Friday: Teacher Tips: Start a business

Here’s the teacher tip for Friday, June 11, 2009:  Start a business.

“What?” I hear you say. “But I don’t have anything to sell.  I can’t provide any services.”

But let’s consider the truth or falsehood of that.

The US government, and the governments of the states, want people to start businesses.  The vast majority of the US economy actually runs on small business efforts of various sorts, and if you read up on how to start and run a small business, you discover that running one requires you to master quite a lot of skills: bookkeeping and tax planning, customer relations and marketing, inventory control and data crunching, networking and information management and law.  You even get a basic grounding in economics.

A teacher’s primary value lies in knowledge obtained and redistributed, in the ability to conduct research, and in the ability to develop content.  Some content that we develop belongs to the schools for which we work, but some belongs to us, the teachers.

Put together a book of exercises. Develop an online course.  Learn to make a podcast.  Make some short movies.  Try to make some money doing these things.  Learn how hard, or how easy, it is.  You’ll be in a much better position to teach your students to be entrepreneurs and risk-takers if you take some yourself.

The most important thing to remember about running a business, though, is that you must learn what you are doing.  Take the time to read up on how to run a business during the summer, develop your business plan and create the needed materials carefully.

The second most important thing is to remember that you must pay taxes on the income you earn through your business.  I am not a financial planner, CPA, or tax advisor.  The only advice I can give you on this matter is “pay your taxes.”

Yet running a business on the side can empower you as a teacher, make you feel more in control, and give you a better entrepreneurial sense of how to empower your students.  Moreover, your students notice and respect your efforts in the marketplace; my students mock my game-writing career, until they find out how much extra it’s paid me through the years.  Then they consider ways to start businesses of their own.

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