Adjunct professors don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs. For many in academia, becoming a tenured professor is still the ideal career path.
However, reaching tenure is not easy. In many cases, the opportunity isn’t available. Most teaching positions are adjunct, part-time, or non-tenure track.
There is another path. A growing number of professors are pursuing opportunities outside of academia. Dubbed Academic Entrepreneurs, these professors continue to teach while working as consultants, researchers, writers, speakers, and freelancers.
Why Teachers Make Great Entrepreneurs
Teachers have the skills needed to succeed as entrepreneurs.
Here are the top reasons why entrepreneurship is a natural fit:
Professors demonstrate sales and marketing skills
Communicating effectively requires knowing the audience, connecting with needs, and then anticipating questions and concerns. Getting everyone on board is something teachers do in the classroom every day. That’s exactly what people in sales and marketing do.
Educators work hard to get students what they need. Soliciting resources for the classroom is similar to raising money for a business. The tenacity is in the ask and advocacy for greater returns on investment.
Teachers aren’t afraid to learn new things or change their plans
Professors always embrace new ideas and look at complex problems in new ways. This trait is essential for any entrepreneur.
Multitasking is an art form.
Without breaking stride, a professor manages her time wisely and wears multiple hats to get the job done. A lesson plan sets a course for a session, but the work doesn’t end there. Answering questions, providing office hours, grading papers, and preparing for the next day are cumulative responsibilities. It’s a portrait of many skills, all deployed interchangeably and at many times simultaneously.
How To Start Thinking Like An Entrepreneur
Becoming an entrepreneur is daunting. Running a business is risky. One must be fearless to risk failure.
Adjunct professors are free agents. Free agents, by definition, are free to invest their time proactively. It’s helpful to view entrepreneurship as a process. It’s an amalgam of freelancing, working for oneself, promoting services, and selling a product.
Adopting this mindset can help part-time instructors and lecturers make the transition from adjunct professors to Academic entrepreneurs. Here are a few things to keep in mind while in pursuit of freelance opportunities:
Successful freelance work is about momentum. Successful Academic Entrepreneurs initially take on a few projects within their immediate field of interest. Starting a blog is a significant first step to broadcasting expertise. A focus on the implementation of academic research will lead to more opportunities.
Promotion is the name of the game.
Expertise dies on the vine if it isn’t shared. There are multiple ways to promote academic work and research: speaking at conferences and events, being a guest on a podcast, writing articles for online or print publications, etc.
Translate academic background into business skills
The world of academia is insular. Standard academic terms are oft foreign to the corporate world. Academic Entrepreneurs think about how experiences as a professor can be applied in business settings. In many ways, teachers are leaders and managers — these attributes are invaluable when selling to outside entities.
Understand value and worth
The average pay for adjunct and part-time professors is notoriously low. In the business world, an adjunct shouldn’t settle for less. There is room in freelancing to negotiate for more.
Becoming an Academic Entrepreneur doesn’t supplant teaching. It’s a compliment. Adjunct professors and part-time instructors now have more ways to combine their love for teaching with other passions and pursuits. Those who challenge themselves and are open to new opportunities fare far better in the long run — in both academia and the business world.