This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Six-Figure Side Hustle series where people with lucrative side hustles break down the routines and habits that have made them money outside of their full-time jobs. Do you have a story to tell? Let us know! Send us an email at [email protected].
Becky Powell spends an average of 10 hours a week creating digital worksheets for her fellow educators to purchase.
According to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It, the 41-year-old kindergarten teacher in Beaverton, Oregon, made $125,500 from it last year. She publishes her worksheet booklets, designed to teach young students to read and write, to her online store on Teachers Pay Teachers, an Etsy-style marketplace.
Powell’s Sight Word Activities store currently offers 427 different offerings, from free downloads to a package of 20 booklets valued at $30. When she first started side hustling in 2015, she was making enough to pay her monthly car insurance bill — about $60 — within a few weeks, she says. After three months, the additional income covered the monthly student loan payments for her and her husband.
Her classroom was her research lab, and her talent for teaching children to sight-read helped her fill a niche on the site, she says. Each summer, she increases the amount of work she does on the side so she can maintain a more flexible schedule during the school year.
Jerome and Becky Powell operate their Teachers Pay Teachers stores separately — but the money all goes to the same place, they say.
You don’t have to spend any money to get started, Powell points out: Teachers Pay Teachers offers both free and paid tiers for sellers. “Basic Sellers” keep 55% of their sales, while “Premium Sellers” pay $59.95 per year to keep 80% of their sales.
Powell pays that subscription fee, as does her husband Jerome — a full-time computer engineer who runs another Teachers Pay Teachers shop called Editable Activities. His store brought in an additional $51,800 last year, and his expertise in search engine optimization helped Powell get her store off the ground, she says.
Here, Powell discusses what you need to start a side hustle on a spreadsheet, why her side hustle has been successful so far, and how her confidence as a young entrepreneur has helped her grow as a person.
CNBC Make It: Do you think your side hustle is replicable?
Powell: Yes, I think so – especially if you have a combination of passion and knowledge [education] Market. You need these things to identify gaps [in learning] and build your intuition.
What do you mean by that? How do you build this intuition?
It’s one thing to have a career [a specific] Market. It’s another thing to actually know, so you have to research it. You need to find consumers for this market and survey them so you know it in depth and detail enough to identify the gaps.
If you put all of these things together, you’re not going to create anything that could work, could work, or should work. You know it will work.
You started a company with no entrepreneurial experience. Has running a successful side hustle helped you build confidence in or outside of the classroom?
Since I studied education, I never had a commercial or sales mindset. It’s not my kingdom. Jerome helped me understand SEO and marketing and how to step into my clients’ shoes. That’s why it was such an amazing balance.
But I had to do the “What do I know?” Overcome “I’m not in business” mentality. I now see my confidence showing in my ability and willingness to teach others.
I helped eight friends and colleagues start their own businesses on Teachers Pay Teachers. I never charge them and never would – I am thrilled when those I mentor experience their own success.
Many people have part-time jobs, but only a few bring in six figures annually. What do you think is the key to your success?
My husband always told me, “The wealth is in niches.” Find the one area where you can do really well and hone it.
For me it wasn’t fair [how to get kids to learn] Sight words. It was about hands-on activities and readily available tools that would engage them. I really drilled, drilled, drilled the ideas, getting more and more specific until I struck gold at the bottom.
So it’s not just a niche. It’s about finding your niche within a niche.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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