Ever thought about going full-time with your Teachers Pay Teachers store? Wonder what it’d be like to be a TpT seller full time? In this post, I want to share 8 realities that I encountered when I transitioned from teaching to a full-time TpT seller.
Today marks 4 years since opening my Teachers Pay Teachers store! It’s also been about eight months since I quit teaching, those paychecks stopped coming in, and TpT became my sole source of income. Every year I like to do a reflection or a post related to my business, so this year, I thought I would share some reflections on what going full-time TpT has been like for me.
Now, everyone’s transition to full-time will look different. You may run into some of the same issues or none of them! But I hope it’s helpful to read about another seller’s journey.
If you’d like to catch up on my journey, here are my previous posts about starting my business and its progress:
- How I Made $1,000 in my Sixth Month Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers
- How One Year of Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers Has Changed My Life
- Quitting Teaching: How and Why I Did It
Full-time TpT Reality #1: I Miss School More Than I Ever Thought I Would
I spent years wishing I could get out of teaching. I spent the last three years in the classroom actively pursuing this goal. My summers were spent practicing what my life would look like once I was no longer in the classroom.
So honestly, I was completely shocked when I ended up missing school.
Late summer I walked past a group of teenagers playing basketball. They were teasing each other and generally acting as adolescents do. And suddenly I just missed that environment. I missed being surrounded by my funny, strange, completely inappropriate students.
Worse is missing my coworkers. I loved my colleagues and always felt lucky to be part of such a great staff. But I definitely didn’t realize how much of my social needs were filled by quick chats with coworkers, lounge gossip, and general shenanigans in the back of professional development meetings.
I think had we not moved around the same time that I quit, this wouldn’t have been as difficult. It would be one thing if I could call my coworkers to grab a drink, but I’m now four hours away from all of them.
Perhaps more surprising is that I dream about my old school more now than ever.
However, as much as I miss school, I do not miss teaching. I have not yearned for stacks of papers to grade, needless paperwork to fill out, or meetings that should be emails. I don’t miss repeating directions or managing behaviors.
So while I miss my school family, it’s not enough to make me second-guess my decision to leave.
Full-time TpT Reality #2: The Identity Shift is Rough
We spent August and September moving into a rental in Michigan. In October, we finalized the sale of my condo and got married. In November, we closed on our new house in Michigan and moved in.
For me, the back-to-school season this year was beautiful, chaotic, and insanely busy. I didn’t really have the space and time to process quitting and what it would mean to spend my first academic year outside the classroom.
But it hit me hard in December and January. I just felt really aimless.
Now, I knew the identity shift would be rough. Mentally, I had been preparing–like thinking of myself as a business owner who happened to also teach rather than as a teacher with a side business. But it still required some processing time.
One day on the phone, I told my former co-worker that I missed feeling good at something. And I think that really gets to the heart of it.
I may not have ever been Teacher of the Year material, but I knew I was good at my job. I don’t feel that same competency yet working for myself. With TpT, you just try to do better than last week, last month, last year. Only you can decide if you’re succeeding or not. You’re in a vacuum.
Teaching Vs. TpT
My day now consists of three big tasks: working out, working on TpT, and cleaning/running errands. It’s hard to feel “good” at any of those things because you’re never done. No one rewards you for finishing that blog post or running the dishwasher. Not that teaching has many awards or accolades, but you can at least tell from students’ reactions if you’re on the right track.
Plus, it’s really hard to describe what you do for a living when people ask.
This identity shift is still something I’m working through, but I’m trying to give myself a lot of grace. After all, leaving teaching was only one life-changing decision I’ve made in the last year. Moving, selling a condo I was emotionally attached to, getting married–there have been a lot of changes that I think I’m still integrating. I mean, I even changed my name–isn’t that a literal identity shift?
If you’re thinking about leaving the classroom, be patient with yourself during the transition time. It will take a while to find your flow and routine again. But you will.
Full-time TpT Reality #3: The Freedom is Worth It
Now, for a positive, I have what I wanted more than anything: freedom.
I can’t describe how wonderful it is to just be able to pee when you need to pee. That alone was worth quitting to me.
But I can also take my dog on a long walk when the weather is nice. I can nap if I feel tired. I can sleep and prioritize my health if I feel sick.
And the freedom has already helped my family in so many ways. If I was working a traditional job, I don’t know how we would have managed this move. I was the one who spent days on the phone talking to realtors, movers, and wedding vendors.
While my husband worked and settled in at his new job, I was able to travel back to Wisconsin to sell the condo. I could take his car in for an oil change for him. I could take the dog to the vet when he unexpectedly tore a dewclaw, wait around for new furniture to be delivered to the house, and do everything else that would have required one of us to miss work.
If we were both working full-time, I don’t know how we would have managed it all. How does anyone do it?
And now that we’re discussing starting a family, I am incredibly relieved to know that I won’t have to worry about time off or childcare.
Leaving teaching was absolutely what I wanted, but it turns out it was the best for our family, too.
Full-time TpT Reality #4: My Burnout was Worse Than I Thought
I prided myself on having strong boundaries and being great at protecting my time while working in the classroom. So I’m surprised to tell you just how much rest I needed after quitting.
I sleep so much now. I’m probably getting nine hours of sleep at night, and I was taking naps almost daily the first couple of months we moved here. The amount of sleep my body seemed to need was insane.
If you’re in the classroom, you cannot do too much to take care of yourself. Teaching wears on you like nothing else. If you even think you maybe need a rest, you’re probably giving it to yourself too late.
Full-time Tpt Reality #5: I Realized I Have Absolutely No Mind-Body Connection
This is related to the previous point, but I’m realizing now that I have absolutely no idea how to read my body.
While teaching, I was always on a regimented schedule. I woke up at four in the morning and every minute was scheduled until I went to bed. My productivity was insane, but I always felt like I was dragging. I was also chronically underhydrated, my mobility sucked, and I was on migraine medication daily.
Now that I have some time to just be, I’m trying really hard to learn how to respond to my body’s needs–something that other people probably figure out much earlier in life.
For example, on my teaching schedule I had to watch my water intake during certain periods, or else I’d have to teach with a full bladder. (I really can’t overexaggerate how awesome it is to be able to pee whenever now.)
I Didn’t Expect The Health Effects of Quitting
Now, I’m trying to be conscious of my water intake and drink as much as I can. Turns out, that when I start getting low on hydration, I get cranky. How often was I cranky from lack of water before and didn’t realize it? How often did my body need water, and I avoided it to better focus on teaching?
Stretching is another thing. When I was teaching, I had no more than an hour I could devote to the gym. With such a short schedule, I skipped all warm-ups, cooldowns, and stretching that I might have done. Now that there’s no such time limit on my trips to the gym, I do it all. I’m no longer going to bed with leg or hip pain.
I even stopped taking my migraine medication. My migraines just slowly disappeared after I quit teaching. And if they do pop up, there’s an obvious reason why, and I can fix it.
I believe that seasons of hustle are not all bad and that, when used strategically, they can be great for up-leveling your life and making big things happen.
But for now, I’m happy and ready to be in a slower season after years of hustle. I’m enjoying taking the time to listen to my body and learn how to take better care of myself.
Full-time TpT Reality #6: Insurance is a B*tch
I know that insurance is a huge reason people stay in the classroom longer than they’d like, so I thought I’d touch on this. I’m incredibly privileged in that my now-husband carries the insurance for us. If he didn’t receive insurance through work, I would probably still be in the classroom.
However, we only just married in October. My teaching insurance lapsed in June. That left an insurance gap that I was not comfortable with. So during that time, I signed up for the federal marketplace.
My Experience with Affordable Care Act Insurance
The rates you pay are based on your income. I put in *my* estimated income which, having quit teaching, was pretty low. This meant that the monthly payments weren’t bad because I received a bunch of subsidies.
However, I learned during tax season that what you pay is based on your tax filings for that year.
By the time we did taxes for 2021, my husband and I were married, so now his income counted against my marketplace insurance. When I estimated my income, I only took into account my estimated future TpT income–not my 2021 teaching income. But the marketplace counts all of your income and your spouse’s if you file jointly.
This meant that on paper I earned way more in 2021 than I had put in as an estimate when I signed up. Those subsidies I received didn’t count anymore. Thus, I had to pay a bunch of money back to cover those months of my healthcare which ended up adding about $1500 to our tax bill.
Is It Worth It?
And to be honest, the healthcare was not worth it for me on a monetary basis. I could only use it at CVS pharmacies in Wisconsin (because I had signed up through Wisconsin), but half the time I had it I lived in Michigan. They also flat out refused to cover one of my prescriptions, and I ended up paying out of pocket anyway.
If I had known that I would have avoided all serious illnesses and accidents, I could have skipped insurance and lived without it. But we never know, and that’s what insurance is for.
I wouldn’t change my decision to insure myself. For me, the risks of being uninsured are too large. Financially, it was not worth it, but the peace of mind was worth it.
However, I do wish I had understood the marketplace and how to estimate your costs better.
If you’re considering marketplace healthcare after leaving the classroom, get on the website. You can look through your options and their estimated prices without committing. Try to get an estimate of monthly costs before you leave your teaching insurance. If I wasn’t married, I would probably need another two years of building my business to cover the cost of insuring myself.
Full-time TpT Reality #7: I Thought I Would Have More Time To Work
So the real question–is full-time paying off? Am I making more? Am I able to invest more time into my business?
This is one that I’m still working on figuring out.
About a month after my last day in the classroom, our lives got insanely busy. While I kept to my blog schedule and maintained activity on my Instagram, I really didn’t do much else during the fall. It was the least I’ve worked on my business in the four years I’ve had it.
Since then, I’ve been able to get into a more regular work routine. But I’m still working on a perfect schedule. Life still feels very busy–doctor appointments to establish new providers, boxes to unpack, friends and family visiting frequently to see the new place. So my once consistent schedule and routine now feels all over the place.
I’m optimistic, however, that as life begins to calm down now I will find more time to work. And I’m privileged in that if my income doesn’t exponentially increase quickly, we’ll still be able to pay our bills.
Full-time TpT Reality #8: I Couldn’t Do This Alone
If you read through all of the previous points, it’s apparent that having a spouse with a good, stable job has made this transition possible for me. If I was still single, I would have probably stayed in the classroom for much longer–especially with the insane inflation we’ve seen in the last year.
But my husband doesn’t just make this financially possible. He’s also been my biggest supporter since the beginning of my business.
I started my TpT store on a whim about six months into our relationship. I don’t think I even told him I was working on it until I had made a sale. But he has never once rolled his eyes at me for thinking I could turn it into a real income stream.
He never complained about me delaying dinner, being distracted, or stressing out because I was working on TpT.
I spent years dreaming about being able to quit teaching. But it wasn’t until he said, “You’re done” while I cried about our district revoking sick days after closing for lack of staff that I committed to making 2020-2021 my last year. Knowing that supported me in leaving the classroom made it possible for me.
When we shopped for houses, he never once questioned my need for an office or demanded his own “man cave” or equivalent. He encourages me to do what I need to do for my business, celebrates my wins with me, and is just generally my biggest supporter and cheerleader.
I don’t think you necessarily need a supportive spouse to do TpT full-time, but you do need someone in your corner. I’m so grateful I married the man that I did, and I’m incredibly proud of the life we’re building together.
Final Thoughts on My Own Transition
Has the transition into full-time TpT been as smooth as I pictured? No, not really.
But I don’t regret it for a second.
I am still excited about the potential for the future, and I have a plan for probably the next year and a half of resources to create. The freedom this switch has provided is allowing me to spend more time with myself, establish a healthier way of living, and will help us stay flexible as we navigate the next phase of our lives.
If you’re dreaming about doing TpT full time, I really encourage you to go all in. Learn everything you can and do something to help your store every day, even if it’s a very small action.
If you’d like to start your own Teachers Pay Teachers store, I have tons of resources for you! Just check out my Teachers Pay Teachers seller resources here.