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How I made $100,000 on the side as a special education teacher in 2023

If you are a special education teacher exhausted from the endless grind of:

  • IEP paperwork and meetings

  • Review cycles that encourage you to improve your teaching, but lead to your professional development requests being denied 😤

  • No flexibility in your schedule

  • Your caseload bursting at the seams

  • And more...

Then do I have a story for you!

I was just like you, commuting two hours a day to my classroom, wondering, is this going to be the story of my life? What happened to the smart person every one thought was going to change the world?

It's not too late!

With a little ambition I'd like to show just what you can do with that Masters degree in Special Education and how you can leverage your expertise to make more money on the side than you do as an educator.

Who am I?

My name is Sean McCormick and I am a credentialed special education teacher in California and the founder of Executive Function Specialists, the Executive Function Coaching Academy, and the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists.

In 2023, I hit a landmark goal -- I made over $100,000 on my side hustle of being an educational course creator using the platform Thinkific.

My revenue from courses in 2023
My revenue from courses in 2023

Where my journey started

My journey started in 2019, when my first daughter was born and I decided I needed additional income and flexibility beyond what the school district could offer me.

At the time, I was really into listening to the podcast, Choose FI. And what I heard on there inspired me:

  • People living on boats in the winter and RVs in the summer making a million dollars a year from writing a blog

  • Working from a laptop and traveling the world

And as I listened to the stories, something started to happen. I started to wonder:

Could I be one of these people?

At the time, I had no idea what to do, so I started a series of unsuccessful side hustles that led me no where including:

  • Selling refurbished iPhones on the side to make a small profit of $10 to $20 dollars

  • Offering my services as a wedding planner since I successfully planned my own wedding in 2017

  • Trying to offer an Air BnB experience of basketball training since I had been a high school basketball coach for one season (I never had anyone book).

All of these fruitless attempts to create some side income and increased flexibility in my life, only led me to be more disappointed and exhausted.

Everything changed when...

And as I thought about the question and asked the peopled I trusted most in my life, the same answer kept appearing:

Sean, you are a teacher.

Sean, you have a Masters in Education. Do something with it.

I decided that I would explore tutoring on the side. As I Googled things like:

How to get your first tutoring client

How to make side income as a tutor

I started to discover there were other people like me looking to create a life with more flexibility, freedom, and fun.

How I got my first tutoring client

I found my first tutoring client by putting myself out there.

I reached out to dozens of educational psychologists and therapists, trying to make connections and share how I could help their clients.

Finally, after what seemed like hundreds of unanswered emails and phone calls, one friendly therapist invited me to lunch with his colleague and said that he would refer a client to me.

I remember him saying to me, "If you keep at this, in a few years, you might be able to do this full time and leave teaching."

Little did I know that day would come much sooner than I could imagine.

How I launched my first course

After getting my first client, I worked my butt off to be the best tutor / organization coach I could be. And it paid off.

My clients routinely:

  • Got better grades

  • Communicated with their teachers

  • Learned how to manage school

  • And their parents were happier

I had finally found my true calling! And people started to notice.

The referrals came streaming in and I took on all of them. By November of 2020, just 10 months after getting my first client, I had 30.

At this point, I started to hire other tutors by asking friends, family and posting on Facebook about my growing business and needs.

As I hired new teammates, I realized that I needed a way to effectively train them.

Knowing nothing about training a team of tutors, I started a podcast called Earn More Tutoring, to naively interview other education professionals to ask them how they did it (rather than paying for coaching).

One of my guests, Miss Excel, told me about how she had built courses on Thinkific to train people who wanted to learn how to use Excel.

With this in mind, I purchased a beginner version of the software, and created a certification course on how to become an executive function coach.

Then, I used this to train all new employees in my business.

How Google helped me

At the same time, I created a page of my website describing how to become an executive function coach to attract prospective coaches to work for my business.

Because this page was an earnest attempt to describe the necessary qualifications to become an executive function coach, Google started to show this page to people searching things like:

How do I become an executive function coach?

Executive function coaching certification

As I started to get notifications from my website provider, Wix, letting me know there was more traffic coming to that page than any other page on my website, I realized that it was a golden opportunity to provide some real value to the world by opening up my training to anyone who wanted to apply.

Using the webinar framework that was a template in the Thinkific platform, I created a short webinar to tell people about my course and invite them to learn from me.

So, in 2021, I released the first version of my "Become an online executive function coach" course to people.

That year I made $171 dollars and had three sales.

I thought that was pretty good!

My Thinkific course revenue from 2021

My Thinkific course revenue from 2021
My Thinkific course revenue from 2021

How I grew my course revenue by nearly 5000% in one year

As I started to see the power and beauty of putting my ideas in a one to many format, I explored hosting more courses on Thinkific, such as webinars, mini-courses, and a membership community.

I experimented with a lot of different things, but inspired by a podcast I heard, I chose to grow a membership community, offer monthly and annual memberships.

This significantly increased my revenue, but at the same time, I was uncomfortable with the process of having to spend a LOT of time launching my membership every few months with webinars, emails, and lots of promotion.

However, by the end of 2022, I had earned over $10,000 in course sales, effectively increasing my side income by over 5000% percent. Pretty amazing!

My side income as a special education teacher in 2022

My side income as former special education teacher in 2022
My side income as former special education teacher in 2022

How I started 2023 with my courses

Not knowing any better, I continued this process until I started to wonder again:

Is there a better way?

It was around this time in early 2023, that I started to hang out on Thinkific's Facebook group and searching, "how to get more sales."

From there, I stumbled upon one extremely helpful individual, Peter, who agreed to meet with me and give me some pointers.

Peter showed me that people would be more willing to try what I had to offer if I packaged my offer as a 6 class course with a clear transformation, rather than an ongoing membership with less definite outcomes.

So once again, I went back to the drawing board and reimagined my course as a 6 class certification course that was a necessary prerequisite for my membership community.

When I did, and let people know that I was only launching it then and not sure when I would launch it again, sales skyrocketed.

In my first launch in this new style, I made over $12,000 in sales. I couldn't believe it!

It was at this time I became a fervent believer in the adage, "small tweaks, have big peaks."

It was at this time I became a fervent believer in the adage, "small tweaks, have big peaks."

I also started to get more interested in Thinkific's in house training opportunities and joined their Accelerator program, to get additional help.

I'm forever grateful to Tennile Cooper, who was leading the cohort, and took the time to spotlight my story. This led to more recognition and the opportunity to interview Thinkific's founder, Greg Smith, in front of the entire Accelerator cohort.

Making connections with the Thinkific staff led to more opportunities, such as joining for their annual event, Think in Color, and getting to meet some superstar creators like Ellie Diop, who continued to open my eyes to the possibilities in the course creation world.

At this event, I also got to meet my mentor, Peter, in person, and when I told him of my success using his advice and asked him what I should do next, he said, just keep repeating it.

...and when I told him of my success using his advice and asked him what I should do next, he said, just keep repeating it.

Hitting the $100k milestone

In 2023, I continued to repeat my process of running my certification course once a quarter.

I simplified my launch process by only sending emails, but perhaps the biggest tweak I made was working with affiliate partners to promote my course.

From all the networking I had done for my Earn More Tutoring podcast, I found two people who were adjacent but not competitive in my space, who agreed to be affiliate partners. Both of these people had much larger email lists than I did, and could thus reach more people interested in working as executive function coaches.

Offering a 51% commission to them for each sale, I continued to raise my prices by $100 after each launch and pay commissions in a timely manner. This led to loyalty and support, and expanded the impact of my message onto larger audiences.

In a lucky stroke of fate, I passed the $100,000 in total sales in the last week of 2023, marking a major milestone in my creator-educator journey.

The journey to $100,000 in sales as a creator-educator in 2023
The journey to $100,000 in sales as a creator-educator in 2023

So there you have it -- that's how I made $100,000 on the side as special education teacher in 2023.

Remember, this whole time, I was running my executive function coaching business. Now that is my story, but the question remains...

What is your story?


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About the author

Sean G. McCormick founded Executive Function Specialists, an online EF coaching business that guides students to overcome procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.

He is also the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, a coaching organization dedicated to supporting adults in enhancing their EF skills to create rewarding careers.

He founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains special education teachers, school psychologists, and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges.

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