How to start a TpT store
There are a lot of reasons for starting a TpT store – maybe you want to supplement your income, save for retirement – or maybe you have dreams of leaving the classroom altogether. Whatever your goals, it is possible to make money on TpT – but getting started can seem daunting when there is SO MUCH to learn.
This complete beginners guide to starting a store on Teachers Pay Teachers lists tasks and skills in the order that you really need them, so you can avoid overwhelm and get started quickly. If you want to know how to start selling on TpT, this is your essential guide.
Step 1: Realistic goals and dreams for starting a TpT store
Before you go crazy choosing a store name and playing with fonts and colours, let’s do a quick reality check. A lot of wannabe teacher sellers start out asking the question – is selling on TpT worth it?
Starting a TpT store is just like starting any other business – it takes dedication and hard work, and you won’t see the results right away. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to make money, starting a Teachers Pay Teachers store probably isn’t the way to do it. (Sorry)
But, if you have a unique skill that you are dying to share with other teachers, TpT gives you a unique platform to do that. If you keep your focus on how you can help other teachers and less on how much money you’re making, it will make getting started feel a lot less discouraging.
Step 2: Create your TpT Seller’s Account
Starting a TpT store begins with creating a TpT seller account. I recommend signing up for a premium account right away, although I know there are some who would not agree with me.
Personally, I think starting with a Premium account is beneficial because you will earn more money per sale, and that can really help you feel good about your earnings when you are just starting out.
More importantly though, I think starting with a premium account gives you some skin in the game. Making this small investment will help you to take your new business seriously, which will translate into a better work ethic and results.
(If you really can’t afford to go for the premium seller account right away, then make a deal with yourself to upgrade as soon as you’ve made that amount from your store.)
Step 3: Do a quick set-up of your TpT store information
When starting a TpT store, there is a tendency to go all crazy with the “look” of your store at the beginning, but let me remind you – the thing that makes money are your PRODUCTS. So for the purposes of getting started, keep it simple & professional.
It’s important to start with product creation because the truth is if you discover that you don’t really like making products, then it may be that having a TpT store is not for you. There is no point in wasting a bunch of time on the other less important aspects of starting a tpt store if product creation doesn’t float your boat!
At this point, your store name also doesn’t matter too much. You need to get some experience under your belt before you will be ready to commit to a brand name and message. The good news is, you can easily change your store name at ANY TIME. So don’t sweat it.
Step 4: Upload your first free product to your TpT Store
Free products don’t make you any money, but they sure do get people to try out your work. So don’t slap something random up because you’re in a hurry to get started.
For best results, think about what you’re first paid product is going to be, and make your free version either a smaller version or similar version of it. That way, even if you only have those two things in your store, you’ll already have the start of a marketing funnel.
Choose products that you are really passionate about for your first products – this will help you test your niche.
Once you have added some other products to your store, you can create a page at the end of the free product that provides a direct link to your paid product.
Step 4: I know you want to start making products, but let’s talk copyright first
Before you start filling your TpT store full of fabulous products, there’s one for BIIIG thing you need to understand – copyright. I know this is a topic that makes people want to run for the hills or stick their heads in the sand, but the basics really aren’t that complicated.
I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but the following basics will get you started:
- There are plenty of things we do in our own classroom that ok because of “educational use”. Those rules stop applying as soon as you SELL something. So just because it was ok to use in your classroom doesn’t mean it’s ok to sell for profit.
- Don’t put anything in your resource that you didn’t make or write yourself, unless you have explicit permission from the person who made it. (This includes using brand names.)
- You need to protect your intellectual work and the intellectual work of any contributors by doing two things:
A) Place a simple copyright notice at the bottom of every page; and
B) flatten your product pages.
Step 5: Create your first paid product
As I suggest above, make this first paid product relate to your free product in some way so that you are naturally creating a try-before-you-buy sequence right from the beginning.
Many teachers on TpT will look for only free products at first – this offers you an excellent opportunity to get teachers looking at your store. But in order for that free product to attract customers, it must be of high quality and solve a problem that your customers have.
Some TpT sellers think that they should only give away small, simple products – but by giving away something that is almost too good to be free, you are sending an important message to your customers about the quality they can expect from your paid products.
Step 6: Create 5 more fabulous products.
KEEP MAKING PRODUCTS. The most important thing in starting a TpT store is building a catalogue of high quality products. You don’t have to be a math whiz to understand that the more products you have the more chances you have to make a sale. But the key to this is that they have to be great products that teachers want to use. As you create these first products, concentrate on creating resources that are high quality, solve a common teacher problem, and are easy to use.
- Use Powerpoint or a design program that does page layouts. Don’t try to create products in Word. (I know you think it doesn’t matter. Trust me it does. Word does not allow you to ORGANIZE BY PAGE which is a huge disadvantage. It also doesn’t provide the same design capability.)
- You don’t have to go crazy with clip art and fonts. Keep it clean and neat – only add extras like clip art where it makes sense for the resource. A very basic border goes a long way. Remember that student-forward pages should only use simple, easy to read fonts.
- Put your copyright on every page.
- Only use images and clip art that you have the rights to (at the beginning it’s easiest to ONLY use clip art from TpT until you learn how copyright works) and give credit.
- Flatten your work to protect yourself and your clip art artists.
There are more best practices for your products, but following just these six will keep you on the right side of the law and set you up for success as you are starting your tpt store.
Step 7: Optimize your product listings.
The single most important thing to work on – after your products themselves – is your product listings. These pages are what convince your customers to buy your products, so if you don’t optimize them, all the work you’ve done to create products is wasted.
When first starting a TpT store, many sellers get so burnt out on creating the product that they slap a short one-sentence description up and call it a day. The problem is that if you don’t optimize your listing, no one will ever even SEE your product.
Step 8: Learn the basics of SEO
No one will buy your products if they can’t find them, and your products won’t be found on TpT unless they show up in the search engine. It is absolutely essential to learn the basics of search engine optimization when starting a tpt store – but thankfully, it isn’t actually that hard.
Step 9: Refine your store’s brand and message
Now that you’ve spent some time building up a strong foundation for your store, now is the time to focus on what you want your store to be and who you most want to serve. Some people recommend you do this before making any products at all – but I think this decision is best made after you have some experience and data to work from.
A lot of TpT Sellers make the mistake of trying to sell everything to everyone – but doing this stretches your time and energy too thin. Instead, choose a narrow focus that is the strongest match for your skills and interests and go deep on that topic. This is how you create an audience of teachers who will buy everything you make!
Once you’ve identified a strong niche for your store, only then should you spend any significant amount of time branding your store. Colours and fonts are part of it, but the the most important thing is knowing who your best customers are and how you can make their lives better with your products.
- Choose a store name that helps sell your products (and don’t use a tpt store name generator)
- Use your ideal customer to help you choose what products you should make next
As a beginner TpT seller, it’s easy to get distracted by fonts, colours, and social media. But if you really want to move your business forward, it’s important to keep your focus where it needs to be: on the products. As you are starting a tpt store, the single most important thing to work on when you are just getting started is to make sure that you are creating quality products that teachers you know can use.
Ready to go a step further?
Click here for the TpT Seller Hierarchy of Skills to see what you should be working on next.