Teachers Pay Teachers 101: Selling on the Side

In the summer of 2017, I started my Teachers Pay Teachers seller account. Fun fact about me–I minored in graphic design in college. And while my first few resources may not fully reflect that, I enjoyed creating resources for my own classroom. I had nothing to lose with a free TPT account, and my goal was to earn a couple cups of coffee each month.

I used the free account and made $44.40 my first month. I was thrilled to be able to cover my internet bill after a single month. I was hooked.

The first response I typically get right after I tell someone I am an author on Teachers Pay Teachers is, “How can I start?!” I always say that selling on Teachers Pay Teachers costs nothing and takes no more time than you want to put into it, but to really cross the line from the “couple coffees per month” side over to the “paying off entire college education” side does take some time and knowledge.

The chart to the left shows my earnings growth from start to present. This month, I am set to have my best month yet! And don’t forget–TPT is my side business.

Wanting to start your own store but need the confidence and knowledge push? I have come up with my top five tips for beginning sellers. Also please remember that my TPT knowledge base is in the elementary realm. I also need to state my imposter syndrome thoughts of “I am not an expert at TPT,” but that also depends on what you define expert as. To almost anyone I know personally in education, I am. But if you’re wanting to go full-time with TPT quickly, I’m probably not the knowledge base for you.

1. Go premium immediately. Yes, it is free to start selling on TPT, but you will make so much more money if you get the premium seller’s account right off the bat.

Here’s the difference between the two types of selling accounts in a nutshell:
-Basic (free): 55% earnings from each sale + 30 cents per resource sold is given to TPT
-Premium ($59.95 annually): 80% earnings from each sale + 15 cents per resource sold with the buyer’s cart under $3 is given to TPT

In other words, if you plan to make at least $60 per year, upgrading is worth it and can’t hurt. I did zero marketing in my first month (I think) besides my small Instagram following at the time and still made $44. A little more effort and I would have had it covered in one month.

2. Be original. My top seller is a 100% original idea that is not sold anywhere else on TPT and costs just over $1, but it has brought in thousands upon thousands for me.

When you have an idea for a product, do a quick search to ensure it is an original idea and not something you saw quickly once that has been secretly sitting in your brain. If your product is too similar to another or uses trademarked words or content, you can be slapped with a copyright notice (which simply means take it down because you don’t have the rights to sell that idea.)

My lowest sellers include products with oversaturated markets such as basic worksheet centers and basic labels. A good product should be one that you created because you as a teacher once thought “I wish ______ existed.”

3. Invest in fonts and clip art. Look at some of your favorite sellers’ products. What makes it look better than something you whipped up during your prep? Ding ding ding–fonts, maybe some clip art, and just an eye for placement and design. I always tell people that running TPT through the school year is manageable because it’s usually things I’m already making for my own students, but I take some extra time to make it “look nicer.”

Most quality fonts and clip art are going to cost you money. However, they pay for themselves quickly. My personal favorite font sellers are A Perfect Blend, Mollie Jo Fonts, and Amy Groesbeck Fonts. Also don’t forget to save those receipts to write them off on your taxes in the future.

Additional design tip: Have a go-to title font and a go-to body font. It will give you a “style” and also looks pleasing to the eye. Bold fonts pair well with skinny fonts, bold uppercase with a thin script… you get the point. Do not use more than 2-3 fonts per product. That’s where things start to look jumbled and unprofessional.

4. Keep it legal and create a credits and terms of use page for every product. When I was starting out, this single page is what gave me so much anxiety. Would I give appropriate credit? What if I did it wrong? Never fear, it’s actually quite clear.

Make sure to check the terms of use, or TOU, page for any element you get somewhere else (fonts, images, clip art, etc.) Most allow commercial use as long as they are fixed/embedded (not movable–that usually requires a separate license) with a linked logo on your credits/TOU page. However, make sure to read their TOU page to make sure this is true for that particular creator.

Pro tip: Create a credits/TOU template and switch out the credits part for each product. This makes your TOU process a lot quicker and easily takes me under five minutes per product. Don’t forget that you want your own TOU language as well. Here is mine that you are welcome to use or alter: This download is permitted for a single user only. Please purchase additional licenses if it will be used by multiple teachers. Copying, recreating, or modifying this product for the intended purpose of redistributing or selling is forbidden. ©Learning with Miss LaGrow, 2021All Rights Reserved.

It is illegal for teachers to share a resource they purchased with others unless other licenses are purchased, so that is an important bit to mention as it is widely abused and/or unknown.

5. Last but definitely not least, marketing is a must-do if you want to go from a couple cups of coffee to paying off some bills. No one can find your product if you do not do at least the minimum with marketing.

I definitely don’t want to overlook the most important website for marketing–TPT itself. The majority of traffic for my resources comes directly from TPT itself. When posting your TPT product, there are three essential pieces to focus on from a TPT product page perspective–language, cover photo, and preview. Make sure your title and first couple sentences of your description (they will pop up in searches) include any word someone could possibly search to find your product. Let’s take one of my top sellers–my station rotation slides. I made sure to include the words editable, station, center, rotation, slides, math, ELA, Powerpoint, and Google in my title and/or beginning of description. You want your title to be direct and to the point, but also get into the mind of a buyer. Think to yourself–“what would I search if I wanted a product like this?”

Cover photos and preview also go a long way on TPT. Once again, get into the mind of you as a buyer–would you buy something that you couldn’t accurately see what it looked like? Would you even stop scrolling if the cover photo didn’t catch your eye? Your cover photo should include a title and a basic image of your product. Cover photos should never be too “busy” or crowded–save that for the description or preview. Your preview should allow your potential buyers to see what exactly they are getting if and when they purchase. Previews can be elaborate videos or carefully crafted overview PDFs. However, I usually take a simpler route unless it is a very large product or bundle (I do this on the side, remember? Ain’t no teacher got time for that.) I take 1-2 pages of each type of element, place text/a watermark over it, and place it into a single PDF. For example, my fact families slides includes one slide of each type of problem and I slap a watermark over it (so people cannot directly save or copy/paste it without purchasing.) It’s quick and simple to make, yet it gives my buyers an accurate look at what they would be receiving if they were to buy.

Want to elevate your store? Step one is to create a business/TPT Pinterest account. Think about it–as a teacher, where do you go when you need an engaging teaching idea? Pinterest. Outside of TPT itself, Pinterest is my biggest driver of traffic to my page. Just like TPT products themselves, make sure your pins have accurate photos and descriptions that catch the eye. I could write a whole post on just Pinterest alone, but there are plenty of other blogs by better experts on that topic.

Want to make your store even bigger? Create a blog. My blog generates a lot of traffic to my page even though it’s truly not a huge focus of mine. Make sure you link your products where appropriate throughout your blog, and make your posts something people would generally want to read and get ideas from. Want to elevate your blog even more? Create an e-mail list. I’ve done that, but I’m not super active with e-mailing (this isn’t my full time job, remember. Self care tends to take priority.) If you do go that route, make sure to have an exclusive freebie that people can only receive if they subscribe. That’s the kicker.

(TL;DR: TPT is free to start, but your level of success is up to you.)

I’m a seventh year teacher with a Masters degree and I am about to be debt free by the end of 2021 (my original plan was by 2035.) This absolutely would not have been possible without jumping into TPT. I also post about TPT frequently and love chatting with followers over on my Instagram (@learningwithmisslagrow.) I am always happy to chat. Let’s connect. Best of luck with your TPT journey!

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