Selling your lessons


Have you heard of this old saying?  I'm sure as a teacher you've had parents express concerns using the honey version and the vinegar version.  Don't you wish your school counselor held a workshop for parents that gave tips for working as a partner with your child's teacher?  How many times have we said to other teachers, "I wish parents knew what our job was like"?  But, really only someone who is the trenches can truly understand all that is involved with our job.  Our family gets a small glimpse, but it's not the whole picture.

This made me think about my job selling lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Some of you may have been thinking about signing up to sell your lessons, too.  Or maybe you've already signed up, uploaded a few lessons, and you are wondering what you should do next.  

When you make money from a lesson, the rules change.  You need to get acquainted with the copyright rules.  Margaret Whisnant has a freebie that you should download.  Get acquainted with the seller's forum.  There is a section in the forum about copyright/trademark/IP.  A few of the tips I've learned from the forum and from searching the internet are:

*T.P.T. and/or sellers on T.P.T. have received cease & desist letters from the companies/publishers of Dr. Seuss, Angry Birds, Elf on a Shelf, Thinking Maps, and Pete the Cat.   If you upload a lesson to TPT you could make yourself vulnerable to a lawsuit.  Are you a risk taker?  Do you have money stockpiled for a rainy day that you could use for a lawsuit? These companies have deep pockets and copyright lawsuits are lengthy and expensive.  When you become a seller you have to electronically sign a lengthy contract spelling out what your responsibilities are as a seller.  One of those responsibilities is that the lessons you upload do not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of others.

*You can only make free lessons for Whole Brain, Literacy Cafe, and Daily Five - no paid for lessons.  Literacy Cafe and Daily Five have guidelines you must follow when you make freebies.

*Have you seen the ® or ™ ?  Words and phrases such as "Read Across America", "Super Bowl", and "foldables" are registered trademarks.  Read more about it HERE.  Do a google search before you write a lesson.  Find out if the topic has one of these symbols beside the name.  

 *You are not allowed to use a picture of a book cover in your lessons.  The book cover is copyrighted, too. 

The terms of use with clipart companies is different when you are selling lessons.  Some clipart companies require a special license.  Licenses cost $20 - 200+.  Some companies require a different license for each of the places where your lessons can be found (blog, TPT, TN, etc.).  Read the terms of use closely before you purchase them. 

If you are like most sellers, you probably have hundreds of fonts loaded on your computer.  Did you know that fonts work like clipart?  They have terms of use, too.  Yes, you can download fonts for free on sites like dafonts.com if you are a teacher,  but many of them require fees if you are using the fonts commercially.  Fees can range from a few dollars up to $249 for a license to use all of the fonts in your lessons.

What do you do after you upload your lesson packet?  Now it's time to tell others about it.  There are different ways you can do this.  One of the easiest is with Pinterest.  If you don't have a Pinterest account, I would suggest you get an account now and begin building your followers.  Don't forget!  Your followers do not want to see only your paid for lesson packets.  Pin blog posts, freebie lesson, and other helpful tips so you can increase your followers.  If you are invited to join a collaborative board, remember you are a guest.  Only pin a few at a time . . . don't flood the board with 10+ pins.

A facebook page is a great way to interact with your followers.  Try to post a few interesting blog posts, tips, or lessons each day.  Consistency is the key!  You can even schedule what you post ahead of time which is a helpful feature.  Keep a close eye on your page because there are uncouth people who will try to post on your page what they are selling.   These people do not want to put in the time to build up followers so they "hit and run" on other people's Facebook pages that have a large number of followers. With a few clicks you can ban them.  When you visit someone's Facebook page, remember you are a guest and should follow common courtesy rules.

Most sellers have a blog because they want to share their teaching ideas, too.  When you first begin blogging you feel like you writing to the black abyss.  Slowing but surely  with pinning and sharing on Facebook, teachers will find your blog.  

Time is something that sellers have in short supply.  It never seems like there is enough time in the day.   Most sellers spend 20+ hours a week writing blog posts, sharing ideas on their Facebook page, pinning on Pinterest, and making new lesson packets.  You also need to stay connected when you are on vacation, too.  Most sellers take their laptops or iPads on vacations because they have to checkin to see if there are questions from buyers.  If buyers' software is not updated they will have trouble downloading lesson packets.  They usually contact the buyer instead of the tech dept. of the site.  If you don't answer their questions in a timely manner, they take out their frustration when they leave you feedback.

There are different ways you can earn money on your blog.  You can place ads and hope that your readers will click on your sponsors' ads.  You can also become an affiliate of sites such as Amazon.  

Please note: I got permission from Paul, the owner of TPT to share the following information.  As far as the money you can make as a seller . . . you have to look at the math.  During the fourth quarter (Sept. - Dec. 2012) TPT had a little over 1,300+ sellers make $500+.  If a seller works 20 hours per week for 12 weeks (the length of the quarter) that equals 240 hours.  That is a little over $2 / hour.  This does not take into account the expenses of font, clipart, border, etc.  I don't know how many sellers we had during the fourth quarter, but I know we now have over 30,000 sellers.  So, only a small percentage are making $500+ each quarter.

I know there has been a debate about teachers selling their lessons.  These numbers show me that there are many sellers who have a strong desire to share their ideas with their fellow colleagues.  How many workers in other professions would be willing to work for 3 months, 20 hours a week, making less than $2 an hour?  When I began teaching in 1990 there were only a few ways to get teaching resources.  Our district gave us materials, we could spend our money at the local teacher supply store or teacher supply catalog, make our own resources, or borrow from a teacher at our school.  Now with blogs and sites like Teachers Pay Teachers, resources are just a click away.  I don't think these sites have taken away from the philosophy of professional collaboration.  Rather than sharing ideas with teachers at the local level,  these sites have opened the doors so we now collaborate on a national and even international level.


Julie Marciniak said...

This post was extremely helpful!
Thank you so much!

Amber said...

Great post for sellers!!! People need to read and hear this- I'll be directly people here if they have questions!

Sparkles, Smiles, and Successful Students

Michelle said...

Thank you Julie and Amber!

Liz said...

Great post!

Jennifer Ayers said...

Roar like a lion! I love that you have applied common sense to blogging and selling lessons to other teachers . I wish I could help you get this blogpost to go viral!

Best Practices 4 Teaching

Miss T said...

Great post! I think every TpT beginner should read it...great info packed into one post!

Journey of a Substitute Teacher

Cynthia said...
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Cynthia said...

This was a FABULOUS, OUTSTANDING post! I think it should be required reading when signing up for TPT! haha...

2nd Grade Pad

Carolyn said...

This is a great post! Very helpful. I agree with previous commenters that every beginning TpT seller should read it.

Exceptional Kinders

Lisa Mattes said...

SOOO helpful!!! Thanks a TON for your points!!!
Growing Firsties

luckeyfrog said...

I love this post. I have just gotten started on TpT (although I've been blogging awhile) and I'm always afraid I'm going to do something wrong. I really like how you broke down the information into simple categories! Thank you!

Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

luckeyfrog said...

Ooh- and a quick question. When you start your Facebook page, do you choose the page for a business? Is there a way to associate it with a personal profile to avoid constantly logging in/ out? I'm hoping to work on that this Spring Break :) Thank you!!

Martha Moore said...

FABULOUS post! Thank you SO much for sharing! As a TpT seller, any new seller who ask for advice, I'm pointing them right to this post. :)

arlene sandberg said...

What a great timely post. I was just trying to figure out the other day how much time I have spent over the last year creating, blogging, marketing etc. and what I actually made by selling my product. I wish I had known all of this a year ago and will definitely pin it and share it on FB. Thanks as always for sharing your knowledge.
LMN Tree

~DeAnne~ said...

What a GREAT post Michelle! You have made some excellent points!

(I sound like a spam comment HA, but I'm very serious)

Reading the statistics has helped put things in perspective too! ;)

First Grade and Fabulous

Pam DAlessandro said...

Hi! I am your newest follower! I just found one of your pins and ran over here for a visit! Thank you for all these great ideas. I am a new blogger and need help with all of this! Please visit my blog and let me know what you think! Thanks for all your great posts!
Visit me at Teaching By The Sea

zahid ahmed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlene Sequeira said...

Thank you for the great advice. I sometimes feel that I am never going to get noticed, but as each week goes by, someone else finds me and now some of my products are selling. I realize it is a matter of time and I appreciate all the tips you have given. These will be very helpful to me and to many others.
Charlene/Diamond Mom

marcy said...

Thank you. I wish I had seen this months ago. Your important advice has probably prevented some difficult situations. I appreciate the time you gave to this post.
It's a Teacher Thing