, or use images from a site that specifies that use for commercial purposes is allowed.
  • Plans and resources based on publishers’ schemes or programmes may be in breach of copyright and should be avoided.
  • Many teacehrs use Canva to create resources and Canva even provide a free account for educators. However, if you wish to use Canva to create your resources or cover images for your products, you must pay for a commercial subscription. Canva also have specific rules about how their platform can be used to create resources for sale, so if you are using it to create your resources, you should read their policy on this. 

Tax:

  • In terms of paying tax, there is no way around it, and if you are teaching full time, it is likely that over 50% of the money you make will need to be paid to revenue. It is not worth the risk of not paying it as revenue are aware of the teacher side hustle industry and with online sales there is a record of everything. If you earn less than €5000 in a year, you can declare the extra income on Revenue’s MyAccount. If you earn more than €5000 in a year, an accountant will be able to help you declare your extra income.

Advertising rules

  • In 2023 new guidelines with regard to social media advertising were released by the ASAI and the CCPC. If you use your social media page to promote products or services, the post must be marked with #ad. If you are given a product for free e.g. a teaching resource to review or promote on behalf of another company, your post must be marked with #gifted. 

Products that are not allowed:

  • Finally, it is important to know that the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Act of 2019 forbids the sale of products which enable academic cheating, hence you are not allowed to sell products to student teachers for teaching practice, college assignments or any other college or course related work.

  1. You get out what you put in.

I have built teachingplans up over the last 6 years, and it does take a very considerable amount of time to have a successful side hustle as a teacher. For the first 5 years I worked full time at it for most of the school holidays and often at weekends throughout the school year. This was extremely demanding and so it’s not something I would recommend unless you are fully committed to it. The curriculum and guidance on teaching is constantly changing and you need to keep your resources updated to reflect this. For instance, all of my English and Gaeilge plans had to be updated in 2016 for the Primary Language Curriculum, and then again in 2019 when the revised version came out. I am constantly editing and revising everything to make sure it is up to date. It’s not a job where you can upload and then forget about it!

A final note, this post is for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. You should read the relevant documents mentioned yourself, and contact the relevant bodies e.g. The ASAI/ CCPC if you require further advice/ clarification. 

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