This week I hit my TpT-versary – one year since I started my Teachers pay Teachers Store! I have learned a lot in the past year, both about myself and about how the world of online stores and marketing your materials works. I have so much still to learn, but I thought I’d pause to look back and reflect on the past year. I have had so much fun and I’ve discovered just how much I enjoy making teaching materials. It’s something that I can lose track of time doing.
Here are some lessons that I have learned that might help you on your TpT adventure if you are thinking of starting, or have recently started, a store.
- Making materials is harder that I thought it would be but I LOVE it! I can’t say that I ever thought about just how much I enjoyed making materials before starting my TpT store. I’ve always enjoyed curriculum design, I have always enjoyed hands on projects … but designing materials that other teachers would find useful, and that are quality products, is a whole different thing. I think that’s because the last time I really thought about creating a complete product with full layout, instructions and teacher directions, was probably in college. I mean, it’s not like you ever really fully write out clear directions for yourself when you are creating materials for your classroom. You have a purpose for creating it, and you make it to fit that need. Even if you share it with your team, you are most likely going to talk about why you are sharing it, rather than writing down all of the directions. Creating a complete product takes a while, but when it’s complete you feel a great sense of satisfaction.
- Ideas can come at the strangest times….so now I always carry a notebook with me! Sometimes something happens which helps me make a connection, or inspires an idea, when I’m in the strangest of places. Like in the grocery store comparing cereal boxes and you might notice how much math there is on the side of the box. I have also discovered that for me, late at night, when everyone else is asleep (and when I should be sleeping myself), my mind goes into creative hyper drive and I can spend much longer than I think working on an idea. I’m trying to be good about that now – too many 1-2am nights, with an early start, are not good.
- Making a quality product takes time. Sometimes it can take quite a while to make a product. Take your time. The ideas will come. Sometimes leaving it for a couple of days gives me a fresh perspective, and it helps me to make the changes or add the final details that just weren’t coming. Producing a quality product is worth taking the time for.
- Make attractive product covers and use clip art. This will help you make a quality product. Have a look at any of the bestselling products, and one thing that stands out is just how appealing they are to look at. With attractive covers and well-designed pages, they are great examples of just how important the design of your product is. Every week TpT highlights 10 freebies in their newsletter – this is also a great way to see quality products. There are lots of clipart stores on TpT, and also on other websites, that sell clipart to TpT sellers. They also have some free clipart too, so it’s a great place to start when you’re getting setting up your online store.
- Upgrading to Premium Membership makes such a difference! When I first joined I decided not to sign up for Premium Membership until I had earned the money to pay for it. Then I sold a few products and realized the earnings on a $1.50 product, after the TpT commission and transaction fee, was SO tiny it was disheartening. I looked on the forums and saw so many threads about whether or not to upgrade – each of them with comments from experienced sellers saying they wished they’d upgraded sooner. I upgraded after a week and it was a great decision! You see a return on your investment so much quicker than if you wait to earn it with basic membership. Look at the math: On a $1 product with basic membership you pay 40% to TpT AND a 30cent transaction fee on each sale – Profit 30cent. On a $1 product with Premium membership you pay 15% commission and NO transaction fee. Profit 85 cent. Taking the leap and believing in myself that I could earn back the $60 investment was SO worth it! I promise I have not been encouraged to say this – this is just my personal experience.
- Social Media: Social media is really important when you’re promoting your store. It took me a while to figure out Pinterest and to start pinning. But once I did I quickly noticed a difference in the traffic to my store. There are SO many products on TpT that promotion is important, especially as you establish your store. Pinterest is a great way to start. One thing that I have noticed, both as a pinner, and also as a follower, is that pages and pages of product covers are really not appealing for followers to look at. A wide variety of product pages and interesting teaching ideas or tips, or even non related teaching topics like recipes, will be far more appealing to followers. I try to keep the balance of at least 3:1 for non-related product pins to products. You can also vary your pins for the same product so that you followers don’t see the same pin multiple times. And then when you have got to grips with Pinterest there is always, Facebook, Twitter, blogging…
- Get the app! TpT has a handy little app that makes a ‘Ca-Ching’ every time you make a sale. It is so much fun to hear the ca-ching during the day. There were some bugs recently with the app but that seems to be fixed now. So if you open up a store, download the app and let the ca-chings begin!
- Blogging: I have been told that Blogging is essential for spreading your words and ideas . I have just started this blog. I’ll let you know how it goes……
Making materials can be harder than you think, but it’s really rewarding – jump in and give it a try. You might pleasantly surprised!