At the end of February of 2017, a colleague of mine told me I should put a grammar game I had made on TPT and sell it. I was familiar with TPT, and had bought a number of things, but I never once considered becoming a seller myself. I wasn’t even sure how to go about it, and truthfully I thought, “Why would anyone want stuff I made?”
Well, I took the plunge, and the first month I listed products I made almost $200. I think that success at the beginning really helped to fire me up about creating things for TPT. The greatest thing though is the renewed sense of creativity and personal ownership I have when it comes to the curriculum I teach in my classroom. Here are some of the things I’ve learned since that first month over two years ago:
I’ve learned that my ideas have value. Sometimes, as teachers, we feel like islands, especially if you are the only one in your school that teaches your particular subject or grade level. The students are the driving force behind what we do, so if the lesson or activity is a successful one, then that might be the only value you need. For me, coming from a large district with mandated collaboration to one where I operated completely on my own, I was in a state of shock for a while. Not only was I on my own, I was on my own with three preps I’d never had before. Luckily, I’m an outstanding English educator and I pulled it off. 🙂 But I’ll admit I did it with a lot of support from the sellers on TPT at the time because I was too inundated to try and come up with everything on my own. Plus, I found that not having a colleague as a sounding board was tough. Through the TPT journey, I’ve connected with other sellers, had some success and seen repeat customers, and that gives me more confidence about what I’m putting out there.
I’ve learned I need to dream bigger and not doubt myself. As I said before, I made about $200 the first month I sold. But there have been many months where I didn’t make $50 or even $10. I started setting goals and working REALLY hard over the winter break this past year. I began setting goals for myself. Not monetary (because you can’t actually get in front of people and sell to them) but goals in terms of work I could do to get my business where I wanted it to be. Because of all this time and effort, I have started making a significant amount of money that I’m putting in savings. Again, you can’t count on TPT income, so I’m not getting used to the extra just yet. I think back to that first year when I was happy to make a couple hundred bucks to these last 2 months when I’ve finally cleared over $1000. In the beginning, I NEVER thought I’d get to that point. With a daughter in college and one on the high school dance team, any extra I can sock away alleviates some of my anxiety over making ends meet.
I’ve learned I can’t do everything. This one was a tough one for me because, at work, I’m known as the one that does everything. I pride myself on using my time wisely to accomplish as much as possible in a given time frame. However, if you try to do everything that people on Pinterest and blogs tell you to do, you’ll never sleep and you’ll go crazy. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tailwind, WordPress… doing this could be a full time job if I let it. And I don’t want it to take over my life. I want to spend time hanging out with my family instead of making sure all my products from 2 years ago have a copyright on them. Sure I could make new pins, but I want to watch a movie with my kids. The real focus should be the products because, in the end, if they’re not any good, then you won’t last long on TPT. Pick your battles and fight them well instead of spreading yourself too thin.
I’ve learned you can throw A LOT of money at this, but it’s not necessary. WordPress blog? $300. Tailwind? $119 to start. Google Suite? $50. Clip art, fonts, borders…there is no limit unless you set one. You could go broke with lessons ad courses from experts and planners, heck, there are even people you can hire to do Instagram posts and make pins for you. How about a logo? You could buy one of those too. But you don’t NEED to. I made my own logo in PowerPoint and I design my own product covers in PowerPoint as well. Actually, I use PowerPoint for everything. 🙂 I did spend the money for Tailwind once I realized that Pinterest is the place where most of my store traffic comes from. And truthfully that’s just a time saver because I could get on Pinterest and do it myself. But there is NO WAY I would have done that in my first year of selling. The only thing I paid for was the annual membership fee to TPT so that I got a better commission rate. I think everyone should do that because it pays for itself pretty quickly.
I’ve learned that TPT has made me a better educator. There are teachers that use a textbook or other lesson sources their entire career without creating anything on their own. They might modify what they have, but they never just sit down and write a lesson because they know their kids would learn better from a project than a test or from a discussion than a worksheet. Plus, some districts require you to follow such strict curriculum guidelines that there isn’t any room to breathe. I phoned it in for a while because I wouldn’t have benefited from making something on my own. I wouldn’t have been allowed to use it. In my current position, we are given A LOT of autonomy, so I actually create my sequencing and pacing on my own. Because of TPT, now I’m much more creative with what I do. I’ve made many things that I won’t ever be able to use in the classroom because of time constraints, but I was inspired to because I thought others might like the idea. I’ve stopped using so many things that other people have made, and I use quite a few of the things I’ve created for myself. The great thing about that is that these lessons fit me and my teaching personality to a tee!
If you’re new to TPT or you’re thinking about taking the plunge, get ready for a great ride. Trust yourself and your expertise, and put your stuff out there for the world to enjoy! If you have questions, feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I will certainly try to find one for you!