Teachers Pay Teachers has become a go-to source of unique, teacher-created lessons for many teachers. I made my first purchase when my maternity leave was looming large and I didn’t have anything ready for my sub. I bought a unit bundle for $25 and it was well worth it. I did not have the energy at 8 months pregnant to get detailed plans in place after long days on my feet in the classroom.
It wasn’t until after I made this purchase that I even considered trying to sell any of my original lessons on TpT. I created a store and uploaded three ready-to-go items from my middle school teaching days. That was the entirety of my TpT store for years. Our monthly staff meetings always seemed to occur on the day I got my notification of my TpT payout. I used to joke with my English teacher buddies that I was going to just quit and live off of my $3 monthly payouts.
$3 a month seems laughable, but let’s take a closer look at what was really happening so you can get an idea of why you might want to open a store of your own. The three items I uploaded were things I had already created- no new work was involved in getting them ready for sale. It’s free to open a seller account- no upfront cost was involved in getting started. I made an average of $3 a month for ten months out of the year for three years before I thought about expanding my TpT footprint. So, one guided reading worksheet, a compare and contrast essay assignment, and a quick quiz that I already had sitting around were worth $90! And, it was virtually no effort on my part.
Let’s Talk Passive Income
A lot of teachers have “side hustles,” and a lot of teachers (rightfully so) feel like they shouldn’t have to have a side hustle just to pay the bills. So, your work that you put into a side hustle needs to be something that has the potential to grant you financial freedom, at least at some point. I don’t care how many hours you work at Starbucks on the weekend, or how many DoorDash deliveries you complete, or how many kids you tutor on VIPKIDS, the minute you stop working those jobs is the minute you stop getting paid. Everyone (not just teachers) should be striving to set up some sort of passive income. And this is where we teachers have a really neat opportunity. Teachers Pay Teachers allows you to take the work you’ve already done in the classroom (or at home in the evenings, on weekends, during holidays…) and create a digital product that other teachers might want for their classrooms. My silly $3 a month wasn’t actually silly because it didn’t cost me any time or money to generate. I had laid the foundation for building passive income, and that is more valuable than any hourly side hustle.
Real Talk: What You Need to Know About Selling on TpT
There are lots of TpT sellers that are SERIOUS about their stores. They don’t actually teach in a classroom because they work full-time on creating products for TpT and marketing those products. I’m not here to sell you a course on how to sell your lessons like hotcakes on TpT. The key to selling is to create good content and become proficient at writing good descriptions for your products so they show up in searches on the TpT site. You do not need to create ten social media sites to start selling on TpT. You do not need to use anyone’s referral link for Tailwind so you can pay for a service that auto-posts Pinterest Pins for you. You do not need to pay for special fonts and clip art to make nice thumbnails for your products. You do not need to start a blog from scratch to get started on TpT.
You can get started absolutely free. Of course, you can explore social media marketing, blogging, and graphic designing, but it’s not an absolute MUST. If you want to generate a couple hundred dollars of extra income a month, you don’t need to go crazy with any upfront investments for your TpT store. I know this because I’ve grown my $3 a month to well over $250 a month without paying for any special fonts, advertising campaigns, courses on how to sell on TpT, or anything else some of the really serious TpTer’s often talk about as necessities.
Basic vs. Premium Memberships on TpT
TpT does have two different seller accounts. The Basic Seller Membership is free and you keep 55% of each sale and pay a $0.30 transaction fee per sale. The Premium Seller Membership is $59.99 annually and you get 80% of each sale and pay a $0.15 transaction fee on sales that total under $3.00 in the buyer’s cart. Start with the free Basic Membership while you are first building your store. Once you get close to around $80 of gross sales per year (or you’re hitting around $8 a month during the 10 school months), your sales will cover the cost of the yearly membership. There’s no need to sign up for the Premium Membership until you’re certain you are going to get your store up and running so that it can pay for that $59.99 a year.
How Did I Go From $3 to $250+ Per Month?
Here’s my big secret: I added more products and I learned how to use Canva. It’s completely free to open a Canva account and create some pretty decent designs for your store logo and product thumbnails. This past summer (2021), I went through all 12 of my existing products in my TpT store and upgraded the cover thumbnails using Canva. It gave my stuff a more polished look. Then I discovered that you can actually create worksheets and presentations right in Canva. Now, I do most of my TpT work in there (and it’s my go-to place when I’m creating stuff for my classroom, too.) I have never felt the need to upgrade to Canva Pro.
I spent all summer taking all of my original PowerPoints, quizzes, essays, and activities for IB Philosophy and reformatting them so they would make sense to other teachers. I have also taught several grades of English and history, so I have a lot of content to sift through. I now have 80 total products in my store and I’m set to make about $300 in September if the buying trends continue. Of those 80 products, 12 are free products. Of the remaining 68 paid products, 52 of them are $2 or less.
This is what my sales look like for the first half of September 2021. I expect to have close to $300 by month-end (a new record for me!) and I don’t spend any money to create my resources for sale.
Here’s my account for the month of August in 2021. This is what a TpT store can realistically provide a full-time teacher that is still teaching. I began to really fill my store this summer while I wasn’t juggling anything except my two tiny children.
For the sake of transparency, here are my total earnings for May 2021. ALMOST $4! I spent June and July working on my store and now I’m looking to pull in almost $300!
I wanted to show my earnings so that real teachers looking for a side hustle can see what a summer of work might yield. If I can make $200-$300 a month extra during the school year from two months of work over the summer, and that becomes passive income that will more or less remain over the next few years, that is far more valuable in the long run than any hourly job I could pick up on the side.
Let’s say my August and September sales are a little inflated and I average $200 a month for the ten months people are really doing the bulk of the buying on TpT. That’s $2000 per year. $2000 of passive income because the work is already done. That leaves me free to pick up an extra job or just enjoy my summers with my kids.
If you are willing to put in the upfront work of polishing your lessons up, writing descriptions, and creating cover images, opening a TpT store is definitely worth it. I plan to keep adding to mine to see where I can take it!
If you are on TpT, give me a follow and check out some of my free teaching resources! If you like any of them, please download them and leave me an honest review. Drop the name of your store in the comments and I’ll check your stuff out, too!