Now, this is a story all about how…I started my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 😉 I began professionally teaching (as in, I had all of my degrees and a teaching license) during the 2012-2013 school year. I used TpT as a buyer during that school year, and it was, I think, at some point during 2013 that I switched from being a buyer to being a seller and started my store. I’m not sure exactly when I started my seller account, but I didn’t have any sales until the last quarter of 2013 – I know that from my data. And, as much as I wanted to make some extra income off of my store, I never really took it that seriously.
Sure, I uploaded the resources I made to use in my own classroom, but usually only during the summers, when I had time. I did try to let my colleagues know about my Teachers Pay Teachers store one school year, and I pretty quickly got scolded for doing that – it was frowned upon to promote yourself in such a way. So, that kind of taught me to keep my mouth shut about my store, and thankfully, because we teachers feel like we’re always walking on eggshells, I’d kept my real name completely out of my store name, so it was “anonymous” (to most other people, anyway). I’m not even sure if I had any inkling that some Teacher-Sellers were making a lot…I mean a lot…of money from their stores. I knew it was a way for me to earn some very passive side income, but that was about it.
How I Started Working with Teacher-Sellers
Then, fast forward to the summer of 2015. By this point, I’d decided to leave teaching and was trying to figure out what to do instead that hopefully uses my degrees. It was at this time that I stumbled upon the idea of becoming a virtual assistant, which, as you know, I ultimately decided to pursue. Without going into too much detail, I didn’t have very positive experiences teaching most of the years that I was professionally in the classroom. Between a lack of more knowledge and better experience to deal with student behavioral issues, problems within administration, my autoimmune thyroid disease, and other factors, teaching became really overwhelming for me, and that was why I decided to leave. So, I felt pretty jaded about it, and when I started my VA business, I really had no intentions of working with teacher bloggers, even though it was a niche I knew I could work in. Meg, whom I’ve mentioned in at least one other blog post and who mentored me while I set up my business, had told me that she used to work with teachers who had Teachers Pay Teachers stores, so that’s how I knew. I wanted to work with bloggers in the real food niche, because that was what I was really into at the time – I even had a real food/holistic lifestyle blog for a while.
However, I guess the Universe had other ideas, because when I officially “opened” for business on August 10, 2015, Meg referred my very first client to me, who had had to let her former VA go unexpectedly and needed to replace her quickly. And that’s how I ended up with a Teacher-Seller as my very first client on my very first day of business as a virtual assistant. I did have a couple of clients in the real food niche, for temporary projects, but I never really took off as a virtual assistant in that niche. I did, however, take off as a VA for Teacher-Sellers and got more and more clients from that niche. Eventually, I got over my jadedness about teaching and just accepted that this was now my niche. I also started working on projects for some of my clients that allowed me to learn just how much they were earning on Teachers Pay Teachers, and I was amazed. Of course, that information was always kept confidential, but I marveled at this new knowledge, nonetheless, and realized that if I whipped my own TpT store into shape, I could possibly achieve that kind of success, too.
How I Started Improving My Teachers Pay Teachers Store
Despite this new realization I had, I still didn’t do much to start improving my store. I think I worked on a couple of products and “updated” them, but I really didn’t know how to make them look all cute and appealing and fun like so many other Teacher-Sellers. Eventually, I got too busy between my full-time job at a print shop and my growing VA side business, and I just stopped putting any effort into my store. I continued to have sales, but I never marketed it, and I never tried to make it better. I decided to attend the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference in Orlando in 2016, less than a year after I started my business, and while I did learn some great information about getting better at TpT, I mainly used the conference as a way to network and get more clients so that I could leave my print shop job and work from home full-time (and I was successful in that endeavor).
At some point I think in 2016, I’d worked through an online course called the Teacher Creator’s Toolbox. I’d purchased it and then ignored it, as usual (sigh), but then she sent out an email that she was closing the course permanently and that we had until a certain deadline to access everything before it was made unavailable. So, I dutifully watched all the videos and learned new things…but I never really implemented them. Then, in the spring of 2017, I decided to enroll in TpT Focused Success*, which is an online course created by Shelly Rees. I don’t remember exactly how I came across the course, but I knew Shelly had presented at the Orlando conference about the type of things she teaches in the course, and it had great feedback. I also knew at least two of my clients at that time were in it.
Shelly’s TpT Focused Success* has been the game-changer for me. I’ll be the first to admit that even before she recently updated the course and put it on a new platform, I had only gotten through about half of the lessons…and I wasn’t really implementing much of what she taught. My VA business is my main source of income, and therefore, it needs to be my main focus. It varies slightly, but I often had anywhere from 32 to 38 hours of client work per week, and I was having a hard time figuring out how to make time for my own business – not only for working on my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but also for doing things like writing blog posts and marketing my business. I did finally decide to start dedicating an hour every morning, before I got into client work for the day, to my own business, and I’ve made a lot of progress that way.
But anyway, back to TpT Focused Success*. I’d worked through some of the lessons, I’d completed some of the workbook she provides with the course, but I wasn’t really implementing anything. What really got me started were the monthly challenges that she hosts for paid course members in the closed Facebook group for the course. I kept wanting to participate in one and couldn’t quite get on it. Then, the September challenge encouraged me to revamp and improve a couple of my products, which I did in full – toooootal revamps. From there, I started creating some new products that were similar to the ones I’d updated, but they were for other grade bands. I didn’t actually finish the September challenge, but it had gotten the ball rolling for me. In October, Shelly opened a new Facebook group and opened up the challenge to any Teacher-Sellers who wanted to join. It was a BINGO challenge, and it was a lot of fun. I finished enough to enter one of the giveaways and even completed a little more on the board. I was continuing make some progress in improving my store – yay! Then, in November, I updated two more old products and made four new ones to accompany it – my resources for the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I admit that I was motivated by the release of the movie version of the story. 😉
And now, here we are in December, and I’m again working my way through this month’s challenge. I’ve decided that my focus for 2018 really needs to be seasonal resources, which is hard for secondary grades, I think, because they’re just not used as often as they are in the elementary grades. However, it’s not impossible to do, and I’ve heard from more and more sellers that their seasonal resources not only provide a nice earnings boost in months that might otherwise be slow but that some of their seasonal resources are in their top best-sellers! So, that’s one of my main goals for next year: create seasonal resources (secret: I’ve already started this month).
How Improving My Store Has Impacted My Earnings
Since I finally started actually updating resources to improve my store in September, I’ve updated four old resources, and I’ve added 13 brand new resources, including my first-ever bundle. (Hint: These are the two steps referenced in the blog post title – updating old products and creating new ones!) I’m delighted to say that my sales are reflecting these improvements. In fact, November 2017 was my best month of all time! I surpassed what had been my previous best month and just kept going, and now in December, as of this writing, I’ve had an approximately 299% increase from December 2016 sales! Below are some graphs that show my sales over the last few months. You can see the slow progression of improvement, start to see where I was actively working to improve my store.
Do you see that? Except for the few days so far this month I didn’t have any sales (mostly Saturdays and then the days that teachers are on winter break) and the 16th, it looks like, almost every single day so far has beaten that day in December of 2016! What’s even more fantastic is that I’ve quadrupled my sales this December from last December! I really do attribute this to Shelly’s course and monthly challenges. I’m a bit of a mess right now trying to juggle a lot of things, but I really do intend to restart the actual course lessons and start working my way back through them on her new platform. Now, of course, just updating old products and making new ones aren’t the only steps to take to improve your store. These have been the two steps that I personally have seen have the most impact for me, but a Teachers Pay Teachers store is a business, which means you also need to do things like marketing, advertising, and so on. Plus, Shelly’s course goes into a LOT more detail about smaller steps you should take with your products that will make a big impact!
I’m a pretty firm believer that you can start fresh, set new goals, and make changes at any time of year. You don’t need to wait until the start of the school year or the actual new year on January 1st. However, since it is the end of December, and the new year is coming up quick, maybe your goal can be joining TpT Focused Success and getting your Teachers Pay Teachers store on track*, too! Shelly has crafted a truly supportive, positive Facebook group for her members, and not only do we all comment and help each other, but Shelly is also active in there and is always quick to share her insight. She also recently added a moderator to help her with the group, Carla, who also has great knowledge and has improved her store through Shelly’s course, too. I promise that you won’t regret this decision – as long as you actually do the work of going through the lessons and making the changes!
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy TpTing your way to an improved store! 🙂
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* Leslie Auman is an affiliate for the TpT Focused Success course created by Shelly Rees. Please note that if you enroll in the course using my affiliate link, I will receive a small commission.