The truth is, everyone could use a few extra bucks. And although some educators supplement their incomes with side jobs to make ends meet or to save up for achieving big financial goals, many teachers simply enjoy learning new skills or turning their hobbies into side hustles that bring in some extra dough.
In the past, educators’ choices were somewhat limited: They could take on seasonal work during summer break, tutor or coach during the school year, or work in a traditional part-time job year-round. Today, there are many more options when it comes to side jobs for teachers.
Plenty of public-school teachers have found success selling lesson plans and instructional materials on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers, and the rise of the “gig economy” means that there are always new ways popping up for people to make money on a flexible schedule.
Before jumping into a new venture, it’s a good idea to take stock of your current situation and determine your goals. This guide covers some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself as you consider starting your side hustle. We also talked with several educators to learn more about 5 interesting and effective options for educators to actually earn money in their spare time.
What teachers need to know about making money on the side
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just turn on a side-job spigot, and the extra cash would just show up in your bank account without creating any additional hassles? If only!
When you take on a side hustle, you’ll not only need to juggle the extra work, but also new tax considerations, scheduling demands, and possibly even customer service concerns.
Here are a few key questions to ask yourself before you get started:
How much time do I have for a side gig?
It’s important to be honest and realistic with yourself when considering side jobs for teachers. No one can hold down a full-time teaching job, coach three sports, care for small children, and also drive for Uber six nights a week.
Take a look at your current schedule and see where you have some extra time. Maybe that means you’ll spend an hour a night on your side job after your kids go to bed. Or maybe you’ll realize you’re better off finding something you can do just as a summer job.
It’s better to find something that’s workable for you than to constantly stress out about not having enough time.
How would earning extra money affect my work benefits?
Check out our free guide on retirement planning for potential impacts there. Also ask people in the know (for instance, your union rep) how side jobs might affect benefits like retirement.
For example, in some districts, school-related side jobs such as coaching may boost your pension. Dropping those gigs for a more lucrative private part-time job might actually cost you money in the long run, depending on how your pension is calculated.
Gather as much info as possible and do the math to figure out which option will be the most beneficial to you in the short term and the long term.
What about taxes and loans?
You’ll need to pay taxes on any new income, of course. What’s more: Your taxes may become more complicated with multiple income streams.
If you set up a one-person tutoring shop, for instance, you’ll need to pay self-employment taxes on the fees you collect, which involves a whole new set of IRS forms. There’s a bright spot, though: You may be able to deduct expenses associated with your side hustle.
If you’re on a student loan repayment plan based on your income, you need to get details on how a second job would affect your required payment amount.
5 smart ways teachers can earn extra income
You’ve answered the questions above and are ready to figure out which side jobs might be manageable and lucrative for you. It’s important to choose the best side hustle for you based on your abilities and availability.
We asked several educators to share their experiences to give you ideas and advice on earning extra money on the side.
1. Run your own niche website or storefront
Alex Tsironis, a middle-school physical education teacher in North Bethesda, Maryland, used to predict snow days for his students. Then, when his former students started emailing him for his snow-day predictions, he started a website and a podcast to showcase his prognosticating and talk about local issues.
Soon, a hardware store paid him $50 to advertise shovels on this website, which at the time felt like “the coolest thing in the world,” Tsironis says.
Today, his website — The MoCo Show — generates six figures in revenue annually.
“In 2020, when the pandemic shut things down, the website went from being just things I was thinking about to, let’s cover actual news,” Tsironis recalls. “That’s when it became a business.”
The website covers hyper-local news in Maryland’s Montgomery County. While larger papers including The Washington Post technically cover that region, The MoCo Show focuses on neighborhood news such as store openings and closings.
“We’ll write about how a gas station closed, and a new 7/11 is coming in,” Tsironis says. “People love that. Nobody was really doing that before, covering the smaller things.”
The MoCo Show brings in money online through local advertisers, and Tsironis is now able to afford one full-time employee and a handful of freelance contributors.
Traditional advertising isn’t the only monetization model available, though. Other educators have created niche websites around interests, such as luxury living on a budget, and then used affiliate marketing links to online retailers like Amazon.com to bring in revenue. Affiliate marketing often is referred to as “passive income” because your website’s traffic continues to result in clicks to those affiliate sites, and you in turn receive payment for those clicks.
However, starting your own website doesn’t come with any guarantees, Tsironis warns. He has seen countless copycats come and go, and his yearly earnings from The MoCo Show were just a few thousand dollars before exploding during the pandemic.
Most days, Tsironis works on the site from 5 a.m. until his workday starts, and then logs back on at 4 p.m. and works on it until he goes to bed.
“People think they’re going to start their side hustle and start making money immediately,” he says. “I’ve never seen it work that way. It takes consistent effort.”
2. Sell your wares online
The rise of online retail shops like Etsy has allowed anyone with a talent and a dream to try to find an audience for their craft. Lauren Grace, a high-school math teacher in Tennessee, makes personalized lanyards and keychains specifically designed for teachers and nurses, and she sells her products both through her Etsy store and her own website, bythegraces.com.
On Etsy alone, Grace has made more than 27,000 sales, with most products priced at around $25.
“I like to craft and create fun accessories for my friends, fellow teachers, and anyone who enjoys showcasing their style with fun accessories,” she says.
Amy Christiansen, a fourth-grade teacher in Baxter, Iowa, is at the beginning of her journey selling on Etsy. She launched her shop, called CraftyBanditStudio, in the spring of 2021, and has sold several dozen wooden signs, decals, and stickers with slogans that range from the inspirational (“We become what we think about”) to the humorous (“If you see me hit a curb, mind your own business”).
Christiansen says she is still making “pretty small money,” but she spends between 10 and 15 hours a week on the burgeoning business.
“Most of it is craft time, but then I also have to go in and order my vinyl and things like that,” she says. “It takes a long time to put things up on Etsy. You have to take pictures – and make sure that they’re good pictures – and then you have to create the listing. I have to think of different keywords that people would search for. I have to weigh and measure everything for the listing. There are a lot of little things that are involved.”
3. Start an independent contractor business
While much of the buzz around entrepreneurship these days is centered on the digital sphere, there are still plenty of small-business owners who simply offer a service to people who need it in their local communities. Teachers might start businesses that offer dog walking, house painting, cake baking, website design, house cleaning, landscaping, home photography, or any number of other services that don’t require physical office space and that can be scheduled around school hours.
One natural business for teachers to consider: a tutoring company. Ann Marie John, a high-school science teacher in Houston Independent School District, began providing tutoring sessions when she lived in Boston. The school district there was hiring teachers to help accelerate skills for English language learners who were entering the third grade.
“I realized that there was a need, and that I really liked it,” John says.
After a couple of years tutoring for the district, John began working as an independent contractor for a private tutoring company. Then, when she moved to Houston, she started her own tutoring company, called CORE, which offers in-home tutoring services for students in grades K-12.
Going out on her own has allowed John more control over her schedule, and it also gives her more opportunities to work closely with parents, she says.
At times, John brings on other teachers to tutor students when she’s too busy to take on new work herself. She says she typically works between 15 and 20 hours a week on her tutoring business, and she can bring in up to $2,000 in revenue during a busy month.
John paid off her car with money she earned from tutoring, and now she plans to allocate her business revenue toward her student loan debt. “I try to target that money to a specific area of my life so I’m aware of where it’s going,” she says.
4. Build a social media brand
Much like creating a niche website, building a social media following takes years of consistent work. And even then, there’s no guarantee of success. But for educators with an outgoing personality and something relevant to say, social media can provide a creative outlet — and perhaps pay off financially, too.
Michelle Emerson was a teacher in Maryland when she began selling resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. She started an Instagram account in 2014 and a YouTube channel in 2016 under the name “Pocketful of Primary,” mostly as a way to talk about teaching and promote the resources she was selling. But then the social media accounts themselves took off.
Emerson now has around 560,000 YouTube subscribers and 170,000 Instagram followers.
“I never intended for it to become a business,” Emerson says. “I started the Instagram account mostly because I realized that most of my friends and family didn’t care about teaching nearly as much as I did, and I needed an outlet. It all just snowballed from there.”
At first, Emerson says, the revenue from Teachers Pay Teachers and her social media followings was “just extra pocket money.” But within three years, those outside revenue streams eclipsed her teaching salary.
“It allowed me to teach because I loved it and not because I was relying on the paycheck,” she says.
In 2021, Emerson moved from Maryland to Austin, Texas. The money she’d saved from her social media platforms helped her to pay for a house there, and she stopped teaching after the move to focus on her social media brand.
“It got to the point where, mentally, I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions,” she says. “I realized that through social media and creating resources, I could help so many other teachers and have a bigger impact.”
5. Find a flexible part-time job that fits your schedule
Kevin Patterson, a physical education teacher in Waukee, Iowa, used to spend around 30 hours a week coaching school sports, on top of his teaching load. Those coaching gigs did come with a stipend, but the money wasn’t much.
Then, in 2020, Patterson decided to pursue a real estate license. “My wife and I decided that I would use my coaching time as real estate time instead,” Patterson recalls. “The financial difference is significant. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a job where you can make more money based on how well you do.”
Patterson made 30 residential real estate deals in 2021, working on behalf of both buyers and sellers. He even earned his office’s “rookie of the year” designation.
The demands of a teaching job occasionally run up against the always-on nature of the real estate business, Patterson says: “The closing part is tough. Sometimes people don’t want to wait until 3 p.m. when I can get there for a closing, so I need to be really communicative and make sure their lender has everything in order. I’ve only lost two clients because I couldn’t show them properties in the morning. Most people are really understanding.”
Patterson says he’s now earning six or seven times as much from real estate as he made from his coaching job. His family has used the money from his teacher side hustle to pay off his wife’s student loans and make improvements to their home. The extra cash also made things easier when their second child was born, he says.
Along with hustle and drive, Patterson says, educators need the support of their families to succeed at a demanding second job. “You have to have a support system,” he says. “If my wife weren’t on board with this, there’s no way I could do it.”