Edupreneur Resources, Uncategorized | Aug 29, 2011
How to become an educational consultant
By Angela Watson
Founder and Writer
I get emails on a regular basis from educators who want to start an educational consulting career, but aren’t sure how to get started. They envision themselves coaching teachers, providing professional development, and supporting schools and teachers in a variety of ways, but can’t find any formal or official way of making the career shift to educational consulting.
The first and most important step that should be taken by anyone who thinks they may want to get education consulting jobs is this:
Figure out your passion.
Do you love helping teachers integrate technology into their instruction? Are you passionate about sharing best practices in a particular subject area? Does the idea of teaching other people how to reach students with disabilities make your heart pound with excitement? “Education” is a really broad area, so narrow down your area(s) of expertise. For me, this was obviously classroom management and helping teachers enjoy their work.
Don’t worry about whether your passion is “monetizable.”
Mine didn’t seem to be, and I followed it as a hobby for many years when I was a classroom teacher without any forseeable way of making money. My advice is to focus on what you love and do the work because it brings you joy–make that the definition of success for you. There is no shortage of experts telling teachers how to do their jobs. There IS a shortage of experts who are willing to dedicate themselves to providing educator support–even when there is no immediate pay off for them–because they love what they do and genuinely care about teachers and kids.
Next, establish yourself as an expert.
No one ever gave me an official stamp of approval and classified me on some mysterious list as The Expert. I just put my ideas out there on the web! I started in 2004, and over time, teachers responded to my techniques in increasing numbers and I gained credibility. Having a masters degree and National Board Certification lends a sort of official-ness to my credentials, but I think it’s the voice and experience of a real person that matters most.
Site visitors kept urging me to publish a book, and in 2008, I wrote The Cornerstone. I really enjoyed writing it and am now releasing my fourth book. Thanks to the internet and major changes in the publishing industry, it’s getting easier and easier to starting your own publishing company as I did, or even just self-publish your book. If you feel like you have a book inside you waiting to be written, go for it! Write about what you know and love. Being a published author will lend you credibility, book royalties will boost your passive income flow, and you’ll have a manual for teachers and schools to purchase when you give professional development seminars.
Of course, you can get your name out there and establish a strong reputation in many other ways. I think it’s crucial to develop a professional community network through Twitter and blogging. Ask questions, participate in conversations, read books, and share what works (and what doesn’t) in your experience. Let your website or blog serve as a collection of your work and experience. Attending and presenting at conferences, both online and in person, is a fantastic way to connect with other educators. If these types of networking and idea-sharing activities don’t excite you, then you probably won’t enjoy consulting.
Networking is never ending in this field and should be done just because you love connecting with educators,
not because you’re hoping to get work. The most successful consultants I know maintain an extremely active web presence because they like sharing ideas–they’re already booked years in advance, but they network out of passion. For the most part, they’re just there to give and to learn.
Be prepared to read and write constantly.
It’s important to stay current in the field, so read LOTS of blogs (and discuss them in the comments.) Relationship building is integral, so even when reading books, I’ll still go online and leave reviews on my website, Amazon, etc. to spark discussion and share ideas. I answer every email I get from teachers on any subject from room arrangement to behavior modification to parent communication issues. I respond to each and every comment on my blog. Is all of this required? No. Do I get paid for this? No. But reading and writing online is a big part of being a consultant in the 21st century, and if the very thought of those tasks exhausts you, you’re better off thinking of a different line of work.
So, how do you actually get educational consulting jobs?
Think outside the box in terms of work opportunities.
You’re probably going to have to let go of the dream of job security, health benefits, and a pension. Most (but not all) education consultant jobs are part time, per diem. For me, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Being an educational consultant means I have complete and total freedom to accept the work I like and reject what’s not the best fit for me. I make my own schedule and I don’t get bogged down in the politics that comes from being employed by a school district.
Working for an education consultant firm can be fantastic.
In New York City, there are several private companies who hire consultants and then school systems negotiate contracts with the companies. The organization I work for now is contracted with the NYCDOE as well as several regional religious boards of education, and I get the majority of my work through them. Sure, the company takes a cut from my earnings, but their outstanding reputation also means they get a lot of contracted work and command top dollar for it. They also set up the payments, negotiate the number of days and hours worked, hold meetings with the DOE, and handle other stuff that can really be a drag if you have to handle it yourself. And contrary to popular belief, the companies I’m familiar with (four major, nationwide organizations) do NOT micromanage the work. There is some paperwork to complete for documentation purposes, of course, but the goals of the consultancy and the way those goals are met is determined jointly by the consultant and school administration. The work is very much customized and school-based; the consultants are not required to push an agenda or sell a product. It’s solely about meeting the needs of kids and teachers. If this flexibility is important to you, make sure the companies you apply to work with hold the same ideal.
Use a feed reader to keep your eye on the job listings.
To debunk a major myth: Craiglist is nota bad place to find work! I got hired by three major companies through their Craigslist ads! I set up a specific search on Monster.com, Craiglist, and The New York Times, and had the job listings sent to me via Google Reader. This way, not only were all the listings permanently archived for me, they were also searchable: I could type “coach” or “consultant” into Google Reader and read only the listings that fit what I was looking for if I didn’t want to scroll through all of them.
Being an independent consultant–working for yourself or your own company–is another option.
I do that, as well, as the owner and founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services. Out of personal preference, I don’t actively look for independent consulting work, but I do regularly have schools, districts, and universities invite me to speak and conduct professional development for them. All of this work has come through my web and social media presence: someone reads my stuff, likes me, and gets their organization to book me. I don’t have set rates and usually way under-price myself because I know the budget crunch everyone is facing. That’s fine! These are all people who sought me out because they respect me and my work–they want me to help them implement my ideas, and I’m excited to do it!
Sometimes people ask questions that make it very clear they want to measure my success in concrete terms: How many books have you sold? How much revenue do you get from your website? How many days a month are you working in schools? I crunch the numbers a few times a year to make sure I’m being fiscally responsible, but I don’t pay close attention to any of that stuff on a daily basis. I measure my success as a consultant this way: Am I living out my passion? That sounds a little pie-in-the-sky, but it’s been the key to my contentment in this field where money is not guaranteed and many of the tasks don’t result directly in gaining income.
Always do what you love because you love doing it.
Some projects will bring more money, recognition, and opportunities than others, but if you complete each one because of your passion for the field and a sincere desire to help other people, EVERY project will be worth doing.
How Do I Get Started?
If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for starting your own educational consulting business, you won’t find one. There’s no single one right way to do it, and every situation is unique. But I do have a brand new resource that might be helpful for you in getting started.
It’s a 1 hour and 40 minute webinar called How to Transition Into Educational Consulting. The video comes with a 31 page transcript, 8 page note-taking guide, and an audio-only version so you can listen and re-listen while exercising, driving, or getting things done around the house. In these resources, I share:
- 6 steps for transitioning into educational consulting
- How consulting and instructional coaching can go hand in hand
- How to create a long-range game plan: what to do next week, next month, next year
- How to find your niche and stay on top of educational trends
- 4 tools you should leverage as you establish yourself as an expert online
- How to build your social media presence (even if you’re working from scratch)
- Ways to create passive income so you get paid even when you’re not consulting
- How to get your first speaking/consulting gigs in your local area and expand into bigger markets
- How to find freelancer work for an existing educational consulting or instructional coaching company
- How (and when) to start your owneducational consulting or coaching company
- How much to charge for coaching and educational consulting services
- How to transition out of the classroom and when (or if!) you should quit your day job
- How to find a daily schedule that works with your natural cycles of creativity/productivity
This is NOT a formal training program. There are no slides or fancy handouts. This is simply a video of me sharing my experience and advice with you. The tone and format is casual: it’s exactly what you’d hear if we sat down for a cup of coffee in my living room and you asked to pick my brain for awhile.
The information I am sharing here will save you an immeasurable amount of time, energy, and anxiety over whether you can actually monetize your passion and propel your work to the next level. It help you transition into educational consulting where you can potentially make tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Click here to learn more.
Here’s what teachers are saying:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Angela, for sharing your time and expertise! I feel like I have a much better sense of the direction I need to go in next. I also know the steps I can start taking right now to get me where I want to go.” –Amber, New York City, NY
“You have made me feel encouraged and inspired. I wasn’t sure if consulting was something I would be able to do, but you really helped me see what my strengths are and how I can utilize them in my business.” –Gary, Marietta, GA
“I definitely feel better prepared now to move forward with building my website and marketing my skills. I needed someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who knows what kinds of expertise is needed right now in the field of education and could help me see how I could fit into that.” –Beth, Amarillo, TX
“We are selling more teaching products than ever before! Thank you SO much for showing us how to spread the word about our resources. You made it sound like a really simple and mangeable process and it actually has been! I can’t tell you what a big difference this has made in our website traffic, too. Thank you again!” –Kristy, Philadelphia, PA
Want more free advice, tips, and tricks on getting started as an educational consultant?
Just enter your email address below, and I’ll send you a FREE 8 minute video excerpt on transitioning into educational consulting. About once a month, I’ll send you other free resources to help you along your journey as a consultant. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!
Founder and Writer
If you are a teacher who is interested in contributing to the Truth for Teachers website, please click here for more information.
Thanks so much for this post! It’s almost as if you read my mind! While I adore my classroom position and remain passionate about implementing arts integration throughout my teaching, the idea of educational consultancy has entered my mind. I know you can only speak about what has worked for you, but it is reassuring to know that your path has been successful. The teachers, administrators, and students that you work with are very lucky to have you! Best wishes for a great year–
Hi, Katie! Thank you for the kind words. You can definitely do consulting as a side pursuit–I know many, many teachers who keep their classroom positions and consult on their own time. It’s a great way to pursue two different types of work that you love, it keeps you current on what’s REALLY happening in the classroom, and it relieves the pressure of wondering how you’ll be able to maintain a steady income as a consultant. 🙂
thank you for inspiration
I could not have found you at a better time in my life. I just retired after 29 years in public education. I am 51 years old and have so much more to give to literacy. My true passion is with creating wonderful lessons to go with great literature and how to make children become life long readers at all ages. I have taught grades anywhere from 1st – 6th, been a dyslexia teacher and a campus literacy coach. But now, I am ready to do staff development for teachers everywhere and share all of the ideas in my head that are ready to jump out onto a page. After reading how to get start here on your page, I feel so much better. I have ordered my business cards and stationary to use when I am ready to start booking myself at some conferences. I think my problem with getting started was I didn’t look at my true passion and everything was looking to broad for me. Now, I can size everything down and start out smaller like you did, I would love to keep in contact with you, because I think what you have done is exactly the direction I am headed too. Just like you said, “In education there is never enough sharing and experts, because it is such a broad field of study.” Thank you so much for helping me find a focus on how to get started on my reading consulting business. This has been my dream for years and now I can head in the right direction thanks to you!!!
Hi, Cherlynn! What an inspiring comment you left! Thank you for sharing that. I’m so happy to hear that you know what true passion is–and I think it’s something that offers great value to the education community. Getting business cards is a good first step. Please do keep in contact. 🙂
I love your post Angela, even if it is from 6 years ago. How did the opportunity work out for you?
More grace to you ma’am
I hope by now you’ve started the journey already?
My life has been in the education field from Astronut simulation training to secondary teaching. My masters is in secondary education with a passion in “Distant Learning.” I am looking forward to Education Consulting. Please contact me on how to put my background into the consulting area.
Hi, Gerald! What an amazing background you have! I’m not sure what other advice I can offer you, but if you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask! You can do so right here in the comments, as I’m sure other people have similar questions. You can also email me at angelawatson [at] live [dot] com. 🙂
Thank you for your article. I have been a consultant in a public school district in New York for 15 years for a contracted number of hours each year. The district supt. now has told me they can no longer hire me because their new law firm says it is illegal. What do you think? Any ideas where to get info on this? Wondering if this was an excuse? Thanks for any insights.
Hmm, that sounds very strange to me! Every school district I know hires consultants in some capacity. I would ask for more information–i.e., is there anything you can do in terms of credentials, etc. to meet the qualifications the district now needs for consultants. Have you spoken to other consultants in your district to see if this rule is affecting them? I hope that you can find some resolution here.
It is not that the systems wouldn’t hire you if they could, the state has passed a law that retirees of the State Teacher Retirement System can only work as substitute teachers or adjunct professors at a university. In doing this work, you can only make 25% of you retirement benefits. If you work in any capacity other than as prescribed, you forfeit you retirement during your work time engagement and if you exceed the 25% allotment. The 25% substitute or adjunct is a new addition. Before that (as of 2010) you could not work at all. This became a Louisiana Law June 1, 2010.
Does this law concerning the State Teacher Retirement System work hold true in Texas? I am a counselor in Texas and had given some thought to becoming a consultant after retirement. I have not heard of this law that you can only work as a substitute teacher or adjunct professor.
I am trying to get started as an educational consultant. I have gotten a business license, a tax id. and business cards. I have a master level degree in education and supervision and a masters degree in social work, children and families. I have been retired from education for 5 years (still love the thrill of the educational arena) and spend the last few years working with children and families in a medical setting. How do I kick start my educational background to help make my credentials more current? I have looked for classes, and staff development programs that I could take that would help to update certifications and expertise. I also live in a state that does not allow retirees to return to the educational setting without penalty! Help
Personally, I think that networking and informal professional development will yield greater results than taking formal courses. Do you need to take courses to update your certification? How flexible is your state in terms of what types of PD they would accept? I would recommend going to conferences in your state to make connections and learn what’s new in your field.