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How to Pivot When Your Plans Fail | Episode #68

Episode Summary

It’s a hard pill to swallow when you spend time and resources on a project or idea only to have it fail. The truth is, business failures abound in the TpT world–we just don’t hear about them all. I used to scrap things altogether when they didn’t work out. But I’ve learned so many times that a failed plan often grows into an even better one in its place. I’m getting 100% transparent about 1 tool I tried and 1 service I offered that did NOT go well—and how I was able to pivot.

School of Sellers podcast
Episode 68 How to Pivot when your plan fails in your teacherspayteachers business

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Times I’ve Had to Pivot in My TeachersPayTeachers Business

I can’t help but think about Ross from friends whenever I hear the word pivot. So that’s kind of what’s going on in my mind right now, which is a really weird space to begin a podcast episode in. But that’s just the way things are going in my life this morning.

So today we are talking all about the pivot. Of course, I love a good plan. I am obsessed with planning and organization and all of those good things. But the truth is that just because you make a plan doesn’t mean that it’s actually going to work out. I’m going to share with you some business ventures that we have made on the SOS side of things that didn’t work out. But luckily, both of these things have happy endings. We were able to learn from our mistakes and come out with something even better in the end.

So this is why I’m sharing with you today. Obviously, if these were just straight up failures, it wouldn’t be a very helpful episode other than to tell you that you are not alone when things don’t go your way. But I’m happy to report that usually there is a silver lining to the mistakes. And you guys know that I try to be pretty transparent with most of my business ventures. It’s also important to me to try certain things and share my experiences with you to hopefully save you the time of trying things that didn’t work out for me.

So today is kind of like a behind the scenes look at our trials and errors with SOS. I think this is helpful for TpT as well because so much of what we do on the School of Sellers side mirrors the TpT side. They’re very similar, and there’s a lot of overlap. So I hope that these experiences are helpful for you to hear about. And I hope you learn a couple things from the episode today.

Project Management Tools for TpT Businesses

You guys know that I am a huge fan of all things project management online tools and apps. And if you’ve taken the Finishing Framework, you know that I’m all about Airtable specifically. And in my business, both TpT and School of Sellers, I try to operate under a general rule of thumb when it comes to these apps. Because there are a lot of apps and programs to choose from.

I find that it helps if you choose one tool for project management, one or two tools for file storage and organization, and then another tool for communication. In my case for file storage and organization, I use a combination of Airtable and Google Drive. And for project management, for the most part I use Trello, but that’s what I’m going to be talking to you guys about today. And communication is Slack for me. I love Slack. If you don’t use it and you have a team or even one or two VA’s, it’s great to use. So just make sure you check it out.

So you guys know I’m a huge Trello fan, but that actually hasn’t always been the case. Trello has been in my toolbox but definitely playing second fiddle to other tools like Airtable. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Trello, in a nutshell, it’s a project management tool, and you create boards for various projects. And then on those boards, you have lists with cards that you can label. You can drag the cards from list to list. You can set due dates. And you can assign things to people. It basically takes the place of tons and tons of sticky notes and to-do lists in my life. Of course, I still have those in my life but not nearly as many without a tool like Trello.

But here’s the thing. You know how it is when you’ve been using a tool for a while and you start hearing about another tool. And you’ve heard of this referred to as shiny objects. You’re always chasing shiny objects because once you’re using something for a while, obviously something new is going to be very appealing because that’s just the way human beings work. But of course, part of the struggle in this business world is trying to ignore all of those shiny objects and really only reaching out for them when it’s worth it.

Pivot #1: Our Experiences with ClickUp

And in this case, we had been hearing about ClickUp for quite some time, and ClickUp was making promises to do the exact same thing that Trello was doing for us. But it was also looking like we could use ClickUp to integrate Airtable and Slack and basically have all three of our major platforms in one place. And for that reason, we wanted to try it. We didn’t feel like it was a careless choice because we had been kind of learning more about it and we’d been thinking about it for a while. And it just seemed more robust and had a lot more that we wanted that we were really missing in Trello.

So we decided to give it a try. When I say we, I mostly mean Ashley because when it comes to organizing our stuff behind the scenes in School of Sellers, Ashley is a total champ when it comes to doing that, and she’s also always on board to try something new. Again, not like in a super haphazard way. But if we decide that it’s a good decision for us and it’s worth a try, then she jumps in head first and is just like let’s do it. She doubles down on it. She commits.

And so Ashley was the one behind the scenes figuring out all of the details and the inner workings of ClickUp when we started and Katie and I were kind of along for the ride. We knew that what she was doing is really confusing. It looked really confusing. Once we got into the ClickUp platform for the first few times, it was very overwhelming. It had quite literally everything you could possibly imagine which was exactly our reason for going there.

Why Things Didn’t Work and What We Did Instead

So I’m sure this isn’t a spoiler alert. It didn’t end up working out. When I say we gave it the old college try, I’m telling you that for four months, Ashley just did everything she could with this app. And it did have a lot to offer. But it had almost too much to offer. So in the end, what we wanted to adopt to save us more time actually ended up costing us more time than it was saving us. Because things would happen like every time we had a new project. Because we were so unfamiliar with ClickUp, it took a long time to figure out how to set it up and how to make sense along with all of the automations that it had to offer.

Then in addition to that, there were so many places that things could be kept that we started missing notifications. We didn’t know where to look. Things seem to be stored in several different areas and there was a tagging system. If we didn’t use it correctly, it just became a huge mess. So there were a lot of different reasons why we decided that ClickUp just wasn’t for us.

When we first gave up on it, I will say it felt like we were admitting defeat, but I’d also be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited to run back into Trello‘s arms because it felt safe and familiar which is totally my jam. I don’t like change. I’m totally a creature of habit. But I know it’s a necessary evil. But I was super excited to get back to Trello because I knew it was simple, it was easy.

Happy To Be Back With Trello

And ultimately, our return to Trello has actually been enormously successful. There was something about its return to like a more simple interface which was exactly what we needed. And since then, we have used it for pretty much every inch of School of Sellers. But I will say that it was also really good timing because as we returned to Trello, it was also around the same time that they changed a lot of their platform and offered a few more capabilities but not too many. I think that was the really important part was that sometimes too much is not a good thing.

I would say that some of my favorite ways to use Trello in my TpT business are I use it to plan my social media. We all use it to keep like a weekly planner of sorts. And I also love the board that we created for prepping for site-wide sales. So there’s just a lot of different ways that you can use Trello. But the main lesson learned here is that just because something is robust doesn’t mean it’s always better. Now in the case of certain things, I think this makes a lot of sense to have as many tools as possible.

For example, I’m a member of Your Data Playbook, and it offers so much behind the scenes, but it’s not something I don’t use every piece of it every single month. And that’s okay. I know it’s there if I need it. But in this case having a platform that I had to log on to every single day, a tool that I used every single day, I didn’t necessarily want a huge buffet of options. It was too overwhelming. So I think it depends on how you’re using this tool and how often because you’re not going to want all of those options in your face each and every day. It just became really hard to manage on a regular basis.

Now luckily one of the huge benefits of chasing shiny objects is that when they don’t work out, it often reinforces what you were originally doing and it reminds you like, hey, if it’s not that broken, then you don’t need to fix it. It’s that return to simplicity for me that really solidified the fact that yes, we should have just stuck with Trello. I’m glad we tried ClickUp because now we know like we can ignore the shiny objects. We know that we tried. We gave it the best shot. And now we are back to what we know what we love and it is working out so well. So if you have not tried Trello in your business before, I highly, highly, highly, highly recommend it.

Pivot #2: School of Sellers Membership

All right. Let’s dive into that second mistake. Now this one is going to be a service that I offered very briefly in my School of Sellers journey. I’m going to tell you how it totally didn’t work out and what we’re doing about it. Now let’s back up a little bit.

Before I started School of Sellers, during the months that I was planning for my first TpT conference presentation, I had this epiphany that I was going to continue my TpT journey by diving into the world of serving and supporting sellers. There was something about planning for that conference presentation, the one that was in Austin. That presentation that just lit a fire under me, and I just couldn’t get enough of the seller world. And I knew that’s what I wanted to do, what I was meant to do, and what my next step was.

So I started seeking out more and more business resources. Now I had already fallen in love with Amy Porterfield at that point. Her podcast was one that really taught me a lot once I started feeling like I was ready to get more serious about my business. By following her, I was also bitten by the online course bug. And I ended up enrolling in her digital course academy which is what helped me create the Finishing Framework which was the first course that I created for School of Sellers. And I love making courses. I love doing courses. I love everything about courses. And people think I’m crazy but I even love like editing videos. That’s one of my favorite parts. I really just love it. Other than the fact that they’re very time consuming to produce, I just love courses.

What I Learned About Memberships

So I thought that, of course, the next natural step in the process was a membership because that’s what it seemed people were doing. When I was in the Facebook groups with other people who were taking Amy Porterfield’s course and I was just seeing everything that they were talking about and everything that they were discussing, it seemed like the next step was the membership. And a lot of people would offer these memberships to people that had taken their courses. So I thought, okay, let’s do that.

I had followed the framework from Amy Porterfield’s courses and followed her steps pretty exact to what she had recommended. So I figured following along that path was the way to go. So what I did was quite literally threw together some monthly challenges for people who had gone through our Finishing Framework course. And so these challenges were only open to the alumni group which was a pretty small sample of the SOS community at this time. I launched this membership in October or November for the first time. Simply put, guys, it was a mess.

Things Were Honestly A Mess

Probably from the outside looking in, it didn’t seem like a mess. But here’s what happened behind the scenes. It took me forever to plan. I had pages and pages of physical materials and videos that I was producing for every month of challenges. Not only did it take a lot of time for me to plan them, it was a lot to give people every month. It was taking too much time for people to implement. And throw that on top of the fact that it was the holiday season. October, November, December, it’s already a busy time of year.

We haven’t really talked about the challenges a lot. We kind of just announced them after they were created, and it just didn’t catch on. There were a handful of us that were doing these challenges. But I personally was so burnt out from creating the materials for them. I was only able to very half-heartedly go through the challenges myself.

The End of the School of Sellers Membership

So after two months, I called it quits, and I’m embarrassed to admit that. Well, not embarrassed. That means that I regret that. I’m not embarrassed, but I was embarrassed at the time that I was stopping it after only two months. Because at that point, SOS had been successful. And I felt like by offering this and then pulling back on that offer, I was just making a complete fool out of myself. I know now that is not the case. I know a couple of our alumni members were a little bummed that the challenges ended.

But simply put, I just wasn’t ready. I knew that I wanted to offer a membership model to our community because I personally think it’s the best way of serving and supporting and working with sellers on a regular basis instead of waiting for the next course to roll around. Because to be quite honest, while I love courses, creating one from start to finish takes a really long time. And while I would love to just create courses back to back to back to back, it’s just not feasible. So I’m in the season of life right now where I am loving the idea of breaking things down into monthly chunks instead of throwing it all into one big course.

Making Time for My Own TpT Business

And so the other thing that was happening behind the scenes that people couldn’t see was that I was losing a ton of time on my own business. I knew that going in that I was going to have to sacrifice some of my business to make School of Sellers successful. That was totally a decision I was willing to make. But this challenge idea was just draining me. And it was taking too much out of me and I had nothing left to give to my own business.

I really needed to find a way to be present on both sides, the SOS side and the TpT side, without sacrificing the other. And that original model for our monthly challenges was just not it. It was just taking way too much time and just wasn’t worth it. But the reason I’m telling you this is because this episode is all about the pivot, right? So don’t think I’m just going to air this dirty laundry without sharing the happy ending.

I’m not even sure you could call this one a pivot though honestly because it’s been an entire year in the making. So I knew despite my feelings, despite feeling embarrassed, despite that initial failure, that we were meant to offer a monthly membership to sellers. Like I just knew it. And I just needed more time to like think about it, plan, and then think and plan again. And that is exactly what I’ve spent the last year doing along with my SOS sidekicks, Katie and Ashley. It’s what we were up to in Denver, what we’ve been up to during so many calls, so many Trello boards, so many text threads, oh my gosh, so many late night Google Doc comments that have led to like these humongous ideas. And ugh, it’s been the hardest year of my life waiting to share all of this.

The Future of School of Sellers Challenges

But the wait is over, and I’m so excited. And this pivot is going to sound like a pitch, but it’s not. Like not even close because what I’m going to tell you about isn’t even available to buy yet. So even if you wanted it, you couldn’t get it right now. So this is just how we recovered from our major challenge fail. We have taken basically everything that we want for our own business and turned it into a monthly work club for TpT sellers.

How the Challenges Will Work

Every month has a theme, whether it’s SEO, email marketing, something that pertains to your business. And inside every month, there is a challenge which is a set of tasks that align with the theme. Every challenge is going to directly move the needle to your business. No extra fluff. No extra nothing. It’s so simple and so actionable, it’s crazy. And every month we will have things like power hours on Zoom calls.

And it’s a monthly subscription. So you can join for a month, you can join for the year. It’s totally up to you. But one of the biggest changes that we’ve made to this membership model is that it is now open to any and all sellers. We’re not just limiting it to people who are graduates of any of our courses. This is for any and all sellers even if you’re not in the School of Sellers Facebook community.

We know that there are strength in numbers. And we wanted to open this set of challenges to any and all sellers because the content inside the challenges every single month are going to be actionable, whether it’s your first year or your 10th year on TpT. And I know that sounds crazy, but I promise you it’s actually the case. So it’s very versatile, and I just like that idea of welcoming all sellers into that challenge. That was a piece that didn’t feel right to me in the last one. You know how sometimes just something in your gut you just feel better about certain decisions. That’s how I’m feeling with that decision.

It just makes me happy that we are offering it to everyone and it’s not so limited. And then the second thing was the biggest thing. I’m not going to be spending hours and hours creating materials for this membership because we have actually targeted seller needs and are covering them with only one page a month. That is it.

One page a month, and it’s going to be a damn good page, let me just tell you. But I’m the most excited about this because the challenges are ones that I made with my own business in mind. I decided that if I was going to spend time with SOS and make it a success, then I was going to find a way to overlap it with my business so that what I was doing with School of Sellers was also directly moving the needle of my TpT business. And that is exactly how these challenges were born. We designed every single month with intention. How can we maximize our time and energy each and every month to tackle what needs to be done to push our business forward?

Stay Tuned for More News About SOS Challenges in the Coming Weeks!

And it’s so amazing because I am more excited to participate in these from a TpT personal standpoint than I am to offer them to the SOS community. Don’t get me wrong. I’m super happy to open these up in January. But I am like just chomping at the bit to get started on my own. And Katie and Ashley and I have actually talked about starting some of the challenge tasks even before the new year because they’re just that good. So I’m super excited to tell you guys more about it when the time comes. All right. And how’s this for transparency? You guys won’t hear this in the recording. But I just had to pause what I was saying because I literally lost track of what we were talking about in the podcast episode because I got so excited talking about the challenges.

How to Pivot in Your TeachersPayTeachers Business


So that is proof to you that there are so many silver linings to come out of problems and failures in your business. That is quite possibly one of my biggest regrets was my monthly challenge failure in our alumni course. And now it’s becoming one of my biggest dreams come true.

So if you are feeling like you have failed at something or you plan for something to go one way and it went the other way, think about how you can pivot. How can you take that experience and turn it into something better, something new, and something that’s going to work for you? Sometimes that can happen the next day. Sometimes it takes an entire year like our challenges have. But no matter what, there’s always a way to make it better. I hope you have an incredible rest of your week. I will see you here same time, same place next week!

Looking for another way to get this episode? Download the transcript for How to Pivot When Your Plans Fail here!

How to Pivot in Your TpT Business

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