How to Bulletproof Your Customer Base Using Lists

I’ve been hesitant to publish this blog post for some time now.  The post takes on some issues that could make it appear that I am being negative, and I don’t want anyone to presume that.  I also don’t want anyone to think I’m bashing social media, or TpT in anyway.  I’m so grateful and forever indebted to the doors that both platforms have opened.  I love social media, and I’m as bullish as they come on TpT.

What I’m going to teach you in these next couple of posts is how to bulletproof your business.  I want you to be prepared in case any external changes happen that you may not have control over.  Think of this post as the blueprint the third little pig used to build his house. Before we start I want to throw some hypothetical scenarios out there.  While you’re reading through them I want you to consider how you would respond to these situations.

  • Pinterest makes a change that blocks you from linking any of your pins to Teacher pay Teachers without paying a fee to ‘boost’ that post.
  • Your blog hosting company goes bankrupt and closes shop before you can export your site to another host.
  • Teachers pay Teachers makes a change that cripples your store in some way.
  • Teachers pay Teachers somehow goes out of business (let the record show that I believe TpT is a fantastic company and is in great health)

How would these things impact your current business model?  How could you continue to sell all of the phenomenal products that you have spent so many hours creating?  The answer to all of these questions is in the list, and I’ll show you how to set it up. If you think I’m being chicken little, let me walk you through a couple of changes that have happened over the years.  Facebook is continuously updating it’s algorithm which determines which posts we see in our news feeds.  Did you know that when you post status updates to your Facebook page that not everyone may see it?  Check your insights.  These changes were made within the last year and have devastated a lot of small businesses.

Another change I recently heard about was a podcast hosting company that sent out an email saying that they were going out of business and that users had 7 days to transfer their files off of the site.  What happens if you were on vacation during that time and didn’t have a backup?  Yikes!

The Day I Lost it All

One of my other businesses is StubSearch.com.  It’s a ticket broker site that sells tickets to sold out events.  I used to post ads on craigslist to hot events.  It made me a ton of money.  There were several months each year that I was making ridiculous money ($xx,xxx per month).  I generated nearly 3 million dollars in revenue over a few years, but I was totally dependent on craigslist.  That was my fatal flaw.

One morning I woke up to post my daily ads and noticed craigslist had made a tiny change.  They were now charging $5 per ad (free prior)  if you wanted to post in the tickets by dealer section.  They have every right to do that, but I was crippled overnight.  I was literally devastated.  Although it is still lucrative to post paid ads in some markets, my traffic totally died.  I had no way to contact previous customers and basically watched a thriving business turn into something that just pays for my son’s daycare. In the midst of the trauma I learned a valuable lesson.  I should have been keeping an email list of former and potential customers.  If I had a list I would still be able to market to them and have some control over my future.

The Money Is In the List

Since that dreadful day I have been studying internet marketing from the best of the best.  I listen to podcasts. I read the blogs.  I’ve taken some courses.  I have even joined a small mastermind group where we help each other with our online businesses. When successful internet marketers are asked, “What is the most important piece of internet marketing?”, nearly every one of them responds with, “Build your email list first.”  Jeff Walker, a top internet marketer, takes it a step farther and says, “You list is a license to print money.”

If you sat down and discussed important assets with anyone from TpT they would almost certainly include their massive email list as one of their top assets.  They realized early on that the email list was super important to growing their business and connecting with their customers.  We should be doing the same with our customer bases. I’m not suggesting that you should try and sell your products on your own.  The TpT marketplace is on fire and you would be a fool not to focus your energy there.  They know what they are doing and I firmly believe that we are still in the beginning stages of what this company is going to look like in a couple of years. However, I am suggesting that you need to be prepared for changes that are beyond your control with all aspects of your TpT business.

The next blog post will describe how I have setup my list and engage my tribe.  Stay tuned.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started on Teachers Pay Teachers

Time and Money

My ninety-eight-year-old grandfather’s best piece of advice is, “In your life have the correct balance between your TIME and your MONEY.”  If you’re anything like me, you’re probably deficient in both areas. You don’t have to settle for these circumstances.

Living this kind of life can make you worried and stressed out.  Last year I told myself that enough was enough, and I made the choice to take control of my TIME and my MONEY.

I discovered a platform that allows educators to live out my grandfather’s mantra.  I’m now making a substantial income, and my hard work has allowed me a lot more freedom with my time. Teachers Pay Teachers is the first and largest open marketplace for educators to buy, sell, and share their original resources.  They were founded in 2006 and have exploded to over 3 million users this year.

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I started selling my products on Teachers Pay Teachers towards the end of 2013, and I’m already seeing 4-figure monthly paychecks.  Yes, you read that correctly.  My wife and I went from a household that once struggled on two teachers’  incomes, to one with a much greater sense of financial freedom.

7 things I love about being a teachers pay teachers seller

7 Reasons That I Love Being a Teachers pay Teachers Seller

  1. My effort is rewarded monetarily –  One of the main reasons that I love Teachers pay Teachers is that my effort is rewarded by customers purchasing my products.  If I work hard and create a fantastic TpT products, that work will be rewarded with steady and consistent sales.  I love the classroom as much as any teacher out there;  however, the reality is that I’m not going to get paid any more than the person next door no matter how much effort I put into my class.  Fortunately money is not a driving motivator in my teaching, and I strive to give my best every single day.  TpT allows me to make supplemental income from my efforts.
  2. My students benefit – My students are the beneficiaries of all the hard work that goes into producing an amazing product. Prior to becoming an active seller on TpT, I provided my students with engaging activities; however,  afterwards  my classroom lessons improved tremendously.  I always get a kick out of a student that sees my copyright on their work and exclaims, “You MADE this?!”
  3. I get to teach students across the country – When customers purchase my products a little piece of me gets to go with it into their classroom.  I have several products that include videos where I am quite literally teaching someone else’s class.  Teachers are very appreciative of a great lesson.
  4. Relationships and collaboration – Since joining teachers pay teachers, I have forged many great relationships with like-minded individuals who I never would have otherwise met.  Although each of us has our own individual store on TpT, the spirit of collaboration outweighs competition in every way imaginable.
  5. It’s just so darn easy – TpT has made it very easy to upload and sell your products in their marketplace.  I have sold items online before and had to deal with all of the headaches that go with merchant accounts, fraudulent transactions, etc.  TpT handles all of that on their servers and takes a very nominal commission for doing so.  The current commission rate is 15% if you are a premium seller which means that you keep .85 of every $1 that is spent on your products.   Each month a check is sent to you either by mail or by PayPal.  It really doesn’t get any easier.

Winners Have Systems, Losers Have Goals

Becoming a seller on Teachers pay Teachers has been one of the most rewarding things that I have done in my teaching career.  I have learned that if I work hard and smart, success will follow in the form of sales.

I would love to tell you that you can just upload your current lesson plans and the sales will start rolling in, but that isn’t likely going to be the case.  There is definitely a strategy that needs to be followed, and many sellers either don’t have a plan in place or simply haven’t figured out the system to success yet. One of my favorite quotes when it comes to success is,

“Winners have systems, losers have goals.”

It’s great to have a set of goals, but in order to reach your goals you need to have a proven system in place.  I think of goals as very broad outcomes that you would like to achieve; whereas, systems are a fine-tuned blueprint on how to obtain your goals.  Without a system you have nothing.

Winners have systems.Losers have goals
When I first started on Teachers pay Teachers, I was having minimal success.  I only had about 3 products uploaded at the time and looking back they were just a mess.  The products themselves weren’t that bad, but I was missing out on many opportunities that only the successful sellers knew about. I quickly realized that there had to be something that I was missing, and I spent countless hours consuming as much information on how to be successful.  I was developing my system.

Once I had my methods in place, I began to see significant increases in my sales.  I now have enough data and experience with my system to know that I can reproduce my successes by scaling  up my business.  Having a system in place is not a replacement for hard work, but it allows me to calculate success much easier. Along my journey I created a list of 25 things that I had wish that I known when I first started on teachers pay teachers.  I want to share 7 of those with you now.

7 Things I wish that I had known as a new TPT seller

7 Things That I Wish I Had Known as a New Teachers Pay Teachers Seller

  1. Product linking – If it’s good enough for Amazon to do then it’s good enough for me.  Your item descriptions for each product should link to other related products or bundles that may be of interest to customers.  TpT does put related products in the sidebar, but this technique is far more effective because you can control exactly what you want each customer to see in the description.  I created a hyperlink generator to make this very easy for you to do.  Don’t stop with the item description.  Link your products from within your products also.  If someone has already showed that they trust you by purchasing your product, then they are far more likely to buy related products from you.
  2. Connect and collaborate with others – It took me a few weeks to even find the Teachers pay Teachers forums, but once I did “it was on.”  There are so many helpful sellers in the forums.  This is a place where you can ask questions about anything and share your own experiences.  I will also suggest that you give back to the forums.  If you learn something new, this is a great place to share that information.  The entire forum is better if everyone is sharing and learning from each other.
  3. Become a premium seller immediately – I wrote a list of 5 reasons why you should become a premium seller in an earlier blog post.  The single greatest reason is that you get to keep more money in your pocket.  Once you become a premium seller you are making the statement to yourself that you’re serious about Teachers pay Teachers and the actions that follow will support that.  Honestly, I think this should be the first thing that you do after creating your account.
  4. TpT is a great resource for clip art and fonts – One of the things that can make your products stand out from the rest is to use professional looking clip art and fonts.  There are a ton of TpT sellers who specialize in selling themed clip art that can be used for commercial purposes.  Do yourself a favor and invest in some of these products.  They will add value to your own products and help other sellers out at the same time.
  5. Don’t undervalue your work – One of the costliest mistakes I made when starting out was that I undervalued my work and set my prices too low.  Many new sellers are just worried about selling something and don’t consider that they may be losing money in the long run by pricing themselves too low.  Lower prices do not equal more sales.  I recently adjusted the price on one of my products, using this method, from $5 to $7 and saw zero slowdown in sales.  I was giving away 40% in profit!  You’ve worked hard on those products.  Don’t undervalue your work.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to others – I’m a competitor by nature and one of the things I found myself doing early on was comparing myself to others.  There are many talented TpT sellers who are having lots of success of TpT.  I feel like it’s a huge mistake to compare yourself to them.  As a new seller you cannot expect to match them in terms of sales and reach.  That will come with time.  Focus on the system, and growth will come with time.
  7. Hard work now leads to passive income later –  The first time that I made a sale on Teachers pay Teachers I came running downstairs to tell my wife that I had made $2.55.  I was so excited.  She then reminded me that I had worked for 10 hours+ to make that money and by her calculation that was .25/hour.  I believe that many sellers begin working on their first product and never finish it because they start doing the calculations in their head and decide the work they put into TpT isn’t worth it.  This is huge mistake.  My wife was correct about my measly hourly wage, but I knew something that she didn’t.  I knew the power of passive income.  I would have worked 20 hours for that same $3 because from here on out every bit of income from that product will increase my bottom line.  That product has now earned me over $500 for that same 10 hours of work that I had originally put into it.  My hourly rate is now $50/hr and we’re only 6 months removed from that first sale.  I expect that product to continue to sell well for many years to come.  Trust in the fact that your hard work now will reap benefits later.

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Interview with Deanna Jump

Last night I was able to sit down with Deanna Jump as part of one of my other projects called EduAllStars.  When I’m not being a husband and father of a new baby boy, or teaching 8th graders, or going to grad school, or creating Teachers pay Teachers products, I’m working as a host on a podcast called EduAllStars.  We interview the difference makers in education and I’m super proud of the lineup that we have spoken with over the last year.  I find a ton of inspiration from listening to these amazing people talk about how they impact the education world.

Deanna Jump is everything that you want her to be.  She’s funny, smart, and seriously dedicated to her work.  She’s also grounded, and to me, that’s the icing on the cake.  I like that she has her own opinions and isn’t afraid to share them with the world either.  I hope that you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Here are a couple of ways that you can connect with us at EduAllStars