In this episode, I interview freelancing expert Micala Quinn about the top freelancing jobs for teachers. Freelancing is one of my favorite ways to help you gain experience in a new role while earning income which can be a great stepping stone into a full-time career or even become a full-time career itself.
Micala Quinn is a Kansas City mom, wife, former teacher, and current CEO solving the modern working mom dilemma. Listen to our interview as Micala talks about the top roles in freelancing for teachers
Life Changes Leading to Career Changes
Daphne (Williams) Gomez: Hi, Micala. It’s so good to talk to you again.
Micala Quinn: It’s so good to talk to you, Daphne.
Daphne: Micala, you and I have chatted on your podcast, but I wanted to introduce everyone to you on the Teacher Career Coach podcast. For everybody listening to Micala’s story for the very time, do you want to share a little bit about who you are and your experience in education and outside of education?
Micala Quinn: That sounds great. I am a wife and a mom, I live in Kansas City and I’m one of those weird people that grew up always knowing what they wanted to be when they grew up, I played with American Girl dolls growing up all the time and played school in my basement. I had my own makeshift classroom. My mom was a teacher and so I would get all of her old supplies and textbooks.
That’s just what I did. I went to college, became a teacher, got my dream teaching job at the high school I wanted to work at, teaching what I wanted to teach. And I loved it. I really, really did. I worked so hard my first year.
As a first-year teacher, I was gifted the Pre-AP curriculum. The school was starting it from scratch and it was a smaller school so there wasn’t like a cookie-cutter curriculum in place that I just had to come in and implement.
I really got to take it and create it myself. That was a lot of work, a lot of fun, not a lot of sleep that year. But I was fresh out of college. I had nothing else to do. No kids, yet, not married yet.
Then the following year, we got married and got pregnant right away. That was another great year, but my daughter was born in June. As it got closer to when she was going to be born and definitely once she was born, everything kind of changed.
My attitude changed. What I wanted changed. My priorities changed. I had no idea that having this little baby that I was going to want to be home with her. When she was born and I had to go back to school, back to work, that was just a long, hard year. I was very upset, very angry.
I thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but we needed two incomes and just had a lot of bitterness about, “This isn’t what I want to do anymore. Why did I do this?” And started looking for other things I could do.
Daphne: I think so many people can resonate with that. Not just having a baby changing the perspective, but just any huge life-altering situation, whether it’s a death of an immediate friend or family member, whether it’s introducing new life into your family, a change with marriage, or even COVID, something that was just a huge change for everyone.
When that happens, it makes you really evaluate, “Is this where I wanted my life to go? I had this big thing happen or this change happen. Now, what am I going to do to make a change, to go into a different direction, if I’ve realized my life’s kind of gone off path.”
So what did you start to do to learn to change your life at that moment?
Micala Quinn: It was a lot of just searching and trying. I thought, “Oh, I loved to make cakes and cookies. I’ll do like a cake and cookie business.” No, that was not it.
I tried making and selling hair bows. That was not it either.
I knew I did not want to join an MLM and I also knew that I didn’t want to go and get a corporate job. That wasn’t for me.
I really wanted something where I could work in these little pockets of time throughout my day. I wanted to have the flexibility to pick and choose what that looks like each day. In the beginning, I wanted to mostly just work when my kids were sleeping, early morning, nap time, and that was it. I wanted to also make a good income doing that.
There were call centers back then or teaching English online and there was just not a lot of opportunity in income growth there. So, I finally found this world of freelancing and I got started. It was a slow start.
I joined this website. It was called like hiremymom.com, which kind of sounds sketchy. But I signed up for that and just started applying for all of these various positions, anything and everything that I was like, “Oh, I could maybe do that. Or maybe I could try that.” A lot of editing positions, some marketing positions, virtual assistant positions.
It took a long time for me to finally get my first client. I started looking in January of… that would’ve been 2016. I didn’t land my first client until August of 2016. So like six, seven months. From there, by that February, I had tripled what I was making as a teacher working only 15 hours a week and quit my job.
I went on maternity leave to have my second in April of 2017 and I’ve been out of the classroom ever since. In the beginning, I was doing virtual assistant and social media management work. Then that shifted about four years ago. That’s when I started helping other moms and women start freelancing, making their own pivot and transitions.
Daphne: Yeah. There’s a couple things that you talked about that I thought was really interesting. One, you kind of said the elephant in the room that you did not want to do an MLM or multilevel marketing.
That’s something that women in general, I feel like have been kind of fed this community of, “I need you to buy into what I’m talking about in order for me to earn income from that.”
That’s — if I’m going to start getting meta — that’s capitalism in general, but multi-level marketing has done something where there are so many women who have $10,000 worth of leggings in their closet right now.
They’re scared to believe whether or not freelancing is even a career path because they’ve been fed this type of bogus path before and this sounds a little bit too good to be true.
Micala Quinn: I get that from so many people. It’s so frustrating to me because I’m like, “Oh, I totally get it. And I totally understand.” I totally get how you try something and it doesn’t work out or you’re fed something to be a liar or something that did turn out to be too good to be true, right?
If you scroll the Instagram feed right now, all the reels especially, all you’ll see is like, “I made six figures as an MLM-er,” and like, “Join my team. You can, too,” and it does seem like this too good to be true.
When you hear about freelancing, they’re like, “Oh no, I’ve already tried something. I believed someone. I trusted them, tried that, and now I have the $10,000 of leggings in my closet that I’m just stuck with.”
There’s a lot of differences in freelancing. I think it’s a more sustainable route to go, but I guess what I was trying to say is there’s so many people that have been in that place that have been fed that, or thought that and believed that, and then realized, “You know what, maybe that works for some people, and that’s awesome, but it’s not what’s working for me and it’s okay to do something different.”
Daphne: I think what I like to always say to help people understand what freelancing is. Freelancing is like you are your own little hiring manager and you are going to companies, businesses, and you’re telling them what your skill sets are.
Then, you might have five or six businesses that you’re working for in that capacity. I talk a lot about freelancing in episode 13 of the podcast.
We talked about freelancing, also, in episode 17 of the podcast where I share my story because a lot of people don’t understand that with my role as an educational consultant I am hired on annually with a salary, but I am technically a contractor in my position meaning that I am a freelancer.
All that means is I have a Fortune 500 company that pays me to do professional development, speak at national conferences, and do consultant work for them, but I have to pay my own health insurance. I have to find my own retirement benefits.
For me, I weighed all the pros and cons of what that meant for me and the flexibility and freedom that I have and I actually very much enjoy this role. So, I didn’t need those other things because I could figure them out on my own and make more than I would if I was going to other positions outside of what I’m doing.
My role is very much a unicorn kind of position where not a lot of educational consultant positions are actually hired on. They’re mostly freelancers that are reaching out to school districts, reaching out at conferences, and they’re their own business. They’ve created their PD.
I wanted to use you to kind of give some very clear examples, besides educational consulting, on some of the top freelancing jobs that you’ve seen former teachers actually go into that build them enough income that they were able to actually leave the classroom.
Freelancing Jobs for Teachers
Option #1: Virtual Assistant
Micala Quinn: Yeah. Okay, that’d be awesome. I love talking about this because there are so many different services you can offer.
I have a skills assessment that I walk people through to think about, “What were your strengths as a classroom teacher? What were the things you did on a day-to-day basis? What do you take from that to translate outside of the classroom?”
Because when I first started, I was like, “Oh, all I’m good at is grading papers, planning lessons. There’s no other opportunities for me.” But when I went through that skills assessment and really looked at that, I saw that I’m a great problem solver. I’m very creative. I had great writing and communication skills.
Part of all of I was doing all day long was communicating and conducting class. I took those and translated those to what I could help businesses with.
One of the main roles that I see a lot of teachers start in is virtual assistant and that is where I started. It’s a very entry-level position into the freelance space.
A virtual assistant is essentially a task doer. You are someone who gets a to-do list and you go through it and you check things off. It’s going to look very different depending on who’s hiring you. For example, I now have a team of freelancers supporting me.
My virtual assistant on my team, she helps manage my email inbox. She goes in, we get tons of emails every day, and she helps me respond to the important ones and delete the trash. She helps do all the customer service. If one of our students can’t find something or can’t get something, she solves all of those problems for me.
So I don’t even have to go in there. She also helps manage other tiny tasks, like reaching out to people who I’m like, “Hey, can you reach out to this person to have them come do a training? Or can you book them for the podcast?”
She does have some like weekly responsibilities and checklists that like, “Okay, every Friday you need to do X, Y, Z.” Then as things come up randomly that we need done, she’s there to help with that. So virtual assistants can do a mix of everything and it’s a great place.
As we go through and talk about some of the other different options, if you are like, “I don’t really feel like I’m ready to be a social media manager, or graphic designer, or Pinterest manager, or podcast manager.”
Virtual assistant is a great place to start because you’ll get bits and pieces of all of that. You can figure out what you really love doing, what you don’t love, and then kind of niche down and specialize in what you do love, and thus increasing your income as you go.
So a virtual assistant, they also might do customer service, research, KPI reportings. When you’re hired as a virtual assistant, a lot of times the business owner hiring you is going to have SOPs, standard operating procedures, and checklists of, “this is what we need done and this is how to do it,” so that they can hire a beginner.
They’re going to be able to pay a little bit less than hiring an expert, but they will have that set up in place so that you don’t have to know everything. You just have to be like, “Okay, I can take this to-do list and literally get things done.”
Daphne: One thing that my virtual assistant does that I absolutely love — and I hope she listens to this because it’s going to probably warm her heart — she started off doing all the things that I asked, but the way that her brain works is she’s very highly organized.
She was doing my email box. She was helping me set up my project management tasks, and now she is so above and beyond where she just says, “It looks like you need help with this. So these are my solutions with this problem that you’re having in the business. Do you mind if I go ahead and just take over this part for you? I have a couple hours this week.”
I fall out of my chair because it’s the best feeling in the world. That’s something that comes from teachers’ hearts.
Also, if you are going to be the type of person who’s going to, after you’re in this role for three or four weeks realize, “Oh, I think that they might need help with me scheduling that flight for them. I know that they’re going to go to Austin on this day. Why don’t I check a couple things that fit into their schedule, and let them know, ‘Hey, I checked out here are a couple different flight options for you. Do you want me to just go ahead and book that for you since I have your credit card information,'” which they, depending on the comfortability level, my VA has all my credit cards bill… just does the billing for me and puts it all in.
I love that – I think VA’s a really great solid starting point. I love that you said that it’s kind of that entry-level. You can figure out if you like different parts of the business once you have that in.
Micala Quinn: Yeah.
Freelancing Jobs for Teachers
Option #2: Social Media Manager
Daphne: What would be the second freelancing job that you think would be a great fit for former teachers?
Micala Quinn: Social media manager and here’s why. This was one of those positions that I started as a virtual assistant, but very quickly I was given a lot of social media management tasks and I loved it. Basically, how I kind of saw it is I taught high school English.
If I can get these high school sophomores talking about Beowulf and The Iliad and The Odyssey, even if they don’t necessarily read the books, if I can get them talking about it in the classroom, I can get your audience talking about whatever it is you want. That’s all social media management is at the bare bones.
Yes, you need to have a strategy and a plan in place, and if it’s a business, hopefully it’s going to drive an increase revenue for them if that’s their focus. But social media management is another area where I see a lot of teachers go because that is so much of their job as a teacher is getting people talking and building that community.
It’s also another very creative avenue. A social media manager will be responsible for basically implementing a social media strategy. If there’s not a strategy yet, you can kind of create that and that just means plan.
What are you going to talk about on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, et cetera? Then they’ll be sourcing the images or creating the graphics in Canva, writing the caption and then actually going in and either posting or scheduling ahead in the Facebook Business Suite or another tool like Tailwind or Hootsuite.
There’s so many different softwares out there where you can automate the posting, but I mean those are pretty simple to learn. If you can learn your Google classroom, plus whatever other software programs they have you using, you can learn any of the programs that you need to run an online business.
Daphne: Yeah. Canva is one of my favorite getting started points for anybody who’s looking into graphic design, social media manager, even instructional design beginners. I have a free link it’s teachercareercoach/Canva. So teachercareercoach.com/canva, and you can try their free trial. Many people just stick on the free trial.
For social media management, a lot of the websites that you’re looking at, a lot of the Instagrams that you’re looking on, you play around in Canva and you realize they’re just using the same templates that are all on Canva.
One thing that I think would be a great question that many of my listeners might have is if I’m trying to reach out to companies or try and tell them I’m a social media manager, do I need to have a social media account that has 50,000 followers to prove that I have this experience?
Micala Quinn: You do not at all. I, when I was freelancing and landing clients, I never had a website. I had a basic Facebook business page that had maybe 10 followers — nothing major — and an Instagram that I used to post cute pictures of my kids for friends and family.
Some people might care and ask like, “Oh, let me see your social media profiles.” But as a social media manager, I wasn’t trying to grow my own following. I wanted to come in and help you grow yours.
What they were more considered in or more interested in hearing were, “What are your ideas? What can you help me with? Can I see some samples of work that you’ve done?” If you haven’t done any work, you can create what I call a “port-fake-lio.”
It’s basically just a sample of work that you could do. You maybe haven’t been hired to do it yet, but you can go in and play in Canva and create some social media graphics. Even if there’s a company you know you want to work with, you could create some graphics for them and gift them that.
Daphne: That’s one thing that I know I talked about in episode 13, all about freelancing with Jay Clouse was one of the best things that anyone trying to freelance with me has ever done was they created something geared specifically towards me.
I was looking for a Pinterest pin manager and they just made three or four pins that looked like what they would be using specifically with me.
My freelance copywriter wrote basically like a blog, instead of just saying, “I’d like to work with you.” She said, “Wow, is this the right career for me? Because I’m a former teacher. Let me tell you my story.”
Just putting that extra effort of creating that fake sample of what it would look like to work with that person really helps the company understand. Even if you don’t have experience, you’re showing them I can walk the walk and talk the talk. It doesn’t really matter if I have experience or not. This is experience enough.
Anyone interested in listening to my freelance copywriter interview that’s episode 35 as well.
Moving on to number three, because I feel like maybe I’ve talked a little bit about some of the other roles. What’s your third favorite one?
Freelancing Jobs for Teachers
Option #3: Copywriter
Micala Quinn: A lot of people will do copywriting too, especially if they were in the English sphere.
There’s copywriting, which is going to be more direct response sales-driven pieces of content, like email, marketing, sales pages, website copy. But there’s also a content writer, which is going to be more like informative content.
Content with a purpose to educate someone, so like blog writing, any informative PDFs. Those are kind of two areas where if you like writing, maybe you taught English or not, but you just like writing, you can get paid to write for other people and you can get paid a lot of money to write for other people.
Especially as you develop and grow and have some amazing results under your belt of, “Hey, I wrote this email sequence and it generated X in revenue.”
Daphne: Yeah and they have access to that kind of data. After you work with someone, they’re going to be more than happy to give you testimonials about your work so that you can leverage that.
Just to jump back a second, I could tell, I was talking about the copywriter that I work with, who’s also a former teacher and I thought, “Oh, I bet she’s going to bring up copywriting in these top five.” I was like, “I need to stop.”
Micala Quinn: Yeah, no, it’s a great one. It’s a great one because it’s another one that can be done on… I mean all of these can really be done on your own time.
As long as deadlines are met, there’s no set hours. There’s no sitting at a desk from nine to five just because that’s when people said we need to work way back when.
Daphne: With my copywriter, really the cadence is I let her know what deliverable I need and she’s on the other side of the United States and has a wild schedule with her significant others in baseball.
So, she gets to go and hang out and do baseball games. Then, late at night sometimes, she writes the blogs and sends them over to me.
Micala Quinn: Yeah.
Daphne: With our time constraint, I want to jump to what would be your fourth favorite freelancing job for former teachers?
Freelancing Jobs for Teachers
Option #4: Pinterest Manager
Micala Quinn: Pinterest manager. I don’t know if you’ve talked about Pinterest management on your podcast yet, but that is another fun one that a lot of teachers will get started in.
A lot of teachers will actually get started in Pinterest or even any of these other services, working with people in the TPT world, because it’s a very comfortable, very familiar place for a lot of teachers. Like they’ve just been in the classroom, maybe they bought a lot of TPT products or even dabbled in selling some.
But there are a lot of TPT sellers who make a lot of money. To support and run that business and grow that business, they have a team of freelancers supporting them. One of the big roles that TPT people will hire for is Pinterest management. I’ve got to share this story.
A teacher signed up for my course 10 months ago and like two days ago, she just messaged me. She quit her job in April. She resigned early. It was just no longer a fit for her. Then as of two days ago, 10 months into starting her freelance business, she had doubled her teaching income plus an extra $2,000 in less than 10 months. That never would’ve been possible in the education world, doubling your income in a calendar year.
Daphne: At a school site. Because I have within my roles out. It’s still in the education sector, but yeah, at the school district. You see that your salary increase, you get your masters, and then you get a 0.00004% raise every four years or something like that.
Micala Quinn: Yeah.
Daphne: It’s part of everyone’s hesitancy, I think, to believe that these are real positions because they do feel a little bit too good to be true.
Are you telling me I just get to sit and look at Pinterest all day long and that somehow is going to bring in more income than what I went to college for? But yes.
Also, one role that I could see being kind of the stepping stone even past that Pinterest manager position is — once you start learning about Pinterest and these are all things as business owners I feel like I had to learn every single thing. Now I am blessed that I get to make someone else use their zone of genius and do it, and I don’t have to learn everything — but Pinterest management, when I was learning and doing it myself, is very heavily emphasizing search engine optimization or SEO.
Once you start to understand keyword optimization, SEO, then you can kind of leverage into being an SEO expert, which is very high paying. That is the type of position, if you know Google Search console, if you know Google Analytics, if you really understand search engine optimization, that’s something that really has a huge bang for its buck as far as business owner goes.
That’s something that baby steps that Pinterest management position can kind of get your foot in the door and help you understand that type of role.
Micala Quinn: Yeah, absolutely. To give someone an idea of how much can you make playing on Pinterest? The gal that I was referring to, she has a couple retainer clients. I think she started around $400 for a Pinterest package.
With that, she would manage the pinning of the person’s content, do the keyword research, write the descriptions and create the graphics, and then pin it all. That was about $500 a client per month.
So once she landed five clients, five times 500 that’s $2,500. Well, as she got better and more experienced, she increased that rate.
Now she still does some of the retainer clients, but she also does these VIP days, where she’ll go in and like set up someone’s Pinterest and get them started in a day and can charge 750 for that one day service. So there’s a lot of room there to grow.
Daphne: Yeah. I completely see the value in having Pinterest. As someone who needs traffic to come, I’m also a Teachers Pay Teachers seller, which I’ve talked about podcast before. Even just having people find the podcast, the blog through Pinterest, I don’t have time as a business owner to do that.
So that’s one of those important roles that I need to outsource and going on to what is lucky number five, I’m really excited to hear what you think.
Freelancing Jobs for Teachers
Option #5: Podcast Manager
Micala Quinn: Lucky number five, podcast manager.
Daphne: Love it.
Micala Quinn: I have a podcast and I have never once listened to or edited one of my podcast episodes. All I do is press record, I send it to my podcast producer.
She does all the fancy stuff, makes it go to all the places and I get to spend more time with my family.
Daphne: So what other types of roles does your podcast manager do? I actually love that you did this because my podcast manager, her name is Alison, and she is a former teacher.
She is not doing the sound editing, which is still my fiancé, but we’re just getting her ramped up for her role. And I’m really excited to hear what you’re using your podcast manager for.
Micala Quinn: She helps with like planning out the content topics, like, “Okay, here’s what you can do solo shows on.”
She does all the guest booking of who we’re going to interview. She plans and prepares, “This is the focus, here’s some high points you need to know about them, here’s questions you can ask them.”
She’ll take the raw audio, clean it up, put it on Libsyn. Then she does the show notes, and the graphics, and social media stuff that we can do to promote the show, as well as analytics and reporting monthly for the show.
Daphne: Many podcasts are once they start to get to a certain point, they take up so much time.
I would estimate a single podcast episode takes about 10 hours worth of work for a single one, even this great one that everyone’s listening to right here, just with reaching back and forth and scheduling, figuring out the proper questions, what’s the best topic, editing all of the sound, creating that transcript, doing the social media graphic for it, making sure everybody knows on our email list that there’s a new podcast and what it’s about.
All of that takes, I would say about 10 hours. Is that about the same for you?
Micala Quinn: Yeah, I would say that’s probably about right. I know for actually editing the podcast episode, the individual, just the audio, that usually Lauren tells me, it takes about three times as much time as there’s recording.
So if it’s an hour podcast, which would be rather long, it would take three hours to produce that. Just the editing of it.
Daphne: If you are someone who feels like you have a key eye for details, even if you don’t have sound editing experience, it’s one of those very detail-oriented types of teachers, you can learn sound editing.
There’s tons of different, even free tutorials on YouTube that for people who are just starting their podcast, they want to outsource this. They don’t have the time to learn it themselves. You can just become a sound editor for podcasts or do that full podcast management kind of package, like what we both are using right now. I love that you use that as an example because it’s definitely something that I needed as well.
Other types of freelancing positions, if you want to just rapid-fire any ideas and then we will circle back to where they can find you and learn more.
The List Doesn’t End There
Micala Quinn: Yeah, so bookkeeper, if you love numbers, financials. If you’re a math teacher, maybe that would be great for you. Online business manager. It’s kind of like a next step for a virtual assistant.
If you find that you really like working with your clients and want to move into more of a leadership role overseeing different project management, team management, setting up systems and processes. That could be a great next step for you.
Let’s see what else? YouTube editor kind of similar to podcast editor, but YouTube channels are big. I know I’m forgetting… there’s so many. PR, public relations, reaching out for that.
Daphne: Even just graphic designers. I know we’ve had episode 16, which is a former teacher who’s a graphic designer and that’s a great one. I would lean though, just my two cents here.
If you are looking to be a graphic designer, you would need to learn something more industry standard like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. And not lean towards Canva because graphic design, they are usually looking for someone with not a template.
Micala Quinn: Yeah and if it’s for branding and websites and stuff, but if you’re doing graphic design and you’re just focusing on slide decks or PDF principles or social media graphics. We have someone on my team who just makes all of our graphics.
I prefer that it’s done in Canva so that if there’s any quick changes or I want to duplicate or reuse, I can go in because I don’t know Adobe. But my website and those like our landing pages and stuff like that, those are done outside of Canva.
Daphne: No, 100% agree. I have purchased Adobe subscriptions year after year after year with the intention of learning how to use it. And Canva is my old faithful. I just keep going back to it.
Micala Quinn: It’s so great.
Daphne: Micala, you have been such a great guest, lots of amazing information. I know that people are dying to learn from you. You made a freelance starter kit that many of the teachers probably would be interested in getting: teachercareercoach.com/Micala.
Do you mind sharing a little bit of what’s in that freelance starter kit?
Yeah, no problem. The beginning part is kind of just a really quick crash course on the freelance industry, who hires, how much you can make, what is a freelancer, that kind of information.
Then it includes my skills assessment, walking you through how to really uncover what is your profitable skillset that you should run with to start your business. It walks through all of the services that we talked about in more depth, like what does this person do? What does that look like? What kind of services can they offer?
It has a checklist of what you need to do to build your freelance business from zero to landing clients that you can kind of just walk through and take and run with.
Daphne: So, I will repeat it one last time. Everybody can grab that and connect with Micala at teachercareercoach.com/Micala.
I’m going to end with maybe my gotcha question for you and put you on the spot. From the beginning of this interview, where you were talking about where you were as a teacher and a brand new mother, to where you are today to a successful business owner, what have you learned about yourself along the way?
Micala Quinn: I’m tougher than I ever thought. Growing up, I was never someone who was going to go out of the norm or someone who wanted attention on me. But my life truly changed when I started freelancing. And just the joy of getting to spread that with other women keeps me going. And helps push me out of my comfort zone.
Daphne: I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that and sorry to put you on the spot with that question. Thank you so much Micala for being here and just always a pleasure to connect with you. So grateful that you’re here.
Micala Quinn: Thank you so much, Daphne for having me. Look forward to continuing to chat with you.
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