Starting an Online Teaching Business with a Partner

Starting an Online Teaching Business with a Partner

I have been a small time online teacher for several years. I use WizIQ to run “Online Classes for Groovy Kids.” It is my little educational business where I teach courses about Social Responsibility, Literature and History to homeschooled kids. I had never planned to hire an employee nor work with a partner. I just wanted to earn a few bucks and do what I love.

Recently, though, I have realized that there is a beauty in the division of labor. I really enjoy writing curriculum. I enjoy interacting with students and I love correcting papers. Can I keep everything organized?

Not so much.

Do I make sure that I get paid?

Oops.

I also loathe social media and self-marketing. I just want to share ideas with curious learners! I do not need them to like me.

That said, I have realized that they have to like me (and know that I exist) in order to sign up for my classes. Hence my latest contract employees: Amanda loves organization and Leigh is a social media wiz. Here I wrote about hiring my first employees.

Divide the labor and do what you love

When I have help, I can do what I love, other people can do what they love, and we can all profit. Leigh can worry about the social media and Amanda can help me find the Powerpoint that I need for class. With additional teachers, we can bring in more money with less work. Since I have already prepped many classes, another teacher can use my plans and share more information with more learners.

I am trying to decide which way to take the business. Should we all partner? Should I continue using contractors?  Should I hire them as employees? What is the most effective way to create meaningful and profitable work for all of us?

How partnerships work

Two (or more) people decide that they will work together. Each of them contribute, “money, property, labor or skill, and expects to share in the profits and losses of the business.” The partnership files annual paperwork with the IRS to report income, gains, losses, etc. The partnership, however, does not pay joint taxes. The profits and losses are passed through to the partners, at the percentages that they have been agreed to. Each partner than includes the profit or loss as a part of his or her income.

Questions to ask yourself before taking on a partner

1) Do you and your partner know each other, well? Really well? The Wall Street Journal Small Business guide even suggests taking a several day retreat, together.  Be sure that you have a good understanding of your partner’s communication style, work ethic and level of commitment to the business. Many partnerships end in bitter dissolutions and financial loss.

2) Have you worked together for a while? Before taking on a partner, work with them either as employees or as contractors. Engage in a few projects. Even if you end up paying them out of your pocket, it is much preferable than agreeing to split your income with someone who has a different work ethic or an incompatible communicational style. This is what I am doing, right now.

3) When you are doing business as a partnership, all partners are personally responsible for business debts and liabilities. Are you planning to go into debt to start your online teaching business? Are you prepared to take on debt with this person?  If debt is involved, establish a business structure that provides you with more personal protection. I am avoiding all debt, though my business is growing more slowly than I would like.

4) Do you have an exit strategy? In the event that you and your partner want to go off in separate ways, how would you dissolve the business? Who will take what? In the case of an online teaching business, many of the assets are virtual or intellectual. Who gets the email list? Who gets the webpage? Who gets the courses that have been created and the accounts that have been paid for?

5) What does your gut say? If it feels bad, don’t do it!

How to take a partner

When you have found someone who feels like a good match, have many conversations. You and your partner will have to spell everything out, including:

-How much money each person is going to contribute?

-What proportion of the profits (or losses) is each person going to receive?

-Who will take on what responsibilities? In other words, who will write curriculum, who will market, who will teach and who will keep the books?

-Who will be ultimately responsible for making decisions when there is a disagreement?

Be sure that you need a partner!

Every resource that I read warns against taking a partner. It is often better to just go it alone and hire the person as an employee.

Upgrading your account with WizIQ is easy

It is easy to upgrade your WizIQ account from a sole practitioner account to a multiple teacher account. WizIQ was specifically designed to be able to grow with your business.

Further resources

There are many great online resources to learn more about partnerships.

To help you to determine what business structure to choose, check out this article from the IRS and this one from the Small Business Administration.  If you know that you want a partnership, here is some concise information from the IRS and some more info from the SBA.

There are also many sample partnership forms available, such as this one by Entrepreneur magazine and this one from the Small Business Association.

Forbes magazine suggests that you do not need a lawyer to help you write the agreement. Once you have made the agreement with the potential partner, find a lawyer to look it over.

You are going to need some help

Teaching online is definitely feasible as a small business. If you want your business to grow, though, you are going to need to get more people on board.


I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school. I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at www.onlineclassesforgroovykids.org.

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