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EPISODE 81

How Sara Marye Started a Thriving Teacher Membership to Diversify Her Income

start-a-membership

Start a Membership

Are you ready to diversify your income as a teacher seller? One great way to create a new revenue stream is to start a membership. Whether you’re wondering if the membership path is for you or are already planning your own, this episode will give you the answers you’re looking for!

Today’s guest is Sara Marye of The Stellar Teacher Company. She is a longtime TPT seller who decided to branch out to diversify her income several years ago and add a membership to her business. She has learned a lot of lessons along the way and is here to share her best advice for how to start a membership and grow it over time. 

In this episode, Sara shares what led her to want to diversify her income, how she structures her thriving membership, the key to balancing her growing membership and her TPT business, the greatest challenges she faced over the four years building her membership, and what she would change if she had to start over again.

01:44 Sara shares why she decided to diversify her income and start a membership

08:58  How Sara structures her Stellar Literacy Collective membership

27:35 – The key to balancing your membership and TPT business

32:14  Sara shares the greatest challenges she faced when diversifying her income

35:04 – The changes she would make if she had to start over

 

start-a-membership Sara Marye has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. She is now CEO of The Stellar Teacher Company and a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world grow their students into lifelong readers. Sara’s mission is to make teachers’ lives a little easier by providing them with endless encouragement, effective strategies, and engaging no-fluff resources. Sara is also the host of the Stellar Teacher Podcast, where she loves to share her favorite literacy tips each week!

You can visit Sara’s website, follow on Instagram @thestellarteachercompany, and check out her Podcast.

Kristen Doyle 0:00
Hey y’all, and welcome to this episode of the Savvy Teacher Seller. I’m your host, Kristen Doyle. And today we are talking about one way that you might choose to diversify your business income by starting a membership.

Kristen Doyle 0:14
My guest today is Sara Marye of The Stellar Teacher Company. She is a longtime TPT seller who decided to branch out several years ago and add a membership to her business. Her membership has been very successful. And as is always the case, she has learned a lot along the way. Whether you’re already planning out your own membership, or you’re not even sure that the membership idea is right for you. There’s a lot to learn in today’s episode. So let’s get right to it.

Kristen Doyle 0:47
Hey TPT sellers, ready to see growth in your business? You’re in the right place. Welcome to the Savvy Teacher Seller. I’m Kristin Doyle and I’m here to give you no fluff tools and strategies that will really make an impact on your sales. Let’s get started y’all.

Kristen Doyle 1:07
Hey Sara, thank you so much for being here.

Sara 1:11
Hi, Kristin, I’m so happy to be on your show. Thank you for having me as a guest.

Kristen Doyle 1:15
I invited you specifically because you have done so much with your membership. And I know that is an area that a lot of teacher sellers have maybe thought about branching into and are a little nervous about for a lot of reasons. So let’s talk a little bit about your membership. Maybe we can start just with why you decided to build a different revenue stream outside of TPT. Because you were already very successful on TPT when you started your membership.

Sara 1:44
Yeah, so and it’s wild, my membership is about to be four years old. So I’ve had it for a while. And first of all, I will forever be grateful to TPT because if it were not for that platform, I don’t think I ever would have started the business. So I’m so glad that they sort of were the catalyst to help me start a business.

Sara 2:00
But when I was selling on TPT, I think I left my school teaching job around 2018. And when I was doing TPT full time, I started to realize that I was like, Okay, wait a minute here, I think it was around the sales tax fiasco that was going on. But I started to realize I was like, okay, TPT is making decisions that are going to benefit their business, like TPT is a separate business. Like, I am not part of TPT’s business, like they are doing things that are in their best interest to grow TPT as they should, because that’s what every business needs to do to be successful.

Sara 2:33
But I started to realize I was like, Okay, after I had my first full year of being full time TPT at home, I was like I am going all in like this is my business, I don’t have any plans to return to the classroom, I don’t want to do anything else, like I want to build this. And I was like, I don’t want to be relying on the decisions that a third party makes that could substantially impact my business. And so a huge part of it is that I really wanted to have, you know, sort of more control with like my revenue and what was coming in.

Sara 3:06
Again, like I said, the sales tax was kind of the catalyst of it. But it was like, I just want to know that even if something happens to TPT, you know, like, let’s say TPT decides to close down whatever, I will still have a successful business. So that was one big part of it. But another big part of it is I’m sure many TPT sellers can relate to this, because of the seasonality of TPT, my revenue is all over the place, it’s like, there are some months where I would make like $6,000. And there are other months where I would make $30,000. And having that just like huge gap in revenue made it really hard to invest money back in my business.

Sara 3:42
You know, it’s like, I want to be able to grow a team, I want to do Facebook ads, but it’s really hard to budget when there’s such a difference in revenue coming in month to month. And so I wanted to add an additional revenue stream because I knew that that would give me a little bit more control over knowing how much money is coming in every single month, which would make it easier for me to invest back in my business. So those are kind of the two main reasons why I wanted another revenue stream in my business.

Kristen Doyle 4:06
Yeah and a membership, as opposed to a course definitely gives you a little more stability in that income that’s coming in. Is that kind of why you went that direction, or is there something else that pointed you to a membership versus a course?

Sara 4:21
Yeah, good question. So my original plan was actually to create a course. So when I started thinking about adding in a new revenue stream, I was like, let me let me start a course or build a course and I had taken Amy Porterfield DCA digital course Academy, which is a fantastic program. I would highly recommend it for anybody that wants to launch a course but as I was going through her program, I started to realize how much work it would take for me to build a course. I had to put together all of the videos, create the outline and so I was like okay, in my head, this is probably going to take me like three to six months to actually build it and then to sell it to the point to where it is bringing in like consistent revenue.

Sara 5:03
I know that there are some sellers that have massive audiences. And they can sell a course and make, you know, like five figures, six figures, you know, the first time they launch it. I did not have a very big audience. And so I was like, I don’t know if if I’m going to build this, you know, if I’m going to have instant success with it. And so I was kind of sort of second guessing my idea to launch a course as a viable revenue stream. And I’m really good friends with Brittany Heike who has a very successful membership. And I was talking with her about like, I don’t know if I want to do a course anymore.

Sara 5:33
But I want another revenue stream, you know, and she was like, why don’t you just launch a membership. And I was like, I hadn’t really thought about doing a membership before. But she’s like, you already have so many products on TPT, you could easily take some of those or all of those and put them into a membership. And then you’re not having to create content, you’re just having to create the membership platform. And a couple other sort of reasons why, you know, in talking about this, she kind of convinced me on the membership thing.

Sara 6:01
First of all, a membership price point is so much easier to sell to somebody then of course price point. My membership when I launched it, it was twelve dollars. And not that all courses are $97. But even if of course is $37 or $47, it’s a lot easier to convince a teacher to spend $12 on something than it is $97. But then also to I recognize my audience is very familiar, at least at this point, I’ve started to do more professional development. But at this point, I had never done a Facebook Live. And so my audience was used to buying resources from me like they knew me for my resources.

Sara 6:34
And so if I’m trying to sell them a course, I’m having to warm them up in a whole new capacity. It’s like they don’t know if they liked my teaching style or anything. So it made more sense for me to do a membership, because it’s going to be quicker for me to build, it’s going to be easier for me to sell. And my audience is already familiar with my resources. And so it’s going to be easier for them to buy into that product. But also realizing that you know, in the beginning, of course, it’s a very slow build with a membership. But the recurring monthly revenue has so much potential with a membership.

Sara 7:04
You know, when you’re doing a course it is like a one time cash injection in your business. And you have to launch it multiple times to keep having revenue come in, whereas a membership, it provides that monthly recurring revenue. So all of those things, it just really made sense. And actually this morning, it was one of these things I was like, and this is exactly why I decided to get my membership.

Sara 7:23
But I’m listening to the book, Buy Back Your Time by Dan Martell, which is a great book. But one of the things he says is, in the long term, unlimited predictability is more valuable than intermittent quality. And I think that is such a good sort of like selling point for a membership. Because while a course might be really great, like in that one time, like, you know, launch season, the predictability of a membership is so phenomenal and provides so much security.

Kristen Doyle 7:50
Yeah, absolutely. Courses are great, I have one of course. But you do, you have to constantly launch them again and again, or find ways to put them on an evergreen cycle. But even with that that’s not predictable, you know, it’s out there and we’ll see.

Sara 8:10
Once our members are in I know exactly like month after month, how much revenue I’m going to bring in even knowing that every month I’m going to lose members, I still like I have a very clear sense of how much revenue my membership brings in and we’ll continue to bring in.

Kristen Doyle 8:22
Yeah. And I would imagine after a little while, I mean, you’ve had yours for four years. So at some point in this process, you kind of learned what your rate of people canceling is. And then you’re able to predict, you know, as long as I get this many new people and I’m losing that many. That’s just kind of typical with any thing, that’s a membership, we’re gonna lose people. So but it definitely still makes it so much more predictable.

Sara 8:48
Yeah.

Kristen Doyle 8:49
Tell us a little bit about how your membership works, what teachers are getting just kind of set the stage for the rest of our conversation so that the audience knows what your membership looks like.

Sara 8:58
Yeah, so my membership is The Stellar Literacy Collective. And we provide support to third through fifth grade teachers mostly through our resource library. So when teachers join, they get immediate access to a resource library that has just really everything that they need to teach literacy. There are whole group lessons and small group lessons and vocabulary routines and writing resources and everything to cover the standards.

Sara 9:23
A lot of the resources in the membership, I also sell on TPT. And so I’m generating revenue in two ways. You know, through these resources, I’ve got some resources in a membership that our membership exclusive. In addition to the resource library, we also offer support and training. My membership has evolved a ton. The way it looks now is not at all how it started. This last year, we added in a little mini course that really teaches teachers how to set up and structure their literacy block.

Sara 9:50
So there’s some professional development aspect as well. And then we have a Facebook community for all of our members where they can ask questions and connect with other members and get support and we do giveaways and challenges. And we tried to make it just a really fun community for teachers. So you know, four years into this, my membership looks completely different than when it is when I started it. But that’s the current setup of it.

Kristen Doyle 10:10
Love that. So it sounds like, you know, you really have evolved into having a little bit of a course than they are now too. Even though that’s not what you wanted. It happened, businesses evolve. I would assume with having a Facebook community, are you able to see what kind of impact the membership has on the teachers in your community and those classrooms that they’re serving, versus just selling on TPT?

Sara 10:37
Absolutely. And I think this is one of the things where I didn’t realize like how big of an impact a membership would have. And I didn’t realize how motivating it would be for me and my team to like want to continue pouring into the membership. But you know, the thing that I realized is like, you know, a lot of teachers find my resources on TPT. And occasionally I’ll hear in a review, like, I love your resources, these are great, you know, or helped my students.

Sara 10:59
But really in the membership community, what we realize is that, you know, so many teachers, and it sounds so cliche, but this is the language that they use, they’re like your membership is life changing, like this is helping me feel so confident. Like my students are making so much progress and so much growth. And I think it’s like, you know, it’s the same resources on TPT, and in the membership, but when teachers join the membership, they are getting really access to everything, you know, it’s like they’re getting access to everything they need for the entire year.

Sara 11:28
But it’s not just the resources. And this is a lot of messaging we talked about in the membership is that a PDF is not going to change, like your classroom, it’s how you use the resources, it’s how you use the PDF, it’s, you know, the understanding you know, the content knowledge behind it, understanding the structures that you have to have in place, getting feedback on things. And so the membership has a much bigger impact on teachers and their students than when a teacher will buy like an individual resource from TPT. And it is really great.

Sara 11:58
You know, it’s one of those things where every time we do a launch, and you know, however many teachers come in, I take that number, and I multiply it by 25. And I’m like, this is how many students we’re impacting, and I mean, it’s crazy, it’s like hundreds of 1000s of students that were having an impact through our membership. And again, just to hear from teachers who you know, it’s like, I feel confident, like I’m saving so much time, I actually have time to spend with my family, you know, as opposed to like, spending hours lesson planning and prepping. I feel so supported. I feel encouraged like all of those messages, especially knowing how tough it is in education right now. I am just like, especially this last year, I sort of made the decision in 2023. I was like we are going all in, like all of our time energy effort is going into the membership, because we are getting not only a bigger return on the revenue side of things, but we’re making a bigger impact on the teachers.

Kristen Doyle 12:46
Yeah, I love that. And I was just thinking before you even said it, like teaching is so hard right now. And to be able to see in your community that you’re making a difference, not only for the teachers, but for the students that they are working with is so motivating, I’m sure.

Sara 13:04
Yeah.

Kristen Doyle 13:05
So a question for you. Because you did mention that some of your resources in the membership are also in your TPT store. And you kind of said, you know, they get everything when they’re in the membership. One of the big hesitations I see or hear about memberships is that if you put everything in the membership, then are teachers going to sign up for a month download at all, and then leave? And they’ve given you what $12, $20 for your whole entire store.

Sara 13:35
Yeah, so and this is my husband’s number one concern. And he’s always asking me about this. And honestly, when I first started my membership, this was a bit of a concern of mine. Because I’m like, okay, literally, I’m putting, you know, everything in there, they could come in and download it. But here’s the thing that I have found. It’s not a valid fear for me, right? Like I every month I look at my churn, so churn is the percentage of members that cancel every month. And the reality of it is is like every month, I am going to have members that cancel it does not matter what my deliverables are, it does not matter the price point, like I’m going to lose members, it is part of it.

Sara 14:15
But our goal is always to have our retention to be 95%. So we are always trying to keep 95% of our members and lose no more than 5% That’s sort of what industry standard considers to be like a really healthy membership. And historically since the start of my membership back in 2020, we have had a 5% churn rate or a 95% retention rate or greater every single month. So it’s like there probably is honestly one or two or three teachers that are coming in, staying for a month, downloading everything and leaves and I just say you know what? I’m so glad that they got access to resources. I’m so glad that they’re gonna help them, like if that is how they choose to operate like that is fine.

Sara 14:15
I am not going to one worry about it or two let that fear or the one or two or three teachers that are doing that prevent me from building the space that is going to benefit the teachers and my business. So the data just does not suggest that teachers are coming in and downloading everything and leaving. And I think part of it is, is that teachers are coming for more than just the resources. So many teachers talk about how having this one stop shop, the organization, right? Because it’s like, if teachers download everything and leave, they have to figure out how to organize it all on their desktop, and like, you figured out how to store it all.

Kristen Doyle 15:31
Not to mention, it takes a lot of time to sit there and download all this stuff.

Sara 15:36
Absolutely. So the organization and having everything in one location is I think, a huge benefit for teachers, but then also the community aspect of it. You know, and I think an our community goes through seasons of where it’s really engaged and really disengaged, you know, I think that’s just part of like the teacher year. But for so many teachers, they say things like, I feel so comfortable knowing that if I have a question, I have a place that I can go to. And I think the membership really becomes like, almost like a security blanket for teachers that it’s like, they might not ask questions, they might not watch all of the videos, they might not use all of the resources, but they know that as long as they’re a member, they have a place that they can go to get support.

Sara 16:10
And so I know that that has a fear the whole, like, what if I put everything in there, and a teacher comes in and downloads everything, and then they leave, that probably is gonna happen, but on a very small scale. But for the most part, when teachers join a membership, they’re there for more than just the resources. But also, it’s one of those things where it’s like you never know, right? You just never know when you’re going to do something how it’s going to respond to like, let’s say you put everything out there and you realize that wait a minute, teachers are coming in and they’re downloading more than I want and then canceling.

Sara 16:37
Then as the membership owner, you pivot, you know, you watch up how you do your deliverables, and you change up the pricing structure. There are so many things that you can do and change to prevent something like that from happening. Yeah, but you have to get started in order to be able to, you know, solve that problem. So don’t let it be a fear. I was gonna say because like, that’s not a good reason not to start a membership.

Kristen Doyle 16:58
And I love your just your mindset around the fact that yeah, there probably are a couple of people doing that. It happens.

Sara 17:04
Yep.

Kristen Doyle 17:05
I think a lot of times, we can come from a scarcity mindset, thinking that everyone is going to do this, or that that one or two teachers who do are costing us so much money, but they’re really not costing us anything. Because those teachers, if we had it all on a buy as you go type of thing, they still wouldn’t buy all of our products, they would still spend their $12 and move on.

Sara 17:28
And the other thing that I think to think about with those is right, like if a teacher is going to come in and download everything and leave. They’re also probably not the type of teacher who’s going to use everything that they downloaded. Like, they’re also operating from a scarcity mindset as well. And so it’s like, they’re not getting the impact, they’re not getting the benefit. And so it’s like, you’re still, you know, they paid you whatever the cost of your membership is. And so yeah, I’ve evolved, my mindset has definitely evolved, I will say having a membership really gives you plenty of opportunities to grow in the mindset capacity, because you have to get over things like that. Because it is just like, you know, what, I would rather use my time and energy to think about how can I serve the teachers that are in my membership and that want to be here rather than trying to, like prevent teachers from taking a bunch of resources and leaving.

Kristen Doyle 18:16
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it’s the same reality we face, even if all we’re doing is selling on TPT. We all know that teachers are buying one license and emailing it to their whole team or their friend across the state with whatever, we know. Because you can. So you just can’t let that keep you from doing what could be a really good thing, not just for you, but for the teachers that you serve.

Sara 18:41
Absolutely, absolutely.

Kristen Doyle 18:43
Let’s talk about kind of the process a little bit of, you know, what did you go through to create and launch this membership?

Sara 18:51
Yeah, so I, this is probably one of the things that I am most proud of southern my business because I made the decision to start a membership. And then I think like 45 days later, I had it out in the world.

Sara 19:02
That’s amazing.

Sara 19:03
I didn’t take any time. I think it was one of those things where I was like, I just have to get started with it. So I made the decision in January of 2020 to create a membership site, going back I was like I maybe should have done a little bit more planning and thought work. But I got started. And by the middle to end of February, we had our membership, I launched my membership site. And so for me, I knew that I wanted to, you know, have a membership site that was really resource based. And so I sort of just like thought about what is, you know, when I first started TPT I had a little bit of everything.

Sara 19:35
I had reading and math and writing and social studies and all of it out there. And as everything, you know, as my sort of evolution of a business owner went on, I started to focus more on reading. And so when I looked at my TPT store my resources and sort of what I talked the most about and what my audience purchased the most. I was like okay, I feel like I have a market for reading resources. And so I was like if I take all of my reading resources from TPT and put them in this library and create really just like a bank, you know, a resource library of reading resources, that will be sort of the structure of my membership.

Sara 20:10
And so I was going to make a reading membership. And when I started my membership, I didn’t promise any monthly deliverables, I didn’t want to be sort of, I love creating, and I knew I was going to create, but I also know that I don’t create well under pressure. And so like, I am not going to, I don’t want to say every month, you’re gonna get these five things, or these three things, or on this specific date, because I knew that that was gonna be hard for me to follow. So I just left it really open ended. And I was like, when you join, you get access to this resource library, and then new resources that get added in the future. And I was like, if some teacher wants specific dates of the specific resources that are coming, like, I am not the membership for them, right.

Sara 20:50
So it’s like, I just knew, like what I could handle, and I was going to attract teachers who are going to be okay with that. So, I knew the resources and the content that was going to be there. So really, in the, you know, the 30 to 40 days that I was building my membership, I figured out Kajabi, which is the platform that I use to build my membership on and there are a million platforms out there. But that’s the one that I went to, mostly because I had a lot of friends that were using Kajabi. So I was like, Okay, If I have a question, it’ll be really easy to get help with it. I also had to create a sales page. So it’s like, what are you getting, you know, and it was my first sales page was horrendous, but it was done and it did the job.

Sara 21:25
I wrote some emails to like, let my list know that, hey, this thing is coming and then emails to sell it. A really great resource for people who are just getting started with memberships is the Membership Academy. And it is very affordable, I forget how much it is. But it’s like they have email templates for like if you’re launching a membership, or like onboarding email. So like all of those things, so I just used templates that existed. And I customized them a little bit. But you know, rather than me trying to come up with things that I had no idea, like, I’ve never done any of this before.

Sara 21:56
So I used a lot of what existed to help get my membership started, you know, I recorded a few videos for like when teachers are in it, when they join, you know, had to actually then build out the membership site. So that was kind of it, there wasn’t a lot of planning and prep work that went into it, it was very simple. I started with what I had. And my first launch was just an email only, a founding member launch. And when I did that I brought in 44 members and I was honestly devastated by those members that came in because I was expecting just some, I don’t know, I even though you’re like, I’m not expecting anything in our heads, we always expect it to be always great.

Sara 22:33
So I was disappointed because even though I was like, you know, I don’t even know if I had a goal. I was like, I’m just doing this. But of course, I was disappointed because it wasn’t, you know, hundreds. But later in the summer, I did a webinar launch. And that brought in 200 members. And the thing that I started to notice is you know, at first I had this very like, come join the membership and you get access to these resources. And there’s no rhyme or reason, it literally was very just like random, whatever I had in my TPT store. But after I had 100 plus members in my membership, and in that fall, my teachers in the membership was start to ask, it’s like, well, do you have something for this standard? Or do you have this type of resource? Or do you have whatever it is?

Sara 23:07
And I was like, No, but I can make that for you. And so I started to provide deliverables that were meeting their specific needs. And then I started to notice it’s like, okay, they’re asking for this type of resource, I can make that for all of the standards. They’re asking for this type of thing, I can create that. And so over time, then it is completely evolved to where now we have resources for whole group, small group, resources for all of the standards, word study resources. We are adding in writing resources this year. This summer, we kind of did a rebranding, shifting from just reading only to reading and writing because again, our members were asking for it.

Sara 23:40
But you know, the thing that I think that I am glad that I did. And I would highly recommend to anybody who’s thinking about starting a membership is don’t overthink it when you’re getting started. Because it is going to change, like your sales page is going to change, your email is going to change, your structure of your membership is going to change, all of that is going to change. Because you have no idea what you’re doing when you first get started. It’s kind of like your covers on TPT, right? Like the covers are made when you started TPT, are not the covers that you have now. Because you’ve learned and you evolve and you’ve grown and you’ve gotten more skills.

Sara 24:11
It’s the same thing with a membership. And I think so often, we want to have everything perfect, right? Like I want to have a perfect sales page. So I need to hire a copywriter and I want to have all of my deliverables figured out and I want to make this really robust plan and have it be so polished but when you do that, and then members join and you realize that they might need something else or you need to pivot. Like you’ve waited to get started because you’re putting so much planning and prep work into it, that you’re missing out on the learning that comes from just doing it. So that is like one of the things where I did not put a lot of thought effort into it. I’m like, I’m just doing it and I’ll learn as I go and I’m sure enough have learned a lot as I’ve gone along. But it was very simple when I first got started with it.

Kristen Doyle 24:50
Yeah, that’s one thing I have learned. I think just as I’ve grown as a business owner, I have learned to embrace, one of my coaches uses afraid to do it messy. I’ve learned to embrace just doing it messy. Yeah, you have an idea of great, put it out there and see what happened. Because no matter what your idea is, the first iteration is not the one that’s going to stick forever. It might be amazing, you might hit it out of the park on the first one, but you’re still going to tweak it and improve it before it’s what you really, really want to be promoting on an ongoing basis. So let’s see, throw it out there, see what happens and then tweak and adjust as you go.

Sara 25:28
I love that, I was I don’t know if you ever listened to Alex Hormozi, I love him. But he has a podcast that I just listened to. I think it was an older one. But it’s a very short podcast. But it’s all about the reason why we’re not good at something is because we are unwilling to be bad at it. Right? It’s like, we’re not good at live video, because we’re unwilling to start and be bad and awkward in those first couple of videos. But we need that sort of growing phase of being bad at something in order to get good at it. So it’s like, yeah, if you’re going to start like, yeah, it’s gonna be messy, and it’s not going to be great. But everybody starts. Everybody starts at the beginning. Nobody is great when they first get started.

Sara 25:39
Right. Absolutely. I feel like I mean, even just in the podcast space. Nobody’s first episode is amazing. Mine definitely was not.

Sara 26:17
Well, I had to pull up my original trailer, like, for something that I was working on. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, like, the evolution that we’ve gone through. But again, I would never get to where I’m at now, if I never got started. So we all just have to go through it.

Kristen Doyle 26:31
Yep. We just have to start somewhere and know that we’re gonna grow.

Sara 26:35
Yeah

Kristen Doyle 26:35
Just like we always tell our students failure is normal. It’s part of the process. And not that it’s even necessarily failing. It’s just learning, learning what didn’t work and doing it better next time.

Sara 26:48
Yep. I love that.

Kristen Doyle 26:50
Let’s talk a little bit about balance. Because I know now you have your TPT store and a membership? How are you balancing the work between what you’re creating for TPT? What’s going in the membership, managing a membership is a whole other ballgame of things you have to do. So how do you balance all of that?

Sara 27:08
Yeah, that is a really good question. And it’s definitely something again, I feel like as my membership has evolved, like, so has the balance and the work effort. So obviously, when I first started my membership, I think it was generating like $2,000 a month, like after that first summer launch, which compared to some months on TPT, like the $2000 compared to the $30,000. I’m like, okay, yeah, TPT still needs more of my time, energy and effort.

Kristen Doyle 27:34
Right.

Sara 27:35
So, I still, you know, it was one of those things where it was sort of cyclical, it’s like, I usually would do a membership launch during the summer. So a lot of time and energy was being focused on the membership in the summer. But then once the members are in and sort of using the resources, it kind of just coasts throughout the year. So you know, still I would have to, we’ve got a Facebook group and emails that have to go out, but I still was definitely still spending a lot of time and energy on TPT, making sure that I’m adding new resources to TPT for a while, anytime I would create something for the membership, we would also add it to TPT.

Sara 28:06
It would go in the membership first. But eventually it would make its way to TPT as well. And, you know, the other thing that I think to sort of consider is that like, you know, I have, an everybody you know, there’s a million in one ways you can have a membership. And so I think there’s no right or wrong way to do it, I choose to have resources, both in the membership and on TPT. Because there might be somebody on TPT, who just needs that one single resource and I can solve their problem. But there might be somebody who needs all of the resources, and I can solve their problem with a membership, but the resources are serving both teachers.

Kristen Doyle 28:35
And they’re just people who don’t want to be in a membership. They don’t want to pay somebody every month, if they don’t know they’re going to use it. And that’s okay, too.

Sara 28:44
Absolutely. And they can still benefit from the resources that I sell on TPT. So, definitely I feel like the first you know, my membership is about to be four years old. And so I’ve had time to like figure this out. But it’s interesting, because sort of as my membership grows every year, because this last year in 2023 was the first year that my membership generated more revenue than TPT.

Kristen Doyle 29:06
Congratulations.

Sara 29:07
Thank you, I feel very proud of that accomplishment.

Kristen Doyle 29:09
As you should.

Sara 29:09
But as the membership grows, and you know, as the revenue for my membership grows, it takes up more and more time, like from TPT. So now I’m at the point where TPT, for me is kind of running in the background, I still, you know, promote the TPT sitewide sales emails, we still occasionally add new resources, but for the most part, the majority of my time and energy and effort is to growing my membership and thinking about how we can improve our onboarding and our community and, you know, webinars for promotions and things like that.

Sara 29:10
Whereas in the beginning, you know, I was like spending, I don’t want to say as little time but it’s like, okay, what does the membership need, and I only have time to do the very basic things that it needs, because TPT is still my main source of revenue. And so I think also recognizing, too, that when you’re building a new revenue stream, it’s going to take time, it’s one of those things where it’s like, you have to sort of have that balance, but I think it’s like you know, for me is like, well, there’s other things I’d like to do in the membership.

Sara 30:02
Because once you start, you’re like, Oh, I could add this resource, or this video or this training, but I’m just like, I don’t have time because I still need to invest in TPT. Until the membership is, you know, strong enough to where it can sort of carry my business. And we’re kind of at that point now. So yeah, the balance of kind of hard, I think it’s like, put your time and energy into where you’re making money, because that’s important, but also put time and energy into things that you want to grow. I don’t know if that’s helpful. That’s a very vague answer. But it’s hard.

Kristen Doyle 30:31
But it makes perfect sense that you, you have to spend most of your time on the thing that’s making you most of the money to begin with. And then as that, as you put work into the new thing that you’re doing, whether it’s a membership, or a course or something else,

Sara 30:45
Right.

Kristen Doyle 30:46
As you put more time into that and it starts to grow, then you can start to shift that balance a little bit. And the thing I really love about TPT is that it is just kind of always there running in the background. So even if you are spending most of your time now on the membership, or someone else maybe has a course or a store, on their own website, or whatever, even if you are spending most of your time on something else, if you’ve set a really good foundation on TPT, then it can just continue generating income. And a lot of times I don’t know if this is what you’ve seen, but continued growing to, not just sit stagnant.

Sara 31:22
Absolutely. And you know, before sort of, especially, I would say in the last like year and a half the things that I have done with TPT are I’ve taken your Profit Booster Course, I have YDP. So really, you know, working on the covers, the previews, the SEO, like making sure that my store is set up to be as successful as possible. So that way it can continue to grow without me having to put new resources into it or constantly market it to my list, which has been great, because that has then allowed me to put more of my time and energy into my membership and grow that as a very viable revenue stream.

Kristen Doyle 31:54
I love it, putting your time and energy on the things that make the most difference for TPT and are the most passive. So let’s talk about challenges. Anything business does not without challenges. So what’s been the most challenging thing about building out a new income stream?

Sara 32:14
Yeah, it’s not necessarily, there’s parts of it where i’m like, Oh, this is easier than I thought it was gonna be. But there’s definitely parts that are also challenging, do not let the challenges like deter you. The reality of it is there’s challenges with everything. But I think one of the hardest parts about building anything off of TPT is that you are responsible for all of it, right? Like the tech, the customer service, building an audience that wants to purchase that thing, selling it, marketing it.

Sara 32:40
You know, creating a membership is not necessarily passive in the same way that TPT is passive, it definitely becomes a little more passive, the bigger your membership gets, because you have that recurring revenue that just grows month after month after month. But it’s not passive, necessarily in the same way that TPT is passive. And so all of those extra things, it’s like I have had to learn, like the tech side of things, or like payment processing, even I’m like, what happens when somebody wants to dispute their charge, like I get to figure all of that out. Whereas in the TPT world where like, TPT take care of that.

Sara 33:10
Those are small challenges that we just get to like, learn and figure out, it’s like, you can easily figure out the tech and you can easily forget the customer service, you can hire people for that. I think for me, and this was a challenge, but I think also has become a really good like learning opportunity. And something that I’m really grateful for is that, you know, in the TPT space, if your sales are down, it is really easy to be like, well, the search algorithm, you know, TPT changed up and search. Or they’re cross promoting somebody else’s resources on my checkout page, whatever it is.

Sara 33:43
But the thing is, is when you point the finger at somebody else, you have no power, you have no control. And in the membership in the beginning, especially when I had no idea what I was doing, and I’m like nobody’s joining and it’s like, okay, well, if nobody’s joining, that’s something that’s my fault, you know, that’s on me, I get to figure that out, or, you know, it’s like, I’ve got members who are canceling and it’s like, okay, that’s a problem. Like, I get to figure that out, or like, you know, our tech isn’t working. And it’s like, okay, that’s a problem, I get to figure it out.

Sara 34:11
But when it when sort of all of the responsibility is on you. The thing is, is you also then have all of the power to change your circumstances and solve your problems. And so I think while it is a challenge, it also has been a very big benefit to where I feel very empowered now because I’m like, Okay, if I have a marketing problem, like if people aren’t coming to my webinar, or joining the membership, like that’s just a messaging issue, and I am 100% in control of that, like I can change that. And so yeah, it’s a challenge, but also like a benefit when everything is your responsibility. Yeah, but you know, the thing with it is like all of those things that I mentioned, the tech, the customer service, you can either hire people to help with that, or you can watch a YouTube video to help with that. They are definitely challenges, but I think they’re worth it in the long run.

Kristen Doyle 34:53
You mentioned earlier that maybe if you’re doing this over, you should have spent a little more time planning, but is there anything else that you would have done differently looking back?

Sara 35:04
I mean, oh, do I have is there anything I would have done differently? Honestly, I think I would have started sooner, I think I probably would have started sooner. And I also think that I would have. So like one of the things when I first started my membership, I was only like promoting it during the summer, you know, when teachers were available. And now I’m at the point where it’s like, we do a summer launch. But we also then do a webinar and like August, and we just did one in November, in January. And so it’s like, if I’m only launching my membership during the summer, I’m only getting practice to, like refine my selling skills one time a year. And it’s like, the more effective you can be selling, the easier it is to get people in. And so I think I wish I would not have been so fearful of doing a webinar, or of launching.

Sara 35:51
You know, and I think so much of it is I was always worried. It’s like, well, what if I launch and nobody joins, like, what if I do a webinar, and nobody shows up? You know, all of these things, and I let a lot of fear sort of prevent me from experiencing those things. And of course, every time I’ve done a webinar, I’ve gotten better, and I’ve learned something, but I wish I would have rather than in the very beginning phases, like only doing a webinar once a year.

Sara 36:12
I wish I would have like done a webinar multiple times a year or open the membership multiple times a year. And just it’s like, be willing to experiment and try different things because you never know what is going to work for you. And I feel like it’s really only been in this last year and a half that I’m like, great, let’s let’s try a launch in November or like, let’s try doing a pop up with a group or let’s try doing, you know, a podcast as a lead magnet, whatever it is, because you just never know how it’s going to work out. So I think I wish I would have started sooner. And I wish I would not have been as afraid to try new and different things.

Kristen Doyle 36:42
Definitely the more you practice, the more you show up, the better you get out whatever it is really, but definitely at selling. Well, this has been such a good conversation. I love hearing about the success you’ve had and some of the challenges and all of those things. Before we go, what’s one piece of advice you would give to somebody who’s thinking about branching out building a membership? Or maybe even a course?

Sara 37:13
Yeah, so many things. One, I mean, just do it right? Like, if you have been thinking about it, you’re going to continue thinking about it until you do it. So just like give yourself the gift of like making a decision, like decide and go for it. But I think like the thing to really think about is oftentimes we are nervous about doing something because of like, fear, right? It’s like I’m worried that if I build it, it won’t be successful, I’m worried that like, you know, I won’t be able to figure out the tech stuff or, you know, I won’t be good at selling or people will join and they’ll cancel, but all of those fears are like, I don’t know, if they’re, they’re just their thoughts, right. And they’re, they’re things that aren’t actually true.

Sara 37:50
And I think like rather than focusing your time and energy on the fear, and all of the things that like did not work, like think about all of the things that could go well as a result of launching a course or a membership or website shop or whatever it is. Like, think of all the benefits of it. And I think especially like one of the things that really like resonates with me is like really recognizing that there are teachers that need my membership, like they need it, it is helping their students, it is helping their professional lives, it is helping their personalized with balance. Like it is something that they need.

Sara 38:21
And if I would not have launched it, or if I would not have put it out into the world, like I would be preventing so many teachers from experiencing success or, you know, confidence or relief from stress, whatever it is. And so I think like reminding yourselves, if you have an idea for a course or a membership, that ultimately means that you have something that teachers really, really need. And the longer you wait to put that out there in the world, the more you’re withholding that really good, amazing gift from the teachers that could really benefit from it. So sort of when you’re thinking about it, take your focus. And rather than thinking about all the small little things that could be a challenge, like really think about like the big, huge impact that you could have on your audience and let that be the sort of fuel that drives you with the decisions that you make.

Kristen Doyle 39:07
Yeah, I love that so much because it’s easy in business to get wrapped up in letting numbers be the fuel, whether it’s numbers of people or numbers of revenue. And honestly, that fuel can only go take you so far. It will burn you out, chasing a higher number or stressing out about numbers that are lower than you want. And if you focus on the impact that you’re making, the difference that you’re making for actual people that you work with, for the teachers for the students that will serve you and carry you through highs and lows and all the things in between.

Sara 39:44
Absolutely. Because those highs and lows are going to come I mean, that’s part of it. But if you like are really grounded and like your impact and why you’re doing something that makes it so much easier to weather, the ups and the downs.

Kristen Doyle 39:54
Yeah, absolutely. I would get probably in four years every one of your launches has not met the goals you set for it.

Sara 40:01
No, they haven’t. But actualIy was gonna say actually, most of my launches, I don’t ever meet the goal that I set for myself, but also like, my membership has been very successful. So even if I’ve never met a goal, because I’ve kept going forward and like pushing on regardless of meeting the goals, like, you know, we’re at a completely different place than we were four years ago.

Kristen Doyle 40:19
I kind of love that you’re not meeting goals, because that means that you are setting big goals. Big scary goal.

Sara 40:25
Yeah.

Kristen Doyle 40:26
And that you’re not afraid to keep pushing them, even if you didn’t meet the last one.

Sara 40:30
Yep. But yeah, that’s the thing that I’ve realized is I feel like I set a goal. And it’s like, cool, we’ll, we’ll do everything we can to try to meet it. And if we don’t like it means nothing like, yeah, we just keep on moving forward.

Kristen Doyle 40:41
Focus on the success that you did have.

Sara 40:43
Yep.

Kristen Doyle 40:43
We tend to have a tendency to, if I set a goal, and I don’t meet it, then next time, I’m gonna set my goal just a little lower so I make sure I meet it. I have push myself past that. So I love that you’re doing that just now.

Sara 40:58
Thank you.

Kristen Doyle 41:00
Well, thank you, again, so much for being here. Can you tell everybody where they can find you?

Sara 41:06
Absolutely. So you can find me on Instagram at @thestellarteachercompany. And then you can also find everything that we have to offer our teacher audience on Stellarteacher.com, our podcasts, our membership site is linked there. Feel free if you’ve got like any questions about membership stuff or anything, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I love talking about it. I love encouraging business owners, especially helping teachers who are wanting to launch a membership site. So if you’ve got questions like come and ask me, I’m an open book.

Kristen Doyle 41:32
Awesome. Thank you so much. And we’ll drop those links in the show notes as well.

Sara 41:36
Thank you so much for having me, Kristen.

Kristen Doyle 41:40
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you did, please share it with another teacher seller who would also find it helpful. For more resources on Growing Your TPT business. Head to Kristendoyle.co/TPT. Talk to you soon.

 

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Your host, Kristen Doyle, has a decade of experience selling on TpT and has made all the mistakes so that you don’t have to! As a web designer and the go-to SEO expert in the TpT world, she loves helping TpT sellers stand out in the crowd & grow their businesses with passive income strategies.

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