In this episode, Angie and April are speaking with Chrissie Rissmiller from Undercover Classroom. She recently transitioned to become a full-time TpTer. Together, they’re answering the commonly asked questions TpTers have about the transition to going full time. Join in on the conversation in the mastermind group at www.growwithusmastermind.com.
We have been hearing from a lot of TpTers with questions about going full time. With the difficulty of the past two years and how teachers have been treated, it’s easy to see why. Previously we did a podcast episode for people thinking of making the transition, however, we were still new to being full time TpTers ourselves and were still figuring things out. We decided to do a new episode answering the commonly asked questions.
Here to join us on the episode is Chrissie Rissmiller from Undercover Classroom. She has been full time in her TpT business for just over a year now. Between the three of us, we’re able to cover a wide range of experiences and are happy to share our experiences. We’re going to jump right into your questions.
What made you decide to leave teaching and go full time with TpT?
The answer is a little different for each of us:
Chrissie hit a point where she was burned out between running a business and teaching. It wasn’t sustainable long-term. Her goal was to teach for 30 years, and she had become comfortable living on her teaching income and the additional income from her TpT store. In 2020, she created a digital resource and had an increase in her TpT income, but she was still teaching. Her blood pressure was high, and she began getting migraines.
During remote learning, she and her husband (who is also a teacher) were teaching out of separate spaces at home while their own children were struggling on their own with virtual school in their rooms. She felt like a terrible mom and terrible person
Over the summer of 2020, she learned about an opportunity that would allow her to take a leave from teaching while earning half her salary since she had children at home doing online learning. She took it from August to December and did some soul searching. In December, she retired at the age of 45 with almost 24 years in teaching.
You can hear more of my and Angie’s stories in our previous podcast episode. But the quick recap is that Angie began having health issues. She was overwhelmed and struggled with feeling like she wasn’t good enough as a mom, wife, or teacher. Her migraines were out of control. All of this led to her making the transition to full-time TpT.
I had gotten used to having the TpT income on top of my teaching salary and enjoyed it, but I found out I was pregnant with twins. The cost of daycare was basically my salary from teaching. In addition, we had a new principal who wasn’t supportive and ¾ of the staff ended up leaving. In January of that year, I let them know I wasn’t going to be coming back and ended up being able to go on maternity leave early. When the summer ended, I never went back.
How many hours do you work on your TpT store?
While we thought we would work more on our TpT stores that first year, we didn’t. We all found that during the first year, we didn’t work a crazy number of hours. I had my twins, which took up more of my time, and Angie and Chrissie both needed some time to recover from the overwhelm and physical toll teaching had taken on them.
Now that Chrissie is into her second year, she works around 30-35 hours a week on her business. On average, she works about 5 hours a day. In 2021, she still experienced a 12% growth in sales, but it was the smallest she had experienced in her business.
Angie and I have found that it usually takes 6 – 12 months of working on something to start to see the fruit of the labor. If I spend a lot of time one year creating a new resource line, it’s
Angie tries to work five-hour days and spends around 25 hours a week in her business. On average, she has 20-30% growth each year. Last year, she had a 50% growth which she credits with the targeted effort she made in consistent blogging and emailing her list throughout the year.
When my twins were around a year old, I got help with childcare and saw a 67% growth in sales. Over the last three years, I’ve quadrupled my sales every year.
How do you prepare for and handle fluctuation in sales?
We all take a similar approach to this situation. Typically, December and July are slower months for our sales. When we have months with more sales, we try to save the extra to have available during those slower months. Creating and following a budget helps.
Angie plans for the year based on what she made the previous year without taking any growth into account. If she has an increase during the year, it’s just a bonus. This allows her to plan for the bare minimum and save the extra for December and January. She also likes to try to save some of the extra money to use on ads during the summer months when she’s working to build her email list.
When I first went full time, I was in financial survival mode at first. I’m now in a place where I have six months of my salary and my employee salaries in savings in case we hit a low point. Before I reached this point, I made sure to save during the extra months to prepare for the slow months.
We recommend you look at sales for each month to see which ones are better income months. This allows you to plan properly. Angie also recommends looking to see what you can do to boost sales during those slower months. When she first started, she focused on creating holiday resources to help fill in the gap. During the summer, you can focus on trainings and list building when teachers have more time to engage.
How do you diversify for your business income?
There are a lot of ways to diversify your TpT income. If you are just getting ready to switch to full time, we recommend you focus on building your email list, blogging, social media, and getting eyes on your resources. Do the things you’re passionate about doing in this area first instead of trying to do it all. Figure out what you enjoy and where your people hang out and tackle that first.
In 2019, I started creating a curriculum for teachers that had a digital piece to it. I did a mini launch with my email list. It was nice because I used Kajabi and was able to receive my money within a couple of days instead of waiting like on TpT. When schools went remote, I decided to focus on launching that program fully. It was the perfect time because everyone had just gone remote and ad prices were low.
In the first month of my launch, I made more than what I do in an entire year on TpT. I ran with the program and began hiring people to help. Now it makes up about 60% of my business and the remaining comes from my TpT store.
Angie is currently working on getting her website store up and running for a summer launch. Whether you choose a membership, website store, courses, or affiliate options, we recommend you eventually work on diversifying your income. Remember that it usually takes time for new things to grow. The experience I was lucky with the timing of my launch, but that’s not how it normally works.
Do I need to hire for my TpT store?
When you first become a full-time TpTer, you are the person you’re hiring. We don’t suggest that you start hiring right away unless you have the wiggle room in your budget or already have employees before you stop teaching in the classroom. It’s also important to make sure if you hire that the person is working on things that will make you money now or down the line.
Chrissie has three contractors that she works with right now and was already working with two of them before she left her teaching position. Her newest contractor is helping with resource creation which is helping her get product lines out faster.
If you’re interested in learning more about hiring for your TpT store, check out these past episodes:
What do you do for health insurance?
How you handle health insurance is going to depend largely on your specific situation. Both Angie and Chrissie’s husbands were able to add them to their insurance plans. This is originally what I did when I went full time in my TpT business as well.
When my husband quit his teaching position, we had to find a different solution. Some states offer great health insurance options through the marketplace. Arizona, where I live, does not. My business has a full-time employee (that is not a relative) which allows us to qualify to purchase health insurance through our company. We use Simply Insured. I recommend that you get a good accountant to help you understand how this impacts your business and personal tax liability. I was able to find a PPO with a fairly low deductive, but we pay almost $3,000/month for it.
Make sure you compare plans and check your options. Depending on what state you live in and what your income level is, you may be able to get help through the marketplace.
How do I save for retirement?
This is one of those questions everyone wants to know about and each of us has a different experience.
Chrissie officially retired when she left her teaching position. She spoke with a financial planner who looked at all the details of her finances along with her TpT data and told her it was a no-brainer to retire and switch to doing TpT full time. She took a major penalty for retiring early but believes happiness doesn’t have a price tag.
Chrissie had been putting money away for 24 years and the school had been matching it so she was surprised with additional money that she hadn’t been thinking about. Her financial planner helped her take this money out of the school system and reinvest it into her own accounts. He also helped her consolidate a 403(b) she had previously set up.
When Angie went full time with TpT, she didn’t do anything for retirement savings for the first two years. Her husband is currently working at a school district and maxing out his 403(b) and retirement. Angie is now working on taking the money she had saved with the school to reinvest with the help of a financial planner as well. In the past year, she has saved more for retirement than she did in the last ten years and is working to catch up.
I’m also doing a lot of catch up in my retirement savings. When working as a teacher, I had never taken any extra out of my checks for retirement. I’m now doing a lot of catching up. Now every month, I’m focused on putting my tax money aside and maxing out my retirement.
If you have more financial questions, I recommend you check out Episode 24: The Answers to Your Financial Questions. We spoke with a Certified Financial Planner who answered questions sent in from our Mastermind Group.
How do you stay motivated?
All three of us find it’s helpful to have a TpT friend who is ahead of you or along with you on the journey. Hearing about what they’re doing can be motivating and keep you excited for your own business.
Angie and I also find that hosting this podcast helps us stay motivated. You might notice that many times the episodes align with areas that we’re trying to grow within our TpT stores and businesses. We also find going to conferences (when they’re happening) is another great way to stay motivated.
We also find it’s helpful to keep our schedule in check. So many people work themselves too hard and it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose motivation. We take breaks throughout the year which allows us to recharge and come back motivated. This is a luxury that we weren’t able to do when teaching and running our TpT stores.
We also use a loose schedule to stay motivated. All of us have some form of schedule or planner that we use to help us focus on getting the most important things done. Angie uses a system where she chooses three things to focus on each day, and she creates a weekly plan one week at a time. Chrissie uses a similar system through digital sticky notes on her computer.
We all find it’s helpful to allow ourselves flexibility. Find the time that works the best for you and use that for your business. Leave yourself time to adjust your schedule if you need.
What is the best and worst part of doing TpT full time?
Even though we all tried to come up with different answers, they all ended up being pretty much the same. We love the freedom that comes with doing TpT full time. Going to the bathroom when we want to, grocery shopping during the day, or hitting Starbucks when we feel like it are all realities. We have control of our schedules.
The worst part of not being in the classroom anymore is the loneliness. We miss interacting with the other teachers and the students. Another of my least favorite parts of it is the taxes, health insurance, and figuring out all the other things that are taken care of for you in a traditional job.
We all agree though, that even though we miss some parts of teaching, we don’t regret our decision to go full time in our TpT stores. If you’re on the fence about the decision, we encourage you to try it. We don’t think you’ll regret it. Keep in mind that the effort you put into your TpT store is the effort you’re going to get out of it.
We’d love to continue the conversation with you in our podcast group. Head over to the Grow With Us Mastermind Group to join the conversation.