Deanna Jump made history this week when she became the first teacher selling classroom materials on Teachers Pay Teachers to top $1 million in sales. EdSurge wrote a profile of her work last year (see here). Now we've asked Deanna for her ten tips to teachers who want to try to put their materials up for sale. Here's what she said.
Stay True: The most important principle is to stay true to your teaching philosophy. Creating materials just for the sake of selling them can be very challenging without a point of reference. I use all the materials I sell in my own classroom.
Connect with the Common Core: Look at where the Common Core suggests that students need to go and start building curriculum around those standards. Think beyond the facts. Students need to build higher level learning and critical thinking skills; incorporate those ideas into the materials you create.
Put in the time: Building materials with strong pedagogy is the first and most critical step. But realize that you also have to put in some real computing muscle as well. I spend about 40 to 50 hours of computer time creating and editing a single unit. (Most units cover two weeks' worth of materials.). Don't cut any corners!
Find a niche: I found a niche or a specialty, namely creating units that integrate curriculum with higher level thinking skills. It's helpful for your materials to have a distinctive approach that reflects your teaching philosophy.
Grab the buyer's attention: This is a must! You have to have a compelling cover page. Use high quality clip art, colorful schemes and make your work stand out. But again, remember that no matter how "pretty" something looks, it's got to deliver real educational value.
Customers are your friends: I consider my customers my friends. They've been like the answer to a prayer for me, a real blessing in my life. So I treat them like friends. When you treat customers like friends, they come back. And repeat customers are essential to a financially successful strategy.
Let customers know you're here for them: Communicating with customers is a must. I tell them when I have free downloads, or if there are other changes that they should know about. They know I’m here for them! I answer every question I get on TeachersPayTeachers; I answer questions I get in emails. And then I try to put out blog posts, too.
Find a network of kindred spirits: You need others--other bloggers and other sellers--to help spread awareness about your products. On TeachersPay Teachers, there's a "Sellers Forum" where we all go for help. When some sellers do "giveaway" promotions, they might ask for contributions fro others. (I always chip in!) Networking and collaborating with others trying to sell can really help boost your own business.
Don't compare yourself to others: It takes a while to build a business. During my first year (which was in 2009), I barely made $300. Feel blessed whenever a teacher buys something from you; his or her dollars are hard earned and it's a great complement when they put them toward materials that you've created!
Set reasonable expectations : It's great to set goals for yourself but don't beat yourself up if you don't always make them. Remember TeachersPayTeachers is like teaching; it is a journey and you learn as you go.