I started to realize that I’d probably leave my full-time job as a mentor back in July or maybe August 2021. As you can imagine, particularly if you’re working freelance too, it wasn’t the easiest decision. I really liked my job at Edify as a bilingual program mentor and I had no idea if I had what it takes to go freelance. For most of my professional life, I’ve been employed by someone. But I felt like I wanted to embrace a few projects I had been postponing since 2016 and that the moment had come for me to take the leap. I wanted to write this article to share what has happened so far at this new stage of my life and maybe even give you a few tips if you’re considering doing the same thing.
Set your Goal
My preparation for this began in 2016 after spending a month in Wyoming, USA thanks to Partners of the Americas and the Teacher-in-Residence grant. I had been teaching for 11 years and quite honestly wanted to give it up altogether. I was also almost done with my Political Science MA in Brazil and thought that I might want to get a job at the Federal University of Goiás. But those 30 days showed me that there were other areas of education that I could explore. That month gave me purpose like nothing else in my life and I knew what I had to do. I wanted to help teachers and understand why teaching worked better under specific conditions. I knew that Political Science wasn’t part of the big picture and when I realized that I’d be sacrificing my objectives if I didn’t do something about it, I dropped out.
OK, my goal was to understand teaching and help teachers. But I needed the right credentials. I had a BA in International Relations and no qualification in anything related to education. In 2017 I became a more active member of BRAZ-TESOL and joined the Mind, Brain, and Education SIG. I took a few courses on LinkedIn and started reading books and papers about neuroeducation. I gained experience by taking part in important projects such as Goiás Without Borders, the Maker Movement, and iEARN. But my big break happened in 2018 when I won the Chevening Scholarship to study Psychology of Education in the UK. I finally felt like I had the proper qualification to have a voice.
Show your work
I started this blog in 2017, which is now my website edcrocks.com, and soon realized that people liked the things I was writing about. I became more active on social media and started an Instagram profile (@edcrocks) to share more. Last year, I decided to turn my blog post into a podcast (EDCrocks podcast) and just a few days ago I created the EDCrocks YouTube Channel. I’ve also published my first book, The Owl Factor: Reframing your Teaching Philosophy, my first chapter for an international book about teacher development in Brazil, and my second paper in the GiLE Journal of Skills Development about beliefs and attitudes that impact learning.
Now my life is quite different from 3 months ago. I found time to write and publish a book because I could simply take many hours off my day to sit in a café and develop my ideas. I’ve also created four online courses on topics I’m passionate about and I teach 2h of each every week. I have individual mentees who came to me for professional advice and training and I meet them when they can and after they’ve accomplished a few tasks I assign them. We talk about their careers, their education, their life, and their dreams.
I’m teaching a group of 20 Italian teenagers online twice a week. We normally have 5 or 6 hours of class weekly and I designed their curriculum from scratch. I’ve just recorded a 2h course divided into 8 videos for a project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Program. I did it in a professional studio and discussed how our brains evolved and why humans have developed language. I’m also a guest lecturer on one of the most popular qualification courses for educators who work in bilingual contexts at PUCPR. This is our 6th group and it’s been quite rewarding to work with references in the area of teaching methodology and bilingualism.
I consult for some companies in Brazil and abroad now and then. I deliver training sessions, workshops, write materials, and get interviewed on specific topics that are relevant to them. I’m also working on a book about one of my passions with a colleague and I’m planning to start writing what will probably be my best book quite soon (Learning Cosmos)
Not everything is great
As a freelance, some days are harder than others and sometimes we feel like we won’t make ends meet. I celebrate every course and every book I sell, every mentee I get, and when people call me to do a gig. I also try to give back as much as possible. I make free stuff available whenever I can so that the community can benefit from it.
My greatest challenge now is to keep an even flow. I’d love my work to be more noticed and I try my best to avoid falling into digital marketing traps and fads. I don’t like being one of those people who claim to have found a new method or who only produce content to sell their services. But there’s a cost if I’m not willing to play the game. The most I do now is use paid ads to promote my book and courses because of the reach.
Like I said, sometimes I don’t sell as much as I had planned but then I land a gig that compensates the whole thing. I have two upcoming gigs that will help me in the next two months and I can use the extra time to think of other courses, new projects, and more. I’m also looking for a funded Ph.D. program and I have a few options worth exploring but I want to work on my website and offer a lot of asynchronous professional development opportunities so that I can have some extra income. So this year will be about creating materials, videos for online courses, making the membership option available and exploring other consulting options.
- If you’re planning this career move, you should probably start saving some money. Going freelance will require you to invest. You’ll need a domain, an e-commerce website, a video editing tool, access to image banks, a nice camera, a microphone, etc.
- Network and let people know who you are. I love meeting people and telling them about my projects. But I also love to listen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve connected with someone by chance because I had an interest in their job and that turned out to be a gig in the future
- Accept invitations to do stuff for free now and then. Webinars, short workshops, a guest blog post and the like can open many doors.
- Keep your ideas where you can find them. I have a bullet journal and lots of post-its. The idea for my book was written down 7 years ago and I used whatever piece of paper I found back then. Now I write things in my journal to make sure I can go back and check them now and again.
- Invest in yourself. There are many courses out there about things you’ll certainly need as a freelance. But you should also think about giving yourself the rewards you’ve always wanted, especially those that might not cost much but you couldn’t get because you were always busy.
- Make sure you have something more or less fixed going on the side. Teaching groups now and then is what works for me.
Every day is a different challenge for me but I don’t regret my decision and I look forward to learning and sharing more. What’s your freelance journey like?