I am really excited to share the results of the first month of the Online Teacher Biz Project with you! You can read the introduction to the project here.
What is the Online Teacher Biz Project?
Last month I decided to start a brand new online business from scratch and document the whole process for you here on the blog. I already have a small online teacher business, but it’s taken me four and a half years to build it. I’ve been wondering what my journey would have been like had I known at the beginning what I know now. Well, I have decided to find out. I will be utilizing the skills and insights I’ve picked up over the years to launch this new micro business.
I’m also hoping that this little project might inspire some of you, teachers, to start a little side business of your own. Having a small business is fun, but the bottom line is, I really think you all deserve to make more money, period. A small online teacher business can help you use the incredible skills you already have, in a field you are passionate about, to improve your personal standard of living all while you make a bigger impact on the world.
My goal is to continue writing updates until I am generating a consistent revenue of about $500/month. Why $500? $500 is an achievable and non-intimidating amount of money. If I tell you that I’m planning to bring in $10K/month, I can bet that most of you will run off into the woods thinking there’s no way that’s possible for you. Five Hundred Dollars. This is doable. This can be your retirement contribution. This can be a bigger apartment. This can be a car payment. This can be a school loan payment. This can be a family vacation. An extra five hundred dollars a month can make a difference in the life of every teacher I know.
And here’s the thing about an online business. It can help you generate that income with relatively little effort. You may have to put the hours in up front for very little pay, but after a while it can chug along on its own without too much work on your part.
So let’s see how we can make this happen!
May 2017 Update
May 7th, 2017 was the official launch date of the business. That’s when I started a Facebook page for it. See details of how the first week on Facebook went in the introductory post here. As I explained in the last post, my strategy is to focus on building an audience first before I work on creating products.
Future products: Printables and other educational resources for preschool teachers (not Montessori-specific)
Target audience: English speaking preschool teachers (and parents) worldwide who like printables and are willing to spend money (not just freebie seekers)
Building an Audience
Launched: May 7th
I continued to post on this new FB page daily and tested some targeted ads to increase engagement and likes. As of the morning of June 1st, the Facebook page had grown to 3,000 Likes. I have been surprised by this growth. The main Trillium Montessori page has never added 3000 new Likes in a month! A little over half this growth occurred via strategic boosting of posts to my target audience.
Note: Facebook has stopped showing stats for growth of new likes, hence the blank graph and the big fat ZERO on the page. But you can still see the total number of page Likes, Follows, and the talking about number.
Coming up for the next month or so, I want to continue posting regularly on the page and see if I can build the audience organically. I will be focusing my posts more specifically towards printables.
Launched: May 16th
I set up a mailing list account with MailerLite for this new project. I use Mailchimp for Trillium, but I’ve been hearing good things about this company and wanted to try it out. They are free to use for your first 1000 subscribers and allow you to set up automated sequences too. The pricing tiers when your subscribers increase are also very reasonable.
Another feature of MailerLite is that it allows you to create attractive landing pages so you can start collecting email addresses. This is handy if you don’t have a website to embed your forms in. I created a simple landing page and linked to it from the following places:
- Sign up button on the Facebook page
- About section on the Facebook page
- In the description of the post when I shared some viral videos (I made the mistake of not checking with the original poster of the viral video about this first and she didn’t like it. Ooops! Don’t do that!)
Ideally you want to create a special free offer (called a lead magnet) that will entice people to sign up. Most people are not interested in signing up for random newsletters for the heck of it. You will notice that my lead magnet for the Trillium newsletter is the Free Resource Library 🙂 Your lead magnet does not have to be this elaborate. I haven’t had time to create a proper freebie yet, but I wanted to go ahead and get the landing page out there from the very beginning in case I did get some signups.
I posted the links to the landing page on May 16th. Since then, I’ve added 20 subscribers to the mailing list. One of these subscribers is me!
Every new subscriber gets a welcome email that includes links to a couple of freebies on Teachers Pay Teachers (not mine). The goal is to introduce these followers to TpT if they haven’t already heard of it, and to train them to expect to hear about printables from me. As you can see, the open rate for newsletters is not 100%! 9 people have opened the welcome email so far and only 5 people have clicked on any of the links.
I sent out my first newsletter to the whole list on May 31st. So far only 3 people have opened that email (including me!) and one has clicked on the link.
These are obviously very small numbers, but they are a great starting point!
- Create a high quality lead magnet
- Make a more compelling landing page offering the lead magnet
- Promote the lead magnet regularly on FB
Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) Store
Launched: May 25th
I went ahead and created a TpT store. For now I am just going with the free seller account until I have a few products ready. It doesn’t make sense to invest in the premium account ($60/yr) until I’m ready to make sales.
TpT is another place to start building an audience. I wasn’t planning to do it so soon, but I was in the mood to run some experiments, so I did it. Creating the actual seller account is very simple and it’s free. However, the minute you want to add a product, you need to make sure you have a few things already in place. So, I took care of the following:
- Created a logo (I used Canva to help me design it. It’s free. But you don’t have to get fancy; you can just use a photograph of yourself like I do for the Trillium store.)
- Filled in the teacher profile
- Created a simple free product
- Created a paid product that is a bigger, more elaborate version of the freebie (Tip: make your TpT freebies usable samples of larger products. This can help convert those freebie seekers into buyers)
I listed the store on May 25th. I posted about the store on my FB page and have picked up 4 followers. Yes, one of these is me!
Creating My Own Products
I suspect that this aspect of the business will grow slowly… mostly because I don’t plan to spend too much time on this project. Making quality printable products can be a bit time consuming at first. I will write a separate post in the future about how to create products. However, because I wanted to get my TpT page started, I did go ahead and create one free product and one paid product. (Once I make them more Montessori-appropriate I will add them to the Trillium Shop so you guys can get them too!)
Here’s a brief checklist of what goes in to making a product:
- Find appropriate clipart and images with usable copyrights
- Design the product and make sure you have your own copyright on each page
- Design a cover page
- Design a credits page which includes links to all your image sources (as required) and links to your various social media
- Design a preview
- Convert to PDF
- Upload to TpT
- Write a description for TpT
- Upload the preview and thumbnails
- Create marketing images and descriptions for Facebook and Pinterest
I posted both my free and paid products on May 25th. The paid product is priced at $3.00 and I listed it for an intro price of $1.50 (at 50% off). It sold within the hour. This happened to me when I listed my first Trillium product too. My guess is that some buyers regularly check the “new products” and “new sellers” listings and this can be a good way to be discovered. The kind buyer even came back to leave a review and became my first follower.
I had originally planned on having at least 10 products ready before opening my TpT store. I think this would make a very good impression on people who discover the store for the first time.
However, I really wanted to experiment with something so I jumped the gun. I wanted to try creating a promo video and promoting one of my own paid products on the new FB page to see what kind of response I would get.
So, I created a simple video just using screenshots from the product and boosted it on FB. It got fairly decent reach and engagement, but did not lead to any sales. I have stopped promoting it for now and plan to create some better videos and have a few more products ready before I boost again.
Number of products to date: 1 free, 1 paid
Earnings: $0.60 (after TpT commissions on the free seller account)
Reviews on TpT: 3 votes
Freebie downloads: 28
- Create a series of new products in time for a back-to-school launch
In addition to creating my own products, I also plan to sell affiliate products. These are items created by others who offer a commission for every sale I make. The first affiliate product I will market on this new page is the Summer Break Mega Bundle. Promo for this started on June 1st, so I will share the results when I write up the June report!
I have been looking in to other affiliate products I may want to market. I will share my research and final list with you here next time.
Affiliate Product Goals
- Make a list of potential affiliate products to promote
Expenses May 2017
I have allocated $250 to fund the startup costs for this project. However, these expenses are not required. I have learned that money can buy you speed, but if you are willing to wait, you can do this without the following investments.
Facebook ads: $121.64
Total expenses: $121.64
Startup funds remaining: $128.36
Income May 2017
TpT product earnings: $0.60 (after commissions)
Total Income: $0.60
So, hey! I already made a sale in my first month! And that sale did not come from the money I spent on FB ads. So, if you’re worried that this might be out of your reach because you don’t have startup funds, let that fear rest!
Current Business Stats
Facebook page: 3,038
Newsletter subscribers: 22
TpT followers: 4
Want to keep up with the Online Teacher Biz Project?
Sign up for the Trillium newsletter here (and you’ll also get access to my free resource library!)
Do you have a Montessori business yourself? Apply to join our free Montessori Entrepreneurs discussion group here.