Saturday, 19 January 2013

Free Stuff for Teachers on TPT

What are your thoughts on freebies?

Freebies are great, aren't they? They are a fab way of seeing what a seller has to offer, and giving a taste of your own material for others to see. But there's more to it. . .

There was a really insightful conversation on the TPT sellers' forum recently that I got hooked into. It seems that many people (334 people contributed their views) are concerned that lots of visitors to the site only do so for the freebies. Not only that, but there seem to be more and more large free items on TPT that could (and should) easily be priced at $5 or more. To quote one contributor, "If the teacher can get it for free, why would he/she pay money? I just saw a whole Mitten Unit {53 pages} for free and that same person has a free Christmas Unit {over 50 pages} as well."hy buy milk when you can have the cow?

For some time now I too have been concerned about the length of freebies being offered through TPT. Regular followers of my blog will know that I am a fan of freebies - they are a great way of attracting traffic (new and existing), generating new business and rewarding loyalty. Freebies are short, crisp adverts for the full product - a taster to whet the appetite. But many freebies I have seen are huge (some as large as 40 or 50 pages!) and should really sell with a price tag of at least $5 and upwards.


Yes, let's be honest. Wouldn't you think twice about spending money when you could get it for free...?!

In the approach to Christmas and New Year I had so many ideas for units, packets and lesson plans. I had all the graphics lined up at some cost, and I set aside some time. But I thought twice about it, partly because I knew that there were so many free resources floating around out there at that time of year. Yes, I managed to get my Polar Express unit out (because I love Polar Express and because I needed it anyway for my own children), and a few smaller resources, but my grand ideas were shelved.

As a result I have become quite selective about what I produce - units and study guides based on picture books that contain lots of supporting activities and centres, literacy and maths activities that target a specific area, stuff designed for my own kids etc. I loved making my unit based on the book "Jesus' Party" - it took a lot of time and effort (a full script for a Christmas pageant with a difference, plus a full pack of activities to accompany the book) but I was very pleased with the result and I knew that there was nothing similar being offered as a freebie. I am also at this moment mind mapping units on some fantastic picture books and some phonics resources, all of which I know I will be able to use with my own kids.

How Do You Solve a Problem like Freebies?

Reading the posts on the sellers' forum, it's pretty obvious that feeling on this subject runs high. I was so pleased when Paul, TPT founder, joined the conversation in his usual level-headed way. As a result, he issued new guidelines to TPT sellers in his January 2013 update message. It is good news that sellers are being encouraged to keep freebies short and sweet - under 10 pages if you include accreditations, cover sheets etc, with 2-5 for the meat of the resource. As he says, "10's of thousands of short and sweet freebies is really fantastic for our users. We don't need to give away the whole kit and caboodle, and we don't want to begin undercutting each other or starting price wars or anything. TpT is already famous for being good value and we have to remember that we are businesspeople now (who work hard on our stores), and that this new approach to freebies is better suited for long term success for everyone, and that's good for our buyers."

You can read Paul's message here.

My Freebies?

I do have a few freebies on my site but they all tend to be a short taster for the larger units or stand-alone items like reward tags or bookmarks. From now on, all of my freebies will be available either as a short preview attached to the full items, or here on my blog as downloadable Google docs. I have also recently started a new group on my FB page (separate to my SOS-Supply page) where my followers can pick up my freebies, keeping TPT for the bulk of my stuff - the stuff that has a price tag. Click here to join the SOS-Supply Facebook Freebies Group and receive alerts about new freebies.

The Future is Rosy

With the new guidelines and with people being more mindful of how they price their work (I have already noticed a change in the size of freebies), hopefully things will move forward. After all, we're all on TPT to make a little extra through our hard work and imaginations, and not to sell ourselves short!


  1. I found a few freebies that I loved this summer. I started following the sellers' TPT stores, and now buy their work on a regular basis. The freebie just showed me what wonderful work they produced, and so I felt I HAD to have more!

    1. That's great, Toni! And that's exactly the way it should work - freebies are fabulous adverts for the seller's work. I'm glad you felt you wanted more.


  2. I was talking to one of our kindergarten teachers just yesterday and she uses TPT all the time!!! Yet, she has never paid for an item. She only uses the free stuff and she has a lot of stuff. I was amazed and appalled at the same time!

    My Journey to 5th Grade


    1. That's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. There's nothing wrong with taking the freebies, provided a kind comment is left for the seller, and perhaps a quick click on the "follow me" button. But it's another thing being able to get huge packets for free. I think a lot of it is to do with new sellers who are just setting out and don't really know the ropes. All of this is set to change though (hopefully) with the new "less than 10 page" guidelines for freebies.

  3. So true Sue,
    Thanks for posting this...I totally agree with you.
    Traditions, Laughter and Happily Ever After

  4. I so agree with this. I am a new seller on TpT. I have free stuff right now because I don't have anything big. I have one item in particular that is flying off the site...but it's a freebie. Since I'm new, I'm too scared to charge and have everyone pass by my store. Too much free stuff on there makes it hard for those of us trying to start out to sell anything. Perhaps there should be a limit to how many free items we should be able to post.

    I do download some free stuff, but I have also spent a bit of money (don't tell my husband) on some units I really like and "need". I do this because I use them, but also out of respect for my fellow teacher. I know how much time we all put into what we do.

    One other point I have is that there is an ideal size for items. I don't buy the 75-100 page items...Some sellers get carried away with the size of their units or products. And the ones that use too much color too...eats up the printer ink too fast so I don't buy them. I think there is a talent to creating things for TpT...not just for making the items, but for marketing them and making them sellable.

    Perhaps a guideline that only allows things to be free for an introductory period. The other day I got a free item that a teacher posted a special deal on her blog. It was free for a few hours one Sunday. It was really exciting to be able to get it before the deal was up. It made it fun in a way....and then I looked through her store and found some other things I liked...that weren't free.

    I would like to make money on TpT, but I think I should be able to do it in small sales too. I don't want to feel obligated to make everything I do free because it's less than 10 pages. why do I have to make everything 20 pages with a cover page. Some teachers just need things short and sweet to fill a hole they have in their classroom. I would love to fill that gap!

    1. Totally agree with you Debra. And yes, I think marketing products is a skill. I hear you about the ink - so costly. Lots of sellers now use colour for their title and credits pages, with line drawings throughout the resource - this saves on colour ink. I admit, I like just a small splash of colour elsewhere in the resource, but not to excess. I also agree that just because an item is small doesn't mean it has to be free. Often, as much time and effort goes into the shorter stuff as into a longer item.

      Finally, don't be afraid to charge - people will buy. Remember "if you build it, they will come"..? Corny I know, but it's so true. If the quality is there and it is useful and appealing, people will buy. Why not give it a go with one or two? What's your shop url? I'll definitely pop over and check out your stuff.



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