5 Tips You Can Use to Become an Academic Entrepreneur

More and more academics are recognizing the potential to supplement their income from higher education positions with out-of-the-box projects and schemes. To try and get to grips with the so-called academic entrepreneur, I met with Shonell Bacon, Instructor of Mass Communication at McNeese State University.

In this article, you’ll see some of her tips on understanding the relationship between academia and entrepreneurship—and how you can marry the two concepts together to generate supplementary income.

  1. You can be an academic entrepreneur. Bacon defined “academic entrepreneur” as “someone who knows what their talents are and is able to capitalize on them. They are able to take those qualities that make them excel in the academic arena and apply them to additional revenue streams. They are not necessarily unique; they are just always looking for opportunities. They are broad thinkers with narrow goals and lanes to optimize success for those goals.
  2. The tools you find useful in the academy are also useful in your entrepreneurial ventures. Bacon said, “For me, the biggest advantage to this approach is how I use knowledge from these two worlds, academic and business, to better myself in both worlds. For example, outside of academia, I am an author and an editor. With both, I constantly use my creativity; my knowledge of grammar, structure, and organization; my ability to think outside the box to strengthen my own writing as an author and others’ writing as an editor. When I’m in the classroom, I bring these tools with me. When I’m considering academic research projects, I use my creative, my outside-the- box thinking to explore topics that on the surface might not seem as academic as other topics, but in the end, they are creative endeavors for me that satisfy their academic requirements.”
  3. Online tools and technology are your best friends. “I would probably say that higher education’s embrace of technology, especially with moving some classes online, allows for accommodating entrepreneurship into your career” Bacon said. The use of technology forces educators to think outside the box and figure out how to deliver the same quality education electronically. Bacon recalled her first foray into online teaching and remembered how teaching online made her consider how she might offer her expertise in other areas digitally.

“The minute I had to reconsider and think creatively about my teaching, those same reconsiderations came to me in regards to entrepreneurial endeavors. I also think about the ‘leisure learning’ style courses that are offered at most colleges and universities. Oftentimes, these courses enable academics to make a little money in activities outside of their academic work. For example, I’ve taught leisure learning classes in fiction writing, fiction workshop, and developing projects for submissions. These courses allowed me to blend my teaching qualities with those qualities often exhibited in my entrepreneurial activities. I also think that schools, such as University of Phoenix, those schools that offer credit for “life learning” and business activities and experience suggest that entrepreneurialism–the work we do outside of academia–is important.”

  1. Value your time. “Work doesn’t end because you leave your campus office. With working 60+ hours a week, sometimes more, academics often don’t have the time for entrepreneurial activities, especially if they want to have some life to live while also taking care of home and family. And that time affects them in another way, too, because you have to make time to think on the idea of entrepreneurship: what skills do I have as an academic? How might those skills be useful outside of academia? What non-academic skills do I have? How can I bridge these skills to develop real financial independence through entrepreneurial ventures? There has to be time taken to consider these questions and others before a person can even get to developing the success s/he wants.”
  2. Be part of the revolution. “I definitely think more academics will embrace entrepreneurship,” Bacon said when asked if more academics would become entrepreneurs. “One reason will be out of necessity, say for example, the need for additional money. But others will come to embrace it because we live in such a fluid, technological world where one person can seamlessly move in and through many identities at any one time. Technology, whether it’s the actual device, or the app, or the software, etc., enables us to branch into other arenas, and more academics can take part of entrepreneurship through technology. Because of technology and the ability for an academic to blend multiple identities simultaneously, the field will definitely not only emerge, but also expand. I definitely see this more so for the future as younger academics come into the landscape, particularly those who are digital natives, from birth living with Internet and the many other advances of technology.”

We would like to thank Shonell for sitting down with us.


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