Several years ago, my graphic designer/web designer husband was downsized out of his corporate job. We opted at that time to turn his side business into a full time business. We were blessed to land a very good client fairly quickly due to my teaching career connections. This company fed us steady work and became a huge portion of our income. It was fantastic.
Until it wasn’t.
The company had a major and unexpected shake-up. All of the people who kept us very busy were either let go or reassigned.
We lost a huge portion of our income almost overnight. It was financially devastating because we were not prepared for it.
After that paradigm-shifting experience, we vowed we would never be that dependent on any one client or income stream again.
Truly Owning the Online Business You Build
Michael Hyatt wrote a piece in 2014 about building your online business. He said:
What that means is that when it comes to your platform, you can’t afford to build your house on a rented lot.
In the article, he explains how algorithm changes on Facebook, Twitter, and such can drastically impact your business. If your business model depends heavily on any other platform, you are building your business on potentially shaky ground because you do not control it.
The same holds true for online businesses that have been devastated by Google algorithm updates, the most notorious of which were Panda and Penguin. I knew people who went from making thousands of dollars a month online to zilch due to one algorithm change. It can and does happen.
Diversifying Your Online Income Streams
Because of my experiences, I’ve never again gone all-in on any one platform including Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). I am very grateful for what I have been able to do through TPT, but I was never comfortable only having it to depend on. Instead, I have my own website with my own domain and hosting I pay for. I have all of my products on my own website in a WooCommerce shop. I continue to research and look for other ways to diversify my income.
For example, the income related to my work online last month is coming from eight different sources. This does not include the work my husband does as well. The income he generated came from several other sources.
In this post, I want to share a portion of what I’ve learned along the way with people who are new to TPT or might want to expand their online business beyond TPT. No, I am not a top seller on TPT. If you are looking for advice on how to succeed solely on TPT, I am not the person to consult.
I do, however, make enough from the various income streams that I have set up that it definitely makes a difference in our family life. It increases each year as I become more savvy and increase my skills. And, most importantly to me, it is diversified enough that while losing one stream would hurt us to varying degrees, it would not impact us in the same way losing our primary client did many years ago.
As always with my website, I WELCOME comments and enjoy engaging in discussions. I created this post so TPTers who are interested in possibly creating an online business that goes beyond TPT will have a place to discuss this topic that doesn’t require Facebook membership or discussing this in the TPT forums.
This is an open and public discussion to learn, help, and understand how to build a multi-faceted online business that isn’t solely dependent on the TPT platform. My goal is to introduce the topic and see if there are any questions I can try to answer.
Setting Up an Online Business in Addition to TPT
I have a category on this website where I am slowly adding posts about blogging and owning your own business. In particular, I have a post that outlines My Essential Blogging Tools that touches on many of the important aspects of my own online business and also includes links to services and companies I use and recommend.
If I were to shorten it down to a bullet list of what I would advise people to do if they want to go beyond TPT, it would be this.
- Establish your own website with your own purchased domain on hosting you pay for. Do not set up your online presence on a WordPress.com or Blogger website. You do not own them and they can be deleted for any reason. If you are going to invest in building something, purchase a domain and get your own hosting. Your own website also means you have something other than a Facebook page or group to depend on. I use InMotion for hosting for reasons I explain in the essential blogging tools post.
- Set up a way to collect the email addresses of people who are interested in your site. Even if you don’t sell your products on your site, you still want a way to keep in touch with people who like what you write and create. I currently use MadMimi.
- Set up an off-site backup of everything you create. It isn’t enough to keep your product files on a thumb drive or remote drive that sits on your desk. You MUST keep your file somewhere else such as a DropBox or other remote storage solution. I use iDrive.
If You Don’t Have Time To Do More
Even if you don’t have time right now to do more, I would still recommend buying your domain and setting up hosting. Put up a few helpful posts. (Turn off the dates so people can’t keep track of how long it’s been since you posted.) Doing this one thing gives you a place online. You have a place you own.
Your domain and website will also begin to “age” in the eyes of Google and not be brand new if you should happen to run with it in the future. This is important if you decide at some point you want to add AdSense or sign up for another ad service.
Even if you can only write one modest post a month, at the end of the year you will have twelve posts. One quality post a month is enough to keep your online home active.
Selling Digital Products on Your Own Website
Should you sell your digital products on your own site? This is a personal decision that does not have a right or wrong answer.
I sell my products in my own WooCommerce shop. For reasons I’ve already outlined above, it was important for me to not have all my eggs in one basket. Could I have ranked higher on TPT if I had gone all-in there? Of course. I opted to split my sales between TPT and my own site which meant I did not climb the ladder at TPT as much as I could have.
When it became clear to me I was not going to be able to keep up on TPT in terms of competing with the most active and prolific sellers due to other demands in my life, I opted to focus my attention on sending people to my website shop via Pinterest and SEO. As much as I appreciate TPT and what I have been able to earn there, I decided it was more important to me in the big picture and in the long run to get that link juice pointing to my own site rather than my shop and products on TPT. This is not an anti-TPT statement. This was and is a business decision for me.
Selling via WooCommerce also gives me the opportunity to block sales to particular countries or states. For example, I have a plugin that stops people from ordering in the EU so I don’t have to deal with VAT. There are also plugins available that allow you to block sales to particular states. So for sellers who are concerned about reaching a nexus in a particular state, it is possible to track your sales on your site and stop selling to a particular state in order to avoid reaching a nexus in that state.
But perhaps the greatest advantage to opening your own shop is that you receive your money instantly and there is no fee taken out other than the percentage required by PayPal. I have buyers dropping money into my PayPal account all day, every day with my own site. This is a huge advantage over selling on other platforms such as TPT.
Yes, it also means I have to deal with my own shop. But the trade-off is worth it in my opinion.
Selling Digital Products on Other Websites
I am an entrepreneur and not a TPT purist so I have tried different things. I have tried a number of different online markets that serve both teachers and homeschoolers. None of them have worked as well for me as TPT and my own website shop. Some have closed and some I chose to leave because it was not worth my time to continue updating products on them.
(Ironically enough, while I was typing this post I received an email that one website I had my digital products on in the past is now closing.)
So there are other options available, but I have not personally had success with them to the point that it was worth the time to continue to add and update my products there. If there was one that was consistently performing well for me, I would share that information.
Selling Digital Products on Teacher’s Dojo
I signed up for Teacher’s Dojo a few weeks ago and started the process of adding many of my products there. This was a business decision for me that I made due to the unresolved sales tax situation at TPT. I also believe that what Teacher’s Dojo is trying to offer teacher-authors is better overall than what TPT is currently offering. If someone is willing to compare the two objectively, it’s fairly obvious that Teacher’s Dojo has heard what teacher-authors want and is willing to give it to them. To this point in time, TPT has refused to offer many perks that teacher-authors have asked for repeatedly over the years. Teacher’s Dojo is offering those. In a competitive business world, that is a smart move. Teacher’s Dojo sees a need that is not being met and they are attempting to meet it. That’s not underhanded. That’s a business move and one that is made every single day throughout the world. The problem that Teacher’s Dojo has is that TPT currently has a monopoly on the teacher digital download market. Will Teacher’s Dojo be able to compete with TPT? I don’t know. I believe it would take a core group of teacher-authors committed to making Teacher’s Dojo work and going all in on it. TPT has the advantage of inertia. People won’t change unless forced to do so. But a large enough group of teacher-authors could make Teacher’s Dojo successful. The bottom line is that joining Teacher’s Dojo was a business decision for me in order to have my products in place on another site geared toward teachers in case the market shifted substantially for any number of reasons.
The owners of Teacher’s Dojo appear to have completely abandoned their website. Sadly, they do not answer emails or comments so I no longer recommend them. I deleted all of my products there except for one placeholder free download.
There are a staggering number of affiliate programs available. The most commonly used one is Amazon because it is easy to use and everyone shops there. Amazon changed their fee structure last year so it is less lucrative than it was in the past, but it is still a good way to add another income stream to your online business.
If you create products, teach, homeschool, or love books there are definitely ways you can link to Amazon products and try to capture affiliate revenue.
Affiliate income is a huge topic, but it is one place to add a bit more income to your life with a little effort.
People have strong opinions about advertising on blogs and websites. (I do as well. Just ask the women in my mastermind group. HA!)
That said, I do have advertising on my site after not using it for many years. I keep it to a minimum, but it is yet another way I support my family through my online work.
Google AdSense is the easiest and best way to go when you are starting out. Again, this could be an entire post or discussion.
Generating income through advertising is also an option for people who want to create products and not deal with state sales tax and nexus laws. Some website owners do very well offering many free printables that generate large amounts of traffic which then translates into excellent ad revenue.
If you are good at writing reviews, you can contact companies regarding writing reviews for them. You can earn anywhere from fifty dollars to thousands of dollars for one post depending on the size of your readership and mailing list.
Some bloggers do very well selling to their email list. They send out emails with affiliate links to services, links to their own new products, affiliate links to events, affiliate links to subscription services, etc. A mailing list can be another source of income.
Those are just a few ways to create income and an online business beyond Teachers Pay Teachers. Don’t miss the post below which outlines much more regarding services I use and recommend in my online business.
And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to start a discussion right here! Or keep going and check out My Essential Blogging Tools where I discuss in-depth the various services and such I use and recommend.