My journey with Teachers Pay Teachers began selfishly, to be honest. My husband and I were looking to make some extra money, so in the spring of 2016 I uploaded my unit on All the King’s Men from my AP Lit class, since that seemed like the most obscure novel that I teach. Of course I needed to upload a free item first, so I chose my Hamlet soliloquy study handout that I also created for AP. Then, like so many others on TpT, I kind of forgot about it. Months later I uploaded some Hamlet and Things Fall Apart materials, and once or twice I sold something, but because I was on the free plan the money I made was barely measurable. In the late summer of 2017 I became more intentional because our finances were in a wreck, and hospital bills from my daughter were starting to move to collections. My All the King’s Men item had only sold a couple of times, but my freebie had been downloaded over 100 times, so I realized that I was able to make something that people wanted. I uploaded more and more of my classroom materials on the site, but I still did it for a desire to make money.
Once the school year had started, I was struggling terribly to teach research to my current group of sophomore English students. I went on TpT for the first time as a shopper, not a seller, in hopes that they had some MLA formatting quizzes that I could use. I bought one and was very disappointed with it. Not only was it out of date, but it wasn’t editable, so I couldn’t make the necessary changes to it. As so many teachers must, I was forced to write one myself.
A few days later I uploaded some of my own MLA materials to the site and for the first time I began to get more downloads, and my first feedback. In October I became much more intentional, going back and fixing my original resources (most of them bore my name and created nuances from my school’s culture, like references to the pep rally next week). I changed my focus from AP Lit materials to Shakespeare and ELA materials, and spent several months creating and uploading. By December of 2017, I had over 50 resources in my store.
By the spring of 2018, I had found my niche. The ELA market had become saturated by other products that were too similar, or frankly just better, than my own, and sales weren’t strong. But my AP Lit materials from the beginning were still selling each month, so I shifted my attention back to creating and fine-tuning AP materials. March was a huge month for me, as I had a freebie featured in the secondary newsletter at the beginning of the month and was also the featured seller at the end of it! My followers finally reached the triple digits, and I hit my first “big sales” month.
Right now I’m continuing work on product creation but also focusing on marketing efforts as well. I’ve never taken any courses on marketing or graphic design, but TpT work requires quite a bit of know-how in both of those areas. Learning all of this kind of feels like going back to school again, but this time I’m making money rather than spending it!
The most exciting update in my TpT story is that I’ve focused so much work on my AP Lit resources that I was able to make a AP Lit Full Course Growing Bundle this spring.
It was purchased for the first time in May, which was nice, but what made me happiest was that the buyer e-mailed me shortly afterwards and thanked me personally for the resource. She had been appointed the AP Lit teacher for the first time this year and felt very unprepared. The full course bundle gave her a good starting point for the following year and she said she felt much more prepared to teach it. Knowing that I helped a first-year AP teacher feel prepared, maybe even excited, to teach the class made this whole process totally worth it!
The most important part of this story is that I learned a lesson from searching for that MLA Quiz (which I eventually created and sold myself). I shouldn’t sell on TpT simply to make money, but rather to help other struggling teachers looking for practical and creative resources for their classrooms. This is why I don’t gouge by buyers with prices. This why I bundle products and throw sales. This is why I ask for feedback and want subscribers’ ideas. Please know that I do this for other educators, and I want to know what you are looking for! Please let me know if you have any ideas or needs for your AP or ELA classroom. I may not be able to create something for you, but I can at least do my best to help you find a solution! You can visit my store by clicking here!