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Starting Out on TpT: Sellers Tell All Panel | Episode #55

Episode Summary

Join Molly Beardsley, Keri Brown, Nicole Brown, Vanessa Mejia, Molly Beardsley, Michael Sivert, and me in this LIVE replay seller panel where we answer all your questions about starting out on TpT.

Starting Out on TpT: Sellers Tell All Panel
TpT Seller Panel

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TpT Seller Panel

Introduction to the Episode

Erin: I am so excited to tell you about our episode today because it is unlike anything I’ve ever done and it is very special to me. A couple days ago this week, we actually did a Facebook live with a panel of amazing sellers who are part of the School of Sellers community. And during this 60-minute panel, we answered all of the live questions being submitted about what it takes to start a TPT business and our best advice for all TPT sellers.

So everything that you hear in this episode today is the audio from our Facebook live. I’m so excited to share it with you. I had very high expectations going into this chat because I know the panelists and I’ve seen what they’re capable of. But this just surpassed all of my wildest dreams. The information and inspiration and tips that they shared throughout our panel are just priceless. So enjoy. It’s a great one and I know you’ll love it!

Another reason this episode is so special to me beyond the fact that these are good friends of mine who have chosen to spend an hour with us is the fact that School of Sellers is getting ready to launch a Foundations for Teacher Sellers course. And this is the course for anyone who has been thinking about starting a teacher seller business or maybe you have a TPT store but you haven’t really done anything with it yet. So you’ve heard me talk about all of the exciting things about starting your own business. So if you are in that camp right now and you are really ready to make that move, you can go to SchoolOfSellers.com/Foundations.

If you’re a teacher seller who’s listing who is not a beginner seller, if you have friends who are teachers who would make amazing teacher sellers, feel free to share this episode with them and share the link so that they can get started doing their own teacher seller business. Because I know you all have those friends where it’s like, I would love it if you would get started in this because a) I know you’d be so good at it and b) I know that we would just have the most fun ever talking about all things TPT. So if you have one of those friends, we all do, feel free to share this with them and spread the love and make sure that they visit our page. Okay. I won’t make you wait any longer. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. This might be my favorite episode so far!

TpT Sellers Tell All Panel

Erin: Welcome to Sellers Tell All. I am here tonight with some of my seller friends who have graciously offered their time and expertise to answer all of the questions that you might have about selling on TPT. I am Erin for anyone watching who doesn’t know me. Ashley and I are the founders and Team SOS of School of Sellers along with Katie who is helping us behind the scenes tonight. And we serve the seller community and we are really interested in helping teachers grow their TPT business but also start their TPT business.

Tonight we really want to answer your questions about what it’s like starting out on TPT and basically just like any TPT stuff that you’ve ever wondered and would love to ask a group of experienced sellers. So we’ll start out by doing just some introductions and kind of tell us what your store name is, how long you’ve been doing this all, and then we will go ahead and dive in. So Michael, you are the first person immediately to my right from my view. Why don’t you go ahead and kick things off for us?

Seller Panel Introductions

Michael Sivert: All right. Well, thanks for having me. My name is Michael. I’m from Mikey D Teach which is grades three to five social emotional learning and other subjects. And right now, I’m teaching full-time in the classroom, fifth grade in Ohio.

Nicole Brown: So hi, everybody. My name is Nicole and my store is BrowniePoints. I’ve been selling since 2013 and I’m still teaching full-time. I teach first grade in a city outside of Toronto, Ontario. And next will be Molly.

Molly Beardsley: Hi, I am Molly and I have been on TPT since 2013. My store is Lucky To Be in First. I am a full-time first grade teacher. And I’m moving to a job share 50% next year teaching kindergarten. So I don’t know. Scary. All right, Keri.

Keri Brown: Hi, I am Keri. My store is Keri Brown, super original. I am a kindergarten teacher and I have been on TPT since 2011 I think. And Vanessa.

Vanessa Mejia: Oh, thank you. Hi. So happy to be here. My name is Vanessa. My TPT store is Longwing Learning and I’ve been on TPT I want to say for six years plus. I can’t pinpoint like a specific year, but it’s at least six. I am a fourth grade teacher and I’m still in the classroom.

Erin: Awesome. Well, thank you again everyone. Especially all being in the classroom, I know how precious and valuable your time is. So it means a lot that you are sharing that with us tonight. So without further ado, Ashley, if you want to start asking some questions. And also, you’re getting the questions that are being submitted live as well. So go ahead and pick a question.

Ashley: Okay. I’m going to start with, let’s have Keri start with this one. Okay? How do you come up with ideas for products beyond just using things you made for your own classroom?

How do you come up with product ideas beyond what you made for your own classroom?

Keri: That’s a good question. I try to be an outside of the box thinker and try to make things that I haven’t seen other people create. And that’s really difficult to do. But if you do find an original idea, I think they do tend to do better because you’re the only person that has that idea at the time. So how I come up with that?

Random times like driving in the car, I know it sounds silly, but driving in the car, you’ll have this random idea of oh, that sounds like a good idea or when you’re like shopping, like most of the time when you can’t just write it down are the times when you come up with random ideas that it has nothing to do with my kids at school and that’s probably where I come up with my best ideas. Like my best seller in my store, I was driving four hours back to my home and I was like, oh, I wonder if that would work? As soon as I got there, I started trying to make it and it turned out to be my best seller.

Vanessa: Wow. Something else that I wanted to add to Keri was that once I am creating a product, like other ideas start to come up because then I start thinking of like, oh, I can turn this into something else as well. So usually when you are creating a resource, as you’re doing it, you’ll have other ideas as well.

Molly: I want to piggyback on that. I also get very random ideas and my place is the shower. So I bought on Amazon this thing called Aqua Notes that it’s a pad of paper that is like waterproof and a pencil that writes in the shower. And I actually will write notes. It’s really funny because my husband will come and be like, I see another idea forming here. So it’s like $10 on Amazon and I feel like it’s a tax write-off. So you definitely should buy it.

Erin: That is like the best thing I’ve heard all week. I think that is so genius.

Molly: Right?

Erin: I am totally with you guys. My two places are the shower and the car, 100%. But I will say that the car wins. Like I’ve definitely had my best ideas in the car to the point where I’ve even pulled over before. Yeah, there’s just something about that like mindless driving and not thinking about anything else. Like I think just totally clearing your mind is the best time to really start thinking. And I totally agree with Keri about trying to find something that’s not already been done. It’s hard but when you can, it is so worth it.

Molly: And I think something like clearing your mind, to piggyback on that, Erin, I feel like we work, work, work. Like being full-time teachers all of us, we work all day and then we come home and we work on this for hours each night. And we’re tired. I found that some of my best like product lines or greatest ideas have been when I’ve like been reading a book and I’ve stepped away from TPT and stepped away from my computer. Then I’ll get this genius idea. And so I think like the message is you need to take a break. It’s really good for all parts of your life.

Ashley: Okay. Our next one, I’m going to call on Michael to start but I want everyone to kind of feed into this. If you could start over, what would you do differently?

If you could start over with your TpT business, what would you do differently?

Michael: Oh man, that’s a really good question. Everyone told me when I first started, make products because if you don’t have products you can’t sell anything. But then the next thing was blog and I was like, I don’t want to. I don’t want to write a blog. I don’t like writing. And I wish I had just listened and done it because it’s clear, at least in my store and probably everybody’s, the ones I blog about are some of my best sellers. So it’s something I wish I had started as soon as I started TPT. I wish I had listened.

Molly: I was going to say that you should make sure all of your social handles are available. And I pigeonholed myself into like Lucky To Be in First and I’ve been a first grade teacher for 18 years. But now that I’m switching to kindergarten, I’m having like a crisis. Like do I change my name? Do I stick with Lucky To Be in First? Like what do I do?

So really think through your name because I started my blog on a whim one day and my husband came home and I was like, I started a blog today. And he’s like, I have no idea what that means but I’m super excited for you. And so because like I didn’t think it through and I got a design up really fast, I think that it was not well thought out. So take time and think things through a little bit more than I did.

Vanessa: When I first started teaching, I was an interventionist and I would do a lot of worksheets. And I would have that in my computer for years because I felt like it wasn’t perfect or it didn’t fit like a certain like TPT standard I guess. And you know what? Once I posted it, like nothing happened and the good thing is that you can always go back and change it and update it. So my advice, like if I were to start all over, would just be to not worry about it being perfect. Just post it and then throughout like the years or time, you can always go back and just change it and update it and things like that.

Nicole: I think for me I would say, I think that it’s different now, the climate for TPT. When I started, I didn’t know other sellers. I didn’t know where to look. We didn’t have these awesome Facebook communities. So I was pretty much on my own. So I wish I had the time and I sought connections just to learn with other people and to grow together and just get those questions answered.

Keri: I’ll say if I could do it all over, I would not create décor. Oh my gosh, I hate it. And so like my thing now is to make what you like to make and not what you think you’re supposed to be making. Because everybody was making decor and I was like oh my gosh, I need to do decor or oh my gosh, I need to make this and I hated all of it. And of course, it didn’t sell because I don’t like to do it. And so the stuff that I love to do is the stuff that sells. So I would say make what you like and don’t make what you think you need to make.

Erin: It’s hard when you see these huge sellers making things like decor and then they’re doing well obviously. But it’s like you also don’t see the 90,000 other sellers who are selling decor that aren’t making a single penny off of it. So I think that really is important to think about. I also wanted to chime in, Molly, when you were saying about the usernames, that’s one of my biggest regrets.

And I would if I were just starting out, I would make a list of all the possible names and I would grab every single one of them on social media just in case and domains too. You can get Google domains for like $12 a year. If you think you’re going to be doing something with a certain name, I think it’s worth it to grab earlier on because oh my gosh, it’s so hard to find unique names and accounts now too I feel like.

Ashley: We have our first live question and this is going to be for whoever wants to answer and chime in. It says we have about 52 products in our store. We have been open for approximately nine months. We create digital and print science resources for 3rd through 8th grades. What is a ballpark figure we should be shooting for to make each month?

We have about 52 products in our store. What is a ballpark figure we should be shooting for to make each month?

Vanessa: Well, I want to say congrats for having that many products. I know I definitely did not have all of that within that time. I don’t know if Erin wants to chime in. But I feel that one thing that’s important is just to continue to create and like the sales will come. They don’t come right away but definitely if you’re consistent in posting and updating your resources, like they will start selling and your sales over time will pick up. But it’s definitely not like an overnight success.

Erin: I would say too that instead of focusing on how many products you have in your store, really think about, and I don’t know if your goal is creating as many products as you can in your first year. There’s nothing wrong with that, but also start looking at the ones that are selling the most. Even if your best sellers have only sold two or three times, there’s still something to be said about that product. So as you continue to make products, I would look at those and see how you can maybe expand upon them like into product lines or bundle them, some way to keep that momentum going.

But in terms of like a specific earnings number, I mean you guys can chime in if you have, I think it’s so personalized based on every single seller and your niche, like who your target audience is. There’s so many factors that go into it. So I don’t have a number but I would say whatever you do, don’t compare your earnings to other people who have started around the same time as you. Because it will go nowhere good.

Michael: I would say especially because you’re almost at a year, just look at always, like the goal is to do better than last year. So once you start getting into that and you can look at your years over time, I think that’s a really good goal and it’s something that is motivating. So I would look at that.

Ashley: Okay. Our next one comes from Instagram. They say, I want to start a store but what about copyright? I’m scared I will get in trouble for unknowingly infringing on a trademark or something. And let’s start with Nicole.

Nicole: All right. So that is a tricky thing. TPT does have a resource called TPT University. If you go there, they explain everything about copyright. But the thing to know is if you didn’t create it, you have to be able to source it. You could search for trademarks to see and find out whether or not that item is trademarked. But the information’s out there. Don’t be afraid. Just do your research and we have all these communities now. You can ask.

Molly: Also, I think one of the like best advice that somebody gave to me years ago was to stay in your own lane and not worry about anybody else. And so don’t look at other people’s things. So I actually follow very few sellers on Instagram because I don’t want to accidentally be influenced by their work. And so staying in your own lane works for lots of parts of this business. Like if you stay in your own lane, I can’t compare myself to that person over there because we’re driving different speeds.

And if I stay in my own lane, I’m not looking at their stuff. So as long as you’re staying away from like Pete the Cat or things that we know we really shouldn’t be using, but using those resources like Nicole said are great. And a lot of times people will say like, I got this great idea and I just made it. I fixed it to make it work for my class. Like well, you’re still stealing. So I feel like as long as you’re not borrowing from other people, just do what works for you and stay in your own lane.

Ashley: Okay. we have another one from Instagram and this is going to be for everybody if you want to chime in. Is it really possible to make a living from TPT?

Is it really possible to make a living from TpT?

Keri: I’ll go first. So I started TPT because I was poor. I think I was working in the district with the lowest teacher pay and I had a car note and I was paying for a house and student loans that are never ending. And I was like, I need a way to make money and nobody would hire me because they said I had degrees and stuff. So I couldn’t get my full-time job because they said I required too much. And then TPT happened. And I absolutely say it is possible to make a living because there are tons of teachers who are full-time now.

But even like all of us, I feel like, I don’t know how much everybody makes and not my business, but we are still all full-time and I think we probably do well on TPT and enough to live comfortably. So we’re not looking for another side job that is super demanding and not related to education. If you are on the fence and you’re a teacher and you’re wondering if this is something that could be good long-term, absolutely do it. Because now I don’t have to worry about which bill I’m going to pay which month or skipping bills or anything like that. Those days are long gone.

Molly: Yay! I love that. That gives me goosebumps that you said that. I live in the Bay Area which is like the most expensive place in the world it seems to live. And so I am still working full-time because it’s tough to live here. But I think that you can, like as long as you go into this not thinking you’re going to quit your job. I think that you have to set very realistic expectations. Like my first month, I wanted to make, I remember when I made a few like sales, I remember saying to my dad, I can’t wait till I make $50 in one month. I know I have made it when I’ve made $50.

And for me, buying that that premium seller membership, I emailed a seller who I purchased from before. I didn’t know her personally. I emailed her and said, I’m sorry if this is too forward of a question, but I’m really struggling with the $60 that TPT wants me to pay. And she basically wrote back like, okay, pull your credit card out right now and pay for it. I promise this will pay off in no time.

But I do think it is possible and for whatever your goals are, set a goal. Like I want to be able to pay my car payment this month. I want to be able to quit my job in two years. Whatever it is, set a very realistic goal and I think it’s totally doable. But like somebody said earlier, it’s a slow build. You’re not going to get overnight success. Like those days on TPT I think are over.

Nicole: I think for me as a teacher in Ontario, we get paid fairly well. I started it as a hobby and then I just started making more money. And being single living on my own, it was like it’s nice to have that extra money. I can do what I want, buy my own things. I could afford to buy my own house, things like that. So for me, it was just a bit more financial freedom and not have to worry about pinching and treating myself to little things. But it didn’t start that way but it just ended up being just a nice bonus. But you definitely can do well.

Erin: I think one of the biggest things that you guys have pointed out is that it’s different from like other second jobs that teachers can get because you don’t have to physically go to a second job. You don’t have to show up. I mean once you build your store and you put in the work up front, a lot of your income becomes passive. You still have to put work into it but I think that’s like the big difference between other options that teachers have right now versus TPT. So I agree with everything that you guys have said and I think that it can be a little misleading sometimes.

Some sellers are very open about how much they earn. And like I like hearing that stuff because it gives me hope and it like kind of fuels my fire. But also I think you have to be careful about setting those unrealistic expectations from the beginning. So you have to be motivated for the right reason. So I like Molly’s suggestion about like having goals in mind that aren’t necessarily tied to money. But yeah, it’s definitely possible. I mean between this group, I feel like we could probably name like hundreds of sellers who have managed to make a living off of TPT. So it’s just like, it’s pretty magical.

Ashley: Okay. We have some more live questions. The first one’s going to be, what are some tips for improving your TPT profile, like adding a quote? What should my quote link to? A profile picture? Where should I put my logo? And let’s go with Molly.

Molly: I did long ago an animated box and somebody had some tutorial. I don’t even sell some of the products that are still circulating in that thing. And I chose to, I think the rule on TPT is you have to have that box link within TPT. That used to be the rule so I think I’m sticking with that rule. So I link it to my bundles because I want like the highest ticket item for when you click on this, like when you see all these fun products cycling through, I want to like go to the most expensive thing that you can buy.

You can buy little things within it but I just think like if you showcase some of your resources and they see, we all love moving things. Like human beings are just like, give me more eye candy. So I think as much as you can use that retail space on TPT, like on the sides, on the top, do as much as you can. And use your profile. People might not know this but there’s something you can learn more about this seller. And so I put random goofy facts that maybe somebody will be like, oh my gosh, I love the show Friends too. Now they’re going to want to buy from me. Who knows? I don’t know what’s going to connect with people.

Ashley: I love that advice. Here’s a really good one from the live. As a full-time teacher, I want to use my summer break time to the fullest. How do I create a plan for my business?

As a full-time teacher, I want to use my summer break time to the fullest. How do I create a plan for my business?

Erin: If you’re a new teacher, you can take the Foundations course. There’s just something about the summer break and having that time to work on your business that just feels like a wide open block of time with no other obligations. I would definitely think about tackling all of those tasks that you don’t have time to tackle during the school year. So like kind of front loading your business and like doing a ton of stuff during the summer so you’re not stressed during the school year whether that’s batching like emails to your list, whether it’s batch creating products. I’m all about batching obviously. I’m kind of a lazy person. So I like to get a lot of like those undesirables done in one sitting. Think ahead about how you can alleviate your stress for next school year.

But I also love the summer for finally getting to sit down and work on that project that you’ve been putting off, like the one that you’re just going to love creating and just have fun and look forward to creating every single day. Because I feel like that’s a really good way to mix business and pleasure so you don’t feel like you’re working your whole summer away. I think it’s important to choose an enjoyable task. But I’m curious to hear from other people if you have like a way that you plan what you’re going to do on summer break.

Vanessa: I try to do the big projects because I’ve learned that before school, there’s sometimes I can’t wake up early and then after school, I have like zero energy to work on either like a product line or just things that require like a lot of energy and thinking. So I like to leave like big, big projects like that where I am fresh and I have a lot of energy definitely for the summer. But what I do beforehand is I try to just write down like the ideas that I have for it, outlines, just create templates for it. So I try to have everything set up.

So when summer time comes, it’s just whatever takes up my most energy, I can just do it during that time just because I know that’s the only time I’m going to have where I can spend four or five hours just working on that. And then, just like Erin said, I also like to work like on little side projects just to balance things out. So I like to do that. And that works out because I know that after summer I can then start working on other little stuff that I like but that doesn’t require as much time and energy.

Michael: I would agree. And I would say map out what days you’re going to work. Give yourself times and don’t just write TPT. Like write I’m going to do this, this, this, and this. Because when you get more specific, you’re more likely to do that task. So I think that’s really important to do too is kind of what are you going to do during that time that you’re going to work during the week.

Keri: I agree with everything everybody said. The one thing I try to do in the summer is get out of the house and work. Because I kind of get tired of looking at the walls because I’m used to getting up and going to school every day. So I see something different. But in the summer, you’re just looking at the same walls. So I try to find different places to actually go work and it kind of helps because I know I got a limited time I’m going to sit here, I got to get these two or three things done, and I usually am more confident that they’re going to get done instead of trying to get them done at home where I’ll play with my dog or watch TV or things like that. When you’re somewhere else, you get it done and then leave.

Ashley: Okay. We’re going to jump back to some submitted questions. If you’re just starting out, what should be your square one starting point?

If you’re just starting out, what should be your square one starting point?

Molly: I started my blog first. And I think in my mind, I thought like I was going to like blog every day and it was going to be, just going to spread my wealth. And I think that we started in a time where Instagram wasn’t around. I think it was around but I don’t think like teachers were really using it. And so when I look back at old blog posts, I’m like, who cared about the new pair of shoes, or what I ate for lunch? Like first of all, food pictures, gross. But like it’s so silly.

So I think that like if you’re starting, start with a blog and start with a product and blog about that product. And just start there. And just you have to do it and done is better than perfect to steal from Erin. Like just start. You have to do it. And like Vanessa said, you can always go back and make it better. And I think we all on this panel have probably gone back and tweaked products and tweaked blog posts to make them better. But you just have to start. And so make something that you use in your classroom, get it on TPT, and share it on your blog.

Erin: I love that advice. And just the general advice of just do something. Like just start. It doesn’t really matter what you start working on first. I think products are always a very good place to start. But I know my whole entire first year of TPT, probably more than that, I was just like a dog chasing its tail because I had no idea what to do and I just bounced around from so many different things to another. And I wasn’t really doing anything. I was just kind of like, I don’t know, I panic started TPT. It was not a good place to start from.

So we actually, when we created the Foundations course for teacher sellers, for like new TPT sellers, we talked and we’re like, we need a square one type place to start. The entire first module of our course is free for anyone who is thinking about starting TPT. It’s such a big like up in the air question and I think a lot of people probably have like the desire to start and like they know deep down they can do it. But the physical starting point can be a mystery for a lot of people. So I would say sign up for our free module but also just start a seller account. That would be a really good place to start.

Vanessa: Yeah, definitely starting the seller account and focusing on just putting up your first freebie. That’s a good start. And don’t worry about colors because I remember when I first started, I think I would obsess over like what color should my logo be and I think I changed it. Like every color of the rainbow my logo has been. So yeah. And you’re so lucky to have like Erin and just to be able to tell you like where to start or even some guidance because I think when we all started, it was just like we didn’t even know where. I was just like trying out so many different things. Some things worked, others didn’t. But yeah.

Erin: I 100% agree and I wanted to add Facebook groups. Join Facebook groups and just start doing. Because I agree, Vanessa. First of all, I’m not the only one out there helping people start their TPT businesses. But I think kind of like Instagram, Facebook groups were a thing when we started but they weren’t as prevalent as they are today and certainly not as helpful. Like I’ve met some of my best TPT friends inside of seller Facebook groups. So that’s just kind of like an added bonus actually of joining those. But they’re a really great place to start.

Ashley: Okay. This next one’s going to be for everybody since everybody’s still in the classroom. It’s going to be, what is your top tip for balancing teaching full-time with your TPT business and avoiding the burnout? So we’ll do like a quick fire with this one. Okay. Go Vanessa.

What is your top tip for balancing teaching full-time with your TpT business and avoiding the burnout?

Vanessa: Leave on time. I have an alarm, my watch, I have a little poster. That’s my goal every single day, just leave on time. Leave by your contractual hour. Don’t worry about grading, about all of that. Sometimes I just get up and I just leave because if I don’t get up at that time, I know I could be there, I’ll say like, oh, I’ll be there another five minutes and easily an hour can pass. So yeah, just leave on time.

Michael: I would say this might be counter-intuitive and Molly kind of already talked about this earlier but don’t work when you feel stressed or when you are kind of feeling burnt out because it just makes it worse. And then you don’t want to do TPT and it becomes a whole thing. So I think it’s important to have a plan but I also think it’s important especially during the school year to check in with yourself. And if it’s not a day that you’re going to get quality work done, Erin talks about things like you have Netflix and chill tasks, little things that you can do on the couch. So just be patient with yourself and you’re going to have days that you just can’t work and that’s okay. Because you’re going to burn yourself out if you try to force it.

Nicole: So TPT is my self-care. I just want to leave the building. And teaching the same grade year after year, it’s easier to leave on time. Some times of the year are harder than others Like report card time, I’m not getting much TPTing done. If I teach a new grade, there’s more work, more planning. But every year is different. This year teaching online all day at home, I don’t want to open up my computer in the evening and do TPT sometimes, right? So just give yourself grace. But for me, I love it. So I just get home, get the school stuff out of the way, and then get to work, the work that I love.

Molly: I agree. I think it’s a mindset. I used to watch the evening news in my classroom every night as a new teacher. So I think like Vanessa’s point, leave the building and do something. And I started TPT when I had a really, really rough year. I needed to bring some joy back into teaching which is why I started TPT. I needed to find something that I loved about education. And so to Nicole’s point, it continues to bring joy.

But I’m also very task oriented. So I sort of set goals like what Michael was saying earlier. I’m going to do this, this, and this today. And I work better in the morning so I actually wake up really early and I get a little bit of work done because by the time I do get home, I am exhausted. So I think you need to find the time that works for you. Like if you love to stay up at 11 o’clock, that’s awesome. But I am asleep by 8:15. Like no joke. Tired in bed. Asleep at 8:15. Like I beat my kid to bed some nights.

Keri: So it’s funny she said she’s a morning person. I’m a total night person. I cannot work before like eight o’clock. My brain is not on. Like I work at school all day, come home, I have to do stuff, and then eight o’clock, like my creative brain turns on and I’ll stay up to like two o’clock in the morning, three o’clock sometimes and then go to school which I know sounds terrible. But that’s just the way my brain works and it doesn’t bother me to stay up late. So that’s kind of funny you said that because I’m like a 2:00 AM person.

Erin: So I feel like I shouldn’t even speak to this because I wasn’t in the classroom this year and this year was just a year. But one thing that worked for me when I was in the classroom was choosing one day that I would let myself stay late. So like ideally, I never wanted to stay late. But if I had to, I knew that I had the option of staying late one day out of the week to get like a ton of stuff done and that kind of like gave me the flexibility that Michael was talking about, kind of like set boundaries but also give yourself grace and give yourself opportunities to kind of move things around based on the day-to-day.

Ashley: Okay. I have a live question for Keri because I know she’s amazing at Instagram. Should you follow everyone who follows you on Instagram?

Should you follow everyone who follows you on Instagram?

Keri: Absolutely not. There’s a bunch of weird reasons. But one is because I think we said earlier, I don’t like to see other people’s things. Because you’ll see it and you’re not intentionally trying to be inspired by it or copy it but it’s in the back of your head. And like six months later, you’ll have this idea but it’s not really your idea because you saw it. So I don’t follow a lot of people that I think make things that are related to things I would make. Once I see somebody starts making things that I would make, I unfollow them. But absolutely do not feel obligated to follow someone just because they follow you even if they message you very nicely and say, hey, follow me, I love your stuff. Delete and keep it moving.

Ashley: That’s a good one. Okay. Let’s see. I’m going to ask Michael this one. What are some suggestions for gaining followers for your TPT store in order to build up an email contact list?

What are some suggestions for gaining followers for your TpT store in order to build up an email list?

Michael: Oh, that is a really good question. I will say at least in my experience, I just kept making things and I kept posting on Facebook and Instagram. I just kind of kept going and eventually I had followers on TPT that I use the note for followers and sent them other places. And I eventually got enough followers on Instagram that I would say, hey, here’s my TPT store and they would follow my TPT store. Sometimes you have opportunities to do little giveaways and part of the giveaway is following your TPT store. So I think it’s a lot of just you have to keep putting yourself out there and eventually something will catch. And then you can use that platform to loop everybody into everything else. So just keep going at it and you’ll eventually notice something starts just working for you.

Erin: And I would say too to not be discouraged by other people who have a large number of followers either on TPT or Instagram because a lot of times, those followers aren’t really followers. Maybe they got a ton one time from a post that went viral or something. And if you look at a lot of those accounts with tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers, their interaction, like when they post something on Instagram, like there’s barely any likes or comments compared to how many followers they have. So definitely take those numbers with a grain of salt. But I love Michael’s advice. That’s the best way I think to get an authentic following is patience unfortunately.

Ashley: I also just want to add one of the things I always remind myself and I heard it somewhere, I’m sure on a business podcast, if you have 10 loyal followers, you will get more sales from them than having a thousand people that you got randomly somewhere. So I always try to remember that. This next one’s going to be for Vanessa because I know you’re really good with social media as well. Are you ready? How important is social media to your success as a TPT seller? To be honest as a teacher, I never turn to social media for resources. We do have a blog and a YouTube channel. So is it okay to just post to Instagram and Facebook with helpful hints, repurposing content from your blog, etc.? But showing up to stories daily is a struggle.

How important is social media to your success as a TpT seller?

Vanessa: Is it essential? I’m seeing it like as my top 10 sellers like on the like TPT dashboard. But that took many years to even get there. Instagram is a lot of work. I think Pinterest is way better just because for SEO purposes, like your pin and everything that you put there will definitely go a longer way. Instagram is just more like every day, you’re there doing a story or putting a post and that takes a lot of time and energy. I love repurposing things. So once I do a video, I try to put it on stories and then the following week, I will put the same video again just because Instagram is one of those things where you work on it every single day. And then the day you don’t post, Instagram punishes you like very harsh for not posting one day.

But I would focus more of my energy on Pinterest than Instagram. I just feel like it goes a longer way and Pinterest, yes, there’s a lot of work like up front. But it’s like once you have it, it’s there for a very long time. Like I have pins that I did like three years ago and I’m seeing them now, like oh, I got a sale from this versus Instagram, I feel it’s more for like a quick win but it’s not necessarily something that brings me revenue like as much as Pinterest which is like longer and I don’t do necessarily as much work as I do for Instagram. I just like it because it’s just fun.

Molly: Yeah, it’s a better long game for Pinterest. But what I like about Instagram is it gives you like a connection to people. I feel like you start to know people, and I hate doing stories because I hate listening to my voice. I hate showing my face. But I know that’s what people want to see. Like I’m nosy. The very first thing I do when I go to somebody’s blog is go to the About Me page. If you don’t have an about me page, I’m kind of like, why not, what are you hiding? So I think that it’s really important to share part of yourself because people want to know who they’re buying from. We want to know. So I think that’s what Instagram is good for. But I do agree that they do punish you harshly if you miss a day.

Keri: I’m going to be on the opposite of the fence here. I hate Pinterest because it just hates me. So for all of those people out there who you’re in the same boat as me and Pinterest hates you, we’re here. But I love Instagram and it’s usually in my top three on sales. It’s either, of course, TPT and then Facebook or Instagram. And Pinterest is somewhere way down there.

But Instagram does well for me. I can tell when I haven’t posted anything on Instagram. Sales go down if I’m not in stories. So for me, Instagram is my money maker a lot and Facebook. So I think my advice on that is to do what works for you. Even though I know a lot of people are going to say Pinterest and you’re sitting there trying, trying, trying and it’s not working, find something that works for you. That’s going to be my piece on that.

Vanessa: I just want to add I agree with Molly. Instagram, you definitely build that connection, that relationship, and it works out in that sense. And I think Instagram, that platform is great for that. I also do agree with Keri that some people do, I have a friend that all she does is Instagram and she does phenomenal. But I also feel it depends where your people are. And it also depends on your niche. So if you are more like high school, just like upper elementary, you will have people there. It’s wherever your people are. And if your people are on Instagram, then that’s where you need to be. If it’s on Pinterest, then that’s where you need to be. You just kind of need to decide which platform will work best for you depending on your niche.

Nicole: I’ll also say you don’t have to do everything. I’m the introvert. I don’t like being, you won’t see my face rarely anywhere and that’s just me. And I still do fairly well. So if you’re feeling like I can’t do it, don’t feel like you have to do all the things right now. You could maybe put that off for a bit later. But you don’t have to do it all. You can still be successful if you’re just a little bit scared or hesitant or you don’t think you could commit to the time that’s needed to do all those different things.

Erin: I heard from another seller who said that she tries to focus on one new thing a year. So if you’re feeling weird about starting a platform or you don’t really have one that you’re like, oh, I definitely know I’m going to do Instagram, I don’t know, I would try to get maybe really familiar with one at a time and then see what works. But I’m kind of with Nicole. Like the showing your face aspect was what turned me off from social media for so long. But I know plenty of sellers who have successful businesses either without social media or without showing their face because for a variety of reasons.

Some schools really require you to not share that you’re doing TPT. I know in other countries, confidentiality is huge when it comes to showing your face on social media if you are also a teacher. One of my friends in the UK has that restriction. So it just kind of depends what your situation is. But I think it’s all possible. I think it goes back to what Keri was saying. Like just do what’s what works for you. Don’t worry about what everyone else is saying is working well for them.

Ashley: Okay. I have a question that’s going to be for everyone again and it’ll be a quick rapid-fire one. And I’m going to start with Nicole. Do you guys only sell your products on TPT and if not, where?

Do you only sell your products on TpT or other platforms too?

Nicole: I sell right now on TPT and on Boom Learning.

Vanessa: I only sell in TPT.

Michael: I’m also only TPT.

Keri: I sell on TPT, Boom, and my own personal store.

Molly: I’m like Keri. I sell on my own site, Boom, TPT, and I actually have an Esty shop which is not for sort of a stamp, not for digital goods.

Erin: I am just TPT and my own store which I don’t really do much with but it’s there if I need it.

Ashley: Okay. Let’s start with Erin on this one. There’s a lot to create in addition to the actual product, like the cover. Do you have any advice regarding TPT product covers?

What is your advice regarding TpT product covers?

Erin: One of my favorite bits of advice that Kristen Doyle always shares on our Clubhouse store audits is when you’re designing your cover image or any of those thumbnails that appear next to your preview, always make sure that you zoom out on your screen before you choose a final image because you really want to see what it’s going to look like on your future buyers’ phone, for example.

Because those images are always way smaller to your customers than they are, when you’re creating, they’re like blown up as big as possible and you can see everything in great detail. So I would say to make sure that everything is still legible from like a bird’s eye view. That would be my biggest thing. And just not to go crazy with colors and words. Just keep it as simple as possible. You don’t need to splash everything across your cover. You don’t need to splash like your logo, all your brand colors, all your fonts. Keep it simple.

Molly: I also really like showing a picture of the resource in use when possible. Because then you can quickly see it when you see an image. So I like that and I just started doing that a few years ago. There are certain people’s, like when you have the exact same cover and you just change it out for the product, like people instantly know like, oh, that’s so-and-so store or I recognize that. So that’s just something to think of. Like maybe you set up one template for it and that’s also easy, really easy when you’re making like lots of things. So I do that for bundles but I never did that for my store. But I love that there’s brand recognition for other people’s stores when I do see that they have the same thing.

Ashley: Okay. Let’s start with Nicole on this one. What do you love most about TPT besides earning money?

What do you like most about TpT besides earning money?

Nicole: I do like creating. That’s why I started. I was creating things in my class just for myself. So I do like creating. And I also like what it has brought in terms of friendships with people around the world literally. So that’s what I love.

Molly: I agree that it is definitely friendships. Like I’ve got a trip planned this year to see people that I only know from TPT and it’s kind of weird when you talk about internet friends and people in your real life are like, are you sure this is a real person? And you text these people and say, what do you think of this cover, do you like this? It’s been great to meet people that are other teachers in other places that have similar values but it’s not the same people you see every day. So I like that. That’s been great.

Vanessa: I like that too. I feel like at my school, the school culture is not as open. We’re always in our classroom. So I think it’s always nice that I can just talk to like other sellers that I’ve become friends with and I’m like a teacher nerd. So I’m like, well, what are you doing? And they just update me in the teacher world of things and I think that’s really cool just to be able to have someone that you can speak to not just only about TPT but professional stuff, things that go on in the classroom as well and they’re not in your school. So it’s like, okay, I could let it out the way I want to. So yeah. But definitely just the friends, the friendships, I have to say that’s good too.

Nicole: I’ll also add the other thing that I love. I feel like sometimes in teaching you don’t feel appreciated whether it’s admin or parents, even the little ones don’t really appreciate you. But they’re six. What are they going to do? But it’s the feedback from teachers, right? Like that often warms my heart and kind of keeps you going, just the fact that you were able to help somebody and I do love that too.

Michael: Yeah. It’s even knowing how many kids that you’re affecting across the world is so cool to just think about. So that’s what I love.

Keri: All of you all took my answers. So all of that.

Erin: My answer sounds so cliché. But I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without TPT. It has forced me to grow in ways that I never would have grown as a person. It’s crazy to me, looking back like my life before I started TPT and after. Just being able to start a business and do something that you’re doing. No one’s telling you to do it. There aren’t society’s expectations weighing you down every single day. You just realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought was possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or whatever. There’s a place for everybody and it’s just such an empowering feeling I guess is the word that I’m going for to be able to have something to call your own like your TPT business.

Ashley: Okay. we have another live question that’s piggybacking off of where we sell. For those of you selling on your own website, do you find that it’s more of a headache as in people losing their passwords, dealing with refunds, just customer service in general? Or is it smooth and seamless?

Is it a headache to sell on your own website when it comes to dealing with refunds and customer service in general?

Molly: I think if you set up very clear frequently asked questions, you have a resource page for people, outlining what your refund policy is or your return policy and how to do things, like how-to videos. How many times have we gone to YouTube to find something trying to do ourselves? So I think having some sort of resource is helpful.

In my role, as soon as I upload something to TPT, I immediately put it on my site at the exact same time because it’s just easy and then it just takes the same amount of time and you already have all those pictures ready to go. So I’ve got a system. But in the beginning when I was uploading, I think I started my store when I had 550 products. And so I hired my at the time like 13-year-old niece and I was like here you go. Cheap labor. It took her no time at all because kids are fast learners. But I just think make it very clear how to do things.

Ashley: Okay. And with that said, we’re getting very close to our ending time. So we still have a ton more questions. We will find a way to answer those for anybody watching and we will let you know our answers. But for now, we’re going to end this with a rapid fire round. So on my screen, I have Keri, Molly, Michael, Erin, Nicole, Vanessa. So in that order, if you can remember, then try to go through the answers as quick as you can, simple worded. Ready? First one. What program do you make everything on? Go ahead, Keri.

What program do you use to create your resources?

Keri: PowerPoint.

Molly: PowerPoint.

Michael: PowerPoint.

Nicole: PowerPoint.

Erin: PowerPoint.

Vanessa: PowerPoint.

Ashley: What is your biggest marketing tool? Keri.

What is your biggest marketing tool?

Keri: Facebook ads.

Molly: Email and Facebook ads.

Michael: Email.

Nicole: Email and Facebook ads a bit.

Erin: Facebook ads.

Vanessa: Email and Pinterest.

Ashley: Mac or PC?

Do you use a Mac or a PC?

Keri: Mac.

Molly: Mac.

Michael: Mac.

Nicole: PC.

Erin: Mac.

Vanessa: PC.

Molly: It’s very divisive.

Ashley: I’m team PC as well. Okay. How old is your best-selling product? Keri.

How old is your best-selling product?

Keri: Maybe six years old.

Molly: It was my second product. So 2013.

Michael: Like five years old.

Nicole: I think six.

Erin: Four.

Vanessa: Six.

Ashley: What is your highest earning month?

Erin: Not like number wise, but like what month is our highest?

What is your highest earning month?

Keri: February.

Molly: August.

Michael: August.

Nicole: January.

Erin: August.

Vanessa: August.

Ashley: Interesting. Favorite place for inspiration?

TpT Seller Panel

What is your favorite place for finding inspiration?

Keri: Watching Netflix.

Molly: The shower.

Michael: Starbucks.

Nicole: Walking.

Erin: I would say the car.

Vanessa: The car as well.

Ashley: Okay. We have two more. Ready? How many products do you have?

How many products do you have in your store?

Keri: Like right over 600.

Ashley: Oh, go, Keri.

Molly: Like 750.

Michael: A little less than 200.

Nicole: I think about 250. I don’t remember.

Erin: Yeah, like around 300.

Vanessa: Oh my God, 102.

Ashley: Okay. And our last one. How do you make TPT friends?

How do you make TpT friends?

Keri: Well, I’ve had my same friends for like seven years so I haven’t made any new ones.

Molly: I think like comment genuinely. Like back in the day, we commented on blogs. Like genuinely comment on things that you care about and you find interesting. And then if you’re like me, just like send creepy messages to people like Erin.

Michael: Yeah, as an introvert, it’s hard but I would say just message people, comment on people, be authentic, and it’ll just naturally happen.

Nicole: Facebook groups, the big conferences, and little meetups or little regional meetups like that.

Erin: I would also say Facebook groups and kind of like see whose comments do you tend to agree with a lot or like who would have a similar personality to you in real life and you think like, oh my gosh, I would totally be friends with them if we lived close by. Those are the people that you can reach out to and be a creep because you have to be a creep these days to, I mean it’s not going to happen by itself. But I would say if you’re like just starting out, make sure to find groups that are definitely tailored to like maybe newer sellers. So School of Sellers 101 is a great example and there are probably a lot more out there that are really good for the basics.

Conclusion

Erin: Oh my goodness. Okay. Well, thank you so much for, first of all, to all of our panelists for answering. You guys are just a wealth of information and inspiration. So thank you so much. And to everyone who is watching live or on the replay, thank you for taking time to watch all of this too. And like Ashley said, we’ll find a way to get the answers that we didn’t get to during this hour. But I think we can all agree they were really good questions. So thank you to everyone who participated tonight.

Ashley: Just make sure to like the Erin M Waters page and join us on School of Sellers 101. Download module zero. I know Katie will post those links for you guys.

Erin: There will be links in the comments. Thanks again you guys I appreciate it and I hope you have a wonderful night.

Looking for another way to get this episode? Download the transcript for Starting Out on TpT: Sellers Tell All Panel here!

TpT Seller Panel

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