I can’t believe that in 10 days I will be approaching my 1 year anniversary of starting my TpT store. I laugh as I say this thinking back on my first freebie and first paid product posted. They had no cover images, were made in Word, and were definitely not my best work. I remember how anxious I was and overwhelmed just to get started. It was scary to get my feet wet. I remember the first time I heard the “cha-ching” sound 3 weeks later and how petrified I was that someone had actually bought something of mine. It was so exposing and made me feel so vulnerable!
Time has flown by (Update: you can check out my 2nd year reflections here!), and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past year and to share what I’ve learned through the course of it. I never thought I would be where I am today – having hit my 1st official TpT milestone 12 days before my 1 year mark as a seller. I by NO means have this all figured out, and still feel like daily I am swimming a little bit in all that there is to do as a TpT seller, rookie blogger, and full time high school teacher, BUT I know that I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all of the people that shared their stories, wisdom, and advice with me, so I hope that in doing so I can encourage some of you in your TpT journey!
Before I share any advice, here is a little bit more of my story. (Go ahead and just skip down if you just want the good stuff.)
A little of my story…
In January (my first real month) I started to make cover images and adjusted to using PowerPoint, and within 3 more weeks I chose to update to premium. That first real month (even though I started 12/20/15, I don’t feel like I REALLY started until January when I started making products more regularly and actually using cover images and such) I made $34.86 and was thrilled that I had earned enough to cover some font and clipart purchases.
In my second month of February, I made $108!! I couldn’t believe it. I was officially in the “green” so to speak, having paid back my premium membership and all other little initial investments. I started getting my groove in terms of my branding with cover images, previews, and thumbnails, and continued to diligently make products.
It wasn’t until the end of July that I really hit my stride and saw my store sky rocket. I didn’t even think hitting this first milestone was even POSSIBLE until I had consistently great months in August, September and October. So here are my tips for anyone else looking for encouragement in this crazy, beautiful, fun journey!
6 Tips from my first year as a TpT-er
1. Create. Create. Create.
It is so easy to be overwhelmed when you get started about how much there is to do. I was constantly reading the seller’s forum, FB groups, and following other sellers on Instagram and Pinterest and just drowning in all of the information and things I should be doing. I guess drowning is too negative of a word – more just an over-saturation and over-stimulation. I had SO many ideas and SO many things I wanted to do but such limited time with prepping for 5 classes, running Student Council, mentoring 10 girls in our school’s mentorship program, and of course all of the grading and other duties us teachers have (+ being a wife.) So my advice to anyone else who is overwhelmed would be to not think about ANYTHING else but making products for the first few months. Because once you start a blog, and a Facebook group, and a Pinterest page and yada yada yada, you find your time to make products extremely limited because of the maintenance of so many marketing tools. So just create! I made 70 products in this first year, and only 5 of those since school started this August because of how much more time I am devoting to other things. I wish I had made more products before I started everything else. Invest time in creating. Without products, you won’t have much to market anyways!
2. Make products you love and will use.
Everyone has a niche. Don’t waste time doing what everyone else is doing! Figure out what you need for your classroom, where you are gifted, and what you get excited about making, and make that! I know there are some unbelievable secondary science sellers out there that are technically my competition. Some write the most amazing sub plans, crafty interactive notebook activities, and beautifully artistic homework assignments and activities. But I don’t love researching and writing articles for sub plans. I really don’t like interactive notebooks (seriously no judgment for anyone who does – you can read more of my thoughts on it here) I also so wish I could draw and create amazing clipart and diagrams to accompany my stuff, but it just isn’t a skill set I have. You know what I am good at though? Organizing. Creating structure. Establishing routine. Minimizing my workload. Aligning assessments with my curriculum and review strategies. So I made products that used my gifts and/or that I loved using in my classroom and shared them with others. It was a win-win use of my limited time because I was making practical things for my classroom that could also sell well because I had tried and tested them with my students. So take some time, think about what you are good at, what you need, and what would make your life easier in your classroom, and then make that for others!
3. Apply to be in the newsletter.
By the grace of God, and Team TpT, I’ve made it in the newsletter twice. I set an alarm every Thursday to apply for the newsletter and have been consistent with that. I also make sure to respect their newsletter submission guidelines, because they really don’t pick anything that is over 10 pages – and that includes EVERY page in your product! I also think it helps to submit timely resources. My Children’s Book Review Project made it in the newsletter at the end of April as people were thinking of end-of-year activities and my Back to School resource made it – you guessed it – during BTS season in August. Follow their guidelines, consistently submit, and submit seasonally appropriate products for your best chances!
4. Utilize online marketing classes.
It has been amazing to see how much information there is online for running an online business. I’ve been blown away especially by all of the e-courses I’ve seen available, and I took the plunge and invested in Pinning Perfect, by Blog Clarity, last May. This was by far (other than upgrading to being a premium seller) the best investment I’ve made thus far into my business. This course was a GAME CHANGER for me setting up my blog, creating content that would attract people, and utilizing Pinterest to drive traffic to my blog and store. I can’t even explain how much it has guided how I market my products. Click link above or here to check it out for yourself! Full disclosure: that is an affiliate link but I’ve been telling people to take this class even before I knew about affiliate links #seriouslyimarookie so I really believe in this!!
5. Don’t focus on the numbers.
It’s so easy to get caught up tracking your numbers hourly: # of followers, # of sales, # of feedback, # of repins, # of Instagram followers, ranking, etc. Now I think making monthly and quarterly goals is great, and checking these numbers once a month is healthy, but I kind of think it is a waste of time to do it more than that. I’d spend so long obsessing over numbers that I’d waste time trying to control things that I can’t control. If you want legitimate followers who will actually buy your products and leave you feedback, you just can’t force it. Time is better spent making products and promoting your brand – two things that are in your control. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I couldn’t agree more. Comparing what I do to others isn’t productive or encouraging. Your story and your journey on TpT is unique to you and you alone. I saw the most growth in all of my numbers, after I put 450+ hours into my store this summer alone. So invest your time where it really counts!
6. Find a TpT mentor.
Phew. That was long. I feel like there is still SO much I could say, but I will end with this. My story is not your story, but I hope my advice is helpful and encouraging for you. At the end of the day though, you have to do what is best for you, your family, and your students. All of that to say, I have a few thank you’s!
…to TpT. Not only have you helped my family financially, but you’ve re-invigorated me as a teacher and a person. I never dreamed I would own my own business one day, and you’ve made it possible. Thank you for how you’ve inspired me to be a better teacher. Creating products for others has pushed me to a higher standard and my students are benefitting so much from that. I never thought I could find something that I enjoy doing this much, and that doesn’t feel like “work.” I will never be the same!
…to my students, for being my guinea pigs for anything and everything I’ve created. I love you all and your enthusiasm for all my creations. You are the reason I do what I do, and your excitement every time I introduce a new product is the sweetest gift.
…to my mentor Laur, for sharing your dream, your gifts, and your inspiration with me. I have no words to express my deepest gratitude.
…to my husband, most of all. Thank you for all of the hours you spent fishing, hunting, and coaching lacrosse to get out of the house so that I could have the peace and quiet I need to create. I know that was a huge sacrifice for you 🙂 But seriously, you are my biggest cheerleader and you believed in me from the start, even when I was working 20+ hours a week on top of my regular job and only making $5 a week from it. Thanks for pushing me to see this through, and hanging in there with me! I think we can now both confidently say it has been worth it.
Now I’d LOVE to hear from YOU! Are you a new seller with questions? A veteran seller with additional advice and tips? I’d love to hear in the comments! I feel like I still have so much more to learn and grow as I am only just getting started! I appreciate you ALL!