Small Business Resources for Academic Professionals

This is a curated list of resources for educational professionals who are interested in self employment and small business development. I would love to hear about resources that have been useful to you for possible inclusion.

If you’re looking for solid information about self employment, you will enjoy a talk I gave recently to a group of TESOL teachers, which thinks through what it means to move from employment in the educational sector to self employment. A great overview that you won’t want to miss.

Self Employment Basics for Educators: Diversifying Identities and Income Streams 

Articles Relevant to Independents

The Reality of Doing What You Love Katie Rose Guest Pryal @krgpryal

Can Adjuncts be Freelancers? Katie Rose Guest Pryal @krgpryal

It’s Not Personal. It’s Strictly Business [On why your friends should not ask for and you should not give them discounts and on networking etiquette] Katie Rose GuestPryal

 The University is Just Another Client Katie Rose Guest Pryal

 Freelance Academics as Public Intellectuals Katie Rose Guest Pryal

How Not to be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice

Professionalization When “the Profession” Isn’t (Only) What We’re Aiming For Melissa Dalgleish @meldalgleish

 Life After Academia [a warning about how people don’t value free services]

How to Construct a DIY Scholarly Career Aleisha Ward

Why I am Saying No to Some Universities [on not giving free talks at universities] Helen Kara

The Indie Research Rollercoaster [on the financial and emotional rollercoaster of working independently] Helen Kara

Confessions of a Life Coach: When My Clients Succeed, I’m Left With Nothing [on emotional and financial attachments to clients] Stacy Kim

Revenge of the Underpaid Professors [who are starting their own businesses] Kevin Carey

Entrepreneurs Don’t Have a Special Gene for Risk–They Come From Families With Money [or they have venture capital] Aimee Groth

Getting Paid

Freelancers’ Union

Calculate your hourly rate [super important infographic on why you’re probably not charging enough]

How to Respond When a Client Says You’re Too Expensive

Don’t put zeros in your project bids

Tax Resources for Freelancers [U.S.]

Find Business Coaching

I was able to access business coaching through the Small Business Development Center at my local Community College [U.S.]. The coach I worked with, Jackie Peterson, created an incredibly useful workbook that can help you identify your viable business concepts and transform them into a living.

Better, Smarter, Richer

Better smarter richer

Look for business coaching, classes, and resources at:

  • Small Business Development Centers
  • Community Colleges
  • University Entrepreneur Clubs and Incubators
  • Meet-up Groups
  • Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Your library
  • Groups for minority entrepreneurs
  • Professional organizations
  • Programs like MercyCorps Northwest, which offer small business development classes and workshops.

Email Marketing Tools

MailChimp (free up to 2,000 subscribers).MailChimp is a basic drag-and-drop newsletter-building tool. It allows you to create, import, and manage lists (I import mine from gmail). You can schedule newsletters to go out whenever you want, which allows you to line up content in in advance. Allows you to see who opens your emails and what your overall open rate is compared to your industry average.

ConvertKit (paid). This is what I am currently using.

Drip (paid)

Constant Contact (paid service)

Emma (paid service)

Wishlist Member (paid membership management plug-in for WordPress)


 Weebly. Drag and drop, template-based web site builder. You can buy and integrate your own domain name. Free and upgrade options. Probably not as SEO friendly as WordPress, but I have opted for not having to pay a web builder / designer.

Wix. Seems a bit more graphically sophisticated than Weebly, but also more complex. Free and upgrade options. A free website option where you do not have to pay for web hosting. You pay for website hosting. Many people love WordPress, but I found that building a halfway attractive site would require hiring a web designer and / or builder. WordPress also needs to be backed up and frequently has issues with plug-ins, etc.

Square Space (paid)

Rainmaker Platform. Offer online classes and more


My overall experience of video is that it is hard to get people to click initially, but that once they do it gives them a powerful and persuasive sense of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. My one big investment on communications was a professionally produced video that was amazingly fun and interesting to make, but has not ultimately provided a good return on investment. I loved interviewing my clients for this video and I hated being on video myself.  ScholarStudio Story

YouTube Do you have useful bits of content that you could share on YouTube? You can start a YouTube channel for free and embed video into your blog or web site.

Screenflow (Mac) / Camtasia These are roughly $99 screencast programs that allow you to capture anything on your computer screen and do voiceover. They have robust editing features that allow you to add cursor highlights, play with audio, add stills, etc. I often record tutorials in Screenflow, edit the sound, and then import them into iMovie.

Jing / Screencastify (for Chrome) If you just need to make short videos (5-10 minutes) to share with clients or use to remind yourself how to do stuff, these are great options. You can save the video to the cloud and send yourself or someone else the link. I use these to make tutorials for clients all the time.

Contact Relations Management (CRM)

You need a way to track all of those great connections you’re making, especially if you’re at the point of asking for their business. CRM refers to software that helps you track leads, clients, sales, and more.

 Streak (only for gmail users). CRM is intended for folks who are tracking sales contacts. But Streak has some great options even if you aren’t using it for that. Allows you to schedule outgoing emails and to see who has opened your emails. A little big-brother-ish, but incredibly useful.

Get Skills

If you’re going to run your own business, you’re going to need mad skills and since Ph.D.s are essentially professional learners, you’re fully capable of learning a bunch of stuff you never thought you’d need to know. High-quality video-based instruction on a wide range of technical and soft skills. Monthly subscription that you can “pause” when you’re not using it.

Udemy. An online marketplace where you can both buy and sell classes. I sell classes on Udemy, but the quality of courses on the site varies widely and I turn to Lynda and YouTube for my learning needs. Here are my two Udemy Classes:

Black Belt College Writing Skills

Write a Killer Literature Review

YouTube. You can learn an astonishing number of things on YouTube.

Social Media

 Twitter. Twitter seems to be the social media platform of choice for academics, despite the fact that it’s losing market share in the real world. The attraction of scholars to Twitter may be that it’s highly coded and fairly esoteric. Limited to 140 characters, Twitter is kind of like the haiku of social media. Twitter has a learning curve and it takes a while to build a following, but in my experience, Twitter is an amazing way to get to know who is out there and connect with potential colleagues and customers. I have built valuable relationships on Twitter that have resulted in paid work.

Tools for Twitter

Buffer (free and upgrade options). Lets you preschedule tweets.

Tweetdeck (free and upgrade options). Lets you see different hashtag streams and schedule tweets.

Hootsuite (paid). Lets you see different hashtag streams and schedule tweets. Allows you to schedule bulk tweets for heavy users.

Edgar (paid). Useful for advanced users.

 Facebook. You can create a separate business page, but Facebeook has made it very difficult to attract followers without paying. Still, it is good to follow other related services or communities, repost their context, and add your own to the mix. Occasionally my content gets picked up and amplified by another site and ends up getting many more hits than my own “likers”could generate.

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is primarily designed for those who are seeking conventional jobs rather than those seeking to sell their own services, but it is worth having a LinkedIn account. I use LinkedIn for lead generation. LinkedIn groups can be a great place to be visible and connect with people who need your services.

Podcasts for Freelancers

  • Sunday Dispatches
  • Power. Pursuit: A CreativeLive Podcast
  • Breaking Down Your Business
  • Being Boss
  • The Accidental Creative
  • Smart Passive Income
  • Art of Paid Traffic
  • Marketing School
  • How I Built This (NPR)
  • Coaching for Leaders

Two Versions of My Professional Story

Alt-Ac Entrepreneur: From Composition Adjunct to Writing Consultant

Interview with Jennifer Polk in University Affairs

Meet Some of Your Independent Colleagues

See the Transitions Column by Jennifer Polk in the University Affairs blog for more great narratives by Ph.D.s finding alternative careers.

Ramona Houston, Community Engagement Strategies

Beyond the Tenure Track / Fatimah Williams Castro

Grad School Rockstar Program / Cathy Hannabach

From PhD to Life / Jennifer Polk

Lilli Research Group / Maren Wood

The Professor is In / Karen Kelsey

The Thesis Whisperer

National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity / Kerry Ann Rockquemore

Versatile PhD / Paula Chambers

Academic Coaching and Writing

Lisa Munro Writing and Editing



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