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  • Rainy Williamson

Thinking about teaching a workshop?

Updated: 4 days ago

You’ve been practicing your craft for a while now, and others have started to ask you to show them how to do it. Maybe you’ve taken a stall at a few craft shows and felt at ease demonstrating your skills at your stall? So, have you thought about holding your own classes or workshops?

Before you dive in let’s have a look at a few things that you might consider:

Skills and Experience

Have you been practicing a specific craft for a long time or is it a recently acquired skill? Having experience in your craft allows you to draw upon them during your workshops, enriching the experience for your participants.

Are you good at your craft? Do you have examples of your work to use in marketing materials and to show in your workshops?

Your skill level needs to be beyond that at which you plan to teach. If you are teaching a beginner’s workshop you should be at least an intermediate skill level yourself. When teaching beginners, they occasionally ask questions beyond the scope of the class or you may have a student who progresses quickly and needs to be stretched further in their skills. Having knowledge and experience beyond the class level helps to answer questions and to satisfy those that need further input. It also helps you to be more relaxed, comfortable in your own knowledge. Class participants are paying for your skill and may be disappointed if they find that your skills are lacking.

Take time to acquire a wide range of skills before offering to teach.

Do you have any teaching experience?

Teaching experience is not vital when deciding to offer your first workshops, but an appreciation of what it is to teach, is. Teaching a skill is not the same as just demonstrating. When demonstrating you are simply showing what you yourself can do, or what might be possible for others. Observers are passive and although they may learn from simple observation, you have no way of knowing if they’ve understood.

Teaching a skill requires you to impart knowledge to others in such a way that they acquire the practical skills and understanding of the craft in order to create the piece that they are working on, and ideally to take those skills away to replicate. Their understanding allows them to develop the appropriate skills to problem solve in their creative endeavours.

You need to be able to evaluate whether participants have understood what they need to do, and more importantly, why they need to do it. If someone struggles to understand, you must be able to offer alternative paths to learning.

Venue

Where will you hold your workshops? Perhaps you’d like the comfort of your own home? This is cost effective but has the downside of perhaps not appearing to be very professional if you have pets and family members using the same space. It may also be invading the privacy of your family. Participants may have allergies to your pets. Do you have a downstairs loo that doesn’t necessitate people wandering through your house to find it? You’ll have to tidy up and ensure all valuable items are put away. Even if working from your home you will still need public liability insurance in case someone trips and hurts themselves or tears their coat etc.

As comfortable as home might seem, unless you have a workshop away from the house, there are a lot of arguments for holding your workshops at a specific venue.

The downside is cost but you might be able to negotiate free space somewhere. A coffee shop for example might allow you free use of their space at quiet times if the participants are encouraged to purchase drinks. Or a craft store might allow you to use space free of charge as it encourages people to purchase materials from them.

The venue must have enough space, be easily accessible and ideally easy to get to by car or public transport. Free parking is a big plus.

How many people can the venue hold? Is the lighting good? Is the area safe at night etc.?

Setting Prices

The price that you charge for your workshop is down to you. Only you know your costs.

There will be both fixed and variable costs for a workshop.

Fixed costs include the venue fee and your hourly rate.

Variable costs will include materials and refreshments.

An example of a 2.5 hr. workshop that holds max of 12 people.

Let’s say your hourly rate is £10 per hour [just as an example] and your venue cost is £30 for three hours – you’ll need time to set up and pack away.

Add £3 for materials that you’ll use during your demonstration, so the total so far is £63.

You’ll need to bring in at least £63 to cover your fixed costs.

Materials for participants should be included for ease of planning. This will be costed into the workshop price. Providing everything for your participants means that you know everyone will be using the right materials and nothing will be forgotten.

Providing each participant with a simple kit will help you to work out your materials costs. It’s also an easy way to get organized and participants love to see their little ‘kits’ which they get to take home. This kit is also an ideal branding opportunity for you. The kit gets taken home and your business details get remembered for future use.

Whether you provide a kit or not, if you are offering a needle felting or sewing workshop you must always provide new needles or ask participants to bring their own. Never ever keep needles from previous workshops to use again. Needles are incredibly sharp, and even the most experienced crafter stabs themselves occasionally. This means that the needle comes into contact with body fluids and is therefore a possible risk for cross infection. You cannot ‘clean’ needles with hot water or sterilizing wipes. You may also find that reusing needles will invalidate your public liability insurance.

Needles are inexpensive so should be given to participants to keep. Keep a sharps box in the workshop room to dispose of broken needles safely.

Let’s say that each kit costs £5.

Look at similar workshops in your area to get an idea of local prices but remember to check details. Some may appear inexpensive, but they may also not provide materials. Others may appear expensive but might include a kit or even items like books, magazines etc.

If you charge £30 per person [to include a kit] and you had 7 participants, you would generate £210 from ‘ticket’ sales.

Take away your fixed costs of £63 plus £35 for the costs of the kits and you are left with £112 profit. Your hourly rate of pay is not profit.

If you had a full class of 12 participants, you would generate ticket sales of £360 and your fixed costs would still be £63 plus kit costs of £60. Total profit would be £237.

Don’t forget to build a ‘discount margin’ into your workshop price which will allow to create special offers, discount codes, reduced prices for multiple bookings etc.

Lesson Plan

Plan for every part of your workshop. When you’re new to teaching classes its easy to forget where you’re up to or to get distracted by the participants questions. Having a plan, and following it, will result in an enjoyable and informative session for participants and a calm, enjoyable and successful session for you.

Marketing

Allow enough time before the workshop to spread the word. Let people know at least three months in advance of your workshop date. This allows people time to sort out their diary and book it in the calendar. Planning even further in advance allows publications such as British Fibre Art and Needle Felt magazines time to include your details.

Taking part in activities and experiences has become very popular. We all have so much ‘stuff’ now that we are turning to experiences instead of shopping for material goods. People who attend craft workshops aren’t always doing so because they have a burning ambition to learn that particular craft. Often, they will just be enjoying a nice afternoon out with a friend and next month will be learning something different entirely.

Unless you are offering something completely original, most of your workshop attendees are likely to come from within 1 hours driving distance of the venue. Remember this when advertising. There’s no point paying for social media advertising across the country if your market is in your hometown.

Have examples of your work on display during workshops. If you’re teaching a workshop creating needle felted sheep for example, have some birds that you’ve made out on display so that participants can see and perhaps book a bird workshop. Perhaps offer a discount if they book the next workshop there and then.

Workshop Subjects

Will you offer a general ‘learn to knit, spin, felt etc. ‘workshop or will you offer something more specific such a ‘needle felted nesting hen and eggs’ or ‘core spinning around wire’? Perhaps you want to offer specific skills to more experienced crafters?

Look at what is available and offer something different.

Ready to offer a workshop? Do a trial run for a local group for free to see how it goes. Learn from it then get going! Or why not take a look at our Teaching Craft Workshops course?

Good luck!


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