Like many educators, I’ve recently ventured into the world of selling on Teachers Pay Teachers.
I am still flabbergasted every time I sell a product. As an educator, I know how hard teachers work, and how little they are paid for it. When a teacher parts with his or her hard-earned cash for one of my resources, it’s truly humbling. I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed, stressed, and pressed for time; knowing that my products might be helping a teacher with some of these struggles makes me feel great. Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers was one of the best moves I’ve ever made. It’s helped me become a better teacher, a better planner, and is starting to bring in some very helpful side money.
I was a Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) customer long before I was a seller. I used resources from the website all the time. At first, I tried to get by on just the freebies. But before long I was an addict, buying expensive bundles and structuring my year around my favorite TPT sellers. Truthfully, working with products from amazing Teachers Pay Teachers sellers taught me more about lesson planning, scaffolding, and teaching than college or mentors ever did.
My journey into selling began in Spring 2018.
I was in the process of revamping my African-American literature unit with a new book The Hate U Give. At this point in time, it was a brand new book and the buzz around it was only just beginning. There weren’t too many resources for sale yet, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to just buy a bundle on TPT and go to town. I was insanely excited to teach it though, so I had a lot of passion for creating something new.
I figured if I was going to create something from scratch, I should try to make it as professional, attractive, and useful as possible; I also knew it would be a great way to start selling on TPT. That semester, I also had an easier schedule which included what was basically a study hall, giving me more time to work and prep new lessons. The stars aligned for my entry into Teachers Pay Teachers and I knew I would be foolish not to take the opportunity.
Originally, I dreamed of bringing in enough money to pay the Netflix bill. Imagine my utter shock when my September revenue just kept going up and up!
Since then, I have had way more success than I could have dreamed, and my business is growing. Here is a short list of some of the things I did that I believe truly helped me get started selling on Teachers Pay Teachers successfully.
Learn Everything You Can
Before creating my first product, I did research. I knew there would be experts and veterans who knew a lot more than I did, so I sought out information from the pros.
I started with Pathway 2 Success‘s free starter guide. It gave me everything I needed to get started selling without becoming overwhelmed. I stopped using Google and switched to PowerPoint. I made sure to include my copyright on every page of a product. When I understood everything I could from this starter guide, I searched for even more tips and tricks. I joined several TPT Facebook groups. I started listening to Podcasts in my free time dedicated to “teacherpreneurs.” I dug around the Teachers Pay Teachers seller forums. I even did a free online course later on in my journey about Pinterest.
When I encountered a problem, I stopped and took a breath. I reminded myself that this would be a process and that progress would take time, but doing it right would be best for my future customers. When learning from others didn’t work, I had to learn by doing. Fortunately, us teachers thrive when we are constantly learning.
My Favorite Starter Resources:
- The TPT Seller Tips and Advice Facebook Group
- This resource from Pathway 2 Success
- The Elite Edupreneur Podcast
- The Pinning Perfect free introductory course (I think the free intro is only offered once or twice a year so sign up for their e-mail. Or, if you really need help with Pinterest marketing, just take the whole course)
Create a Product for YOU
There is a lot of advice out there telling you to “find your niche” or to be receptive to the market. While this is all well and good, us teachers are busy! Don’t think about “the market.” Think about you when selling on Teachers Pay Teachers. Make the product that YOU would need and YOU would use and forget the rest. Don’t spend too much time in the beginning focusing on trying to find the “right” product that is going to make your store a success. If I have to plan for my high school English class next week, I have no right trying to meet the demand for middle school math worksheets, even if that’s what’s trending. If you need something, chances are someone else will too. Why make more work for yourself? So far I have stuck with this philosophy and it’s paying off for me.
Also keep in mind what YOU would be willing to pay for. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know what really sells me on a product is that it looks pretty and professional. There are a lot of resources out there that are just uploaded Word documents. While the content might be great, I’m never going to pay for something that looks like that.
You represent a vast market of teachers in need. If you wouldn’t buy what you’re making, go back to the drawing board. If you’re dying to use it in your classroom, then you’re on to something.
Look at How I Designed Some of my First Products:
- How To Close Read a Whole Novel with Student of Any Skill Level blog post shows some of the work I did with my students and The Hate U Give
- This The Hate U Give Discussion Assignment is the final assessment we did after close reading the novel–I had to make the assignment anyway, so why not sell it?
If you hang out around forums and Facebook groups, you will see that people go crazy about clip art. You might hear that it’s impossible to gain any traction without purchasing a TailWind membership. You might be told that you absolutely need an annual membership to Adobe Acrobat Pro if you’re ever going to get anywhere. Don’t listen to these people–at least, not at first. If you dive into all of these paid memberships, purchase all the clip art you want, and sign up for every e-course available, you will go broke before you get started.
If you’re willing to do a little more research and work a little harder, there are free or cheaper alternatives to just about everything. There are websites like pixabay.com that provide free images for commercial use or canva.com that allows you to create an array of designs for free (some people even use Canva to create products!). Flat Pack (available for sale on TPT) is a great Adobe Acrobat alternative when you’re just getting started. Stretch out the TailWind app free trial by only using it for YOUR pins, and manually pin any other content. Always do your research before paying for anything.
Now that I’ve said that, I want to add the caveat that Teachers Pay Teachers is a business and businesses come with business expenses.
Eventually, if you want to grow, you will have to spend some money. Do this wisely–remember every time you buy something that the goal is to make money, not spend it. I truly believe that your first purchase should be a Teachers Pay Teachers premium account. The difference it makes in your earnings is huge. You should not, however, spend that $60 until you know you are dedicated to working on your store. I waited until after selling my first product on Teachers Pay Teachers–I wanted to be sure that what I was making was something that people wanted to buy before I invested real money.
My Money-Saving Resources:
- Pixabay–my favorite place for free images
- Canva is great for creating images, Pinterest pins, or even products!
- Tailwind App Referral Link (this link gets you a free month AND $15 off your membership if you choose to sign up down the road)
- DigitalCurio on Etsy is just one example of an artist on Etsy with reasonable prices and very clear, easy-to-understand commercial use policies
Have a Plan for your Products
If you have some random worksheets or printables in your store, that’s fine. But what makes money is bundles. When you can sell someone a whole unit, project, or course, not only are you selling them a few days of lesson plans. You’re also giving them what every teacher desires–time. I have bought many bundles from TPT because I wanted to teach, not spend hours and hours of my free time creating comprehension questions and putting together quizzes. Don’t be afraid to bundle together like products and charge appropriately. It will feel weird at first asking for that much money. But trust me, the headaches you are saving your customers is worth it.
Having an end bundle in mind also helps guide your product creation. I try to keep my resources themed to the bundle. If you lay out all of my The Hate U Give resources, you’ll see that the fonts across them are the same. They all have an edgy, urban style. Now, I’m currently working on a creative writing bundle. The style of these resources is very different–flowy, elegant, and full of watercolor art. Knowing that I would eventually like to have a bundle for an entire nine-week creative writing course forces me to write out lesson plans, find examples, and make sure that my slideshows and worksheets make sense on their own.
Compare my The Hate U Give Freebie & my Creative Writing Freebie to see the difference in style for each set of products:
Unfortunately, this might be the most important tip on the list, at least in the beginning. I happened to discover The Hate U Give right as it was becoming a sensation, and my products were some of the first on Teachers Pay Teachers. That meant less competition. It also meant that by the time school rolled around this year, my Pinterest pins had time to gain popularity, I had some good ratings, and my whole bundle was available.
The movie for The Hate U Give comes out this month. I believe that this is a driving force in my sales and I anticipate sales of my THUG bundle dropping off after it premieres. But this timing has made me think more about strategizing the timing of my products in the future. Being on top of new fads, initiatives, technologies, and trends is definitely advantageous to any business, including Teachers Pay Teachers. If you only have the time to create one product or one bundle, make sure you’re choosing the one with the greatest needs.
To Stay On Top Try:
- Getting involved in professional development–what initiatives are on the horizon?
- Stay connected! Follow colleagues on social media like Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on what’s trending the education world.
- Check out new, relevant content related to your content. For awesome young adult literature recommendations, I love Epic Reads.
Have any tips that helped get your store off the ground? Let us know in the comments!