3 ways supply teaching helped me start my own business
Robert, a teacherpreneur working with Zen Educate, shares his insight into how teaching supply can provide the flexibility, extra time and experience to start your own business.
The seismic shift in the world has tempted many to quit teaching and start up their own business. Perhaps you’re thinking of turning a side-income into something bigger? If so, then supply teaching is the ideal way of balancing the best parts of teaching with the freedom to focus on those other efforts. I know all too well from personal experience that the demands of full-time teaching mean that there is little space for thinking about anything outside of school issues. After being a classroom teacher for four years, I made the switch to supply teaching and haven’t looked back since. There are 3 benefits to this shift that may help you make the leap to working on your own business.
Of course, supply teaching gives you incredible flexibility with your schedule, allowing you time to focus on other projects.
This is particularly true when using an app such as Zen Educate, as this allows you to choose the days you are available for work months in advance.
That way you can plan to teach around your meetings, client pitches and research. Because everything is done via an online calendar, there’s no need to update a consultant by text each time your schedule changes. It’s also easy to change your availability last minute when a free day comes up. I’ve found this to be invaluable e.g. when business meetings are cancelled the day before, allowing you to take a day’s teaching instead.
Starting a business is perilous at the best of times, but at least with an easy-to-use app you can easily add, or if things are going well subtract, days to ensure that you get the guaranteed income you need.
Whilst supply teaching certainly has its unique stresses - think an unruly Year 6 class on a Friday afternoon - the prep and admin time required is less than the responsibilities of a classroom teacher. Having free evenings - without the pressure of planning for the next day - meant that I could attend industry events and meet clients in the early evening even when I was teaching during the day.
Not only that, but having the mental space in the evening and the weekend to devote to developing business ideas is also a huge plus.
It may not be obvious when you’re starting your own business but you will need a huge amount of time just to get your business off the ground, to plan strategy and make connections.
If your business is related to education, having one foot in teaching is really valuable for understanding current trends in schools. As a supply teacher, you also have the option of working across a wide range of schools, from academies and the private sector, to pupil referral units and faith schools. You will gain incredible oversight as to how each of these environments approaches the universal problems affecting all schools. In my case, I was particularly interested in the way each school uses resources and schemes of work. This gave me a unique insight into how different schools approach lesson planning and means I can directly feed this back into my business in conversations with education publishers and school leaders.
Keeping a hands-on teaching role in education can also give your business authority e.g. by being able to speak first-hand about issues affecting education. Not only that but many of the skills that you acquire as a supply teacher are directly applicable to starting your own business. For example, being able to adapt to different situations and personalities, presenting to audiences with little opportunity for preparation and fielding questions from people you’ve never met before, are incredible skills which will benefit you if you have to pitch your business.
I’ve genuinely found that the mix of supply teaching and running my own business is the ideal formula and gives me the, almost, perfect work-life balance.
In particular, the flexibility of increasing or reducing the number of days you teach means that you can take steps on your start-up journey as quickly or as slowly as suits you and your new business. Good luck!
Robert Pokorny is a teacherpreneur and founder of Scheme Support, a directory of schemes of work for the English National Curriculum. He has been a primary school teacher for 8 years and currently teaches supply in London.