Last month was a pretty big deal for me, guys. It marked my one year anniversary of selling on Teachers Pay Teachers. A year ago when I uploaded my first product, I could never have guessed how much it would change my life.
That probably seems like an exaggeration. I know if I had read that line a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes. One girl gets lucky and makes a few bucks–suddenly it’s “life changing.” Boring. Yawn.
But I really do mean it. And of all the changes, the money might be the least important.
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Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers Has Made Me a Better Teacher
This was surprising for me, but maybe it shouldn’t be. I’ve found that when I make things for my own classroom now, I’m no longer settling. I’m looking at everything through the eyes of a seller. Selling has made me more focused and more reflective.
I only create things that I myself will use in the classroom. So if I’m planning on selling it, that means lots of advanced prep work. I’m thinking about goals, targets, essential questions, and mini-lessons months ahead of time when planning a unit.
Before, I would slap a lot of things together. I’d worry about how to grade it later. The focus of a unit might change or pivot as I got distracted by how others taught it.
However, when I’m designing with Teachers Pay Teachers in mind, my resources are a lot more focused. Everything has a purpose. My resources also end up prettier, as I can justify buying clip art to decorate them and “set the mood” of the unit. Everything I sell is also proofread by a professional, so my students benefit from the extra attention to detail.
A worksheet that may have been “good enough” to get through Tuesday now has to be amazing enough for my buyers.
And when I use one of my own resources in the classroom, I’m much more reflective in my practice. How was that resource received? Did the students understand what to do? Did they enjoy it? Was it rigorous? Confusing?
I think about all of these questions after a lesson, and if a resource needs to be tweaked, I tweak it so that my customers benefit. This is a big difference from just saying, “I’ll fix it next year” every year.
Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers Has Completely Changed My Mindset
I’ve always been someone who’s valued personal development. I don’t feel myself if I’m not actively trying to become smarter, more fit, more organized, more something.
But the transition from employee to entrepreneur has completely rewired my brain. Starting a business, even just a side hustle like Teachers Pay Teachers, requires overcoming a tremendous amount of fear, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and just a lot of stumbling as you learn.
I don’t think I realized how much self-doubt I still had, as an almost-thirty-year-old who has done a lot of introspection and self-work. But I spent the first couple of days after someone bought my first product feeling guilty! Like I had tricked the seller into buying from me.
The imposter syndrome was almost crippling. I had to remind myself that I poured months of work into that resource and that it was something I believed in. Something I gave to my own students. This feeling became easier to cope with over time, but the fear of putting yourself out there is REAL!
I’ve also had to teach myself so much! Thank goodness I’m an educator! I’ve learned so much about product design and the TPT website itself. I’ve had to learn about sales tax, income tax, and basic web design.
All I had to learn how to market on social media, create a newsletter, and use new programs like Tailwind. I am learning something new every single day. And this realization has affected my personal life too.
It’s a lot harder now for me to become afraid or overwhelmed. When a problem arises that seems just too big, I know from my business that I just need to break it down into bite-sized pieces and learn whatever I need to learn in order to handle it.
I find myself saying crazy things now and meaning them. Like, “let’s sell everything and live in an RV!” And while I haven’t been able to convince my poor, patient boyfriend to do this quite yet, I know that I could totally uproot my entire life and that I would be resourceful enough to make it work.
Seeing the little successes in my business have been tremendous for my own self-confidence. In my mind, I’m a business owner who teaches now, instead of a teacher with a business. I see the world in terms of ROI, revenue metrics, and efficiency in scaling.
My business has a long way to go, but I’m dreaming bigger than I have in many years. Better yet, I’m believing in those dreams and my own ability to accomplish them.
Ok, Yes, the Money from Teachers Pay Teachers Helps Too
I have seen some pretty steady side income from my store since my sixth month in business. While my monthly revenue hasn’t grown too much since then (hoping to work on that this summer!), the money that has been coming in has been helping me acquire the real resource: freedom.
My district hired me during a pay freeze that ended up lasting the first five years of my career. That means that at the time of writing this, I am earning a second-year teacher’s salary in my sixth year.
During that freeze, insurance, taxes, cost of living–basically everything–increased. I have consistently made less with every year of teaching. It’s pretty defeating when you sit and look at the numbers.
Worse, there’s been quite a few months over the years where the ends didn’t quite meet. Like any good American, I often turned to my credit cards to handle these gaps. Then most of my summer job money would go towards paying down these debts. Until the school year started and the cycle started again.
So far, I haven’t actually spent any of my Teachers Pay Teachers income on anything fun. There’s been no massages, manicures, or TPT-funded vacations. But my credit card debt is so close to disappearing! It’s amazing to be able to see the finish line!
When those debts are gone, I plan to use the extra money to start funding some other dreams: maybe a trip or a house with my boyfriend. Maybe one day we’ll be able to afford to get married. Heck, maybe that RV for us to live in!
So, yes, the money has been nice. But the hope and the freedom it has brought it the real blessing. This time last year I was working a second job after school to help cover bills. I don’t have to do that anymore.
Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers Made Me Ambitious
Does this sounds familiar: you’ve been teaching for a few years. Maybe you’re working on your Masters. Maybe not. You have a teaching routine down. After work, you crack a book or binge a little something on Netflix. You spend a little bit of time with friends and family on the weekend, when you’re not preparing for another week of work.
And that’s it. There’s nothing else. Just living for the weekend, then the break, then the summer.
Looking back, I feel like I floated through a lot of the last few years. I couldn’t take on the debt of an advanced degree, so I felt stuck in my career. I didn’t know my next move, and even if I did think I knew what I wanted, I didn’t have the energy left to pursue it.
But this having my own business thing? I love this. The days when I know I can just sit and work on my own business are my favorite days. During spring break this year, I planned out all of the tasks I wanted to accomplish and had the time of my life just sitting alone in my office with some music working.
When I’m working out, I’m listening to business podcasts. Before I go to bed at night, I read business books.
And that feels good. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt passionate about much in my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt driven towards something like this.
Not everyone is cut out to have their own business. I can’t blame anyone who wants to skip that experience. It’s a lot of time, a lot of additional stress, and a lot of mental capacity.
I’ve given up sleeping in on many mornings. I’ve been distracted during times that I should have just been enjoying the company around me.
But if you’ve ever considered dabbling with Teachers Pay Teachers or starting some other side business, I highly encourage that you just dive in with both feet. You’ll never know until you know.
Update: I’ve created my own course for starting a Teachers Pay Teachers course from scratch! This go-at-your-own pace course is meant for teachers who have absolutely no idea how to get started, but really want to. If that interest you, you can sign up here for more information!
Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers has made me a better teacher, a better person, and has given me drive and purpose like I haven’t had in a long time. (If you want to find out more about the very beginning of my business, you can read this blog post here.)
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