What’s an Edupreneur?

What is an Edupreneur
Are teachers the next startup entrepeneurs? (source: bestmastersineducation.com)

An “eduprenuer” is exactly what the word conveys – it’s what you get when you cross an entrepreneur with the education industry.  This concept has been around for at least a couple of decades. It used to refer mainly to trained professional teachers and educators who “branched out” in their work by creating side businesses such as speaking engagements, publishing, training, consulting and so forth. 

In the most recent decade, however, technology has opened the edupreneuer career path to just about anyone. Take Udemy for Business, for instance. Everyone with a course on there is essentially an edupreneur.

And guess what? Anyone who creates an online course has the potential to be an edupreneur. Have you thought about what this means for you and your online teaching aspirations?

Why do we say you have the potential to become an edupreneur? Because like any entrepreneur if you don’t do what it takes, then your business fails and you’ll no longer be an entrepreneur!  Sure, you can hang a sign on a building and turn on lights and call yourself an entrepreneur. But there’s a lot to do to pay the bills that keep the lights on.

The same goes for being an edupreneur. Just because you create one or two online courses, doesn’t mean you are an edupreneur in the truest sense. But it’s a first step in that direction to be sure – the first step of being in the business of selling online courses and any other peripheral products and services that stem from that.

Why Consider Becoming an Edupreneur?

This one’s easy. Money is the answer.  Seriously, entrepreneurs go into business with the goal of making money and so should you if you want to be a true edupreneur.  Of course, many traditional teachers do what they do simply because they are passionate about helping others. It’s no secret the pay for many traditional teachers is quite low. This is why teachers might find it hard to be successful as an edupreneur – their natural goal isn’t to do everything it takes to make money, it’s something else.

The point is, if you are creating online courses and doing all of the upfront work that we’ve been talking about to launch a successful online business, why not become a full-blown edupreneur? Here are some reasons to become an edupreneur:

  1. The learning revolution – It’s obvious, but needs saying. Education is the new currency. Billions of dollars are going into online education and even more into educational content. Consumers are hungrier than ever before for information and knowledge, especially new, valuable information. They want answers to questions they’ve never had before. If your online course is answering those questions, then people area ready to pay for that.
  2. It’s the way to sell products and services now – The decline of bookstores is an indicator of how information and other products and services are bought and sold now. Traditional sales and marketing have evolved into using a platform of education and information to nurture and create sales. Think about it. You watch someone on Youtube, maybe you weren’t even looking for them. They advertise their website in their video. On the website, they are selling courses. You enroll. You pay.
  3. Personal transformation – It sounds silly, at first but the process of becoming an edupreneur, not unlike becoming a successful entrepreneur, is a personal journey. Through the process of discovering that you have knowledge that others want and packaging it for sale, you build self-confidence and reinforce your skills and knowledge.  Just as with creating your first online course, the process of seeing the money start to roll in from your efforts to build a business is gratifying and self-affirming. It will probably change your life in many ways.
  4. Building authority and positioning in your industry – By showcasing your knowledge and expertise to the world through online courses and other edupreneurial products and content, you are proving your “street cred” in your industry (so long as what you produce is of good quality).  Often people who start out creating online courses and who then start to add ebooks, regular books, publish articles, etc. find themselves being asked to consult, give speeches and so forth in their industry. Then of course, the more you do this, the more authority you build and the more opportunities you have.                                  
  5. You don’t need credentials – This is kind of the opposite of the previous point, but if you don’t have credentials, it doesn’t matter. All you need is experience, passion or knowledge about what it is you are hoping to teach to others and a clear vision of how to create value with it. Plenty of people without a college degree are successful edupreneurs.

Critical Success Factors for Edupreneurs

You can launch an online course on Udemy and make a few bucks and call yourself successful.  Becoming a full blown successful edupreneur is a different beast. It requires a few factors.

1. A clear mission – Your mission is your starting point for everything you create educationally-speaking. Every course, every blog, every video. If you have a clear mission it will be easier to find a network of people who are interested in what you are doing.

2. A value proposition – Following on the idea of your mission, you have to be clear on what you are offering people that is different and unique or that serves them in some way. And is it something that many many people will pay for because they can’t find it elsewhere?  Where are the gaps in the market? Find one.

The entreprenuer mind
source: smashwords.com

3. Business mindset – This is the main difference between an online course creator and an edupreneur. In addition to being an educator, you are an entrepreneur.  Launching an online school is like running a business. You are out to earn money and do what it takes to do that. Period. You have to embrace that mentality and associated business thinking and activities like hiring employees. This will be the driving force behind growing your business.

4. Business skills –  It’s one thing to create and sell a course or two. But to be an edupreneur, you’ll need to be able to scale that in a major way, for example by launching an online school or series of training ebooks. Then you have to create the marketing machine to sell that and manage the outcomes to continue growing your business. That requires some practical business skills. For starters, understand revenue and expense, budgeting, financial statements. Understand what a business model is and what yours is. Understand what it means to be “customer-centric” and so forth.

5. Collect data – in this age of social proof, it’s not enough to just let the knowledge sell itself or use your exceptional sales skills to convince people to buy your product. To grow your education business into a full-blown occupation you’ll need to get smart about collecting data on the outcomes of your educational products, whether that be pounds lost from your nutrition course, testimonials from clients, website traffic or student re-enrollments. Your in the information business so collect it.

A lot of people who dream of making money selling online courses simply overlook some of these critical success factors.

How to Get Started – The Role of Online Courses

Edupreneurs create all kinds of side businesses that use their knowledge and skills. Why get started as an edupreneur by creating online courses? There are several good reasons to start with creating online courses:

  • Many of the steps involved in launching an education business are the same as you would take to launch an online course.
  • Online courses are often considered to be some of the most valuable edupreneurial products versus other learning materials and methods.
  • Online courses give you valuable feedback about what people want/need educationally speaking
  • Clearly the trend in online courses is that they may be the most important source of education for the foreseeable future. You want to be a part of that trend as an eduprenuer.

Many of the steps that you would take to create an online course set you to become an edupreneur include:

  1. Research – Begin here. Learn as much as you can about your particular area of education and what other edupreneurs are doing. Look at what they are doing and understand how they are making money.  Find out who is purchasing their courses and other products and why.
  2. Preparing yourself to work very hard – Again, launching one course on Udemy is simple compared to scaling a learning business. This is really a mental exercise. Plan. Set goals. Carve out time. Find a partner. Learn technology. Prepare to stay up late and do what it takes. Have a back up plan. Think about what you need to do to get from A to Z. Be realistic.
  3. Finding your audience – As with online course creation, you’ll need to really identify who is the audience who will buy into that mission that you are selling. You’ll need to plan on how to speak to them and spend time with them. That’s simply what people expect of educators.
  4. Finding/keeping a relevant day job – As you build your business, you’ll probably need a source of income. If at all possible, have it be something related to your edupreneurial venture. So for example, be a consultant in that field. Teach it at an adult ed facility. Freelance in that area. You can gradually switch from your day job to being a full fledged edupreneur. But it starts with your first online course.

Once you are off getting into course creation, you can think about a whole list of products and services to add to your edupreneur business model:

  • Webinars
  • eBooks
  • Paper books
  • Guides
  • Affiliate links
  • Ads and sponsorships
  • Speaking engagements
  • Coaching and training
  • Podcasts
  • Freelance writing
  • etc.

Remember that bit about preparing yourself for hard work? That’s what these additional products are about!

Examples of Successful Edupreneurs

The Edupreneur documentary

Looking for some inspiration?  There’s actually a documentary about edupreneurs aptly named “The Edupreneur”. You can check it out here (note: we do not receive affiliate fees for this link). The Edupreneur is a documentary film that takes you on a journey into the successes and challenges of several educational consultants who discuss their lives and careers as educators and entrepreneurs. They are all teachers who became edupreneurs.

Each gives different advice about how to become a successful edupreneur. Here are some key pieces of advice they give:

  • Find your lane and work it. For example, you might be great at writing short articles but not have an entire book in you.
  • Find your passion.
  • Partner with people you believe in and who believe in you.
  • The work never stops. You are continually working on marketing. Putting out your book, your course, or workbook out is the beginning. There’s so much work to do to get your product in the hands of paying consumers.
  • Pick a niche to carve out- a space for you to own. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Know what you do well and what you want to accomplish with the work.
  • Learn the business side of running a business. There’s so much to learn when it comes to business-incorporation, taxes, bookkeeping, marketing, invoicing, contracts, generating leads, personal branding, and building a sustainable business model.

The bottom line is that there are numerous ways and reasons to take your online course and turn it into a full blown education business. Using the knowledge and expertise that you pour into one or two online courses demonstrates to the world and to yourself that you have skills and expertise that create value for a set of people. That’s something you can build upon.

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