How This Teacher Built a Profitable Side Hustle With Digital Products and SBI!

How This Teacher Built a Profitable Side Hustle With Digital Products and SBI!

I honestly feel that I am able to make a larger impact than just in my own classroom because so many teachers visit my blog and purchase products. Leslie Dunn from www.teachingdunnsimply.com

As a student, Leslie Dunn used to hate math (who doesn’t, really?). Now she loves teaching it. She’s a certified educator with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She’s especially passionate about classroom management.

During her ten years of teaching, Leslie created a lot of resources that she used in the classroom. She believed that her resources would be helpful to other teachers. So she started a side hustle offering them on a platform called Teachers Pay Teachers.

Today Leslie has a staggering 238 products in her store! How she created so many products, why she started a website in addition to her Teachers Pay Teachers store and how she juggles family, a full-time job and building her side hustle with digital products  — that’s what you’re going to learn in her interview.

Teaching Done Simply Online Store

238 products in her Teachers Pay Teachers store, and a 4.7 star rating! Excellent work, Leslie!

1. Leslie, you started teachingdunnsimply.com because you’re passionate about teaching. How did you decide about your niche within the huge area of teaching?

I’m a certified educator in the great state of Georgia. I love all things teaching!

Having almost ten years of experience, I knew that I could fill gaps in areas where teachers need help to support their students in becoming successful lifelong learners.

Teaching is of course a broad topic. I used Brainstorm It! to really drill down to my niche. I believe that pairing my expertise with relevant keywords helped me build a website that’s being found on Google and the other search engines.

TAKEAWAY #1: With Brainstorm It!, Leslie refers to one of the many no-code tools that are part of every Solo Build It! subscription.

Brainstorm It! is a smart keyword- and niche-research tool that enables you to reveal and target the keywords that your audience is actively searching on. It also helps you determine your niche’s business potential, or even to come up with possible niches in your area of interest, like in Leslie’s example.

Too many people start their website or blog without doing proper research first, assuming they know what their audience wants. Your knowledge and experience are important, but your chances of success are so much higher if you pair them with the data provided by a keyword tool like Brainstorm It!.

How This Teacher Built a Profitable Side Hustle With Digital Products and SBI!

2. You started your blog on WordPress, and then switched to Solo Build It!. What were your reasons and why is SBI! the better platform for you?

Many years ago I started a website with SBI!. After constantly feeling frustrated and stuck with WordPress, I remembered how user-friendly SBI! was, so I switched from WordPress.

I consider myself to be tech-savvy but WordPress was difficult for me. For example, I would search for one-to-one assistance to navigate WordPress and didn’t have much luck. The only “support” I found were YouTube videos that didn’t provide the specific assistance that I was looking for. You can imagine my frustration.

SBI!, on the other hand, offers a very user-friendly format plus excellent product and technical support. This made switching from WordPress to SBI! an easy choice for me.

TAKEAWAY #2: Depending on the source you look at, WordPress powers between 37% and 43% of all websites that exist today. According to TechJury, over 500 new sites are created daily, using the free version of WordPress.

One of the main reasons for its huge popularity is WordPress’s open source nature. It allowed the creation of thousands of plugins to add just about any functionality you can think of.

On the flipside, you “pay” for its versatility with your time and potentially a lot of frustration.

There’s no built-in training on the WordPress platform to help you climb the learning curve. Nor is there a one-stop shop for all your support needs, as we’ve heard from Leslie.

Don’t get us wrong. WordPress is a fantastic site builder and content management system. Otherwise we wouldn’t have created SBI! for WP, a business-building companion to WordPress.

However, if you’re new to blogging or building a website, short on time, or simply prefer an all-in-one solution with clear step-by-step guidance, Solo Build It! is your best choice.

3. You have a store on Teachers Pay Teachers with 238 products! Did you have the store before starting your blog? If so, why did you decide to build a blog/website in addition?

I started my Teachers Pay Teachers store several years ago. I would add products that I was currently using in my classroom but didn’t have a product creation plan.

When I started researching how to increase revenue on Teachers Pay Teachers, “blogging” was mentioned in literally every article I read. I knew doing a side hustle with digital products was something I enjoyed and was good at, so I started right away.

TAKEAWAY #3: Creating your own blog or website isn’t just a way to increase revenue. It’s the best “insurance” you can have for your online business.

Why? Because you own your website. You have complete control over it. No one can shut it down. Selling your products on marketplaces like Teachers Pay Teachers, Amazon, or Etsy is a great add-on for your business. You reach new audiences. You can take advantage of their payment and product delivery infrastructure.

But… you’re on a third-party platform, relying on their goodwill. When you violate their rules, or they believe you violate them, they can kick you out without much warning, as this story about an Amazon seller shows.

So, in more ways than one, Leslie’s decision to build a website to support her side hustle with digital products in addition to her Teachers Pay Teachers store was an excellent choice. Her blog builds free organic traffic. She has an independent way of selling her digital products. Her site also allows her to add other income streams. More on that in the answer just below.

Leslie enjoying time with her children in the woods by a stream

Leslie enjoying time with her children.

4. How does selling your own products compare to your other monetization methods (ads and affiliate marketing)?

Selling my own products on my website gives me the freedom to list on the platform of my choice and set pricing as I wish.

I own the rights to each product and can update or change as needed.

I do have affiliate marketing and ads on my website, but those are not my primary sources of revenue.

TAKEAWAY #4: “Freedom to list on the platform of my choice,” “set pricing as I wish,” “own the rights to each product” — three fantastic reasons for selling your products on your own blog!

The other lesson here is that you should always strive to diversify your income streams. Having more than one way to earn income doesn’t stop it hurting, both financially and emotionally, when one is chopped or removed. But it can help mitigate the pain.

5. How long did it take to start earning income from your side hustle with digital products? Is it a full-time or a part-time income?

I started before the pandemic, which was great. My website provides information on digital classrooms and resources, so when teachers had questions I had existing content that answered many questions that were in demand.

This helped me earn Google rankings and build my domain authority.

My side hustle with digital products provides a part-time income at the moment. I hope for it to become full-time online business in the future.

TAKEAWAY #5: The beauty of starting an online business (as opposed to a brick-and-mortar store) is that you can do it as a side hustle while keeping your day job. Allow yourself to take it slow. Enjoy the process and all the new things you’re going to learn and eventually master.

You’d be surprised how far you can grow your business when you consistently work on it, even if it’s just 5 to 10 hours per week. This is especially true when you follow a proven, step-by-step process as provided in Solo Build It!’s Action Guide.

Whether your goal is to quit your job or supplement your family’s income with a few hundred dollars per month, starting a side hustle with digital products is a great way to achieve this goal.

6. How do you juggle your day job, family, and working on your side hustle with digital products?

I have to be very intentional with my time. I get up an hour early and create content for an hour after I leave my full-time job, if at all possible.

I plan content and product creation every month, so that I can prioritize and know the tasks that need to be accomplished.

My go-to tool for planning and tracking is Google Calendar. I have the app installed on my phone and can access it when needed on my computer as well. Using Google Calendar also allows me to see the “big picture” every month.

All of this is still a work in progress for me and doesn’t always go as planned. However, I try my best to stay on schedule and compensate for my time when needed.

TAKEAWAY #6: “I don’t have enough time” is what we often hear as a reason for not starting with Solo Build It! (or giving up on it). Honestly, who does? We all have 24 hours in a day.

The real question is: how do you prioritize your time? Or, to use Leslie’s words, how intentional are you with your time?

To make enough time for building your business, you probably have to sacrifice something: get up an hour earlier, work an hour after you get home from your job, watch just one episode of your favorite Netflix series instead of two.

The result will be worth it: you’re creating your own island of independence.

Leslie Dunn with her husband and two children

Leslie Dunn with her husband and two children.

7. What has been your biggest challenge so far with building your side hustle with digital products?

Finding the time to work on my business, while also working a full-time job as a teacher, and having a family with two kids.

It’s difficult. I look forward to when my online business generates a full-time income so I can quit my day job.

TAKEAWAY #7: There it is again — every solopreneur’s nemesis: time! There are only so many hours in one day, and so many roles to fulfill: CEO, content writer, content researcher, social media marketer, newsletter editor… the list goes on.

And in Leslie’s case, that’s on top of a full-time job and having a family with two kids.

We can’t provide you with more hours per day. But with Solo Build It!, we can give you the perfect combination of no-code tools, training, support and community, so that you invest every last second into the most meaningful business-building task.

Leslie Dunn showing off her Solo Build It website

Leslie showing off her Solo Build It! website

8. What do you enjoy most about being an online business owner? How has it changed you, your life, your family?

Having a successful online business has helped my family financially. The extra monthly income reduces stress and has allowed my husband and me to start saving money for the future.

I love creating products that help teachers help children. I honestly feel that I am able to make a larger impact than just in my own classroom because so many teachers visit my blog and purchase products.

TAKEAWAY #8: Leslie touches upon three major benefits that you’ll enjoy as an online business owner:
  • Benefit #1: Your business generates income, giving you the means to cover extra expenses and put away savings.
  • Benefit #2: You do something you love.
  • Benefit #3: You have a positive impact on other people’s lives, on a much larger scale than through one-to-one coaching or classroom teaching.

9. And finally… What’s your top tip for someone who’s just starting an online business?

Read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Set goals (big and small) and be super intentional with your time. Be open to trying suggestions by others who are successful.

Most importantly, find an SBI! Professional you feel comfortable working with and ask questions! They are so knowledgeable and stay up to date with Google updates and different trends to help drive and increase traffic!

TAKEAWAY #9: One of the ten things James Clear teaches in Atomic Habits is to build a system for getting 1% better every day. This principle aligns perfectly with the Solo Build It! approach.

The Action Guide provides a system that helps you progress through your website- and business-building journey step by little step. It won’t feel like you’re making much progress in the beginning. Over time though, each hour you spend on your site will add up until you finally realize that you built a profitable online business to be proud of.

And when you need help or encouragement along the way, there’s plenty around in the SBI! community: the friendly forums, the stellar 24/7 tech support and the SBI! Professionals that Leslie mentioned.

These are experts in various fields, hand-picked and vetted by us, who can help you with everything from finding your niche to designing your site to improving the ways you monetize.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. Choose a platform that provides not only the tools you need to build your online business, but also the training and support, all in one place.
  2. Don’t rely solely on a third-party marketplace for your business. Build your own website or blog as your business foundation.
  3. Be intentional with your time. Use tools like Google Calendar to plan your content and product creation.
  4. Be proud of yourself. With the information and digital products you provide, you have a far bigger impact than by teaching in a classroom or coaching one-to-one.

What impact would you like to make? Whether your experience is based on your profession or a hobby, why not use it to help others and earn extra income?

How This Teacher Built a Profitable Side Hustle With Digital Products and SBI!
Margit Streifeneder
Margit Streifeneder is the Marketing Co-Director at SiteSell. She works with a small but mighty team to spread the word about Solo Build It!, via helpful content, informative emails and eye-catching ads. She's passionate about helping solopreneurs achieve success, and enjoys interviewing SBI! members about their achievements. Besides growing her own online business, she loves exploring new places, hiking, dancing and spoiling her three cats.
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