I have a lot of friends who are small business owners to help supplement life with small children, mostly through multi-level marketing type programs. Many have been quite successful too (Shout outs to Abby’s MONATborhood, Emily’s Mary Kay, Rachell’s Young Living, and Taylor’s LuLaRoe, to name a few!), and they are extremely passionate about their products.
However, as a full-time teacher and mom and wife, I don’t feel comfortable with the initial money commitment, learning curve for new products, or time to schedule parties. Sure, I’d love a Cadillac, but my 2001 Mercedes will stay my luxury car for the moment. If I do something on the side, I really want it to be something that already fits into my life.
As I reflected on stuff I already know how to do, I kept coming back to my day job, teaching. I could tutor, but I don’t really have time for that. I love helping people with resumes, but same issue – scheduling. Online would be best. Thus, the creation of my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, hELArious Lizzy!
I would describe TPT as most closely related to Etsy – it allows users to create an online store to sell things they make themselves, but instead of beautiful engagement rings or handmade baby swings, teachers sell classroom resources. Since I create a lot of my own materials, this seemed like a good fit, so I pulled the trigger and signed up for an account.
I’ve spent a lot of hours working on it in the last week (hours I probably should have been grading for the job that actually pays me), but I’ve learned a few things.
- Hawthorne Mad Lib activities are a much more niche market that I originally assumed.
- Pricing my stuff is HARD – I may have worked hours on it, but what would another teacher pay?
- If I list products too cheaply, people will think they are cheap. But if they’re too expensive, no one will buy them.
- Apparently, all teachers give all products 4.0/4.0 stars. Seriously, almost every review for every product I search for has 4.0 stars. TPT gives credits to buyers for leaving reviews, so quality isn’t really controlled…this seems like a market deficiency.
- I learned how to format a cover image so it is Pin-able, and then I pinned my own products on Pinterest.
- It is a lot more work to polish documents for selling than it is to use them with my students.
- I have a lot of typos in the worksheets I’ve been passing out to kids for five years.
- I shouldn’t label things AP English because it turns away non-AP English teachers.
- It is scary putting myself on the internet.
The last one was an odd realization for me, since I’ve been blogging about my personal life, hopes, fears, dreams, and labor stories since 2012. But when people actually pay me their own money (because let’s be honest, teachers are almost always spending their own money on classroom supplies), I want them to be thrilled with their product. I want it to be the best $4.50 they’ve ever spent, and I want their students to tell them how fun class was that day. It is really, really challenging to try to put my classroom excitement into a document for purchase.
|A few of my products I’ve “launched.”|
When you start a TPT store, you need a fun name (check) and a free product, to “show off” the type of stuff you produce. I used study guides that I created for my AP English students for the exam. I’m not sure this is the best “free product,” but it gave me a start and I can change it out later.
Then I began to organize all the cool stuff from my Crucible unit, since I’ve been working on that for our curriculum mapping I need to do for the school accreditation team next fall. When I pulled all those materials together, it was about 40 pages. And I was overwhelmed.
Thankfully, my colleague across the hall purchases a lot of materials on TPT, and she gave me some great feedback. The first was that I should divide up all my pieces into smaller products, then also offer a bundle at a reduced price.
For example, my Hawthorne Mad Libs activity takes about 15 minutes but is really engaging, and I included a PowerPoint with a student worksheet; I listed that $4.00.
When I teach that activity, I begin with using text from chapter 1 of The Scarlet Letter to walk kids through how to read the dense writing. We end with the Mad Libs as a sort of exit ticket. As per my friend’s advice, I made that a different product, pricing the PowerPoint slides at $3 and the worksheet part at $2, with $4 for the bundle. THEN I added in the MadLibs part and priced the whole 45-50 minute lesson at $7. This was way more work than I expected it to be.
After posting my products, I then refreshed anxiously for four days, to no avail. Apparently no teachers are purchasing Scarlet Letter lessons in the fourth quarter.
But anyway, I’m excited to start piecing together material that I can share with other teachers, and maybe someday make a little bit of extra money from the endeavor. When I make my first sale, I’ll be sure to update my blog so you can celebrate with me!
*********UPDATE 6/15/18! I made my first sale!*******