Aaa! I am so excited! I had this idea on a whim last weekend and I am totally going to do it! I am starting a brand new online business from scratch.
I’ve actually started a number of businesses in my life. The early ones didn’t go anywhere at. all.
Then in 2009 I started my school, Trillium Montessori, and that worked out. In 2013 I started a blog without intending to turn it into a business. And that worked out too. I began making printable products and offering courses and ended up with an online business almost by accident.
So now I’ve got an itch to pull all those experiences together and start a new online business from scratch (no pun intended) just to see if I can do it. And I want to document the whole process for you.
Disclaimer: I’m excited about this now, but I want to give you a heads up that I may get bored/distracted/tired of doing it and I might stop. This is a hobby project and if it starts stressing me out I will put it aside for a while (or forever). With that in mind, I will put no time deadlines on achieving goals and milestones. I will simply report them and share my strategies for getting to the next stage.
My Goal with the Online Teacher Biz Project
…is to document and demonstrate how a teacher, with limited time and funds, can start bringing in a small additional income with an online business in the field of education.
By “small additional income” I’m talking in the range of $500-$800/month. This amount of money can make a big impact in the life of someone living on a teacher’s salary. This could cover a car payment, a school loan payment, a Roth IRA contribution, or even help with daycare expenses.
Why online? Because the overhead and risk can be much lower than an in-person business and the income potential can be much higher. The level of flexibility can’t be beat. You can work on your own time and from anywhere. You can work as much as you want or as little as you want.
I was originally thinking that I would start by investing $0 into the business and completely bootstrap it. However, I know that money can buy you time and speed things up. So, I plan to invest $250 out of pocket and then bootstrap the rest by reinvesting any income back into the business. You don’t have to do it that way. You can do almost everything I share in this project for free or practically free. It will just take you longer. I will give you the free resources to use.
What’s My New Business Going to Look Like?
I’m going to stick to the things I know. I plan to sell educational printables, most likely on Teachers Pay Teachers.
I will target a non-Montessori niche so that I don’t cannibalize my current business! I will be offering resources for a general preschool-kindergarten teacher audience (and maybe introduce them to some Montessori principles while I’m at it!)
I plan to generate the bulk of my revenue from the sale of printable products for preschool-kindergarten teachers. The products may be my own, or affiliate products. Affiliate products means that someone else has created the product but I am marketing it with a special tracking link and I earn a commission if someone buys using my link.
I like the idea of selling affiliate products because it cuts down on the actual work I have to do. Creating products can be very time consuming. But, it’s been my experience over the years that affiliate products don’t convert into sales as well as my own products. My followers generally tend to respond much more favorably to my own products. I don’t think this has much to do with the quality of the affiliate product. I think there’s just a stronger know-like-trust factor when I’m promoting my own offerings.
My Business Building Strategy
Here’s my BIGGEST takeaway from all the business projects I’ve been engaged in in the past: you need buyers before you can make a sale.
Sounds obvious, right? But it’s not how most of us approach business. Most of us start with a product. “I’ve got a great idea for a product!” You create the product (or design your service or set up your new school) and then… crickets. There’s no one to buy it and no one signs up.
That’s when you learn that the secret name of the business game is marketing. You will spend most of your time and money finding buyers for your product. This is just how it works. At least in my experience.
So, instead of starting by building a product, I will be starting by building an audience.
However, the two are interrelated. I need to have some idea of what kind of product I wish to sell in the future so I can start attracting the right kind of buyers.
Once I have a few followers, I plan to test out some affiliate links and see if and how they convert to sales.
After that, I will experiment with creating my own products.
Building My Audience
Because I want to eventually sell printable educational products for preschool-kindergarten, I’m going to be searching for:
- preschool-kindergarten teachers
- who like printables
- speak English
- live anywhere in the world (digital products are easily delivered worldwide)
Many of you, my Trillium readers, match this audience. But I do not want to artificially pump up my new project with a pre-existing audience! I really want to demonstrate how to build an audience from scratch. For this reason, I will not be sharing the links to the social media/website/store etc. of the new business until I meet the $500/month goal.
I have decided that I do not want to create a blog for this new business. Having to write a weekly blog post in addition to the stuff I create for Trillium would make me insane. But, if you are starting from scratch, a blog is a good idea.
So where will my audience live?
I am going to start with building a following on Facebook, and then add an email newsletter. The email newsletter is going to be my main focus. We’ll talk more about the power of the email list in the coming months.
Building an Audience Stage 1: Facebook
I’m starting with Facebook because it’s easy. It doesn’t require me to create tons of original content. I can share other people’s content and ride their coattails for a while.
My Facebook strategy is to share posts that my target audience will respond to. I am going to use some of my startup money to boost these posts so they reach more people. If you’re a Facebook newbie, you may not know that organic reach for Facebook posts can be pretty dismal unless it’s very unique content that gets an instant reaction.
Step 1 (Free): Find a few good posts to share
- that you think your target market will respond to
- that are already going viral or have gone viral in the past
Step 2 (Free): Spread the word
- Invite friends who are your target audience to help you spread the word. Tell them to share the posts from your page. If they’re not your target audience, DON’T ask them to like or share. This will hurt you in the long run.
- Respectfully share these posts, from your page, in relevant groups (making sure you are following all group guidelines).
Note: these posts do not lead to your blog or product. They are simply posts that already have some Facebook fairy dust on them and you are riding their coattails. When you share from your page to a group or to your personal profile, your page will not be visible in the share. However, it will be recorded by Facebook that the share originated from your page and this indicates to FB that your page is worth paying attention to.
If you’re willing to spend some money, try step 3.
Step 3 ($$): Set up your ad
- Learning how to set up an audience and effectively boost a post requires a little education. I recommend checking out Rachel Miller’s free Facebook group (affiliate link) to get some great strategies to help you.
- Boost 5-6 posts you think your audience will respond to.
- As people “like” your post, you can invite them to “Like” your page. (More details inside Rachel Miller’s free Facebook group)
- See which of your boosts does the best, then hunt for more posts like that to share and boost.
My Facebook Results
Last week, on Sunday, May 7th, I created a brand new Facebook page for the Teacher Biz Project (this is not the name of the page) . As I mentioned before, I have designated a startup fund so I used some of the money to set up a few ads to boost my posts.
Guys! I had phenomenal results! I was honestly blown away and not expecting these results at all. I still think this is a bit of a fluke so I will continue to experiment for a couple more weeks to see if I can replicate these results.
I planned to spend only $5-$10 but it looks like I found the right viral posts and the right target audience because they started liking and commenting on these posts right away. I adjusted my budget and figured I should keep this going while I can.
As of Sunday morning, May 14th, this week-old page already has over 1000 followers.
This is insane! I don’t expect this rate to continue and please don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the same results. I think this is an anomaly, but I will be testing to see if I can replicate this moving forward. I will say that Rachel Miller’s free Facebook group gave me a lot of tactics to try and inspiration to experiment with Facebook , so if this is something you’re interested in, I highly recommend it.
I have spent a total of $70 on these boosts to gain these 1000 page likes. I wasn’t planning to spend that much money, but the return on investment has been much better than expected so I am going to keep going for a few more weeks.
Now, even though I won’t share the biz page with you, I will tell you the posts that are converting to likes very well for me.
Viral Boosted Post 1
This was the first share that took off. Notice how the original post has 70M views and over a million shares? This is what a viral post looks like. I currently have 500+ likes on this post on my page. But I stopped boosting it within a couple of days because it’s attractive to pretty much everyone and I specifically want people who like printables.
Viral Boosted Post 2
Now THIS is the share that is rocking my world. This post is specifically about printables for preschool. It’s a good quality video and it has a very high number of views for being just a few days old. Even though it doesn’t have a million+ views on it yet, it’s growing fast and that’s a good indication of viral Facebook fairy dust! Luckily for me, I am in a group with the author of this page and I let her know that this post was doing very well on my page. She went back and checked her stats and told me that her sales of this product have jumped considerably due to my share! YES! This is the BEST result I could have hoped for! I struck gold with this share. Now the challenge is to find more posts like this… hah! My share of this post has 450+ likes on it.
Coming up, I plan to work on the following:
- Continue to grow the Facebook page
- Sign up for some suitable affiliate programs (I will share links to the ones I find)
- Share some affiliate links on Facebook and see if I can get any conversions to sales
- Figure out my email newsletter plan
Current Business Stats
Facebook Followers: 1098
Want to keep up with the Online Teacher Biz Project?
Do you have a Montessori business yourself? Apply to join our free Montessori Entrepreneurs discussion group here.