If you’re a tutor, teacher, or teacherpreneur who creates digital resources and curriculum, you probably started by selling your activities online via TPT (TeachersPayTeachers). You may have also explored additional educational ecommerce sites or Etsy. However, all of those sites have one thing in common… you don’t own them. It’s probably time to change that!
Whether you’ve already opened your online store(s) or are looking to get started on the right foot when you do, there are a variety of options and pro/cons to consider. In this post I’ll explore whether or not you should build an online store for yourself and share ecommerce store tips for growth too.
The Pros And Cons Of Selling On Third-Party Ecommerce Platforms
First, let’s just cover the basics with sites like TPT (TeachersPayTeachers). I opened my own TPT store in 2009 and it was the first major stepping stone toward creating a small business that allowed me to resign from teaching in my early thirties. After starting on TPT, I later expanded to a similar educational ecommerce site and Etsy.
Each online platform comes with its own pros and cons. Joining an established ecommerce platform like TPT can give you a jump start on traffic because the sites themselves already have interested buyers searching for resources. These platforms bring established store structures where you simply upload your own materials. Most of them handle tax collection and reporting for you.
However, membership fees, transaction fees, advertising fees, and lack of control (changing algorithms, anyone?) can all be drawbacks that you accept when selling on a platform that you don’t own.
When you build an online store yourself, it also comes with pros and cons. However, I think you’ll find it’s a worthwhile investment. I have WordPress Starter Store and WordPress Store Upgrade packages to make the setup easy as you add an additional revenue stream.
Why You Should Open Your Own Ecommerce Store
When you create your own website and blog, you spend a lot of time working on SEO and driving traffic to it. You work hard on your posts, Pinterest traffic, email marketing, and social media connections. You provide real value mixed in with product promotion. Then you have a choice to make: will you keep buyers on your own website or will you send buyers back to a third-party platform like TPT or Etsy?
When prospective buyers visit your website to learn more about you and your brand, you have the built-in opportunity to sell your resources right there. This means you have full control over the entire marketing and sales process without customers ever leaving your website.
Build An Online Store For These Benefits
I personally use and recommend WooCommerce with WordPress as my preferred platform to build an online store. It comes with these additional benefits compared to sites like TPT and Etsy.
As an example, on TPT you pay $60/year for the membership. Then they take 20% of each order (and 15 cents per resource on orders under $3 total).
If you opt to skip the $60/year membership fee, it’s 45% of each order and 30 cents per resource.
I use PayPal for my WooCommerce store. The rates are around 2.99-3.49% and 49 cents per order, which varies slightly based on the customer’s payment method.
With your own online shop, you have complete control of your design. Your WordPress theme will come with a default layout that allows a few simple customizations, but you can also opt for additional custom changes to display specific categories, provide product filters, change single product layouts, etc.
With your own store, you can offer upsells, cross-sells, build your own bundles, tripwire offers, and more. Think about some of your own online shopping experiences that go beyond just add to cart and checkout… those are all options!
Having your own ecommerce store allows you to have complete control over SEO, which increases the chances of your products appearing among the top results in search results. The domain authority of your website and blog posts can be passed on to your store products.
When you sell on a site like TPT, there are price and discount restrictions. You also don’t have the ability to offer coupon codes outside of site-wide sales. With your own store, you can use a variety of coupon code strategies to reward customers and increase transactions.
Email marketing is an important part of a business, but TPT doesn’t share customer contact information with you and there are limits to the buyer notes you’re able to send through the site. With your own store, you can allow each customer to opt-in to your email marketing campaigns and even set up segments to provide related marketing based on their purchases.
Secure Investment Of Time
When you build your own online store, you own it forever. Many TPT sellers experienced a large drop in sales when the TPT algorithm changed and personalized search was implemented. All of the time they had spent building a TPT store and driving traffic to it from their websites and Pinterest didn’t seem to matter. When you host your own store, you can experiment with new marketing strategies and discontinue the ones that aren’t working.
Even though there are numerous benefits to having your own ecommerce store, there are a few key differences compared to using third-party platforms like TPT and Etsy.
When you sell on TPT, they have a customer support team to help with some customer service duties. If your buyer can’t figure how to access a digital download or open a .zip file, you can count on TPT to help.
When you open your own ecommerce store, you are responsible for 100% of your customer service needs. If you receive the same questions frequently, you can update product descriptions to provide more details or even add a FAQ section to your website to cut down on customer service emails.
When you use a third-party platform like TPT or Etsy, you upload your products to their website for delivery to your customers. When you host your own online store, you are responsible for hosting all resources. Dropbox or Google Drive accounts are popular choices. You can also upload products directly to WordPress, but I don’t recommend this method for large stores.
Like it or not (and probably not!), taxes are a part of owning a business. When open your own ecommerce store, you become responsible for all taxes. Sales tax requirements vary based on where you live and how much you sell, so it’s best to seek local guidance.
Some key considerations to discuss include:
- whether or not your state imposes a sales tax
- what items are subject to tax
- how often you’ll need to remit your taxes.
TaxJar is one of my favorite solutions to make sales tax easier. It’s easily integrated into WooCommerce and can automate your end-to-end sales tax life cycle including all the calculations, tracking, and reporting with just one click.
WooCommerce “out of the box” is perfect to get started selling on your own website. I have a Starter Store Package to make it even easier. However, you will need additional plugins (some free and some premium) if you want to add more features like:
- Easy Bundles
- Product Filters
- Advanced Email Marketing
- Reward Points
- Birthday Offers
- Advanced Coupons
My WordPress Store Upgrade Package can help you expand your store with these additional features.
When deciding which options are the best for your business, it’s natural to weigh the pros and cons of various platforms. In the end, having multiple revenue streams is a wise decision for most businesses. When you decide to open your own ecommerce store, marketing becomes even more important because you’re solely responsible for bringing in customers.
Both a well-built online store and a marketing strategy are needed for success.
To boost your online presence and establish yourself as an expert, it’s crucial to provide value through your social media content. Consistently delivering valuable content enhances your visibility and authority. As your website and store gain more visibility and trust, you’ll start to see an increase in sales and higher search engine rankings as well.
When using sites like TPT and Etsy, your fees partly pay for the benefit of the traffic those sites receive– they’re already bringing in customers to search for resources like yours. However, you can also generate simlar traffic to your own store.
Here are some ways to generate traffic for your ecommerce store:
- Keywords – Use the power of optimized keywords to gain authority status in your niche by using long-tail and informational keywords Social media is designed to create authentic relationships with your audience.
- Bio – Update your Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok bios regularly to reflect new or trending products.
- Build Connections – Social media is designed to create authentic relationships with your audience. Engaging with your audience on social media is key, so focus on authentic engagement by liking, commenting, and responding within your niche.
- Content – Use content pillars to plan your posts in a variety of formats. Create reels that showcase your lessons, post carousels with tips on how to use a new activity, or share feedback that shows how other teachers are using your resources.
- Stories – Utilize your stories to keep your audience up to date on new releases, share exclusive coupons, etc. Stories are the perfect place to give a “behind the scenes” look at your businesses.
Do not underestimate the power of email marketing! Unlike TPT or Etsy, you can let each shopper opt-in to your email list. You can also use segments to deliver personalized emails based on their purchases. For example, if a customer purchases a single math product from your store, you can send an automatic email a week later with related math products, a larger math bundle, etc. You can also email subject-specific purchases an exclusive coupon code to use on a related new release.
Here are a few more email marketing strategies you can use to promote your ecommerce store:
- Personalization – Use personalized subject lines and content to make the customer feel seen.
- Segmentation – Divide your email list into categories based on grade level, subjects, product lines, etc.
- A/B Testing – With A/B testing, you can test different calls to actions or subject lines to learn what works best with your audience.
- Automation – You can automate different email sequences based on purchases for evergreen marketing.
- Social Media Integration – Integrate your emails with your social media channels to reach a bigger audience and drive all traffic back to your website
If you’re feeling stuck with email marketing, consider my Newsletter Start Up Package.
Opening your own ecommerce store can be a relatively simple way to add an additional revenue stream. If you’re already creating the resources and uploading them to sites like TPT and Etsy, it doesn’t take much more time to also add them to a site that you own.