Let’s get down into the trenches of how to sell a membership, from idea to creation, and finally launching it into the world. Meet CEO Teacher® Tara Tuchel, who in a very short amount of time, hit the surface of what her membership is going to become.
Tara is a speech-language pathologist who founded Autism Little Learners in 2019 after her dad died from leukemia. She needed something to keep her mind busy. And she was already making tons of resources for her classroom. Because when you're working with three to five-year-olds with autism, not everything you download is at the right level. So she started creating her own resources and thought, why not try this Teacher’s Pay Teachers thing and see what happens. And a year into her journey with creating for TPT the pandemic hit. So she pivoted a bit and started putting free special ed social stories into the world to help kids deal with the pandemic.
She began creating stories about wearing masks and distance learning, etc. And as she started putting those stories out for free she began thinking people in other countries would love this. And so she sent those stories all over the world and translated them into 12 languages. It was amazing because, on a global level, she was connecting with her fellow educators all over the world. And that was the kick start she needed to begin thinking even bigger about her business.
What I love about Tara is how humble she is and how excited she is every step of the way. She put the social stories out into the world to help other teachers during the pandemic, and it kind of all exploded at once. Her Facebook community was out of control, and she learned to ride the wave. And in doing so she realized this was her calling. To put service first and help teachers. She literally went from friends, family, coworkers, liking her Facebook page to 50,000 people within a couple of months.
Tara has decided that when we are at a point where we don't have to wear masks anymore, she wants to do a little collection of her stories. Because it is the history of the pandemic in story format. She has probably two dozen stories in order of everything that happened in 2020. Tara gives credit to becoming a CEO Teacher® as her catalyst to really designing a business model for her idea. However, I don’t think she is giving herself enough credit. Because even though I'm going to guide you on your CEO Teacher® journey and help you out with your teacherpreneur business. Plus help you feel confident in what you’re going to do, you ultimately have to do the work. Tara stepped up to the plate big time, and said, “I'm going to start going live on my FB page and I'm going to start serving.”
So the next step for Tara was to ask how to leverage these new followers to help her business. But also how she could still serve so that her business would continue to grow and allow her to continue to help who she wanted to help.
At first, people would ask if she could help write stories about this or this or this to help their child, student, or grandchild. And Tara being of a service mindset said yes, yes, yes. And quickly found out that her willingness to serve was not sustainable and the overwhelm quickly set in. With 50,000 people, she couldn't personally do something for each of them individually. So she started looking at the business on a broader level. She needed to try to delineate what she should put out there that could serve a lot of people for free. And then balance that with the mindset that this is a business that will support teachers and parents.
Although she didn't start going live until after enrolling in the CEO Teacher® Academy, because as she says, “I didn't even know what I didn't know.” She learned about creating a course or membership inside CTA, And it was at that time that she thought, maybe she could do a digital course. And then when she heard about the memberships, she was able to say to herself, “this is what speaks to me.”
She already had products and realized she also had little nuggets of wisdom to share. That got her thinking about doing Facebook lives. Her idea was to do a FB live and share some of her information. She was testing the waters to see if people would be interested in her idea. So she just went live one random Tuesday night while on a work retreat. No professional audio or video. She even recalls that she “sounded like she was underwater, the audio was so bad.” And after she realized that her little idea to share her nuggets of wisdom resulted in HUNDREDS of people watching the first live, it was time to get her act together and make a plan.
So In January of 2021, she made a plan to do a series of five Facebook lives all on different topics related to encouraging language with young children with autism. Each one was planned out ahead with the event scheduler on Facebook. And the first one had over 300 people RSVP. It was at this moment that Tara started to have imposter syndrome. She started questioning her age, her knowledge, her ability! But she changed her mindset and ran with it.
She realized after that first one, this was another way to serve the community and teach them how to do things. Not just give them the products she was creating, but actually how to use them. She spoke to her audience about some roadblocks they might have along the way. Gave them tips and strategies for what had worked for her. And then asked her audience to try it out, and give feedback. And as a result every Facebook live she’s done since has been fueling her passion and drive. Tara took what she knows as a teacher and applied it to adults. She knew she wanted to reach students. So now she shows the adults how to use the resources in their classroom so she can reach more students.
In level 2 of our programs, The CEO Teacher® Academy, I teach about creating a course or membership. And a lot of my students initially think they want to teach a course because that's what we do as teachers, right? We like to teach. But Tara was drawn to the membership model. She felt that she had already built up enough products in her TPT store and the membership would allow her to repurpose her content in a different way and not reinvent the wheel. She started asking how she could monetize her resources in a bigger, better, more influential way? And that's where the membership model comes into effect.
So she started thinking about creating a membership and started doing Facebook lives. Her Facebook presence was taking off. But don’t think it all magically happened overnight, and don’t get overwhelmed with all the things she was doing while growing exponentially. She realized she needed time and space to brainstorm everything related to the membership. She went on a personal retreat and thought about her membership idea. When she got home she bought a big wall calendar and put up quarter one, January, February, March. Then she took out a bunch of post-its and mind mapped how she was going to do Facebook lives, not just random here and there. But in a consistent way, people could count on her to show up every week. She decided to teach them a little something over the course of five weeks that would lead to a bigger webinar that was free. That webinar in turn led to the launch of the membership. So it was a really well thought out plan with actionable steps.
However, Tara felt that while it was easy to plan, plan, plan. But actually making herself do it, especially when it's something she was scared of doing like 5 Facebook lives in a row, was another story. She recalls having the post-its on the calendar and having to look at it right in front of her, helped hold her accountable. She kept telling herself she had to do these things, she committed to them. They were the priority.
Part of her plan too was writing a blog post to come out every Tuesday, starting in January. And she correlated her topic to the Facebook live that same night. She created a plan that was very predictable. The time was always the same. She always put out the event invite prior to the event. And her audience got used to the pattern. She always offered massive value along with her FB live. She always had a freebie and it wasn't just a random product, it was something that related to that night’s topic. She painted this picture for people. And psychology says that we, as humans, are conditioned to rely on other people. When you're consistent, you're bringing in that reliability piece. Your people will begin to say, “Oh wait, hold up. It's Tuesday night. I'm gonna go check out what she is going to share.”
So at first when you're planning if it seems overwhelming go back to your schedule. This Facebook live, relates to this blog post, so it’s time to write it, etc. We do that behind the scenes here at Team Kayse too, everything we do revolves around a podcast episode.
First, I write a podcast episode. Then we create a blog post. Then we share about it on socials. And it's just this thing that just kind of gets bigger. I like to ask my students, “How can you repurpose a piece of content up to 10 times?” And Tara was doing that without feeling like she was doing all of this extra work every single week.
The best part is knowing that eventually, you can reshare all of those same things years and years and years down the road, those blog posts that you wrote, you can still go live about them a year from now. And people that didn't see it are going to get to see it. And it's the same thing. So as you're sharing blog posts and giving away free resources, I'm hoping you have a plan for collecting email addresses as well.
Tara had created a brand new opt-in, and a framework. Being a speech-language pathologist and working with little kids with autism, a lot of times you have kids and aren't talking yet and teachers are asking, “where do I even start?” So Tara’s opt-in is all about that. It lays out all of the language skills. And that's what she pulled from to get topics for her Tuesday blog. Topics like vocabulary, prepositions, and verbs, each skill in the opt-in, became the blog post and the Facebook live. And since it's an opt-in, that's where she was able to get email addresses while providing free value.
Inside the CEO Teacher® Academy, I teach you how not to give away different resources. Instead, Tara was the model student, her freebie was her springboard for everything that she did running into the launch. So she wasn't creating new stuff every single week. She did the footwork before she started. And then from there she could just kind of elaborate each week on her blog posts and then her Facebook lives.
Creating a meaningful opt-in that allows you to give away little nuggets can really build the know, like, and trust factor with people. You don't want followers to come to you just for free stuff. But instead, you can give away free content that can be really helpful eventually moving into your paid resources.
Mind you Tara was still pumping out products, but not as quickly as normal. She had to let some of it go. Even though she wasn’t making as many, she was doing enough to feel like she was being productive on that end too. And because she was continually creating it wasn't just crickets in her store. Even though she could have allowed the overwhelm to set in. Because on top of still teaching full-time it is a lot of content to juggle. She knew her plan and knew it was a six or seven-week period and the time was going to pass anyway. So she might as well just do it.
So let’s recap: Tara has created this perfect runway to launch. And has the best mindset surrounding her content calendar. And even though she gave away so much free content during her live series, we have to remember she did it all by herself. She is a one-woman show and anyone can recreate what Tara has done by putting in the hard work. She did eventually hire a VA to help with some tasks, like setting the opt-in landing page. Which was instrumental in helping her pull all the little logistics together for this while teaching full time. But besides that, she’s a one-woman show.
I think the number one mistake people make when they want to launch a course or a membership, especially as teachers, is that we over-complicate everything. And memberships revolve around simplicity. So as a teacher it’s best to think about what you are going to give people inside of the membership and how will you make it easy not only for yourself but also for the members so that they don't feel overwhelmed.
Tara had to make her decision early on when actually designing what the membership looked like. She knew she wanted to do it in Kajabi because she was familiar with the platform. She really wanted people to be able to see pictures of each product for the month and be able to make a choice about which products they would like to choose. Going back to her service mindset, Tara wanted her members to have a choice. When she got into the logistics of the membership design she realized that wasn't a possibility and so she let it go. Instead, her members get access to everything, all at once.
I know that many of our readers may be freaking out a bit at this point. Thinking that membership creation just has too many moving parts. With Kajabi, which is the platform that we choose to launch our memberships as well, it just isn't as easy and as beautiful as we wanted it to be when it comes to choosing from our library. There are people that have memberships like that and they have had someone code their website to do that, which can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
And so most people and huge sellers that I know are like, heck no, I'm not giving a membership away for a few dollars per month. And then customers can jump in the membership and download everything and they can steal from me and then they can leave. And I think that that's a testament to Tara’s mindset and I'm sure she had those moments too. We all have those moments where fear sets in and you think, Oh man, but think about Netflix. Netflix gives you all the movies for free. Well, not for free, but for your membership, do you watch all of them in a month? No way. It's impossible. You couldn't do that.
Tara’s plan to create a membership started with her runway and then ended with a webinar. The webinar was a culmination of teaching about a specific topic and is also something people need to register for. At the end of her webinar, she was able to switch over to more of a sales approach and talk about all the benefits, all the barriers that a potential teacher might be thinking about and show them how the membership would help them. Tara realized the nights she did the webinars also had the highest number of people joining the membership. So the conversion rate was good. These first customers are her founding members, which means she is learning through this process too.
Tara realized through conversations with her founding members that she would need to have monthly products and a monthly coaching call to hop on and answer specific questions. Although creating a coaching program isn’t as easy as jumping in and everyone starts asking great questions. Tara learned that she needs to create relationships first. Have a specific topic and then the discussions will start to come. Those coaching calls are then the best way to have a topic for the following month. She also includes an IEP goal bank, which was a request from her members. A private Facebook group for her members is another perk.
I love that she didn't overcomplicate it. One coaching call a month. Amazing resources, a bank of templates, and a private group. I preach simplicity to my students, and even though I am always adding to our membership, we have a schedule and a routine and we do the same thing every single month. But there is a lot of content that we're putting out each month. And even though there is a lot of continuity it still takes time. There's no way I could do what I do if I was working full time as well.
Tara says that you should always have a plan for your students because if not, your students will have a plan for you. And you never know when you're going to hear crickets, something you think might be a great topic. No one else has any questions about it. And so you're sitting there like does anybody have any questions. So if you go ahead and create everything you want to talk about, even if no one asks questions, in the beginning, they eventually will once they get comfortable with the format. They may not trust you enough to ask you or to feel vulnerable in front of other people on a zoom call. So the more you can make them feel comfortable, the better off you'll be.
Tara began building her list around a year ago. And she is in the process of moving it over to Kajabi. She didn’t want to do it mid-launch, but she knows that is something she will hire a VA to help with. She remembers that even a year ago she didn't even know what an opt-in was. In the 6 months since launching her membership, she feels like she has had a crash course in learning all she can about creating and selling memberships.
Let’s chat for a minute about why a teacher would choose to create a membership versus a course or TPT product. If you have a $4 product and sell it to 70 people each month you’ll make about $280, which is great. And it's so amazing for those just starting out. But because most people don't come in and buy five or six products whenever they're purchasing from you on TPT, they buy one, maybe two. However, with the membership model at $29 for those 70 people, you are basically making your teaching salary each month. With a membership model, you’re not recreating everything you’ve already done. You are utilizing what's inside of your TPT store, your knowledge, and expertise, and in Tara’s case adding an IEP template bank, coaching call, and a community.
And now those people watching the lives and inside those inside the membership are getting to know you and trust you and word of mouth marketing is a real thing. So especially in a very small niche, building the know like and trust factor is a key component. In Tara’s case, she niched down to 3-5-year-olds with autism, specifically. And what surprised her about this niche, is that she was reaching speech-language pathologists, early childhood educators, special ed teachers, as well as parents. After some research through her surveys, she was kind of surprised by who her audience actually was.
That was another consideration when creating her membership to sell. She had to make a decision going into her membership as to how she would serve such a diverse group. She knew that the best fit for everyone would be to create a membership that was inclusive of both professionals and parents. Technically parents and teachers are all one big team helping out young children. And seeing each other's insights and perspectives would only further serve everyone in the membership and help them all be better at what they do.
She has reached an audience that would never have been reached just with Teachers Pay Teachers alone. I would say 95% of TPT buyers are teachers or homeschool parents, but not necessarily parents that are just wanting to become a team with their schools or just help their children.
It’s so important to listen to your audience. Don't limit yourself to just teachers when it could be teachers and parents. I also think about one of our students Beth Hall that has niched down to help her audience with AP language exam results. She actually caters to parents, teachers, and students because she helps them write their AP essays. Really understanding your niche and the people you serve is a key component to creating a successful membership or course.
I know this is just the beginning for Tara and all the beautiful things coming her way. If you want to check out more of Tara’s content and find out how she went about fine-tuning her membership ideas you can find her at www.autismlittlelearners.com. And Instagram and Facebook @autismlittlelearners.
Are you looking for more ideas for how to sell a membership online? Check out these articles for more inspiration.
The conversation with Tara was amazing, and you can hear the whole story here. How she created a plan that helped her sell a membership and serve more of her audience. How she went from overwhelmed to service-based with a single word. And how narrowing her niche helped her grow her business.
© kayse morris 2020 / legal / design by saffron ave
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