Thinking of Leaving Teaching?
Go self-employed

What Else Can You Do? – Go Self-Employed

Some teachers decide to leave teaching and set up their own business. If you are passionate about something then would you do this too? Check out these sections:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”


What is Your Passion?

Our passion is not what others want us to do, nor is it something that simply ‘sounds good’. It is what drives you to do something and motivates you to jump out of bed in the morning!

To find what your passion is, you could think about the following:

  • Think about your current teaching job and ask yourself, “Is this truly my passion?”
  • What do you love doing outside of school?
  • When do you feel happiest?
  • Are there any activities you like doing or subjects you love reading up on and talking about?
  • What are your values?

What Would Be Your Dream Job?

Image of three intersecting circles, Stuff you love to do, Stuff you're good at and Stuff someone will pay you to do. Your Dream job is at the intersection of all three.
Your Dream Job

If teaching is not for you anymore then what would be your dream job? In the diagram above, this would be a job that involves doing stuff you’re really good at, stuff that you enjoy doing, and stuff that others will pay you to do. You could do a self-assessment to identify your strengths and list what you’re good at.

Answering this question might make you decide to take a totally different career path, that of self-employment.

You could list those things in a table, such as the this:

What is your passion?

Once completed, does that give you any ideas about what you could do?

Karen’s Story

Here is Karen’s story of leaving teaching to set up her own business:

“I was a secondary teacher working with teenagers with social, emotional and behavioural needs. Whilst trying to teach main subjects, like maths and English, I realised that the pupils’ health and wellbeing was the upmost priority. How do we expect young people to learn when their emotional wellbeing is not being addressed first? I decided to leave teaching and set up my own business called Mind Marvels.

I now deliver emotional wellbeing sessions in both primary and secondary schools and nurseries, working with young people to give them ‘skills for life’. The sessions focus on emotions and calming strategies to self regulate their feelings. I always loved working with young people but find my work even more enjoyable now I am teaching skills for life. You can find out more information at

Karen’s story of setting up her own business

Setting Up Your Own Business

When I decided to leave teaching, I thought about going self-employed and setting up my own business. The first question I needed answering was, “Should I set myself up as a Sole Trader or Limited Company?” Here is a brief summary of the two:

Sole Trader

The term ‘sole trader’ relates to the way in which a business pays tax and national insurance. There is technically no legal distinction between a sole trader and their business. All of the business’ profits are classed as the sole trader’s personal income. Sole traders account for 60% of small businesses in the UK. A sole trader legal structure is the easiest to set up and that’s why it is such a popular option.

A sole trader must register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) (there’s a fine for not doing this) and must inform HMRC about any income received via a Self Assessment form, which is the system used to collect Income Tax. You’ll need to:

  • keep records of your business’s sales and expenses
  • send a Self-Assessment tax return every year
  • pay Income Tax on your profits and Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance

Find out more at the Set up as a sole trader government website.

Advantages of being a Sole Trader

  • You are under no obligation to file any of the accounts that a limited company owner has to.
  • You’re your own boss

Disadvantages of being a Sole Trader

  • In the eyes of the law, you and your business are the same and, without insurance, you could be sued personally.
  • you are liable for your business debts, which can put your personal finances and assets at risk.
  • It is not as tax-efficient as being a limited company.
  • Having to be a Jack of all trades

Limited Company

One of the main benefits of having a limited company instead of setting up as a sole trader is that with a limited company you have limited liability. As a sole trader, if you have business debts or your business goes bust then your personal finances and assets are in danger.

Advantages of being a Limited Company

  • As a limited company, your personal finances and assets are protected if there are problems with your business finances.
  • You will pay less personal tax than a sole trader.
  • There can be a perception that a limited company has a more professional image than a sole trader. Larger companies may prefer to deal with only limited companies.

Disadvantage of being a Limited Company

  • The main disadvantage of choosing the limited company route rather than becoming a sole trader is that you have to prepare annual accounts if you’re a limited company owner. You need to make sure that you use a limited company accountant to ensure that your accounts are thorough, and these need to be filed with the Companies House. You will also need to file a full corporation tax accounts for the HMRC.

Further information on setting up your own business:

Startups – Everything you need to know about setting up your own business. What to start (business ideas), how to do it (naming the company, branding, marketing, etc.) and other help topics.


SWOT Analysis

If you are considering leaving teaching and starting your own business then a very useful tool is a SWOT analysis. This is an assessment model used to measure what you, or an organisation, can and cannot do by identifying strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats.

SWOT Analysis

Once you have done a SWOT analysis, you will be in a better position to complete the following essential plans:

  1. a business plan – you’ll need to create vision of who your ideal client is and the goal of your business.
  2. a marketing plan – most people start by creating a Facebook business page. If your business will involve selling goods that look good on photographs, then an Instagram account would be useful. With Instagram, you’ll need to use hashtags to target ideal clients. It would also be advisable to think about a website.

People who can help you

There are various people and organisations who can help you when you set up your own business. Here are some examples of the kind of people who may be useful to you:

  • Printers – to create your stationery, such as business cards and flyers for events
  • Proof readers – to check the spelling, punctuation and grammar of your communications
  • Web designers – for when you decide to create a website for your business
  • Photographers – to take professional-looking photographs for your branding
  • Videographers – to create professional promotional videos for your business
  • Social media management companies – to save you time with your social media
  • Networking organisations – these provide the ideal places to meet other businesses
  • Accountants – to help with your accounts and avoid getting HMRC fines!

Going Self-Employed – Networking

If you are still teaching but are thinking of going self-employed then you will need to think about Networking. There are many business networking events that allows you to increase your knowledge of business, meet other like-minded people, get new clients and tell others about your business.

The Benefits of Networking

Here are some of the benefits of networking:


Opportunities that come from networking include client leads, business sales, partnerships, speaking and writing opportunities, and many more, although it is important to remember that any opportunities you get involved with should align with the vision and goals you have for your business.

Referrals and increased business

Many business networking meetings allow you to give a 30 to 60 seconds ‘pitch’ (sometimes called an elevator pitch) in which you tell the others present in the room who you are, what your business does, how you can help them and what you are looking for. With that information, others can give you referrals and leads for you to follow up and, if successful, these can be turned into clients. Of course, it’s give and take and so it is important that you listen carefully to others speaking and are happy to give referrals to others.


In business, it is often said that it is not what you know, but who you know. Sometimes, especially when dealing with larger businesses, it will be very difficult to contact the person you need to speak with. It is often said that there is a “gatekeeper” (essentially a locked door) standing between you and the person you need to speak with. An advantage of networking meetings is that it gives you the opportunity to ask if anyone knows the person you need to speak with and ask if an introduction can be made, which bypasses the gatekeeper.

Getting yourself known

The main hurdle when starting a business will probably be that few people in the business world will have heard of you and so you will need to get yourself known. You could start with online networking by joining Facebook groups for local businesses in your area and engaging with the groups. You could start this online networking while you are still teaching, joining in on conversations about business. However, this doesn’t mean selling to them (Buy my stuff!).

You could also look for ‘business networking groups’ in your area. These are usually held early in the morning and enable you to network with other business entrepreneurs. Regular attendance at these events will help to get your face known. A phrase used in business is “Know, Like, Trust”; people will get to know you and you can build up your reputation as a likable, knowledgeable and reliable person who they will begin to trust and want to do business with or recommend to others.


Networking gives you the opportunity to tap into advice and expertise from others on all sorts of things related to your business.

On the subject of advice, Richard E. Grant wrote an interesting blog about his experiences of setting up a business in, “How I went from films to fragrance and turned my scent, Jack, into a successful brand“. He gave his top three tips for starting a business in your fifties:

Further Information on Networking

How To Network And Why Working Options in Education


Going Self-Employed – Advantages and Disadvantages


There are several advantages to being self-employed:

  • Job satisfaction.
  • You are your own boss.
  • You are more in control of your future.
  • You may have a higher earning potential.
  • The excitement of taking responsibility for the success of your business.
  • Working from home means no long commuting or office politics to worry about.


There are several disadvantages to being self-employed:

  • Lack of job security.
  • Unpredictable income.
  • Very long hours when you are starting up.
  • Lost earnings if you are sick or take a holiday.
  • If you work alone, you can feel lonely and isolated.
  • If you work from home, your work can encroach on your home life.

If you’re thinking of leaving teaching then the Thinking of Leaving Teaching Group might be a good place to get some ideas. It is a safe place for people to ask for help and advice, discuss topics and share opinions about jobs you can do if you leave teaching.