Six-Figure Side Hustle

41-year-old's side hustle brings in $125,500 a year, and costs $0 to start: 'The riches are found in niches'

Kindergarten teacher Becky Powell's side hustle — making worksheets for other educators — brings in six figures per year.
Becky Powell

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 they've used to make money on top of their full-time jobs. Got a story to tell? Let us know! Email us at

Becky Powell spends 10 hours per week, on average, making digital worksheets for her fellow educators to purchase.

The 41-year-old kindergarten teacher in Beaverton, Oregon, brought in $125,500 doing that last year, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. She posts her worksheet booklets — designed to help teach literacy to young students — to her online store on Teachers Pay Teachers, an Etsy-style marketplace.

Powell's store, Sight Word Activities, currently features 427 different listings, ranging from free downloads to a $30 bundle of 20 booklets. When she first launched the side hustle in 2015, she earned enough to pay her monthly car insurance bill — roughly $60 — in a matter of weeks, she says. After three months, the extra income covered her and her husband's monthly student loan payments.

Her classroom was her research lab, and her knack for teaching children to sight-read helped her fill a niche on the website, she says. She ramps up work on her side hustle each summer, so she can keep a more flexible schedule during the school year.

Jerome and Becky Powell run their Teachers Pay Teachers stores separately — but the money all goes to the same place, they say.
Becky Powell

You don't have to spend any money to get started, Powell notes: Teachers Pay Teachers has 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 manages another Teachers Pay Teachers store, called Editable Activities. His store brought in an additional $51,800 last year, and his search engine optimization expertise helped Powell get her store off the ground, she says.

Here, Powell discusses what you need to start a worksheet side hustle, why her side hustle has succeeded so far and how her confidence as a first-time entrepreneur has helped her grow as a person.

CNBC Make It: Do you think your side hustle is replicable?

Powell: Yeah, I think so — especially if you have a combination of passion and knowing the [education] market. You need those things to identify gaps [in learning] and build your intuition.

What do you mean by that? How do you build that intuition?

It's one thing to have a career in [a specific] market. It's another to really know it, so you have to research it. You've got to find consumers for that market and interview them, so that you know it so innately and so intimately that you can see the holes.

Once you marry all those things, you won't make something that might work, or could work, or should work. You know it will work.

You started a business without any entrepreneurial experience. Did running a successful side hustle help you build confidence in or out of the classroom?

I majored in education, so I've never had a business or sales mindset at all. It's not my realm. Jerome helped me understand SEO, marketing and how to step into your consumers' shoes. That's why it's been such an amazing balance.

But I had to overcome the "What do I do know? I'm not in business" mentality. I now see my confidence coming through in my ability and willingness to teach others.

I have helped eight friends and coworkers open their own stores on Teachers Pay Teachers. I never charge them, and never would — I get a thrill when those I mentor experience their own success.

A lot of people have side gigs, but few bring in six figures per year. What do you think is the key to your success?

My husband always told me, "The riches are found in niches." Find that one area you can do really well with and hone in on it.

For me, it wasn't just [how to get kids to learn] sight words. It was thinking about hands-on activities and readily available tools that would engage them. I really drilled, drilled, drilled down the ideas, getting more specific, until I hit gold at the very bottom.

So, it's not just a niche. It's finding your niche within a niche.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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