We are so lucky to have Denise Duffield-Thomas back with us this week for round two, talking about money blocks that hold teachers back from making money outside of teaching. Of course, there’s not a lot we can do about our teaching salaries – that’s pretty much set in, well, not stone, but contract – but we can help ourselves make money in other ways.
Denise says it’s understandable that teachers have a tough time making money from a side hustle because we’ve always been part of a system in which money has always been connected to time. We go to work, we get paid for the time we were there. If we want to make more money, we take on extra duties, which require more time.
And it’s not just teaching!
Historically, unless you were very wealthy and owned lots of real estate or a factory, or something like that, money has always equaled time. You showed up to a physical location, you put in a certain amount of hours, or you made a pacific amount of widgets, and you got paid a set amount of money.
This is the “law” of work that most of us have grown up with, and we accept it like we accept gravity.
So today we feel weird about the fact that we can create a resource one time and people can buy it over and over again.
Of course, we’ve seen this work for other people. We’ve bought courses or ebooks and we know it works and we have a kernel of hope that we can do that, too. But deep down in our subconscious brain, we feel like we’re breaking the natural “law” of money.
Denise says she experienced this money block with her first passive income source, a $10 ebook.
“I felt like I had to call them and read it to them over the phone to earn that $10, because I was like, but I didn’t earn it. Not realizing that it’s a closed loop. I created something of value. Somebody received that value. They gave me money from it. It is a complete relationship. It has been fulfilled. There’s not an opening then for me to have to do more work. And it just takes a little while for us to reconcile with that. Not only because of the time that we grew up in, for those of us who had an analog childhood and are now living in digital adulthood. But it’s also because most of our friends and family are still in that world of work.”
Teaching is very much a time for dollars model. You show up to school, you get paid for it. But while you’re there they take every ounce of what you have – between the kids, the admin, and the parents – so how can you possibly come home and make more money?
According to Denise, we first need to have compassion for ourselves and understand that we’re sort of like space explorers in the sense that we’re learning and making the rules of this new world of work as we go.
We also need to have appreciation for the value we’re providing through our blogs, even though we’re not delivering that value in the traditional teacher-in-front-of-a-class model we’re all used to. Our blog posts, digital resources, courses, etc. are saving someone time, effort, and money… and that’s valuable.
Denise has a mantra she uses when she finds herself getting into a time-for-dollars tailspin; I serve, I deserve. It’s a reminder that the information and experience she shares have value, and that earning money or other opportunities through her work is valid.
This can also be a helpful mantra when your boundaries are being tested.
- I serve, I deserve my lunch break
- I serve, I deserve to be paid for running that after school club
- I serve, I deserve to take the weekend for myself and my family and not do schoolwork
Another money block that teachers often face is the ingrained belief that teacher = poor.
This block can be insidious because we often don’t realize how it can hold us back in business and actually repel money from our lives.
One of Denise’s favorite exercises for this money block is to stand in front of the mirror and say to yourself, “This is what a wealthy woman looks like.”
And you can change the self-descriptor as needed. You can be a wealthy teacher, or single mom, or coach, or LGBT+ person…
What’s really interesting is what comes through your mind after saying those words.
“It’s going to feel so weird for a long time even saying those words, because we are so conditioned that they cannot coexist. Wealthy teacher – ha!”
“I did this exercise for myself at the very, very start of my journey. And I remember just thinking no, and listening to those voices going, but you are not wealthy because you are this, this and this. And just listening to that chatter is actually very, very valuable because you’ll find things that are big. So you’ll be like, oh, I’m just not destined to be wealthy, or I’m not allowed to, or I’m not ambitious enough or I’m too lazy, but then you’ll find these little ones, like I was like, but you are too short to be wealthy.”
“And I was like, ‘Where did that come from?’ But it’s really fascinating to listen to. And then I was like, Madonna’s my height. Okay. I’m five foot four. I’m just average. But, I remember having a very tall friend who would always talk about people’s heights and say, ‘They’ll never make it in show business, they’re too short. Or they’ll never, they’ll never make it in politics, they’re too short.’ And I internalized this.”
“You might have stories about your accent, about the color of your skin, about your hair. I’ve heard people say I can’t be wealthy and have curly hair. They’ve been told, ‘You’re so cute. Look at you with your Shirley temple things.’ And so they’ve internalized that thinking. ‘Well, I’m just a cute little baby. I’m not allowed to make money. And that’s it. You don’t even realize those stories are there until you allow them to come up and then you just go, ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’”
If left unchallenged, these subconscious beliefs will lead us to sabotage our businesses.
When I was first starting out, every time my blog would level up in income, I’d find a way to get in the way.
One day I decided my blog design wasn’t contemporary enough, so I took the whole thing apart and rebuilt it. Another time I decided my brand colors needed to be updated, so I spent a couple weeks looking for the colors that were “perfect” for my brand.
According to Denise, this is a really common sabotage, she calls procrasti-branding (i.e. procrastinating by obsessing over your branding).
“I’ll tell you what’s really helped me, because I have ADHD. I am an entrepreneur. I’m a creative person. So of course I have shiny objects syndrome as well. I’m a Virgo. I totally understand perfectionism, but what I usually do is try and make it public. If I’ve got a deadline, I’ll magically create more time and space and get it done. And I was like that at school. I was like that at university. I’m like that as an entrepreneur. So I’ll set a deadline and say, ‘Hey guys, this is when this course is gonna come out, join the waitlist.’ I’ll pre-sell something. So I’ll have to do it.”
“Sometimes you need reverse psychology, like a little kid and you go, ‘I bet you couldn’t put all your books away by the time I count to 10,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, I can!’ Sometimes you have to treat your own self like that, of going, ‘I bet I couldn’t create a course in a month. Like nobody could do that.’ All right.”
Shiny object syndrome is another way entrepreneurs sabotage themselves.
We often feel like we have to offer more – make more freebies, create another course – because other people are doing it. And sometimes, let’s be honest, we get bored and want to do something different, even if what we’re doing now is working.
When Denise finds herself wanting to add more, do more, be more, she reminds herself of the purpose of her business and that “All roads lead to Money Bootcamp.” In other words, she can create another freebie, but it has to lead people into a funnel that leads them towards Bootcamp.
I’ve adopted this mantra myself to keep me from creating new courses – all roads lead to Teacher Blog Academy.
It’s not only okay, it’s highly recommended to keep your business simple!
One of the ways both Denise and I keep things simple is by batching. Whether you created a piece of content the day before or two years ago, people are still getting the same value from it.
Denise says, “People say to me, ‘It’s cheating.’ I say it was real when I created it. And when someone consumes it, none of my business. It has to come at a time that’s right for them.”
We also need to remember to keep things simple for our audience and students, too.
A while back Denise noted that her refund rates for Money Bootcamp were going up and she realized it was because she had put too much into the program.
“I would add a video on forgiveness as a money practice. But then I was like, here’s a video of Oprah talking about forgiveness. And here’s a book that this person wrote about forgiveness, and here’s a whole lecture. And so people were joining and looking and going, ‘I have to watch four videos for that module and all of those books?!’ And that was all of the modules had those extra bonuses. And in my mind, I was like, ‘Of course you don’t,’ but I’d created this open loop for people. And they felt like they couldn’t win. They felt like they had to tick it all off. And they were, ‘I don’t have time to do this course!’”
“So we stripped everything out and then people were saying, ‘Oh my God, Denise, the course is so rich!’ And I’m like, I felt so guilty cuz I was like, I stripped all this stuff out, but it was because I was trying to cover everything.”
“And I used to do that on my blog. My first blog had nine tabs, and it was Health and Wellness, Law of Attraction, Career and Money… And I was trying to do all of those things all at the same time. And you end up speaking to nobody. And it can be very, very overwhelming. So it’s just so much better if you just go simple, simple, simple. You don’t need to solve all the problems of your client’s life stage forever.”
And teachers are basically trained to give more and more and more. We do it for the kids. We just do it because it’s our job. We work beyond contract hours. You know the latest estimate is that the average teacher works 70 hours a week – it’s just ingrained.
Denise asks how we can use our teacher brains to help keep things simple. “If you had a kindergarten class, you are not trying to teach them kindy, first, second, third, fourth grade math all at the same time, because that would be ridiculous. Yet we try and do that with our clients and go, ‘Okay, well I’m gonna solve this problem, but I’m gonna solve all of these problems that they might have in the future that aren’t even a problem yet.’ So I think that’s a really good distinction. It wouldn’t be like that in teaching, so why do I think I have to do this in my business?”
The final piece to Denise’s simple business strategy is her 2-step marketing formula.
“Share what you know, and make offers. And it really is that simple. I have a marketing degree. I’ve been in this world for a long time, the internet marketing world, and I’ve geeked out on funnels and automation and deadlines and countdowns and stuff. I love a good funnel. It’s so much fun, but I can get really in a tease about it because I think it has to be like that or nothing.”
“And so I realize sometimes that we are really good at the sharing part. And I see so many people writing beautiful newsletters and creating content on social media. They’re writing blogs. They’re giving, giving, giving, and you would never think they had anything to sell. And all you have to do is just say, here’s the next step.”
“So every newsletter; If you liked this, here’s the next step. If you liked this tip, I’ve got a whole template for you. If you liked this tip, don’t worry, I’ve done the hard work for you. Join my thing.”
“And when in doubt, sell an hour of your time. If you liked this but you’re a bit confused, book in for one of my pick your brain sessions. And it is that simple.”
“And I know this has worked because I used to have this freebie that I started 12 years ago, Seven Money Blocks. And I did it as a live webinar, and I just turned it into a freebie and I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a bit crackly. It’s a bit too long. It needs to be edited.’ But I just thought ‘I’ll put it up there.’’
“I wanted to unpublish it so many times, but it was published.”
“And then I remember getting the stats for it, for it. 23,000 people had listened to it and I was just like, ‘Wow, 23,000 people! Thank God I just left it there!’ But I mentioned at the end, I was like, ‘Look, if you want my help with your money blocks, I have a Money Boot Camp. I’ll put the link below. If you’re interested, come and join.’ That was the extent of the sales pitch.”
“I literally just said, ‘I’ve got this thing if you want it. And I’ll put the link below.’ And 1% of people went ahead and bought bootcamp because I had just made it available for them. And I mean, I’m not good with math, but what’s 1% of 23,000 people? It’s a lot more than zero. Yeah and at $2,000 a pop.”
“It doesn’t have to be sleazy. You’re not asking people for a kidney. You’re saying, ‘If you liked this, I’ve got this thing that can help,’ and that’s all you need. And then you can add funnels and you can do all the sexy things later. I find that I never get around to the sexy things, and I keep on making money.”
You can get Denise’s new book, Chill and Prosper, on Amazon now. In it she shares her own stories, as well as new case studies of her students.