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Excerpt: Creating Passive Income Through Teachers Pay Teachers

This content was originally published as a guest post on The Simple Startup, run by entrepreneur and high school teacher Rob Phelan (also of the ChooseFi Foundation). Read the entire article here!

As a lifelong educator (at least thus far -- six years teaching eighth grade English and eight years as an elementary librarian), I've had many side hustles to make a little extra money when I felt the need: everything from babysitting to bartending, delivering pizzas, and even detailing cars. I've also taken on more traditional "education-adjacent" jobs such as tutoring and working at summer camps.

Maybe it was after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad -- or maybe it was just being tired after Job #1 and not wanting to drag myself to Job #2 -- but over the past few years I've started to pay more attention to creating passive income streams. This is where I got interested in selling educational products on the site Teachers Pay Teachers. After all, I bought plenty of stuff on there! It was great when I need sub plans or lesson ideas in a pinch; not being a "Pinterest-y" teacher, I loved finding eye-catching elementary materials that I wouldn't have the inclination to create myself.

But while cute fonts are not my forte, my role as a school librarian has me creating many lessons on literacy and computer skills -- two areas that are vital to every elementary student (and even more so since March 2020...). My students seemed to enjoy the lessons, as did the district colleagues I shared them with. Thus, I carved out my own niche on my new store JK Digital Learning Resources: elementary tech activities and PD materials, with the occasional book extension activity thrown in.

Spoiler alert, I have not been able to quit my day job by selling St. Patrick's Day coloring sheets and mouse skills activities on TPT. Nonetheless, here are some tips I've been keeping in mind to improve my sales:

Stay on top of your niche. Computer skills are essential for today's learners -- pandemic or no pandemic. In my classroom, I've seen that simple abilities like using the trackpad on a Chromebook can mean the difference between showing learning or being frustrated to the point of tears. Therefore, I started developing lessons that embedded these overlooked skills for young students.

This summer, I added more ed tech professional development resources and student activities; as a result, September 2020 was my best month of sales ever, doubling my previous best month's earnings.

But ed tech is also an area that changes regularly as learning websites add new features. I just updated my best seller, a Flipgrid tutorial, to reflect the site's 2020 look -- otherwise, buyers would have been searching for the "green record button" I described and wondering what the heck I was talking about! Be sure to check off the box for notifying previous buyers when you update, so they can download the most current version of your product.

Make it a bundle! When people are in the mood to buy, they're often willing to purchase more than one thing. If you put similar resources together in a bundle and offer a slight discount, buyers will go for the deal. Plus, it's like adding a new product to your store without having to actually create one!

Decide when it's time to go premium. With a $60/yr premium account, sellers keep a higher percentage of their earnings; they also have the transaction fee eliminated on products over $3 and reduced for products under $3. (See TPT's seller fees and payout rates here.) The big question: will your sales cover that subscription cost?

As I was researching this article, I downloaded the free product "Should you upgrade to a premium subscription?" from TPT seller Helix Forms. Plugging in my 2020 numbers thus far, I found that I would have made $11 more if I had been on Premium this year -- so if my sales are consistent over the next few months, I'll think about it for 2021.

Another way to look at the free vs. premium dilemma is described here by Wonder-Filled Days. This blogger does the math on sales numbers for products over $3 and under $3 -- basically if you're selling one or two "over $3" products per week, the premium subscription will pay for itself.

While Teachers Pay Teachers earnings are still a small part of my total passive income, I'm encouraged by my store's growth this year. As I continue to add products, I look forward to seeing those payouts increase.

Visit the full post here for details on my earnings growth and even more tips for your TPT store!

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