Have you decided to try selling on Teacher Pay Teachers and are itching to post your first resource? Great! But first take a step back. Have you asked yourself the tough questions, as to whether TpT is a good fit for you? Do don’t want to expend blood, sweat and tears (yes, all are required) only to find you hate it or it’s not producing the income you need NOW. Check out this article to make sure you’re on the right path.
If your answer is, “Yes, Joan, I’ve looked into the pros and cons and I’m ready.” Then you need to take care of some housekeeping, like signing up as a seller, naming your store and securing your domain. “Do-what?!” you ask. Start on Lesson one of my TpT U series (that’s what I’m calling this series of articles) and it will walk you through those initial steps.
You will not be successful selling on Teachers Pay Teachers as a jack of all trades; you need to be “known” for a particular type of resource. This is called a niche. Choosing your niche is a mattter of examining your strengths and weaknesses. Next some market research on the TpT platform is necessary. Finally, some trial and error will be needed to find your sweet spot.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
You probably work in a school if you’re interested in selling on TpT. What do you teach; what grade(s), what subjects, are you a special ed teacher, counselor, speech therapist, librarian? Do you tutor after school or run a club? Are you a coach or on the professional development team at your school? List everything you do in your job in order to identify your buckets of expertise.
Now let’s hone in on your superpowers. Yes, you have them! What do others come to you for? Do you create magical bulletin boards? Perhaps gamifying lessons is your jam. Who has the highest pass rate for state tests; is it you? Do your classroom management skills strike envy in others? Maybe your tech skills lend themselves to creating amazing activities for your kiddos.
How are you doing? Is anything striking a chord? Don’t worry, you’ll get there. What do you like to do? Is creating group lessons fun for you? Are you an advocate of project based learning? Does differentiation light you up?
Now let’s brainstorm what to stay away from. What areas of your job makes you grit your teeth? Is it unit planning, communicating with parents, dealing with challenging students, staff meetings, administration? Do formal observations cause you to break out in hives? What you don’t like is at least as important as what you do, even if you’re good at it.
The point of selling on Teachers Pay Teachers is twofold: you want to earn extra money, but it’s also important that you’r not creating a new job that you dread. You will not be able to sustain the growing pains of being a teacher author unless you enjoy at least some of what you’re doing (you won’t like everything of course).
Putting it all together
This introspective exercise should be done more than once. You are about to embark on spending many hours creating resources to sell. In order to have the highest chance of success planning ahead is crucial. Create a Google document or buy a notebook to jot down your brainstorming ideas. Revisit it.
Do you have a few ideas yet? Still stuck? Try being mindful as you go through your school day. Take note of the little things that work and don’t work for you. Perhaps you struggle with an ongoing problem. How about trying to solve it for yourself first, then others? If you struggle with teaching English language learners, for example, you can be sure others do as well. If you can stratch your own itch, then you can go on to serve others.
Once you have a few possibilities it’s time for market research. Is there a need for the resources you have in mind? Is the market already flooded with similar products? One step in any business that sets someone up for failure is not ensuring that someone wants what you have to sell.
It’s time to hop over to Teachers Pay Teachers. Take the first idea on your brain dump list and type it in the search bar. Click on the grade level you are interested in. See what comes up.
You’ll see near the top of the page how many results there are. Is it 270,000, 55 or somewhere in between? If you search for “math worksheet” and tick 1st grade there are over 270,000 results; this is NOT good. Clearly TpT is saturated with math worksheets for that grade level. Don’t fret, that’s a very broad search and we will drill down.
Let’s do this
If you don’t know, I’m a social studies teacher, so we’ll use that content for searching. I typed in “World War 1” without a grade level and got 22,000 results. I didn’t bother with grade level, because most hits are for secondary level already, which is what I teach. I don’t think the little ones learn about World War 1:)
So 22,000 is a lot of results. The sellers on page one have tons of reviews and veteran sellers dominate that space. Time to drill down. My next search is “Causes of World War 1” and received 3,470 results; much better than 22,000! Most teachers do search for specifics. If I need a lesson for my World War 1 unit I will have a topic in mind: causes, effects, map activity, Treaty of Versailles, etc.
As a new seller I want to keep digging. I’m going deeper a couple more times. “Causes of World War 1 digital” yields 421 results. Now we’re talking! One thing to remember is that not all results will be relevant. As you scroll down and click on pages 2, 3, 4 etc. many of the lessons that come up won’t be on point (which is good for you).
My final search is very niche, “Causes of World War 1 Differentiated digital”. I searched for a specific topic, plus a pain point (differentiation) and digital rather than print. There are only 55 results (and my resource is number 1 as I’m writing this post – yay!). Are less people looking for such a specific lesson? Of course, but as a new seller this is where you want to start.
I wish there was a magic number of results to shoot for, but it doesn’t exist. There are 2 sides to every search, how many resources are available AND how many teachers are searching for it. If I created a lesson on underwater basketweaving I could dominate the niche, but how many teachers are looking for that topic?
Have you spent and hour or two researching and came up with a niche you can compete in? Great. Now do it again with another topic. Try to find a few very specific areas that there’s room for you to throw your hat in the ring. The reason for this is that when you’re starting out you don’t know what’s going to work and should toss a few things at the wall. This is called the Battleship Method.
I need to give credit to Income School for coining this phrase. That’s a YouTube channel and course creator I follow on blogging. They devised this method for blogging and YouTubing, but it’s relevant for selling on Teachers Pay Teachers as well. Here’s the idea.
Success on TpT is NOT an overnight phenomenon. You will be creating products and posting them for months with little results. So, if you bust your buns making 25 resources you won’t know how sellable (is that a word?) they are for a long time. You could be spinning your wheels for nothing:(
Enter the Battleship Method. Have you ever played the game? In order to find your opponent’s ships on the board you have to try different, random spots until you hit a ship. Then, and only then, you can sink the ship by “shooting” the spaces next to your first hit.
The first bunch of resources you create on TpT should cover a few areas. If you’re a high school math teacher try making 5 lessons on quadratic equations, 5 on the box and whisker plots, and 5 on factoring binomials (not bad for a history teacher, right? And I didn’t even ask my math teacher daughter!).
If you’re an elementary teacher create a few products for math, a few for reading and a few for science. Or try different modalities of lessons. Make some stations activities, some gamified worksheets and some simulation lessons. Get the idea?
Using the Battleship Method will increase your chances of success. As time goes on and you make sales the data will tell you where to lean in. My best sellers are middle school early civilizations lessons; not AT ALL where I started or expected to go!
Choosing your niche to sell on TpT is soooooo important, but it’s not fatal. You are guaranteed to make resources that don’t sell. Believe me, I have a slew of them. But taking the time to identify what you want to work on AND where there is room for your resources will greatly increase your chances of having fewer stinkers.
A couple of final comments on choosing your niche. If you LOVE a particular topic only to find it’s already saturated don’t give up. Think out of the box. Do you love to make escape rooms or interactive notebooks (tons of both already exist on TpT)? Dig deep, really deep, and see if you can find some tiny holes you can fill. In time you can go on to compete with the big boys and girls in the niche.
Finally, if you choose a niche after doing the market research and it doesn’t work out for some reason you haven’t failed. You can’t fail unless you give up. If you didn’t find success at first it’s because you needed to learn something more. Why didn’t it work? Ask the hard questions and face the answers. Once you learn that lesson you’re ready for success. So fail fast and often; you’ll be closer to crushing it!
See you in the next lesson — warmest wishes, Joan
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