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Online Teaching Jobs: Life as an Adjunctpreneur ®

Online Teaching Jobs: Life as an Adjunctpreneur ®

by Dani Babb
December 08, 2014

Online Teaching Jobs can be incredibly rewarding. We love the opportunity to work with diverse, professional adult students who are immersed in their fields and looking to better themselves and further their career. A student seeking us out years after they took our class letting us know we had an impact on their lives or their career is one of the best feelings an educator can have. For many of us, it is what drives us to continue to want to teach, even with a near 24/7 on-demand schedule and being tied to our mobile devices. There is a full chapter devoted to this in my new 2nd edition of the 2007 Wiley book, Make Money Teaching Online (Kindle version too)! But, online professors need stability in their online teaching jobs, and often working at one institution, just like having one job in corporate America, means being subject to right-sizing, down-sizing, change of the guard and just flat out losing your job - and all of your income - in one swoop. Thankfully, unlike corporate America where you must be at your desk at least 8 hours, you are working from home and can diversify your work and remove some of the risk.

With more scrutiny on online education than ever, having an online teaching job can sometimes mean financial instability and anxiety. A lot of articles are written on big education sites about how adjuncts are quitting because of lack of benefits, lack of stability and poor working conditions. While they complain, Adjunctpreneurs ® do something about it and create their own stability and good working conditions.

While we want to continue teaching, we don't necessarily want to work for just one institution - putting all of our eggs in one basket that could fall apart given any number of circumstances. At the same time, working for multiple institutions can feel daunting - juggling demands from several bosses, numerous email accounts, students with different issues and courses and lack of downtime. But being an Adjunctpreneur ® doesn't mean you have to lose your personal time, it just means you need to diversify your clients. Yes - your clients! If you look at your online teaching jobs as a career or a business as an entrepreneur, and your goal is to satisfy your clients (which means satisfying theirs - your students), then it becomes easier to diversify your workload and make sure you don't face extreme uncertainty in your income stream. You can use technology to help you manage the demands.

So how do you work as an Adjunctpreneur ® ? First, you have to change your mindset, and begin to look at your career in online teaching as a business with multiple online teaching jobs. This doesn't mean sacrificing quality - what business can survive without quality? But imagine having a business with only one or two big clients that produce 85% or more of your revenue - what would happen if you lost that one client? Your business would likely go bankrupt. Businesses cannot survive on one client (without a lot of luck and exclusivity) and neither can online professors (without a lot of luck, or tenure).

I recommend the Adjunctpreneur ® model because it will help you feel more stable, allow you to gain best practices from multiple institutions (which by the way, many schools like! This even comes up in interviews and training - "how can you apply what you've learned working at other schools to make us better?" - if you haven't heard that question, you likely will!), and will help you diversify your risk. Online teaching is a risky business, sometimes at the whim of dean-changes, external market influences like IRS regulation or healthcare requirements, fewer students, dropping enrollments, changing policies and so on. By working for more than one institution (or several) you can ensure if you lose one school/client, you can still survive while you look for other work. Don't take on more than you can handle while providing quality instruction, but do look out for yourself and your financial life.

So how should you diversify? One tried and true method is by university type. Online-only universities are great for giving you decent workload in online classes because all of their classes are online, so they have supply. I recommend 1 or 2 of these universities in your "portfolio". Remember, we are thinking like entrepreneurs here, but our business is to be top notch educators. Next, I recommend 1 or 2 state or community colleges. They tend to have stable student levels, but tend to schedule their full time faculty first. This may mean occasional courses rather than a lot of classes, but good pay and good support when you do get a class. Some community colleges and state schools are growing so fast that the supply is strong. If you can teach for an institution that also has hybrid options (a traditional university with an online division), you will get the benefit of a stable environment and student count while working remotely from home. Finally, I also recommend one full time job, if you can do it well, with your adjunct positions. This full time job will be your primary source of income, will provide benefits, hopefully healthcare, and a 401k plan. Some schools will require that you not work for their competition in a full time role, but most will still allow you to adjunct for other schools. Be proactive; keep applications out there. We know the numbers: 80 to 120 applications per job interview on average (if that sounds like a lot you are right - we have services to help you with that, born out of my own need to have help applying). If you lose one school, it could take months to regain lost income. Keep schools in the pipeline just as you would a sales funnel if you were a small business because - guess what - you are!

There are of course other ways to build diversification as an instructor. Remember you have many other talents! You can write, you can publish, consult, help students as mentors through their dissertation process, and a number of other projects to keep your life as an online professor stable - and fun! The more diversity you have in your work life, the more value you add to your students in your classes.

If you think of yourself as the business owner and the schools and their students as your clients, you can develop your own strategy, find your niche, work towards achieving objectives and diversify your portfolio of online teaching jobs. This may mean that you teach for more than one (or five) schools. This might mean you teach online, you consult, you write books, you are a contractor, you develop courses, or any number of things that bring in income. It will also mean having more fun, more diversity, more stability, and fewer anxiety medications when you get the dreaded (and almost inevitable) "I'm sorry but your class has been canceled this term" email.


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Contact the author Dr. Dani Babb
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