How to set up as a self-employed supply teacher

Following my interview at the, I’ve had an increasing number of people contacting me for information on being self-employed as a supply teacher.  To begin with I replied to people individually, but the volume of emails I receive about it means that  I really can’t do that anymore, so I decided to blog about it instead.

Please bear in mind when reading this that it’s just friendly advice, and should not be taken as legal advice or recommendation. If you’re not sure about anything it really is best to talk to the experts, and your union can probably help with this.

It’s actually quite easy to set up as self-employed supply….

Obviously you have to consider how you will get your CRB/DBS certificate without an agency to do it on your behalf, because you can’t apply for one yourself. The schools you work for may be willing to help, so talk to them first, but if not you will need to make other arrangements. You also need to consider whether you have enough contacts in schools to get the work without an agency to find it for you. If you don’t, or you’re not confident enough to approach schools, then working through an agency may be best for you.

Then you need to decide what you are going to charge. I can’t tell you what to charge, because there are so many factors to take into account, such as whereabout in the country you work, what age-group you will be teaching, whether or not you have to do your own planning, whether you will be booked long-term or just for occasional days….. The best advice I can give you is to talk to the schools you want to work for and come to an agreement with them, making sure that they, and you, are happy.

I’m lucky and I get offered far more work than I can take on and end up having to (reluctantly) turn some down, but I live in a big city, on the borderline of  three different LAs. I wouldn’t recommend giving up a permanent job before you have checked out the demand in your local area. Unfortunately, unless you are really lucky, the work isn’t just going to fall into your lap, so it’s best to get your CV up to date (Nutty at Supply Teaching can help with CV proofreading and advice), decide who you are going to ask for your references, and then start contacting schools to tell them what you can offer them.

Once you are feeling confident that you can get enough work, and you are sure this is what you want to do, you just need to notify HMRC that you want to register as self-employed and you’re good to go! I got my husband’s accountant to sort all that out for me, and it was a while ago so I can’t remember exactly what it involved, but if you contact HMRC I’m sure they will point you in the direction of any forms you have to fill in etc.

I get an accountant to do my end of year tax returns because I work on the basis that I can earn more in the time it would take me to figure it all out than I pay an accountant to do it for me. You need to keep records of how much you invoice, as well as any cash payments you get from tutoring and you also need to make sure you are good at budgeting because of the way HMRC calculates your tax payments…

You pay no tax for the 1st 18 months to give yourself time to get on your feet, but then you have to pay those 18 months plus half what HMRC estimate you will need to pay for the next 12 months in one go. After that each year you pay the remaining half on your earnings for that year, plus half of what they think you’ll need to pay for following year. So you are always paying tax on money you haven’t earned yet…

As far as tutoring goes… you don’t need to have any different qualifications. You just need to decide whether you are going to tutor in your own house, your students’ houses, or hire a room somewhere.  I set up a website to find my clients, but to be honest most of my work comes through word of mouth recommendations.

I’m not qualified to advise people on any insurance they may need. When I first set up I took advice from an insurance company recommended by my teaching union. I’d recommend everyone else to do the same so that you can be confident that you have the right amount of cover for you.

You’ll also need to think about your pension. Once you leave employment and start working for yourself, there’ll be no-one to pay into a pension scheme on your behalf anymore, so it’s up to you to make sure you are setting aside enough yourself to pay into a private scheme.

And that, I think, covers the practical side of it, so all that’s left is for me to wish you the best of luck!