Join me with special guest Jen Regan as we reflect on the mistakes we’ve made in the TpT business and how to avoid them + make your business better now–not later. Jen shares candidly about balancing work and home life, and also how she has learned to make the most of her time by repurposing her content.
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Introduction to the Episode
Erin Waters: Today is our next part of our Back to Basics series where we talk about things that we wish we would have known as new sellers. But these are also great reminders and refreshers for all of my established seller friends who have been around on TpT for a couple years or maybe the whole time TPT has been around. This week’s topic is all about things that we wish we would have done differently looking back at our TPT business from the beginning and thinking about the biggest mistakes we made and how we have learned from them and how we can hopefully help you avoid those same mistakes.
We are doing the Back to Basics series because we are launching a brand new course for School of Sellers in May of this year and it is going to be for all of my friends who have been thinking about starting their own TPT store. Maybe you have your own store but you haven’t really done a whole lot with it yet and you’re really just looking for that push to get serious about things. Catch the other episodes that we’ve done so far in our Back to Basics series and check out the Foundations course where you can find all of our podcast videos, you can grab some free tools for sellers, and you can learn about our Foundations course.
Today we have a very special guest on the podcast. My friend Jen is a teacher seller and she is here to share all of her knowledge that she has gained over the years. And today we’re talking about things that we wish we would have done differently, kind of like looking back on all of our choices throughout the years on TpT and just reflecting on things we would do differently, things we would recommend for new sellers, things like that. So before we get started, Jen, will you just tell us a little bit about yourself, how long you’ve been on TpT, and any other interesting tidbits that you’d like to share?
Jen Breen: So my store is called Two Little Birds and I started in May of 2015. I started my store when I had two kids. So that is the two little birds where that comes from and now I have four kids that are three, five, seven, and eight. So it feels crazy for some people that maybe like Instagram have been following me for a while that I started that long ago where they’re school age now.
Erin: That’s so cool. I feel like I’ve been along for that ride. Like even before you and I met through School of Sellers, I followed you and we were like kind of friends on social media. But it is wild to think that you started your store with two and then you doubled. And I love, so can you share your Instagram handle?
Jen: It’s Two.Little.Birds.TPT
Erin: Great. I think you do such a great job of balancing teaching content and personal content on your site. You’ll get a good laugh following Jen because she also has a really good sense of humor. I think that’s what first drew me to you. So I love, you’re one of my favorite Instagram accounts.
Jen: Ah, thank you.
How Did You Get Started on TeachersPayTeachers?
Erin: Well, so let’s talk about how we both started on TPT. I think probably I’ve shared my story quite a few times here on the show. So I want to hear specifically about how you started. Like what was going on in your life at the time that you started TPT? What did it kind of look like? And then we’ll also talk about like now, like how things look for you now because I know it’s a little different than when you started. So share with us the beginnings of your TPT journey.
Jen: So I started in May of 2015. The 2014-2015 school year, I was just coming off of an extended maternity leave with my second. So I had seven months off with her and then September I went back. And I really had a very tough transition back to work that year as a working mom of two that were under two. So TPT like was kind of like my savior in a lot of ways that year because I really started being a buyer of TPT and I would use that so that I wouldn’t be taking things home and planning while I was home with my girls.
As I started buying more, I also started realizing like I wanted to search for everything that I needed and some really key things that I felt like I needed, I was unable to find. And that’s where I started kind of designing and making things on my own. And then so it brought me out of a funk. Like I said, I was having like a really rough time that year.
And in about April, I came across teacher Instagram which like I don’t know what else to call it. But I think someone was doing a giveaway where you had to follow like a few other people or something and that really kind of made everything come together for me.
Then around May, I started my own teacher Instagram which led to starting my TPT store. A week after, I know because when you get your update each year that you have to renew your TPT, I found out I was pregnant with my third. And the creating and the Instagram and the connections you make with people in TPT groups and on Instagram and stuff like really got me through that pregnancy at school because I was still working at that time.
TpT Is About More Than Just the Money
Erin: I think that’s so powerful to talk about because I think a lot of times when people think TPT, our first thought is doing it to make money which like I’m sure that’s a big part of it too for a lot of people. But recently in the School of Sellers group, we had posed a question about kind of like along the lines of how has TPT changed your life or like impacted your life. And I remember your response was very focused on all of the intangible ways that TPT has benefited you. And I think that like finding community and finding that support is so huge and a lot of times way bigger than any financial gain.
Jen: Oh yeah. I needed that so bad at that time. It reignited something that after having a really tough year. So now fast forward to where I am now. After I had my third, I took maternity leave and worked really hard on my store. I was actually just talking to my husband about this, like how many times did I extend that maternity leave? I extended it three times. So I had to keep writing to the board, like yeah, I’m going to extend this again. And then on that leave, I got pregnant with my fourth and I had been working really hard that whole time. And then that was when we made a decision that I would leave my job and stay home and work on TPT and blogging and stuff while also being able to be there while my kids were young.
Erin: That is so cool. So you are currently home working on TPT but also manning the house because you have four little ones. That in itself is a full-time job. So when do you find time to work on TPT?
Jen: It really used to be that I was a night owl and I would stay up late and work. But that has really shifted now where I get up early and I try to get stuff done in the morning. I have two days a week where I have my littlest ones that are now three and five at a preschool program. We’re lucky that they are there and in person this year. So I use that time. Then I also try to not work once my older girls are home from school. Like I try to keep working hours. So I do my best work in the morning I have kind of come to realize. So kind of working around the kids and finding time when I can.
Erin: I totally can relate to that. I’m also a morning worker. Well, because then you kind of get it out of the way and you don’t have all that leftover stress on your mind, like thinking about all the things you didn’t do.
Jen: Yes. And now like if I try to stay up late, I’m like, how did I used to do this a few years ago? I don’t feel like I’m like putting out my best stuff because I’m so tired by the end of the day.
Erin: You know what though? I think it has a lot to do with just like your different seasons that you go through in life because I’m the same way. Like for a while I was staying up late and that was working but now we’re shifting. That’s actually one of the big reasons I asked you to be on the show today is because I think you are such a good example of someone who has run your business through so many different parts of your life.
I think that your perspective is really valuable especially for teachers out there who are still in the classroom or teachers who have kids at home and are just trying to do all the things. So I’m curious then, shifting to like reflecting back on all of the things that we have done in TPT, what is something that you wish you would have started earlier in your TPT business?
What is something you wish you would’ve started earlier in your TpT business?
Jen: I really wish that I would have been better about repurposing content. Looking back, I feel like everybody always says like, you don’t have to do everything. Like find one thing that you’re good at and focus on that. And I feel like I had laser focus on my email list which is a great thing to focus on and I’m really proud of my email list and the connections that I have with people there. But I look back now and I’m like, I was so exclusively sending them content that I also like can repurpose to my blog and to social media.
And while I’m focusing on the one thing that I know that I’m good at, I can also use that content in other places. It doesn’t have to be that exclusive. So I feel like if I were to look back because I started my email list like four years ago, I wouldn’t be so focused just on that one thing. Because you can repurpose it and use it over and over again in different ways and I realize that now, that I was sitting on so much content for so long.
Erin: I think that’s normal though because it’s our first inclination to want to always give like new and like unique things. But I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you’re just sitting on all of that content. One of the lessons I definitely learned as a seller is I think we over assume what people are seeing from us. So if we send out an email, we’re assuming that everyone saw that email and that everyone who follows us everywhere saw that email.
Jen: I know.
Erin: If we sat and like really thought about it, we’d realize like obviously they didn’t. But it’s just this assumption that kind of stops us from doing things like the repurposing. So I think that’s a great one.
Jen: Yeah, definitely.
Erin: Oh my gosh. I can definitely relate to that. So for new sellers, if you are someone who is like, if you have an email list or you’re writing a blog or you’re writing Facebook captions, like don’t be afraid to take that exact wording and use it elsewhere. Because if you take enough time to like craft something creative and catchy, then you might as well use it in as many corners.
Jen: Yeah, absolutely. And I also feel like I wish that I would have used schedulers before. I was always using Tailwind for Pinterest and that just always made sense to do for Pinterest. And repurposing and scheduling things on Facebook, it makes it a lot easier when you’re using a scheduler to put that content out there again and again. And when you look at your Facebook page, barely anybody that’s following your page is organically seeing it. So you can put it out there multiple times. Using schedulers like that has also been helpful in repurposing stuff.
Erin: I agree with that, especially for something like Facebook where it’s not like they’re seeing every single thing come up in their feed. So it helps to kind of put the same stuff out there again and again and again.
Erin: That is so true. I don’t know how I really functioned before schedulers.
Jen: I know.
Erin: To be honest. Well for some parts of my business, I’m trying to start posting more stuff organically. But because I’ve been using the schedulers, everything is already created, it’s already there, and it’s just amazing. So I think that’s a great thing for people starting out and people that have been on TPT for years.
Jen: Yeah, definitely.
Erin: What’s your favorite scheduler?
Jen: Well, so I don’t think Tailwind‘s super easy for Pinterest but I just started using it for Instagram and I really, really like it because I’m using the smart bio. I switched to link in profile to use the smart bio for Tailwind and I think it’s really nice to use as a scheduler too because it lays out like your grid. So you can kind of see how things are falling. I know like you don’t want it to be like totally laid out perfectly.
And it gives you prime times to kind of post and where you can fit it in. So I kind of go back and forth between using the app on my phone and doing it like on desktop. So I think it’s really, really easy to schedule and I had no idea how easy Instagram was to schedule where I used to be like I should probably post. I haven’t posted in a while. And so I think that that has been really helpful.
Erin: Especially the smart bio because like I remember I used to set alarms for when I would have to go back and change my link in profile once my post went live and that was just such a headache. So that’s my number one reason for Tailwind I feel like.
Jen: Yeah. And I like with the smart bio how it has the links that you could click up top. So I did use a tracker to see and my resources one has gotten good clicks since I’ve started using that.
Erin: That’s great to know because I know that there are definitely mixed opinions when it comes to using schedulers. But in in my eyes, it’s like the difference between doing it and getting it done or not doing it at all. So now when we’re talking about mistakes we’ve made, I think it’s important that everyone listening to know that obviously making mistakes is part of the TPT process. So we can share as much as we try. We can share as much as we can but there’s only so much we can do to help people learn from our mistakes.
So if you are someone who has been on TPT and you’re thinking like, oh my gosh, I’ve done so many things wrong, it’s part of the process. You’re not alone. We’re just here to help you a little bit more in the things we wish we would have been helped with earlier on. So Jen, if you had to pick one thing that you regret the most, maybe one thing you wish you would have never done in your business, can you think of one thing that you look back and you’re like, oh, why did I do that?
What is one thing you would’ve done differently in your TpT business?
Jen: I’m not really sure like one specific thing. Thinking back like to the beginning of starting blogging and stuff, it was when everybody was like doing like linky parties and that kind of thing. And I feel like that made me treat blogging not serious enough, not content related enough. And I don’t think that I had the right mindset about blogging because that was kind of the way blogs were back then. You know?
Erin: Well, I can guarantee you’re not alone in that thought because I feel the same way. You’ll probably hear me tell sellers a million times try not to latch on to the trendy stuff because that’s not what’s going to last and that’s a perfect example. Like the linky parties and the blog hops. But at the time, it felt like that’s what everyone was doing. So it’s really hard to differentiate between what’s trendy and what’s going to push your business forward. But I think that the blog culture in general has changed a ton since we started.
Make Connections with Other TpT Sellers
Jen: Yes, absolutely. And also I think when you’re starting out it is important to make connections with people. Like many friends I talk to that are Instagram friends and are from TPT groups and stuff. So I think it’s important to make a connection. I think back then that was a way to make connections with people. But now there are so many Facebook groups and Instagram. You watch people’s stories, you feel like them, and there are people that I message with back and forth on Instagram that those connections are really important to have with other sellers. I think that that was important starting out to make connections with other people. You are kind of starting out at the same time and growing together and learning together too.
Erin: I agree. It’s definitely a double-edged sword. So I think it just comes down to finding balance I guess. Because I agree. That first year, first several years are so formative I feel like. So I do think it’s important to try different things. But then kind of figuring out what works for your business but also is going to serve you from a social standpoint too. Like finding that perfect balance which is hard.
Jen: It is, yeah.
Erin: But I agree. The connections are huge in the TPT world. It just makes it all that more special in my opinion. So if you could say, I wish I would have spent more time doing this and less time doing this, if you could just answer that in like one thing? Like more time looking back, I wish I would have done more this and less of this. What would you say your top things would be?
I Wish I Would’ve Spent Less Time On ___ and More Time On…
Jen: I would say more time focusing on not like the cute and you get so drawn in and it’s so exciting at first. I’m doing this. I’m really like starting my TPT store and I want all the fonts and all the clip art. And so I would say focusing more on what I know I’m good at and what I know works in a classroom and creating that content versus the small like little things and the cute fluff.
Erin: Yes. I think that’s a really good point because most people when they start their TPT business, they’re learning a set of skills that they’ve never been able to do before. So everything seems exciting. But that is a very specific like pivoting point I feel like in your business, realizing just because you can make whatever you want doesn’t mean you should make all the things that you think of. But that can be hard. It gets so addicting especially at the beginning.
Jen: I’d go back and be like get focused. Like stop being so distracted by all the cute stuff.
Erin: That’s probably where our 500 unfinished projects come from on our computer because I know I have so many. Oh my gosh. But it is. It’s that creative piece that really hooks people in and then it’s all history from there.
Erin: Well, I think that’s really good advice for people who are just starting out and just a good reminder for people who have been doing this for years and years. I know I still find myself doing that some days. It’s like, Erin, just focus. Pick something. Stop jumping around. It’s not good for you. It never ends well. So let’s kind of flip the conversation a little. I don’t want to focus just on mistakes and regrets obviously. What do you feel is something you did really well from the beginning that you would encourage other sellers to also do?
What did you do really well from the beginning in your TpT business?
Jen: So like I kind of talked about earlier, I really do think that I did like nurture and build a really good email list. I have a group of people that email me back every time I send an email and I do feel like I give good content in my emails and I have worked really hard at that. So I am glad I started that when I did.
When I started my email list, I was like, all right, I am sending on this day at this time every week and I have remained consistent with that since then through ups and downs and schools closing and things. I really feel that I’ve tried to stay consistent but also kind of like think about how am I serving my email list, how can I be helpful, and what do they need. So I think one thing that I don’t regret is spending the time on that list because I do have a very loyal email list.
Erin: And that’s really cool to hear because I feel like a lot of times, that’s what sellers save for like last. They start the store and the blog and the social media first. But I love hearing that starting an email list earlier has paid off because I think that will help a lot of people think like oh, maybe I should do that sooner than later. But there’s something about email that’s just intimidating I feel like.
Jen: I know. It is. It is intimidating. But also again, repurposing content. I have been doing it for a while. Sometimes I look back like okay, May is coming up. What did I send May 2nd, 2019? Like I’m going to send that again. Nobody remembers what I sent two years ago and I’m going to repurpose that and just update it a little.
Erin: Absolutely. I mean who is going to remember the emails?
Jen: Yeah. I know I remember like the first time I did it, it was like a light bulb went off. I was like nobody remembers what I sent. Like I could send the same thing next week they probably wouldn’t remember.
Fun Question Game with Jen
Erin: And what a liberating feeling to like be able just to reuse and just be done. Like that is so good. So good. Oh my gosh. Well, this has been amazing. You have shared so many helpful tips. I have a little lightning round of questions I’m going to ask you. I didn’t prep you for this but these are just for fun questions. So just say whatever comes to mind first. Okay?
Erin: You ready?
Erin: All right. Favorite clip artist?
Jen: Oh gosh, that’s so hard. Krista Wallden I would say. She always has something that you can find quick.
Erin: That girl’s a machine.
Jen: She is.
Erin: Favorite font or font artist?
Jen: That’s also really tough. And this is back, I have trouble. I really want all the cute stuff. I would say is it Golly Miss Mollie. Because she has super cute fonts but they also all have capitals where you can make the first letter capital. Where sometimes you find a really cute font and you want the first letter of the sentence be capital and that’s not always there.
Erin: And that’s a great point for people choosing fonts. We just had this conversation for our 101 course about how some fonts don’t even offer the ability to bold or italicize. So you really have to pick ones that have the options.
Jen: Yes. Kaitlynn Albani, she’s also a favorite because the same thing. She has a lot that offer accents and capital letters and stuff.
Erin: I have a lot of her fonts, the KA, hers are the KA fonts? Oh, they’re so good. Mac or PC?
Erin: Okay. Growing bundles, yay or nay?
Jen: Oh, I have two right now and when I’m done, I will be nay for a very long time.
Erin: Oh, I feel that so hard. Favorite food?
Jen: Chocolate cake. Birthday cake.
Erin: Oh yeah. I could go for that right now. And then end of the day, no more TPT, what’s your guilty pleasure, like watching or reading? What do you like to do when there’s downtime?
Jen: I read every night, fiction stuff. I really love historical fiction. Been really reading a lot of World War II era books and I read every night. That’s my thing. That’s not exciting at all. Maybe you were expecting something worth it.
Erin: No. Hey, that’s my guilty pleasure. Reading in bed. Oh my gosh. So nice. I like look forward to that moment every day.
Jen: So do I. So do I. I actually said that to my husband the other day. I was like, I know it’s not even dinner time yet but I really can’t wait to keep reading my book. It’s so good.
Erin: My husband will go through phases where he’ll like read and then not really be into reading. And whenever he’s into reading, I’m like we’re like Mike and Carol Brady, like reading our books in bed. I was like, isn’t this nice? That’s probably why he stops getting on his reading.
Jen: Yeah. Look at us. Look at what we’re doing.
Erin: Oh gosh. Well, thank you, Jen, so much. This was so fun and I appreciate taking the time to come on the show.
Jen: Thank you so much for having me.
Erin: Jen, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you to everyone who has listened in this week. Click if you want to learn more about our Back to Basics series. Or catch up on other podcasts that we have done over the last several weeks. And you can also grab some really great free tools using that link as well. Thanks again so much for listening and I’ll see you here next week.
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