Should You Take The Plunge And Switch To Private Teaching?

May 1, 2017

by Beth Peterson

Thoughts about leaving the mainstream and launching a private teaching practice.

I recently jumped into the ocean with more than 15 sharks and stingrays swimming around our boat. Actually, I did it twice in one week.

For a split second, I knew I probably shouldn’t do it.

But my past life is filled with too much overthinking. So, I chose to not give it much thought and I just did it.

I thoroughly grilled the captain about all the marine species before jumping to my fate and the crew assured me that no one had died doing it…yet.

It was a little scary and exhilarating. No, I’m lying. It was VERY scary but I loved it.

This is such a cool metaphor for starting a business. It involves risk, it’s a bit scary, and there are a lot of unknowns. There comes a time when you just have to get off the fence and jump in.

Doing something scary is probably a good thing for cautious control freaks like me.

For most of us, we don’t know if our overthinking freezes us from taking action or if we truly might be making the wrong choice. I guess the anxiety that accompanies serious decision-making can cloud our judgment at times.

Taking risks tends to be reserved for my three sons. If there were an Olympic event for risk taking, I know they would all tie for the gold. I’m more conservative with my thrill seeking activities. Why is it hard to take risks as I get older? In Dan Siegel’s book, Brainstorm he explains why teenagers act the way they do. He says this adolescent time is not a hardship to endure but rather a time to embrace their courage, creativity and power. That generation can learn from us, but we can learn so much more from them. He suggests that it should be a partnership of sorts.

He states that one of the four vital features of adolescence is novelty –seeking where the brain shifts its dopamine system. Teens try new things and have courage to do the unfamiliar, uncertain and potentially dangerous activities. Adults really can live a full life if we don’t let ourselves lose these vital factors, which Siegel says aids the growth of our brain throughout our lifespan. Our mature malleable brains really can grow and change when we have novel experiences. Neuroplasticity is real and it helps keep us lively, engaged, and full of life.

So, I guess starting a business is risky and exhilarating, therefore it can help our brains stay healthy and vital.

When I set out to start my coaching business, I knew it would be scary and I knew that I could talk myself out of doing it. So, I eventually just had to jump knowing that there would be risks.

A few things helped point me in the right direction to build my framework for my business. I am pretty sure most business owners go through a reflective process. Let me share the steps I took, just in case you are feeling the desire to launch into the private teaching arena.

Don’t quit your paying job yet

I was a classroom teacher for 14 years before I started my full-time academic coaching practice. During that tenure I took workshops, classes and volunteered coaching students after school hours while raising my three sons. (Yes, and my wonderful husband worked 10–12+ hour days too.) It wasn’t easy, but I loved helping students navigate the murky waters of their school day.

Seek out experience and knowledge

I was always searching for someone who did what I wanted to do. I’m in the Pacific Northwest, and couldn’t find a lot of local Executive Function (EF) coaches around. So, I went to some workshops in the Boston area, reaching out to people along the way, gleaning what I could.

I asked educational psychologists and speech language pathologists for feedback. I read anything and everything I could find. By the way, there’s no book called Starting your EF Coaching practice for Dummies. I checked.

Don’t get me wrong, there are coaching businesses out there. But I couldn’t find an EF coaching business with an experienced educator running the show. Life coaches are awesome and serve an important role. However, I found that it’s invaluable having a coach who has years of classroom experience, who understands the curriculum, the politics of education, and understands what causes stress for students, parents and teachers.

Find time for self-reflection

One thing I did that was incredibly helpful was shutting myself off for a few days to do some serious self-reflection. I recently found my journal from those few days and I’m proud to say that the plans I made then have all come to fruition. I wrote down my elevator pitch, decided my mission, and articulated my one, five and ten year goals. I established my business plan as well. I also figured out who I could reach out to for support along the way. It’s hard to do this alone, so find your tribe.

Go slow

Yes, that’s the Belizean motto, but it works for building a solid foundation for your business too. Going too fast can cause problems — and with more than your finances.

It can wreak havoc on your reputation and that spells disaster in this market. Pace yourself. I had paying clients before I left my job and I had no overhead since I was providing services at school sites and my home office. I had the opportunity to grab an office space, but it didn’t make sense. My house is surrounded by schools so it was easy to stay put and keep costs down. Yes, I chatted with my insurance agent too.

Invest in your website and business cards

I lucked out and found a website designer fairly quickly. We collaborated for a few months and she ended up designing a nice site for me. Check it out: Email me at [email protected] if you want her contact information. (Notice my domain name? Invest in that too!)

She also did my business cards and recommended a great online printer who was extremely reasonable.

Lasting relationships are extremely important when you’re building your business, but remember that first impressions count. And that first impression usually comes from your website — so make the most of it and start doing your research now.

If you have the inclination to branch out and start your own private teaching business, then JUMP… you might as well jump! Van Halen wasn’t so wrong…. was he?

If you dare nothing, then when it’s all said and done, you’ve gained nothing. Good luck. Feel free to reach out to me if you want me to be a part of your tribe.

Beth is a former classroom teacher and mom of three boys. She is an academic coach and consultant in the Pacific Northwest. Peterson Academic Coaching serves students from grade 4 to college helping them plan, organize and prioritize to achieve school success, maximize their strengths and boost self-confidence. Check out some resources at:

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