KRISTEN HOUSER is an instructional coach at a large, urban elementary school. She designed a Coaching Planning Kit along with a Teaching Planning Kit. Both planning kits were designed to help other coaches and teachers organize and plan for their work. She is also a paper planner addict and I’ve recently launched a new product, the Time & ToDo Planner, designed especially for busy, creative professionals.
How did the Time and To Do Planner arise?
When I left the classroom and transitioned into my current role as an instructional coach, I found myself in need of a planning tool to keep my time and to-do’s organized. With lots of meetings at different times each day scattered throughout the week, and multiple responsibilities to keep track of, the traditional lesson plan book I had once relied on as a teacher wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I’ve always been a paper planner kind of person, so relying strictly on my digital calendar wasn’t going to work for me either.
So I started to sketch out ideas for what I would need in an ideal planner. Around this time, I also had begun to develop an interest in design, and was taking a few online classes for Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. I started to try out my new design skills in bringing my planner sketches to life. Every few weeks I would print out and take one of my designs for a test drive, making revisions based on what worked and what didn’t. Over the course of three years I continued to build my design skills, and improve my planner designs.
I then thought I would see if other educators might be interested in my planner designs as well. I started an Etsy shop in the summer of 2013, and began to sell my planners online.
The following year, I decided I wanted to branch out from a digital planner business only and see if I might be able to create, produce, and sell a physical planner. Doing this was going to require a pretty large financial investment considering my teacher salary, so I researched my options and decided to launch a Kickstarter Campaign. The campaign ran for 30 days, and I reached my goal of $5,000 within two weeks, finishing off at over $8,000 earned. This allowed me to finance the production of the Time & ToDo Planner. The majority of our funding came from the MsHouser community. Had I not been working hard over the years to build an audience who knew and trusted me, I don’t think I would have been successful in launching the Time & ToDo Planner.
How much work went into its design and development?
A lot!! There is no short and easy way to building a successful blog and online business, especially when you’re working on it on the side. I knew nothing about product development, manufacturing, finding a printer, fulfillment, or really anything!! There was so much I had to learn and am still learning. My husband was able to support me in building the site, but I’ve done everything else on my own. So it’s taken time. Years really.
But I was persistent in my efforts and kept at it. Creating the Time & ToDo Planner was a passion of mine, and something that I wasn’t going to give up on. I worked in the mornings, over lunch, on weekends, summers, and schools breaks to bring the planner to life. And I’m still working a ton to keep it going and build on it’s success. But it’s fun! So I don’t see it as more work that I have to do. I enjoy it. That part is key.
How is your blog and the Time and To Do Planner a natural extension of the work you do as a coach?
I started my blog in 2010 after I had just transitioned into instructional coaching. I wanted to try and create the resource for other coaches just starting out, that I wish I’d had. My blog chronicles the everyday work I do as a coach. Whatever I’m working on, learning about, struggling with, reading…this is all information that I share on my blog. I didn’t start my blog with the intention of making money or turning it into a business. However, as the blog grew, I began to see what it could become and started to create products to offer to my readers.
And the Time & ToDo Planner was created to fit my planning needs as a coach!
If a teacher were interested in selling teacher-related products online, what do they need to know in order to be successful?
First of all…do it! I would encourage any educator I know to use their skills, talents, and understandings as an educator to create digital or physical products for others. The work I do on my blog and with Time & ToDo Planner has kept me engaged and motivated in the work I do at school. There are so many opportunities for you to quickly and easily set up a blog, start sharing, and build an online audience/platform.
Based on my experience, here’s what you need/need to know:
- Passion/desire: You’ve got to want it. Bad.
- Time: I know we’re super short on time as teachers, but you’ve got to set aside some time each day or each week to keep moving forward on your blog/online business.
- Persistence and Patience: Keep at it. There are a lot of sellers on TPT, Etsy, and their own online platforms these days. It may take some time for your products to get noticed among others.
- Great content: Share quality resources, tips, info. Share it in your own voice so readers can get to know you. Use images and pictures (good ones) as much as you can.
- A good looking blog/site: If there is one thing I would say is worth spending a bit of money on the beginning on (if you’re not a designer yourself) is a good looking website. People you will quickly make a judgement about you and your brand based on what they see. When they visit your site they’ll quickly learn whether it’s worth reading a bit more and sign up for your list, or they’ll leave and they won’t come back. I owe a lot of my financial success to the email list of loyal fans/readers I have built up.
If a teacher were to succeed in selling products online, how much could they earn on the side in a given month?
My business is very cyclical, with about 2/3 of my revenue coming in during the summer and first months of school. During this time of the year, I earn around $3,000-$7,000 x month.
I’m starting a mastermind group for teachers interested in building a blog and creating their own sense of wealth. Whether you are starting from scratch or have a blog already in place, you’ll find the community and resources to take you to the next level.