February 2017
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Patrice Palmer, Global Training, Coaching and Development, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

In December 2015, I left my job as an ESL teacher after 20 years (including seven incredible years in Hong Kong). I had known for a year or so before I left that it was time for a change because I was feeling uninspired and tired. I felt the need to learn some new skills and desired to travel throughout the year, not just during school breaks. I craved a creative outlet, but I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. Perhaps you have felt this way or do now.

There are many reasons that teachers are looking for ways to earn additional income. In Canada for example, many teaching positions are part-time, sessional, or contract. Some are looking to teach fewer hours in the classroom, but supplement their income by writing e-books, teaching resources or online teaching. For me, I wanted the freedom to travel at any time of the year, not just school breaks. It really has not been about money, but more about having control over my workload and feeling inspired by learning new things and connecting with teachers all over the world.

Becoming a "teacherpreneur" (teacher + entrepreneur) happened by accident. The previous year, a friend of mine asked me if I could write an online course for him. I really enjoyed the experience of writing something unrelated to teaching English. That same year, we attended Brendon Burchard’s Four Day Expert’s Academy for people interested in becoming coaches, authors, speakers, and online course writers. I assumed that I would learn about writing more courses for my friend, but ended up thinking about how I could use the information to launch a freelance career. My thought initially was that I could work as a freelance writer and online teacher in Costa Rica, or somewhere hot during the Canadian winters, but I kept thinking that I wanted to do more. Then I started noticing the words “teacherpreneur” and “edupreneur.” As a language teacher, I am sure you share my delight when new words are developed and become part of the English language.

Words such as edupreneur and teacherpreneur are two great examples. There are several definitions for these terms. Wolpert-Gawron (2015) defines it as:

…the teacher creates a different way of navigating the profession without leaving that profession entirely. Their talents remain in the classroom and on the school site, but they've had the opportunity to shake their dice, try something new, and use their skills in a different way. (para. 9)

Barnett Berry says that “teacherpreneurs are classroom experts who teach students regularly, but also have time, space, and reward to incubate and execute their own ideas—just like entrepreneurs” (Wolpert-Gawron , 2015, para. 17).

A teacherpreneur is distinct from an edupreneur, which can be interpreted to mean any entrepreneur working in the education space—teacher or not” (Levy, 2015). Guigan (2015) defines edupreneurs as those who:
“manage their own incomes, colonize and create new learning environments, create their own content and taste the kinds of artistic satisfaction that the only freelance, independent teachers can experience….They are free to do what they love; teach, share, inspire, write, create….Many edupreneurs work online, where they can build up massive networks of students and teachers. They can choose to do voluntary work, make a difference, publish inspiring work on their websites and still earn a healthy living.” (para. 2–4)

One of my favourite definitions is from Porter-Isom (2015) where she states that, “A classroom teacher or school based leader who is both educator and entrepreneur; an educator who works a flexible and/or freelance schedule; and/or an educator with a “side hustle” that supplements their income” (Porter-Isom, 2015).

I have now come up with my own definition:

teacherpreneur (n): an educator who continues to teach and also designs and develops resources, products, and/or services outside the classroom to earn additional income.
Many teachers ask what the difference is between being a freelancer and teacherpreneur. The biggest difference is time and passive income. A freelancer gets paid per hour/project whereas a teacherpreneur designs a product and/or resource that sells while he or she sleeps. This is what is referred to as passive income. Being a freelancer means the constant search for new work and the number of hours per week. There are only so many hours that we can physically work a week, so this limits our income.

Currently, I have several projects on the go ranging from hourly instructor (online teaching), freelance writer, and teacherpreneur. It is important to consider what is right for you at this particular point in time. How much time do you have to devote to developing projects or taking on additional work? What are your financial requirements? I do not recommend that teachers abandon their teaching careers and launch themselves as a teacherpreneur!

Transitioning from a classroom teacher to a teacherpreneur didn't happen overnight for me. For the first year, I taught several online courses to have a continuous cash flow. Because I was not traveling or marking essays for large numbers of students, I had more time. This gave me the time needed to write e-books and develop my online coaching business for new teachers. 

I also needed to learn many news skills through research, reading, and watching webinars. I started blogging to build up my own mailing list. I needed to learn about social media and email marketing. Like most people, I had some social media accounts, but now I know how to use them more effectively. Using social media is a perfect way to self-promote, but I discovered that there are many rules about its use. For example, I learned about the 80/20 rule (and most likely broke it in the early days of my social media use). According to Tween (2016), it is important to repost educationally relevant content 80% of the time and self-promote our own products or resources 20% of the time. Also, social media posts with images have a 94% chance of being re-posted (Mawhinney, 2016). 

It has been surprising to see the growing interest in teacherpreneurship. I also would not have predicted that there would be a growing interest in teacherpreneurship. I recently presented at a TESL conference in Canada to 90 teachers, and I have a 4-week online course with www.iTDi.pro and a webinar in 2017 with TESL Ontario in Canada. I have been invited to present at three TESL conferences in the Spring. One of the highlights of the TESOL International Convention, 21–24 March will surely be copresenting “How to Boost Your Online Presence with Social Media” with Dorothy Zemach, where we will be speaking to teachers as authors.

I now spend my time doing the things that I love, such as writing courses and resources, blogging, and instructional coaching for new ESL teachers. In addition to this, I also help teachers transition to teacherpreneurs by sharing current content, connecting teacherpreneurs around the world, and coaching. Despite the huge learning curve, it has been a lot of fun. I believe that teacherpreneurs do not have superpowers, but are just regular teachers like you and me. 


Guinan, S. (2015). Edupreneurs – Creating a new wave of disruption in education. Retrieved from http://www.wiziq.com/teachblog/edupreneurs-creating-a-new-wave-of-disruption-in-education

Levy, L. (2015). Rise of the teacherprener. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/why-we-need-edupreneurs/

Mawhinney, J. (2016). 37 visual content marketing statistics you should know in 2016. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy

Porter-Isom, K. (2015). Edupreneur today. Retrieved from http://www.edupreneurtoday.com/

Tween, S. (2016). Social media for business and the 80/20 rule. Retrieved from https://www.hallaminternet.com/social-media-business-8020-rule/

Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2015). The era of the teacherpreneur. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/era-of-teacherpreneur-heather-wolpert-gawron

Patrice Palmer has 21 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher and TESL Trainer in Canada and Hong Kong.  Patrice now works as a teacherpreneur doing the things she loves: writing, coaching and travelling.  She is President-elect for the TESL Hamilton (Canada) and Co-Chair of the TESOL MWIS. Visit www.teacherpreneur.ca for more information.

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TESOL 2017 MWIS Open Meeting, MWIS & Intersection Session
Make time for MWIS’s Open Meeting on Wednesday, March 22 at 6:45-8:15 in Rm 617 WSCC. Also, see Walton and Jane’s Leadership Update for a list of MWIS and Intersection Sessions.
MWIS November Call for Papers
MWIS seeks you input. Read the Call for Papers to learn how to share your experiences and knowledge with other MWIS members.
MWIS Social
After the MWIS Open Business Meeting (Wednesday, 6:45-8:15, WSCC Rm 617), join us for the MWIS Social, at the Elephant and Castle (1415 5th Avenue), two blocks from the Convention Center, at 8:30 PM, to continue those connections over drinks, food, and great conversation. We have tables reserved. Come get drinks or a late dinner with your fellow authors, writers, editors, content-creators, and teachers. The social is a good chance to get to know MWIS members, or just relax and have a good time. It is pay your own way, as always.