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Edupreneur Resources, Uncategorized   |   Aug 29, 2011

How to become an educational consultant

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

How to become an educational consultant

By Angela Watson

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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!

Get more edupreneur tips!

I’ll send you my best tips about once per month to help you build your business as an education entrepreneur.

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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Discussion


  1. Hello Angela, I am an elementary school teacher with 21 years experience. I am working on a book which I hope will jump start my career as a consultant. My book is about making elementary math simple. Do you think this is narrow enough to pursue? I thank you for all the the ideas you have shared with us.

    1. Hi, Donald! I’m actually working on a web page for the site now about how to publish your own book and how that can be used to drive your consultancy. I would definitely encourage you to finish writing your book and see what kind of options open up for you. I have had countless people tell me they are writing a book and want advice about what to do next, but I don’t offer advice for the next step until the book is done. Only one person who contacted me about publishing actually wrote back later to say they finished writing their book! Writing is the hardest and most important step, and I think that’s why so many people get stuck there.

      Your topic (making elementary math simple) is a great one. It sounds like you’ve got a lot to contribute to other educators! I’m glad you’re pursuing it. Please stay in touch and let me know if you have any more questions. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.

  2. Angela,
    Thanks for the info! I just moved to NYC after working in CA as an Elementary Principal. After contemplating taking a Principal job in NYC , I have decided to go into consulting and focus on behavior management in schools. I would be interested in talking with you more to pick your brain.
    Best,
    Douglas

  3. Hi Angela,

    I am currently a district level science curriculum coordinator and just began coursework on a PhD in Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching. Bottom line, I have too much on my plate. I am enjoying my PhD coursework so much and can’t give it up to work, yet I still need at least a little income (more than I can get teaching one or two undergrad courses at the university). There are several small districts around me that I know do not have a district level science coordinator or specialist to provide science specific assistance with respect to instructional strategies, etc. I have been thinking about trying to consult for a couple of these districts and go to school full time. Is the best way to get to these districts just to cold call (or visit)? I also want to price my services VERY competitively. Any ideas, thoughts, or suggestions in what my next step should be? Thanks for the information that you have already provided. Hoping you may have a little more for me.

    1. Hi, Michael! Sounds like a good plan–you’ve identified a specific need in your neighboring districts and have a solution to offer. If you have any connections in those districts, you might want to go through them–get a teacher to ask his/her principal if you can call and set up an appointment. You may ask to schedule a 15 minute meeting with the principal to talk about an offer of free professional development for the staff (that might get the principal’s attention.) In the meeting, you can explain what you offer as well as your intentions (to eventually become a consultant for them.) Offer to do an hour long training after school one day so they can get a feel for your fit with the staff and how you can best be used.

  4. Hello Angela, I am an elementary school teacher with 15 years experience. I have an Early Childhood degree with a concentration in Psychology. I am also ESL endorsed. I have taught Kindergarten ESL to general English Language Learners as well as to Refugees/Newcomers. Teaching ESL has definitely been my passion. Lately, I am just plain exhausted. I can’t sleep at night, I get debilitating headaches. More and more is expected. I am being expected to not only plan for my lessons and teach but also to take on more and more administrative and clerical work as well as morning/afternoon yard duty, morning/afternoon bus duty, as well as serve breakfast in our classroom. I still enjoy the essence of teaching but all the other “stuff” is crowding out the joy. I would greatly appreciate any advice about where to get started in the consulting work. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi, Eva! What a wonderfully diverse teaching/educational background you have–and how great that you’ve identified the area you’re most passionate about! I can totally relate to loving teaching, but needing to move out of the classroom for the sake of your own sanity. Maybe an ancillary teaching position would work for you–ESL small group teacher or something of the sort? Maybe coaching? I’m not sure what opportunities are available in your district/community, but your skill set is definitely in demand in many areas.

  5. Hi Angela,
    Thanks so much for the information! I, too, stumbled into educational consulting and have done so successfully since 2004 in addition to writing faith-based novels. I really hadn’t given much thought to the idea of partnering with national firms – thanks so much for the insight! Blessings upon you and your business!

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