Tips for New TpT Sellers

A few weeks ago I met up with a new friend who just started her TpT journey in November.  She had lots of questions for me about blogging, TpT, and social media.  I am by no means an expert or a top seller but I have had some success over the past few years that I've been selling on TpT and I have learned a ton.  I thought maybe I should do a blog post with some of my top tips for people just starting out.  And maybe even if you aren't just starting out, you can learn something new, too.  The best part of this TpT journey is that we are constantly growing and learning from each other.
A lot of us have learned this the hard not create using Microsoft Word.  It seems like the preference of most sellers is to use Powerpoint.  When I first heard this I was so confused  I had always used Word to make things in the classroom but they were very basic and far from cute.  I only knew Powerpoint as what you use when you have a slideshow presentation to give.  Not the case.  It is actually MUCH easier than Word to create a product in.  You can move clipart and fonts around easily to get them in the exact spot you want them.  You can also save as a pdf or even a jpeg file if you want.  My very first product was in word and when I went to update it, it was a huge pain.  I had to do lot of cutting and pasting to get it into Powerpoint to edit it and update the fonts and clip art.  Do yourself a favor and start with Powerpoint.

Another tip that comes up a lot on the TpT forums is to secure your document.  Not only does this make it so that other people can't copy your work, it also follows the terms of use for most clip artists on TpT.  But be aware - just saving it as a pdf isn't securing it.  You can still highlight and copy a pdf. There are several different ways to secure a pdf.  I save my file as a pdf.  Then I open the pdf in Adobe Professional.  In that program you can lock the file with a password.  I set it so that people can print the document but they can't make changes or highlight and copy any of it.  I know this isn't a perfect solution but I have to trust that the majority of people who are accessing my files are good people who aren't trying to take the files apart, copy them and claim them as their own.  Also, this might be a good spot to mention putting a watermark on every page.  I just use a footer at the bottom of each page that says "Created by Sara Jonckheere 2015" and I make it size 8 in gray so that it isn't obnoxious on the page.  This protects me so that people know it belongs to me but it also can help people come back and find your store.
Did you know that there are seller's forums on the Teachers Pay Teachers website?  This is an awesome source of information.  Much of what I've learned on this journey has been learned in the forums.  I did some reading on it before I uploaded my first product but I spent a TON of time on it in the months after I added my first product before I added more products that summer.  Check it out and search the archives if you have a particular question, or create a new post asking for help.  It is also great for connecting and collaborating with others.
 I read this over and over on the forums.  Buy clipart, buy fonts, buy digital papers.  But I didn't.  How could I spend money if I wasn't making any money?  So I got by with free clipart and fonts.  It worked for me and I learned to create using them and I SO appreciate all the awesome freebies out there.  However, I was starting to notice there were so many products that looked the same because we were using the same freebies.   I really think my products started to improve when I started spending money on clipart.  I still use freebies but I don't hesitate to buy clipart that I really need for a product.  You have to spend money to make money right?  I know it seems hard when you aren't making any money, but trust me, you need to fancy/cute up those products and clip art is how to do it.
On your last page of each document, you want to spell out your terms of use, acknowledge the clip artists you use and give buyers a way to contact and connect with you.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  I used this initially.

Then as I started using social media more, I added a second page so that buyers could find a way to get in touch with me.

Do they use it?  Does it help?  I have no idea but it makes me feel better knowing it is in each file.

I recently updated my page to look like this.

I used THIS free download from Selling Strategies on TpT to help create my new terms of use page.  For each document, I change the clipart icons based on which ones I used in the file.  To make this easier for me, I have a Powerpoint file where I keep all the icons of all the sellers I have clip art for on my computer.  Then, I hyperlink the icon so that it links to their TpT store when you click on it.  When I'm creating a new product, I keep this file open and copy and paste the icons as I use a different clip artist's work in my file.

Using social media to market your store can be overwhelming.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, Instagram, blogging...there are so many options out there.  I am still trying to find the balance and what works best.  Marketing and networking are important but it can also suck up a lot of your time and then you are creating less products.  I think before you start worrying about marketing, you really want to build up your store and have a decent amount of quality products.  I don't know if there is a magic number to have in your store before you start marketing...I've heard some say 50, some say 20.  I think Pinterest has been one of the most helpful social media sites for my store, followed by my blog.  I recently jumped into Instagram and LOVE it and it has really helped with networking and connecting to others.  My best advice is to do what works best for you.  Start with just one or two social media sites.  Don't feel like you need to do them all.  I don't use Facebook in my personal life so I was resistant to using it in a business setting too so I just don't.  Other people love and swear by Facebook.  It is whatever you are comfortable with and whatever you can make work for you.
 When you are first starting off selling, it is very easy to get frustrated.  Why aren't my products selling?  What am I doing wrong?  How do I start making money?  Why is everyone else succeeding and I'm not?  You constantly question yourself and it is hard.  I spent a lot of time doing this in the beginning.  I would compare my products to other products.  I would compare my success (or lack thereof) to other sellers.  I would read about other seller's milestones and achievements in the forums and while I was happy for them, it was always frustrating because I never felt like I was achieving that level of success.  What you have to remember is that everyone is at a different point in their TpT journey.  Some are just starting, some have been at it for years, some do it full time, some do it on the side, some are single, some are married with kids and the list goes on and on.  Everyone's situation is different and the comparison game can bring you down.  While I think at times it can be healthy to compare yourself to try to strive to do better, ultimately you are only in competition with yourself.  Once I started comparing my sales and successes to myself, I realized I actually was making progress and growing by leaps and bounds.  Was I a million dollar seller?? No way.  Far from it.  But I was doing better each month and I never really realized it before because I was so busy worrying about everything everyone else was doing.

Here is what I started to do that really made a difference.  Keep track of your stats.  I do this weekly.  I keep track of my earnings, products sold and followers on TpT, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Google +.  Then I can compare each week to see what I've gained for the week.  But ultimately, this wasn't what did it for me.  I started comparing my monthly earnings to the same month the year before.  I started a simple excel spreadsheet that lists each month.  I write down how much I earn for the month and I have it create a graph.  Then, the next year, I write my total in the next column.  Then I can quickly see what I made at this same time a year before.  I do sometimes compare month to month in the same year but it really helps me to compare the same months to each other since you tend to see the same trends (back to school rush, slow summer months, slow down around Christmas break, etc.)  When I started doing this, I realized how much more money I made than the year before.  Again, it wasn't out of the park, top seller type sales, but it was leaps and bounds above what I sold the year before.  Now I get so excited each month to see what I did at this time last year and see what kind of jumps I'm making.  Each year gets better and better so I can only assume those numbers are going to increase over time.

Pricing can be a tricky thing especially when you first start.  I priced my first few items pretty high because I felt like I spent so long making them that I had to make it worth my effort.  I have since gone back and adjusted it.  You definitely want to value your work and your time but you also have to be realistic about whether or not someone else would buy it at that price.  Would you buy it at that price?  At the same time, do not undervalue your work by setting your prices really low.  Many people have done this to try to bring people into their stores.  In giving away work for next to nothing, you are undervaluing your time and effort as well as other sellers on the site.  You need to price fairly and competitively.  I have seen in a few places that a good rule of thumb is $0.10-$0.20 per usable page.  I try to stay within this range but make adjustments for products as needed.  Also, think about your freebies.  They should be less than ten pages and your whole store shouldn't be filled with them.  They can be stand alone products or samples of a larger product but either way, you don't want to give ALL of your hardwork away for free all of the time.  Pick and choose what would make the best freebie.
 Realize that once you finish a product, it is never really finished.  You will need to go back and update the content, as well as, update and refresh the colors, fonts and clipart.  Your style will change.  Your taste will change.  Your logo might change.  Your creating and designing skills will change.  You want your products to change with you.  Even after two years on TpT, I have had to go back and fix some of my first products.  I added new fonts and clipart.  I switched my first product from Word to Powerpoint.  I've added Terms of Use pages to the last page.  I currently have plans to make a square cover graphic for each of my products because I like the way it looks and it seems to give you more area to work with for your title.  My work is never done.  It is a balancing act of creating new products and not forgetting about your old products and keeping them up to date.
 Another thing I read over and over was to create products for you.  Create what you and your students need.  In all reality, if you need it, other teachers need it.  This was a little tricky for me since I started TpT once I left the classroom to stay home with my girls.  I was creating the products I wish I had when I was in the classroom but never had the time to create.  I started tutoring and creating products that I needed to use with those kids.  I definitely had it in the back of my mind to put them up on TpT so I did what I could to make them TpT ready but I mostly created what I needed to help the girls at that point in time.  And guess what?  It sells.  Products that I thought were silly or just quick little things I did with them during one tutoring session have turned into some of my best sellers.  So if you need it, chances are so does another teacher.  Don't worry about the trends and the types of products you see other people making.  If your students need it, use it, like it, benefit from it, then create it and sell it.
I think it is important to keep your business as organized as possible.  I blogged about how I keep my finances and statistics organized HERE.

I also recently purchased this to hold important files for taxes...receipts, order forms, lists, etc.  I'm still trying to figure out how best to use this in addition to my binder.

Another area to think about organizing is your computer files.  Obviously,you need to do what works best for you but you want to be able to access your files quickly and easily.  I keep the products that I make in a file called TpT.  In the file, I have a separate folder for each product.

In each folder I have the document saved as a Powerpoint, pdf, and jpegs.  I also have the preview for the product saved all three ways.  Also, if I have any pictures of the product in action, I save them in this folder too.

All of my clip art is organized in a file called TpT Resources.

In that file, I have a folder for each artist that I use.  In that folder I have each of the sets that I have from that seller.  It is organized and easy to find by seller.

So far it is working for me.  I do sometimes have to click through several folders if I am trying to see if I have any clip art of a specific picture.  I have seen some people who print out all of the clip art they own and store it in a binder.  I love this idea but the idea of the time, money and ink that it would cost for my growing collection is sort of overwhelming to me!!

These are just some of my top tips I would have for new sellers.  If you have more specific questions or something that you want a tutorial for, just let me know.  If you've been selling for awhile, what is your best tip?  Leave it in the comments!