If you’re looking to venture out on your own and be your own boss, an online education business might be the right fit. Thanks to the rise of remote education platforms like Udemy and Skillshare, being an online “teacher” has never been so accessible. In fact, with the right mindset and strategy, you could become the boss of your own company, teaching other entrepreneurs and independent professionals how to develop themselves and their careers.
The Pros And Cons Of An Online Education Business
While there are many perks to becoming your own boss and able to shape your working hours, this newfound flexibility can also be a big drawcard for those looking to make a career change. One of the biggest conundrums for someone considering an online education career is deciding whether to go “corporate” or continue as a freelancer. Similar to other freelancing gigs, you’ll need to do some research into what options are out there and what fits best with your career goals and aspirations. Keep in mind: while the traditional route to becoming an online teacher would be to apply for a job at a traditional “teaching institution” (i.e. universities), the reality is there isn’t always an available role (and if there is, you might not be willing to relocate).
That’s why it’s important to research the various kinds of online education businesses out there, so you know what to expect and which one is right for you.
Which Type Of Online Education Business Should You Choose?
Before diving into the various types of online education businesses, it’s important to first break down what makes them different from one another. Broadly speaking, there are three major distinctions that you need to make:
- The scope of the tutors you’ll be recruiting and training.
- The nature of the education delivered (e.g. can you deliver live lessons, or just offer self-paced curricula)
- The size of your audience (i.e. how many students are there currently looking for the education you provide)
While all three categories will play a role in dictating the type of business you’ll want to establish, it’s important to keep in mind their relative importance when considering the options outlined below.
1. The Scope Of The Tutors You’ll Be Recruiting And Training.
Just because you’ve decided to become an online teacher doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to online courses only. In fact, one of the best things about the proliferation of remote learning platforms is the ability to connect with literally thousands of experts around the world. You’ll just need to make sure you vet these mentors carefully and ensure they are legitimately experienced in your field. Typically, you’ll be paying these mentors per-project, so it’s in your best interest to choose someone who is known for delivering high-quality work.
For instance, if you’re looking to become a software engineer, it would be unwise to choose a professional tutor who only has experience in accounting software. While you might learn a lot from this individual, you won’t be able to apply your newfound skills appropriately in the real world without a lot of trial and error. In order to mitigate this risk, make sure you vet this particular tutor’s past work and ensure they are competent in teaching you how to become a software engineer.
2. The Nature Of The Education Delivered (e.g. Can You Deliver Live Lessons, Or Just Offering Self-Paced Courses?).
This will depend on your personal preferences. Some teachers will prefer to teach via live video calls, while others will feel more comfortable providing self-paced tutorials via online courses. Ultimately, it’s a common misconception that one is necessarily better than the other. Both have their place, it’s just a question of personal preference. In order to decide what’s best for you, consider all the pros and cons of each type of teaching style.
For example, if you’re a more visual learner who finds it easier to understand concepts when presented in an animated GIF format, you might prefer to take a DIY approach and create your own virtual course using online tools like Udemy or Skillshare. This is far more convenient for you, as you won’t have to physically meet with your tutor and can instead do your learning during spare moments (and if you’re using online tools this is bound to happen).
3. The Size Of Your Audience.
In a traditional education setting, the size of your audience is generally defined by how many students you have enrolled in your course. In an online environment, your “audience” becomes much wider and includes everyone who might benefit from your content. In other words, with an online education business, the size of your audience is defined by how many people you can reach—regardless of whether or not you have enrolled them in a course.
This is a significant advantage, as it means you don’t have to limit your target audience to people who have signed up for your course. Indeed, with an online education business, you can gain worldwide exposure and attract a diverse group of customers who might not even be interested in your field at all.
The Varieties Of Online Education Businesses
Now that you’re equipped with a better understanding of the distinctions between different types of online education businesses, let’s dive into the specifics.
1. The Online Tutoring Company.
An online tutoring company generally operates along the same lines as a professional tutor, in that they provide one-on-one guidance to students who need help learning a particular subject. However, instead of you being a teacher and student, you’ll be acting as a consultant, helping others improve their skills and gain confidence.
Enrolling in a tutoring course is generally cheaper than hiring a personal tutor, and since these companies are usually established businesses with experienced teachers available 24/7, there are no hidden charges like some tutors will try and sneak in (e.g. additional fees for travel, lunch, or accommodation). In exchange for your consultancy, the company would normally offer training materials and course credit, and possibly a small payment (generally around $15-$20 per hour).
While this might not seem like a lucrative proposition at first glance, keep in mind that since students are paying you (either directly or indirectly, i.e. via their parents or guardians for a private lesson), you’re effectively getting paid to teach (and if you do a good job, you might even be able to up your rate a bit).
2. The Virtual Teaching Company.
A virtual teaching company might also be referred to as a “digital teaching company,” as they generally operate in a similar fashion to a traditional classroom setting, where students watch video lessons and take quizzes at the end of each unit. However, instead of going to a physical classroom, students in a virtual teaching company form a “class” (which can be structured or unstructured, depending on the needs of the tutors) and interact with one another via online tools and resources.
While a lot of the content and functionality will be digital and take the form of an online course (e.g. videos, quizzes, and assignments), tutors will sometimes also provide live classroom sessions where they teach (and sometimes even grade) student work.
Since a virtual teaching company doesn’t have any physical locations, costs are generally lower; usually just the cost of a decent microphone and some video hosting (e.g. YouTube). Additional costs include domain registration and web hosting, which can run about $15 per month.
3. The Freelancer.
A freelancer is someone who provides a variety of services to other businesses or individuals, without being an employee of the company (they are self-employed).
While freelancing isn’t technically a separate category, it is worth noting that since a lot of the work is done remotely (via online platforms like Upwork or Fiverr), the costs are generally lower than those of a traditional education business (e.g. travel, food, and lodging aren’t included in the cost of a freelance education).
Due to the nature of the gig, a lot of the work is done on a project basis, so if you want to continue, you’ll have to find additional clients and work your way up the ladder.
Upwork provides a platform for freelance professionals to connect with potential clients, and earns a lot of revenue from businesses around the world, generating over $5 billion in annual revenue. Since a lot of the work is done remotely, the competition for this kind of work is generally quite low – it’s estimated there are only 10 actual job providers for every 100,000 freelancers on Upwork, so if you want to get started, there isn’t much competition.