I regularly get emails from teachers asking for help in how to make a living from creating and selling teaching resources. So, I thought it would be helpful to show you a day in my life as a teaching resource seller.
Hopefully along the way I’ll tell you a little about the methods I follow, things that I’ve learnt and software I use that help me and which may also help you.
First of all, I want to give you a little background.
In case you don’t know me I’m Nicky. Hi.
I started my business 10 years ago after leaving teaching. So, technically I’m not a teacherpreneur as I’m no longer in the classroom and run my business full time. I actually juggle three different areas of my business.
Section 2 – I create and sell online training courses for computer science teachers that I sell through my website and my Thinkific store
Section 3 – I run a Facebook group and membership site, that helps teacherpreneurs, called Teaching Resource Creators to help teacherpreneurs who are just starting out or experienced sellers who need a little support.
Alongside this, I work on commissions and was recently asked to help write a textbook for a large publisher which is still going through the final stages of editing.
So, as you can imagine, I’m busy. Not “teacher busy” but I’m not exactly a lady of leisure either.
I live just outside Cambridge with my husband and teenage son who is in his final year of sixth form (18 year’s old) and who will soon be off to University. I also have another son who is presently in his final year at University and living away from home.
Over the years I have learnt/developed systems to help me keep organised and find a way of working that suits me. That is what I am, hopefully, going to demonstrate for you today.
Some methods I have created myself, such as my weekly plan of action that helps me keep an eye on what is important. And other systems I have found elsewhere.
Two systems that have really helped me are:
Both of these I have been using for at least 3 years and really help me get everything done. I feel I’m keeping on top of things rather than having that horrible dread of being overwhelmed by the tidal wave of an unmanageable to-do list.
I would also heartily recommend getting a robot hoover. We have called ours Geoffrey. And he trundles around at 5am every morning cleaning the downstairs automatically. In the morning I come down to a clean floor and it is one job ticked off my list without me having to lift a finger.
Lastly, I batch-cook. When I’m cooking a meal I cook two or sometimes three times the amount I need to and pop the rest in the freezer for later. That way I have a lovely, quick, home-cooked meal without the fuss of having to do all the work after a busy day at work.
Now we have all that out of the way, let me show you my day…
It is a Monday morning.
My alarm goes off and I get up, brush my teeth, shower and get ready for the day. My son gets up half an hour earlier at 6:30 am as he has to get the bus into Cambridge for his college. I’m lucky that he’s pretty self-sufficient in the mornings and will get himself up, have breakfast and leave the house on time without me having to cajole him at all.
The front door slams as my son leaves for college. I always like to get a few household jobs done early so I put a load of washing in the washing machine, unload the dishwasher from the night before, reload the dishwasher with the breakfast things and wipe down the kitchen counters. I also quickly clean all the toilets in the house. I remember to take out tonight’s dinner from the freezer and leave it on the counter to defrost. Tonight, dinner will be a Chicken Tikka Masala curry.
After that is all done I sit down with a cup of tea. I don’t tend to eat breakfast and prefer to eat a nice brunch later. I take the opportunity to read the news app on my phone and have a quick scroll through social media. I know from past experience, if I look at my phone before I’ve got the morning housework done I can waste time and get lost in social media. So I always wait until after I have got what I need done.
My husband leaves for work and I sit down to work in my office. The first thing I do is look through my emails. I don’t look at work emails at all over the weekend, if I can possibly help it. I have three inboxes I need to keep an eye on. There are 40 new messages in one, 17 in another and 5 in the last one. I try to deal with an email as I open it as I don’t like to waste time and go back to read them again later.
Emails are either replied to, moved to the relevant folder to be saved or deleted straight away. A few are notifying me of purchases people have made through my website or receipts for payments I have made for my business which just need to be filed and no other action taken.
Some need some other type of action to be taken. For instance, one person has forgotten their password to the training course they have signed up to. I reset their password and let them know it has been dealt with.
I’m attending a conference in London on Wednesday so there is an email to remind me to book the sessions I want to attend. I log onto their website to do that. I generally only check my emails twice a day. Once at the start of the day and again at the end of the day and like to be able to completely empty my inboxes at the end of each session.
It takes half an hour to get through all my emails and admin tasks. If there is a task that will take longer that the 30 minutes I allocate for this time, I add the task to my to-do list for the day, but there is nothing today and I get it all done in the 30 minutes.
I always like to have a main focus for my week. Sometimes I have two but this week I have just the one.
I have a fairly large subscriber email list which I have built up over the years. I noticed last week that it needed to be sorted out as some of the tags are out of date and there were a few emails there were starting to get bounced on some accounts. Generally, an email will bounce if people have left a job so their email address is no longer valid but also sometimes people unsubscribe.
I’ve decided this is the week to tidy up the list.
I also recently created a new marketing webinar for my training courses and also want to write a new email sequence for it.
On Friday of last week, I printed off my weekly planner sheet that I like to use and wrote on it the tasks I wanted to achieve this week. My main focus will be “Sort out my email list and update email sequences”.
I also wrote some other tasks on Friday that I wanted to achieve along with my main appointments I must remember. This is my current plan of action, as I look at it first thing Monday morning.
As you can see I like to write it by hand as I find it quicker and easier and I can add things as I go through the week without having to constantly re-print it.
The green items I have highlighted are tasks that can not be moved. I have the conference on Wednesday, on Saturday I am out with a friend and on Sunday I am seeing my Mum. None of those are moveable.
I have also added to the notes section a reminder to track all my activities today so I can write this blog!
I like to use colour and go through my Monday list of tasks to highlight them as green, orange and pink (I don’t have a red highlighter so pink will do). This will indicate their importance and help me prioritise which tasks to work on next.
As you can see my two main tasks are “Plan and write webinar sequence” and “Remove sales banners”. Then my next most important task is “Scrub email list and re-do tags” and then my least important tasks are create “Random Challenge Task Cards” and “Update 3 covers”. I don’t work through my list in the order it is written, it doesn’t matter what order they are in the list. My priorities are based on the colour code I apply to the tasks that morning.
This process of colour coding the tasks only take a few minutes so at 8:35 am, I’m ready to start on my first, most important task.
I was running a sale on my main website and training website last week that stopped at midnight last night. So I need to remove the advertising banners and blurb throughout my website as they are no longer relevant and it will be confusing to potential customers. This must be done today and is my main priority. It doesn’t take long to remove the sales advertising and is the first task of the day ticked of my list.
My next important tasks is to plan a new webinar email sequence. I have a rough idea in mind but I need to plan it out in more detail. I like to do this with paper and pen and quickly scribble down my ideas.
You can see my love of colour is here again as I add the tags I plan to use in red. And although you can’t see it too clearly in the picture, the 2 different forms at the top have an orange border and the links have a light blue cloud around them.
And yes, those a special sparkly pens. What? I don’t work in an office with others so it's only me that sees them.
Now I have my plan I start to write the emails themselves. I do this in Word and have to do a bit of jiggling around with the words before I’m happy with them. I also put the subject lines through a website called Send Check It to test my emails won’t be flagged as spam.
Once I’m happy with the sequence I transfer it over to ConvertKit who are my ESP - Email Service Provider.
The whole process is quite quick and easy to do as I had planned it out on paper first and written it up in Word.
Here is my completed automated web sequence in ConvertKit.
The last job to do is add the two new forms to my website so I can start to collect email subscribers.
Once this big task is done, I can tick it off my weekly list.
After finishing a large task I always like to have a change of scenery rather than start on another task straight away. I find I sometimes need to take a bit of time to “reset” myself.
I hang out the washing to dry. I make myself a celebratory brunch of poached eggs on toast with Parma ham which I enjoy with another cup of tea. After I clear away, Geoffrey (our robot hover) has had time to recharge after his morning hoovering exploits so I set him off again but this time to wash the kitchen and hard floors downstairs.
Back to work. My next job on the list is to “Scrub my email list”. I like to do this every now and then. To scrub an email list, means to get rid of those email addresses which are bouncing messages. I do this for two reasons:
ConvertKit charges depending on how many email address are stored, there is no point in paying more for those email addresses which no longer work
If I am getting a lot of emails bouncing back it may flag my account as spam (yes, your own ESM can flag you as a spam account) and will not put my emails in the Inbox but rather they will go straight to the recipient's promotions folder and are far less likely to be read
I scrub my email addresses, rename some of the old tags that are no longer relevant and generally give it a bit of a tidy up. It doesn’t take too long and is another job ticked off the list.
My next job is to update some of my old covers to use my new mock-up images I created a couple of months ago. This is a large job that has been going on for a number of weeks. It’s not an urgent job but is something I would like to do as I’ve never been happy with some of my old covers and wanted to give them a refresh. I wanted to work on one product line at a time, so created a list of what I needed to do and have been ticking them off as I do it. As you can see, I’m getting to the end of this block.
I’m also taking the opportunity of re-writing the descriptions, updating the thumbnails and changing the preview. I’m trying to update both my TES and TpT stores at the same time.
My aim is to to get three products done at a time so I don’t’ get bored and suffer repetition fatigue.
I start on my first one of the day.
I get a phone call from my publisher asking if I could check through some of the suggested images they would like to include in the book. I agree, and put the covers task on hold.
I log into my email and see their email with the attachment of the suggested images. Most of them are OK but one program has an error in it so I correct the program and send it back to them.
I notice another email has come in from a new company I'm going be working with. The company is an important client, so I decide to open the email from them straight away rather than leave it to the end of the day.
They want me to prove my right to work in the country and have sent a rather long, complicated form for me to fill in and return to them.
I look at my list of tasks and the only two jobs I have left today are both pink ones and so I decide to prioritise the new task.
The form is a lot more complicated than I first thought. They want me to scan in my passport and send them proof of the self-employment tax I have paid for the past few years. My goodness.
I manage to locate my login details for the Government tax website, navigate to the correct page and finally download a copy of my submitted self-employed tax forms. What a palaver.
I send it to them along with the completed form. Well, that took a lot longer than I thought.
Feeling slightly frazzled from the experience I need a break from my computer. I tidy and dust the sitting room then hoover the stairs and bedrooms where Geoffrey can’t get to. I bring the washing in that has now dried, fold it and put it away. I notice we are slightly low on milk so decide to go for a walk down to the local supermarket to get some.
I return from my shopping trip and get back to updating the product covers and re-writing the descriptions. As I spent so long on the extra tasks that interrupted my day, I decide to only update 2 covers rather than the 3 I had originally planned to do. I add "Update 3 covers" as a task for tomorrow, to make up for it.
Time to start work on the product creation.
I decided a few years ago that I didn’t want to focus on creating too many small resources as I felt the effort in marketing them was not worth the return I was getting. Instead I put my efforts into selling larger bundles. On my website I only sell larger products and don’t have any £3 resources on it. However in my TES and TpT stores I do have some smaller products. This particular product, I want to work on, is a set of task cards that will form part of a larger programming pack that I will eventually put on my website.
I use templates to save me time from re-inventing the wheel so I dig out a template for my task cards and all I need to do is add a new background (each set of tasks cards are a different colour) and write a task activity for each card. I also need to tweak the instructions slightly.
I hear the front door slam indicating my son is home from college. He makes himself a snack and then comes upstairs to my office (the spare room) and flops himself down onto the bed so we can have a chat about his day. He’s often out at college, Tae Kwondo training, the gym or his job - he’s a mixologist at a hipster cocktail bar in Cambridge and very busy so we hardly see each other these days. I really love the moments we get to hang out. I know I’ll miss our chats when he goes to university.
Back to work, still working on the new product but making progress. As there are 40 task cards in each pack I need to come up with 40 different programming challenges that can be described in just a few words but which allow the pupils to practise the same skill without being too “samey”. It’s not particularly easy. But if it was easy teachers wouldn’t need to buy them and they would simply make their own.
I remember I have to make dinner so put the rice on to boil and lay the table. All I have to do is warm the curry up and pop some naan bread in the oven and it’s soon ready.
I serve dinner and eat it with my son. My husband will not be home from work for a while yet as he's also self-employed and works even longer hours than I do. After dinner I tidy the kitchen once more.
I need to do a little more work after dinner but decide to only work for another half an hour or so. The task cards won’t be finished today but it doesn’t matter as they are only a pink task so I know they're not essential.
I stop working on the task cards and add it to my list to complete tomorrow.
The last thing I need to do today is open up my emails. I see I have had a couple of orders from schools. I load my accounts system and generate an invoice for each, which I email to the schools. Using WeTransfer, I send the resources directly to the teachers as the files are too large to be sent using standard email messages. I clear the few other emails that have come in, so all my inboxes are empty once again.
I like to leave my desk tidy and the office neat so it's ready for me in the morning. The last jobs of the day are to empty the bin and finally close down my computer.
Once I have finished work for the day I can relax and will not look at work emails again until I start work again tomorrow.
I look at the stack of books I’m reading but decide I’ve had enough for today and instead enjoy a drama on TV that I have been meaning to watch and has been recorded. All the housework is done so the evening is mine to relax. My husband get’s home around 9:30 pm and after he has his dinner we watch a quiz on TV together.
So that is my day. A fair bit going on but not crazy.
Lots of people are surprised by how little time I have for actual product creation. Some days I can spend all day on product creation, other days none at all. No two days are the same and it very much depends what my priorities are at the time.
Marketing takes much more of my time than I would have imagined before I started my own business and I’m not really a huge fan of social media. In fact, I hardly use it at all and prefer to put my efforts into email marketing. But that is a personal choice.
I know some teacher sellers post 5 or 6 times a day on multiple different platforms but I know that is not for me. I do a couple of posts a week in various groups and I’m happy with that.
I know some teacher sellers who create several new products a day. I do hardly any and instead focus on training courses and creating evergreen sales to build my passive income.
UPDATE: end of the week
Here is my planner by the end of Friday.
As you can see my target for the week of updating my email sequences has run throughout the week and I have 4 sequences updated and working well. I have also finished the task cards which have covers and descriptions and are now online in both TpT and TES.
I didn't get everything done but I know the things I didn't get done were not a priority and I can either add them to the list for next week or pop them in my to-do list for another time.
If you would like a copy of my weekly planner document that I use, you can download it using the link below.
I’ve altered the document so you can fill it in electronically, if you would like, or you can print it and fill it in by hand as I do.