TPT Forward 2023: New Skills I Learned To Stay Competitive Episode 28

What happened at TPT Forward 2023? I learned new skills, strategies, and ideas that I want to tinker with to improve sales on my TPT store.

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  • 0:00 Introduction (Ottawa, Canada)
  • 1:05 Thinking about TPT niches
  • 2:51 Boston: Nervous about TPT Forward 2023
  • 4:50 TPT Forward 2023 Day 1: Chatting with Paul Mishkin, CEO
  • 9:22 What kind of TPT Seller goes to TPT Forward?
  • 11:24 Don’t use WooCommerce! Agree or Disagree?
  • 13:27 TPT Forward 2023 Day 2: Motivation and TPT blogging
  • 15:52 TPT Forward 2023 Day 3: Email Lists, Niches, Facebook Ads
  • 19:30 Anxiety vs Performing Mode
  • 21:58 After TPT Forward 2023 Thoughts: Energizing, Your Voice, Helping Teachers, 
  • 24:22 The most impactful insight: Niche down
  • 25:41 What strategy will I implement: Artificial Intelligence
  • 28:00 What happened to our car!?
  • 28:56 Be so good, they can’t ignore you


Today is Monday, tomorrow is TPT forward. I’m driving down to Boston. I won’t lie, I’m kind of nervous. I’m not really sure what to expect with TPT forward. I would imagine the kind of TPT seller who’s going to go to this kind of event is the one who’s had that aha moment. They’re making enough money to justify going to the expense. I mean, if you’re going, you’ve made enough money to pay for your conference ticket plus the hotel, plus the transportation, unless you’re local in Boston, in which case it’s easier for you just to pop in. Yeah, it’s kind of like the first day of school. Not sure who’s going to be there, right? Let’s see what happens.

So we’re on route to TPT forward in Boston, and I’m thinking about the differences between Canadians and Americans in the sense that when you start selling on TPT, when you start to crank out products, it becomes time to start optimizing what you do. And now the question is, do you change your products to fit the American market? That TPT, most of the customers are from the states. So an example of that is if you live in a country that has a four paper, do you change it to letter size paper? If you have Canadian spelling, do you change it to American spelling? It doesn’t seem like a big deal. And yet, if I was teaching a resource, if I taught math, would I use something that had Fahrenheit instead of Celsius? I don’t know if that would be an influencing factor for everyone, but I wonder if it would be an influencing factor for some. And so then the question is, who are you selling to? Do you then sell two versions where you have a Canadian version and an American version? Because then it gets complicated because the more files you have, the more confusion there is for teachers. The whole point is just to keep it simple. So something to think about. Who are you selling to and what do they want? Alright, see you at the next rest level.

Hey, DPT Sellers. I’m in Boston, kind of excited that I’m here. Went to the Cheers bar for dinner now, just getting ready for bed because tomorrow is TPT forward. I’m not really sure what to expect. I was thinking about it on the car ride here that it’s probably mostly TPT hamsters, TPT Whales, Deanna Jump will be there, I think. So that’s TPT Planets, not really the crowd that I’m used to hanging out with. I’m kind of curious just to hang out, I think what would make this a successful TPT forward for you? What would make this a success? And I think hearing about what TPT was like at the beginning of its day. I think that’s what I’d like to walk away with. I mean, I have technical questions. Do you outsource the VAs? And how much do you pay your VAs? Kind of curious to hear about that.

If I get a chance to chat with Paul New Paul, I’m curious to hear what business book or podcast he would recommend. Always these aha moments that you get and people are always leveling up their training. You don’t become CEO randomly, you’re constantly improving yourself. So I’d be curious to hear what business book he’s currently reading or what idea is helping him to take his business forward. Nervous, first day of school jitters. Not sure who’s going to be in the class tomorrow, hoping to make some friends, but as you’re in the hotel lobby, kind of recognize teachers kind of look, my teacher radar is up. I remember going to Australia and thinking, yeah, it’s funny because across the pond and chatting with teachers, but when you go into staff room, the banter is kind of the same. Teachers are teachers. So looking forward to hanging out with some teachers tomorrow. Alright, see you next time. Bye-Bye.


So we just finished the keynote speak, keynote speakers. It was actually super cool. It was like a robes gallery of 10 different speakers from keynotes before and they sort of summarized the best talking points of the keynote. A lot of really good quotes that I sort have to reflect on. And it’s nice sort of just sitting with people and chatting and hearing about where they’re from and what their TPT stories are and where they’re at the journey. There’s lots of other people where this is their first TPT forward. And I got the chat with Paul Kin and I asked him what his favorite business book was and I shared mine and it’s Influence, which was the marketing book. And so I wrote it down.

I just finished my session on imposter syndrome and the quote, I guess he surveyed the other presenters and I thought it was fascinating that a hundred percent of the presenters have felt imposter syndrome. And I thought that was fascinating. A lot of imposter syndrome. I felt it. He probably felt it too. Chatted with Mikey D at the end and his business book. He likes Amy Porterhouse pornography, just listening to that podcast. So I’m going to go check it out later. Alright, the adventure continues. So we just finished, it’s our lunch break, finished the second session with Jared and Beth from YP. It’s kind of exciting going up and chatting with them about possibilities. And now just try and find this place. I didn’t get a chance to ask Jared and Beth what their favorite business book or podcast was, but I did invite them out for lunch or dinner. So maybe they’ll take me up on it. We’ll find out then. Alright, see you in a bit.

The thing that I am most impressed by is the fact that I did not spill soy sauce on my white shirt. I had sushi for lunch. And that is amazing because really white shirt and soy sauce is just a recipe for disaster. So a new term that I heard today was TPT bestie. Have you met your TPT bestie? And I think in the beginning, selling on TPT is really, really isolating doing it by yourself. But then you start to meet people. And I think if you live in the city where a TPT forward is being held, you should absolutely go because yeah, the virtual is nice. Listening to the sessions, it’s kind of fun. But I think for me, the best conversations I’m having is just chatting with the person beside me and hearing about their story. There was one seller, you should jump in the pool and quit your teaching job.

And well not really quit, but well, but you know what I mean? They were, well, okay, come on. They’re making more money than I’m. They were making 50 grand per year. And there were some other things about school that wasn’t going fantastic. And I just sort of wondered, why haven’t you quit? I’m not recommending that everyone quits their day job, but I do find as a TPT seller, as a full-time digital nomad entrepreneur, the great thing is you get to make your own schedule. So I have a lot of flexibility in my day. So it’s funny listening to the TPT seller keynote speakers all talk about common themes, realizing you’re not alone, both from a mental health perspective, but also from a TPT seller perspective. If you are a new seller and you live in the city where TPT Ford is being held and you sort of think, yeah, I’m kind of liking this TPT thing and you’re looking up videos for TPT seller tips and tricks, then you should 100% go to an in-person event because it’s like pay to play.

It requires a certain amount of money to be able to come here, which means that those sellers and their businesses are making enough money to justify the cost, chatting with them to hear about their stores. It sort of normalizes the hard work that you’re putting in. You live in the city where there’s a TPT four being held, you should 100% go something else I thought was interesting. If they’re making so much money in their store, then why not leave the profession? And one that had an interesting answer, which was health insurance because when you leave the profession, you have to cover your own insurance and it might be a better deal to stay within the profession within your school district. And then someone else is talking about your retirement funding, retirement pension case. So it’s not just simply, are you making enough money to leave the profession or if you enjoy this part? It’s the main thing about that.

We just finished day one of TPT four. My brain has completely melted. I think it’s kind of cool seeing people of different stages of the game. So they’re people who just kind of started their store. There are people who make hundreds of dollars and there’s thousands of dollars, and then there are people who make mega money. It’s kind of interesting. It almost feels like there’s an insider’s club. I think the highlight of my day was when I was chatting with someone at Happy Hour and just started chatting away and they said, are you on YouTube? And I said, yeah. And then it turns out they watch the SUT Premier your channel. And then she said like, oh no, I haven’t been watching it since school at all, because she watches it during lunch hour. So I thought that was super cool. It’s just nice to sort of chat and then it makes me wonder where will I be in five years?

In 10 years people have been grinding away at their stores. You don’t know their backstory. I just realized today that there’s a whole team of them behind that store. And I think it’s super cool that you get your store to the point where you can hire people. It’s kind of cool to see where I might be able to grow to. I remember listening to someone chatting today. They’re chatting about how they had sort of hit the seven figure mark and now they have a bunch of people working for them and they were saying, I didn’t plan to become a principal. But it kind of is like that. I guess we all start as teachers and then we become TEACHERpreneur, and then as our businesses grow, we start to outsource things. And then you go from independent contractor to employee and then you’re offering retirement benefits and then you’re no longer doing the technical stuff. You’re kind of like a principal managing people. I’m sitting down because I’m trying to grab catch one of these, the squirrels. The squirrels here are fed really well in the pocket. I’m trying to see if the squirrel will come up to me because very super, not afraid of people. Not afraid of people at all.

I find it’s hard not to have an opinion about some things. So there was a teacher here I was chatting with who signed up for a course this like Woo in a weekend or woo in a day like WooCommerce helps ’em set up the WooCommerce store. I would a hundred percent not recommend setting up WooCommerce for any TPT sil unless you are TPT whale and about to leave the platform for so many reasons, discussing different videos. So anyways, this person was saying how someone bought something their store and the payment went through, but then the product didn’t arrive at the person, like the person purchasing didn’t receive the product. And then the seller now has to go through WooCommerce to figure out what goes wrong. And again, we support to look into it. And that’s a whole element of stress that I don’t think any TPT seller needs to deal with unless you’re in that 0.1% where you make so much money off of TPT that you’re considering leaving the platform because you’re whale.

I think what we need is to set up our website on our own domain, build on our land using WordPress. Figure out your unfair advantage. So I was chatting with one teacher who has a PhD. Oh my gosh, lean into that teaching resources made by someone with a doctorate. That’s not very common. Yeah, a hundred percent lean into that. The point of the website is to become the authority, the experience, the expertise, which leads to trust and trust leads to sales. I think you can do that all with a WordPress website like a blog. You do not need to set up WooCommerce a hundred percent. No. Think about all the extra headache and baggage you’re creating by creating a separate sales platform. Whereas really you could be spending that time creating content that ranks on Google, become that authority, get the email list, and then send that traffic to TPT. So prove me wrong, if you signed up for that course or you love WooCommerce on your WordPress site, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


A lot of really good content that I’m getting from coming here. I’m really happy. I came to TPT board here in Boston. They got local TPT sellers in Boston to do these seller stories and just sharing really personal moving reasons why they do what they do. And it’s powerful because you see the power like a teacher marketplace could have in terms of social enterprise and best practice and how do you reach students and they’re all sharing their personal stories about what they experienced as a kid and serve their reasons and motivations. So I found that really powerful. And then I went to this session about a hundred blog posts, like how to get a hundred blog posts topics in an hour. It was fascinating to hear from a seller who’s hit that seven digit mark to hear what she’s doing, and I didn’t know what an unconference is, but then someone explained to me, it’s kind of like where the presenters were sort of a flip.

So if you’re an audience member that maybe sharing something that you have learned. So I’m going to see if I can present about what I know about Google, SEO and just how that relates to TPT Seller Journal. Oh, and super exciting. I ran into another person, another TPT seller who recognized me. The hard part is you don’t always see people or they’re just passing. So I wanted to touch base with her and hopefully I get a chance to at the conference here and just find out more about where she’s at at her TPT journey. So I’m really liking this little snippet because this is pay to play. You have to pay to get to the conference. The kind of TPT seller who’s going to come here either is making enough money from their store to cover the costs or they see the value in coming to something like this. It’s a certain slice, a certain subsection of TPT sellers, but it’s really neat to just chat with like-minded people and hear stories and share experiences.

TPP sellers. So just finished day two of the Boston conference and I thought it was really cool because the unconference part was we all got split up in different rooms and then there were a bunch of different tables with different topics. And then within those topics there was some questions within a goldfish bowl up question and ask and just discussable. I thought that was pretty cool. And laid back, we gave a chance to talk about my opinions about WordPress hosting and just Google, SEO and all. So that was kind of fun. And now I’m going to bed. I am exhausted. So we just finished the third day of the TPT Forward conference here in Boston, brain Fried, but had a blast. I think the way to measure the success would be to ask, would you go again in person? And part of me is like, yeah, it was really exciting and energizing to be around like-minded people and it makes me want to come every year.

I dunno how to make that financially possible, but it would be me to come every year and sort of see the progressions. So yeah, it’s always hard to be a beginner, but one of the favorite things at my gym is there’s a giant sign that says, don’t be afraid to be a beginner. And it was neat because at this conference there were a lot of veterans, but also a lot of people at my stage were earlier than that. So that was kind of neat. So I’m trying to think of what takeaway lessons or patterns. One pattern was that email lists are king, right? That comes up a lot, that comes a lot in the TPT conference, but also from outside of the TPT world where business people will say, yeah, the email list, I wish I had started my email list earlier. I’ve heard an email list being compared to an ATM machine.

So that’s definitely something that I need to work on both for my TPT store and for my SEOT mindset business in the web hosting stuff. One of the ideas, the walkway pieces that I have is this idea about really narrowing down your niche very specifically. So I met one seller who hit the third milestone. Third milestone is $500,000 in sales, by the way. And they sell content for one specific for their state, basically their state or province, and it’s very, very nation. That’s all they do, but it clearly works for them. So specializing is the way to go because then you become the go-to person for your niche. Another walkaway I have is this idea about Facebook ads. A lot of businesses, some of the presenters like seven digit businesses talking about how Facebook ads really unlock their business. But I would caveat by saying it’s very easy to throw your money away on Facebook ads.

So this one presenter, they run Facebook ads to their conversion kit landing page. They use conversion kit for the email, this Facebook ad to conversion kit, conversion kit, once they sign up the thank you pages on their website. And then from the website, because they’re using Facebook, they have the megapixel installed so then they can run remarketing campaigns and target those visitors. They went to the store. So I think at some point I need to figure out how to unlock that Facebook ad mystery, but I also think I might spend $4,000 on coaching, and that’s very specific. In the past, I’ve thought about getting coaching. A lot of the top business people I listened to, they’ll talk about the value of coaching and upgrading their game. And for me, this seller has a seven figure business in the TPT space, but I think also selling products to TPT sellers or teacher entrepreneurs.

And so they’ve done what I want to do. I want to develop my portable web hosting for teacher entrepreneurs because the more I chat with people, the more I realize it’s legitimately I feel a product that TPT teachers need. Understanding this marketplace of TEACHERpreneur, I think a $4,000 investment, a 12 week one-on-one coaching call with them. I think there’s value to that. I just sort of have to figure out how to find the money. I get anxious. I worry about stepping on people’s toes and not trying to burn bridges. But it’s this odd thing because we’re all competitors and yet you’re not because the TPT marketplace as a whole solves a lot of problems for teachers in terms of creating the content so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And that only works because there’s so many different sellers. It wouldn’t work if it was just New York, if it was just you.

One of the coolest things was that I met three different people who recognized me from my YouTube channel, one on each day. One of the comments I get on YouTube and is just this idea of like, oh, I love how excited you are, but I’m actually a very shy and anxious and introverted person. That’s just my teaching persona right on teaching. I love the stage of teaching this, performing in front of the students and just capturing their attention that way. I really enjoy that and really missing that in the classroom. I think it’s interesting because at this event I made the effort to chat and make small talk and genuinely interested in listening to people’s stories about their stores. So for those of you who met me at the TPT conference here in Boston, I’m socially anxious and I’m worried that, oh, I’ll regret some of the things that maybe I said to people like, oh, maybe I shouldn’t have asked that. Or maybe I shouldn’t have said that. But that’s sort of reality. I haven’t figured out yet if I can muster the courage to go to the last social thing, like the last goodbye maybe. But oh, it’s kind of hard to put yourself out there.

Not my favorite scene, but let’s see if I make it to the square. I tried. I couldn’t muster enough energy or courage to go off and chat with people, but I had some snackies. Snackies were yum. And I think next time I will try and make an effort to go to the last social, just chat with people. It’s hard for me. It’s easier for me to sit down beside someone in a meeting and make small talk as opposed to at a party scenario, but I’ll try. Okay, I did it. I went back for B roll and I had another fruit tar and I said hello to someone who I met at the beginning, which was very nice. And I said hello to some other people. It’s funny how work will make me work. All right, and now I’m going to run away. Run away.

Hey Mike. So you just finished TPT 4 20 23. How are you feeling?

Tired, excited, glad to be going home. My head is full. It was a really energizing experience. It’s kind of like you had to be there kind of thing, like better in person. It’s kind of seeing Disneyland and then actually being in Disneyland for the magic. So yeah, I think it’s definitely magical to go to person.

Any highlights that you’d like to share?

It was neat to hear Paul kin the CEO of IXL. In his keynote, he talked about how he read. They got a thousand surveys for feedback and he read every single word, which is kind of cool. So I mean obviously there’s more than a thousand PPP sellers, but he took the time to fill out the survey, then your voice was heard. And that’s kind of neat. Not necessarily that what you asked for would happen, but the idea that it helped shape the pulse of the direction of the company. The best takeaway piece for me, I think and recognize, of course it’s a very thin slice of the PPP seller community because it’s pay to plate. You have to pay to go to the event. And if you weren’t local here in the Boston area, then you had to pay for travel expenses or hotel expenses.

You had to either have made enough money in your business to cover expenses or you had to see the potential of what you would learn from this kind of event or being at this kind of event to make it worth a thousand dollars investing. And that’s not including airfare. So some people who flew in here, obviously their expenses would be more, but the cool thing was this idea, I could sell resources or any one teacher can sell a resource online, but there’s something about that snowball effect, like the the first millionaire story. And that alone wouldn’t be enough to meet all the teacher needs. But the fact that you have any TEACHERpreneur, any teacher could say, Hey, there’s a gap in my area. I can create content, I can share that. And sort of the idea that came out was that if you’ve served and helped so many teachers and they each have 30 students, then literally your lesson plans are impacting millions. And obviously we’re here to serve teachers, but we’re also here to make a living or earn a living. And so it was neat to see that balance of learning how to solve the entrepreneur on the entrepreneurial side, but also the service side about how you’re solving a problem that other teachers have. And so by creating that content and providing that service, you’re helping to shape education. And I really like that. So

Mike, can you share the most impactful insight you gained at TPT four that will transform your approach to

Selling? I think is to really niche down. I met a few different sellers in that third milestone category where they sell content specifically to their state or their province curriculum. So they’re not selling to the entire country or to the us wherever they happen to teach, they create their subject matter specifically for that curriculum. And then in their product description, they’re describing what that curriculum is. And then side note, I remember, I think I heard some people talk about how they had translated their resources into a different language. They got horrible reviews because there’s such nuance in language and district and area and region and dialect that they took off those resources because the reviews came their store. They said that they hadn’t recovered from those reviews. I think when we think about niche, how I teach grade three, whatever, it’s okay to niche down. And so I think when I go home, I’m going to look at probably myself because I know the Ontario curriculum. I teach in Ontario, find the curriculum and then put them into my specifically the product descriptions and then to see what happens with that. Yeah. So niching down to your state curriculum,

What specific strategy from an inspiring speaker do you plan to implement in your own store?

I was chatting with the seller. The seller was saying like, oh yeah, this person’s doing some very cool thing. Things with artificial intelligence and mid journey. I think mid journey is, I’m pretty sure it’s combining images. So that’s the one where you have pictures of dogs and portraits. I didn’t see exactly what they were doing, but now I think I could guess that actually what you could do. So product markups are when you take your product and then in Canva you sort of position it as if the handout was on the desk. And it works because then teachers can see themselves visualize how they would use it. So you’re selling the feature, instead of just saying it’s a two-page resource, you’re showing them how this two-page resource could exactly be used in the classroom, right? So I wonder if you could ask mid journey artificial intelligence, Hey, can you take this handout, PDF, and combine it with some images in a primary classroom and come up with four different versions of this?

And then I bet you could ask it, oh, can you make this more messy or more clean, like a cleaner student’s handle? I bet that would work, but can you take this image of your PowerPoint slide and ask it to combine it with an image of a classroom? So I think I want to try that because the idea of AI and ChatGPT came up a few times. One of the sessions by this seven figure business talked about how they generate blog post ideas. And they had a bunch of really good guiding questions at the beginning. And then it was like, okay, so now take those 20 questions, those prompts, and then ask ChatGPT to generate double it. And then it’ll come up with ideas that you hadn’t thought about, but you know about. You didn’t come up in brainstorming and then take that idea and write about it.

Or if you get ChatGPT to suggest suggestions, then take that, but then come up with your own tone and say it in your own voice. So I think that would be very useful. And then another seller I was chatting with was wondering, Hey, could you take the product stats from your store from two different kind periods and ask ChatGPT, Hey, what products should I work on? Or how could I even improve my sales revenue just based on total sales volume and conversion rate and product use? I would bet, because you can input cables of data into ChatGPT. I bet you ChatGPT could just spit out some analysis. The moment of proof is our car still in the parking lot with out of town plates. We haven’t seen our car in a while in a parking garage. Alright, here we go. Here’s our car. Let’s see our cars here. Wait, is that a car? Oh, you’re here. Car. I love you so much and you’re not smashed in. Okay, car, I love you. This is crazy close. Okay, bye buddy.

Bye Mike. I love you. I love your show.

I love you too buddy. Alright. Hey Mike, one day not here today, not on the stage today, but one day. One day. And I think if we become so good they can’t ignore you, then they can’t ignore you, right? So how am I going to do that? I think if you keep on working hard at what we’ve consistently heard, eventually the wheels hit the ground. You get traction for a little bit and you take off, I can’t remember where I heard this, but it was this idea that it seems like you’re an overnight success, but really that comedian or that band has been touring for so many years in all those small places and then it pays off. So I think the difference between success and people who don’t get to the success stage is that you find a way to keep on going. Effort alone is not going to work. The hamster wheels, it’s not going to work. You’re going to burn out. So can you get to a stage? Can you Optimize what you do? And I just realized here on the side, you’re not going to take a picture. You can see yourself. You can check what you’re doing. One day, Mike. One day we will be here.

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