25 – Teaching Live Art Workshops

Today, Laura and Nikki talk about teaching live art workshops either in person or online. Teaching is a great way to diversify your income as an artist and between the two of them, Nikki and Laura have experience teaching in a wide variety of situations. In this episode, they share a ton of great tips and considerations to keep in mind when planning your live workshops.

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Topics discussed

  • How Laura and Nikki got their start teaching live workshops (2:11)
  • Choosing a venue for in-person workshops (6:32)
  • Teaching online via Zoom (12:04)
  • Demo and setup considerations (14:54)
  • Do you need insurance? (19:00)
  • Money matters and venue considerations (20:34)
  • Meals, snacks and drinks (27:30)
  • Pricing your workshop (29:14)
  • Supplies (29:58)
  • When should you cut off registrations? (30:37)
  • Shipping kits (30:57)
  • Increasing your fees over time (33:49)
  • Preparing for the workshop (34:47)
  • Under-promising and over-delivering (36:19)
  • Refunds and other class policies (40:47)
  • Followup student communications (45:31)
  • Encouraging students to share their work  (46:07)
  • Bringing your own work to sell in your workshop (47:25)

Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps, and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:31
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

0:39
So Nikki, what are we talking about today?

Nikki

0:41
Laura, today we’re talking about something that you have way more experience with than I do – teaching live art workshops.

Laura

0:50
Yeah, I’ve been teaching live monthly classes for around 11 or 12 years now. That’s a long time. Mostly they’re copic marker coloring workshops, and some fiber arts, sewing and watercolor classes kind of mixed in as well.

Nikki

1:08
Well, I started teaching arts and crafts at summer camp, probably when you were in diapers.

Laura

1:15
Maybe I was learning with my training wheels at that point. I don’t know.

Nikki

1:19
Maybe. And I’ve taught other things here and there, but I haven’t made it as much of my current practice as you have.

Laura

1:27
Well, I think teaching is a great way to diversify your income as an artist. And a lot of our listeners are probably curious about how to get started with something like that.

Nikki

1:37
Okay, so how did you get started with your first class?

Laura

1:41
Well, 11 or 12 years ago, I had taken my Copic certification class in Las Vegas when I was at the CHA convention which, it was called the Craft and Hobby Association. And I wasn’t actually planning on teaching, but I knew I wanted to have that ability. So I went ahead and took the class. It was the first and only copic class really I’ve ever taken. I think maybe I’ve taken one other online class in my life. And while I was there, you know, I enjoyed it. I learned lots of great techniques, went home kind of went okay, well, maybe someday I’ll do something with this.

Nikki

2:10
Right.

Laura

2:11
So back about 10 or 11 years ago, there were a lot of little independent craft stores, and an owner of one of the craft stores went on to the Copic website for certified Copic instructors. And she found my name and saw that I was in Dallas. So she reached out to me and said, hey, would you be interested in teaching classes at my shop? And so it was kind of cool. And at the same time a little bit terrifying.

Nikki

2:37
The first time always is.

Laura

2:39
It is, you’re like, ah, who am I to teach? And you know, I’m just

Nikki

2:42
Oh, we’re talking about teaching?

Laura

2:44
Okay, lots of things are terrifying, but yeah, it’s like who am I to teach? I just color the way that I color and enjoy it, but you know, teaching somebody else to do that there was a little bit of imposter syndrome happening. So I said, okay, I might as well get out of my comfort zone a little bit and give it a try. They actually had another teacher teaching there at the same time, and they were having us teach every other month. And then after a couple of months, that teacher actually decided not to teach anymore. And I took those classes on. So that’s how I got started. And it was in a shop, which was really great because all the supplies you need are kind of there. And you have a bit of a built in audience because they already have some folks that shop there regularly. So that was sort of how I got started. And that store sadly shut down a couple of years later, like many of the indie craft stores around town, but I was able to find another location that was only like a block away, that I was able to bring my students over to and teach my workshops there. So, it worked out really well. How about you, Nikki? When was the first time you ever taught?

Nikki

3:51
Well? Okay, so like I said, I taught arts and crafts at summer camp, but that’s a completely different thing, because that’s little kids. And you can pretty much do anything with them. And then when I was in grad school, I did a little bit of student teaching, but that was more just assisting an instructor. And you know, for an entire semester it’s a completely different thing. But the first time I did an actual workshop… back in episode 22, we interviewed my friend Kristin Williams of Ephemera Paducah, who has a workshop space. And I had talked to her briefly about teaching and a couple different things that I could teach, but we didn’t have anything planned. So maybe eight or nine years ago, I happened to be at an encaustic conference in Santa Fe. And I got a call from Kristin who said help you know this encaustic workshop that you’ve signed up to take with this instructor that was supposed to come teach this workshop. Well she had a death in the family and had to cancel and I have a lot of people that have signed up and so instead taking this workshop, can you teach it? I mean, I had been doing encaustic for probably 10 years at that point already. But, but I had never taught it and I said, um, okay. And I was terrified. Of course, I knew how to do everything. But I didn’t know. There’s a lot, a lot of different techniques and safety considerations involved. Since I happen to be at this conference with all these instructors, one of the instructors from R&F Paints happened to be there and said, I’ll help you out. And she gave me her outline and gave me some tips. And I was like, okay, I can do this. So it was I think it was just a week or two after I got back from that conference that I taught my first encaustic workshop at Ephemera Paducah. And I loved it.

Laura

5:54
Yeah, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as you thought it would be probably by the end of it.

Nikki

5:58
No, almost everything, the anticipation is what scary. Doing the thing is really not that bad. It’s the anticipation of it, you know?

Laura

6:06
I keep telling myself that.

Nikki

6:09
Let’s keep telling each other, right?

Laura

6:13
Okay, so teaching is, as I mentioned, a great way to diversify your income. And some people might be interested in doing that. But I think the question comes down to how do you even start doing something like that? So what are the considerations and the things you need to think about in order to be able to host a successful workshop or class?

Nikki

6:32
It’s one thing when somebody reaches out to you and says, can you come teach in my space, and I’ll help you put everything together. But if you don’t have that opportunity just reach out and grab you, how do you even get started, right? And I think the first thing to think about is what venue, where are you going to teach?

Laura

6:51
Right. There’s a lot of different venues, and I can give some of my personal experience. So as I mentioned, I started off in a craft store. And what was great about that was the supplies were on the shelf, if I forgot to bring some supplies with me that I was going to use for a project, I could basically go out into the store and grab it off the shelf, which made things a heck of a lot easier than having to remember it all myself. There are lots of different types of stores that you can teach in as well. So there’s art shops, there’s craft shops, there’s chain stores, like Michaels, here in the US, you can go to a Michaels and I think they have rooms that could probably fit up to six to eight people in them. So they have all different types of classes that you can either become a teacher with Michaels, or you can rent out the room for a certain amount per hour and teach your own classes there. There are even really trendy shops in your hometown, perhaps, that have event rooms. So for example, in Dallas, we have this amazing store called Flea Style. And it’s down in Deep Ellum in Dallas, and they have this gorgeous room where you can basically rent the room and teach classes or work with them to help publicize a class and then they take a percentage of your fee. And that place is where I actually took a class from Peggy Dean when she was in town. She did a watercolor class there. So there are options like that with stores. Now outside of stores, you can also look at other places. So you mentioned Nikki Ephemera Paducah, right?

Nikki

8:19
So what you were talking about is like a bigger store that has a small workshop space and Ephemera Paducah is the opposite, it’s a larger workshop space with a small store attached. And if you’re fortunate enough to have one of those in your town, you might partner with the person who owns it, like I partnered with Kristin, and then she helps set everything up, and she manages the booking and takes the payments and everything like that.

Laura

8:47
Right. When I left the store, the next place that I went was actually a community art center. Like I mentioned, it was like a block away. And it’s a fabulous space because it’s dedicated to art. So it’s got a bathroom, it’s got a sink where you can have a messy cleanup process. They have tons of tables and chairs they have they have a small gallery and a large gallery room where you can teach and there’s even a mirror on the ceiling and one of the rooms to demo with. So it sort of made to be this community arts space. Now the problem with that is that you are responsible for remembering to bring all the stuff you need with you. So you can’t just walk in and say, oh, I forgot, you know, glue or whatever it is that you needed to bring with you that day. Everything is going to be something you have to think about first and prep for so it’s fabulous to have these spaces when they’re available. But that is just something to keep in mind.

Nikki

9:41
Right. But the good news with that is, you live in a big city. I live in a miniscule city, but we also have a nonprofit art center The Yeiser Art Center that is available that is always interested in offering workshops and is willing to work with you to put on workshops. So pretty much anywhere you live, you can find something along those lines.

Laura

10:06
Yeah. And another thing I’d mentioned about the Irving Arts Center, and something similar probably exists with yours, they offer some free classes where they basically offer a stipend to teachers to come in and teach, let’s say, four Thursday night classes in a row on a topic, let’s say drawing. And so that’s also a way where you can dabble and dip your toe in the water of teaching, but have it be a little bit more structured and have the center sort of manage the payment and things like that.

Nikki

10:34
Right, right. And then another option, if you’re lucky enough to have a space that’s large enough, you can teach in your own studio.

Laura

10:42
I’m so jealous of people who can do that.

Nikki

10:44
Well, I know that your studio consists of this little part of your guest bedroom and your couch, and coffee table…

Laura

10:53
No, I’m gonna correct you there. My studio is my entire condo. And then there’s a bed to sleep in.

Nikki

11:00
Oh, right. Right. Right. Right.

Laura

11:01
Yeah, you got that backwards.

Nikki

11:02
Okay, sorry. But my house is half studio and half living space. And it was built that way. It’s commercial and residential. So I’m fortunate enough to have 850 square feet of studio space.

Laura

11:15
Amazing.

Nikki

11:15
Yeah. So I have a couple of times done small workshops in my space, it’s still pretty crowded with all of the books and art supplies that we’ve admitted to everybody that we have way too many of and mine are not nearly as organized as yours. I actually have somebody coming in this week helping me organize stuff. It’s been great.

Laura

11:39
Oh, that would be a great episode to talk about, you know, another time – organizing our art spaces.

Nikki

11:44
Yeah, just as soon as I figure out how to do it. But I have enough space that I can do a small workshop here. So I’ve had up to six people at a time in my space. And I’ve only done this a couple times. But it’s fantastic, because then you don’t have to worry about, do I have all my supplies? You don’t have to pack them up and lug them somewhere. Everything is right here.

Laura

12:04
Yeah, you know I love that. And that’s actually why I love the fact that I transitioned to Zoom this past year. Because you don’t have to lug all your supplies, everything’s there, you can wake up be in your, your bunny slippers, nobody cares…

Nikki

12:21
Your whole place could be an entire mess except your desk.

Laura

12:25
Yes, except whatever is in like a camera, the camera angle. But the thing though, that I miss is just having that camaraderie of having people in the room with you. And just that creative energy that you get of feeding off of each other in the same space. I definitely miss that. However, there’s some really great things about being on Zoom. And we’ll talk a little bit more about some of those things in a minute. But another place where you can teach is in a local library. I think you have experience with that right, Nikki?

Nikki

12:56
Um, I do I do. I was asked by the local art guild to come do – it was more of a demo than a full class, but same kind of concept. They have a room that people can use for this kind of thing. And I just brought all my materials over there and did a demo there. But that’s a little sketchy because you have to be really, really careful in a space like that, because it’s not a dedicated art space, it had carpeted floors. And so you have to be extra extra careful. And bringing all your stuff to a space like that for just a brief little course is kind of a hassle.

Laura

13:33
It can be a hassle. I actually used to be the vice president of the Polymer Clay Guild in Dallas. And I used to be responsible for setting up all the workshops. And we did use a library for that. But there was a point in time where we had to like blanket the floor with plastic and like there’s all these requirements that come with it that sometimes make it almost not worth it. So there are definitely considerations to have.

Nikki

13:57
It was definitely a lot easier when I did another one that was just a drawing workshop. So you didn’t have to worry about being that messy. Which also brings me to another place that I did a couple of drawing workshops, which is a local brewery in town, Dry Ground.

Laura

14:14
Nice.

Nikki

14:14
Yeah, Dry Ground Brewery. And I did kind of drink and draw event.

Laura

14:20
I’d like to see the result of that workshop. That would be really interesting.

Nikki

14:24
It was really fun. It was really fun. I mean, you’re not going to do… that’s more of an entertainment kind of event then a serious art lesson.

Laura

14:34
Yes. I think for my 35th birthday, I had a party at one of those wine and paint places. It was really interesting to see what was on everyone’s canvas at the end of the night. There were like wild coyotes coming out of volcanoes and it was supposed to be like an Italian sunset scene. So…

Nikki

14:52
Nice. I love it.

Laura

14:54
Alright, so those are some examples of different venues that you can consider for teaching. So let’s talk about some of the other considerations. First of all, if you’re going to set up a workshop, and you’ve now picked out your venue, how do you teach so that people can actually learn and see what you’re doing?

Nikki

15:11
That’s a tough one because it’s different for every kind of venue, you know, whether you have just a small table to work on, or a big space where you can walk around… What are some of the things that you’ve done in the different spaces you’ve been in?

Laura

15:25
Well, I mentioned the arts center had a mirror suspended from the ceiling, so you could actually demo that way. But to be honest, depending on the angle you’re at, it’s still hard to see. Now, I’m fortunate that a lot of what I’ve taught in the past has been coloring with Copic Markers. So we would take a specific image and color that image together. And so I would just blow it up really large, like maybe two to three times its normal size. And I would put it on a clipboard, and then I’d walk around the room and demonstrate the techniques at each table. Because maybe I had, let’s say, 20 people in the class. So that’s 10 tables at two per table. And as I was going through a specific technique, I would show everybody what that technique was at their table. So they didn’t have to come crowd around a table and like try to see what I was doing.

Nikki

16:10
Right, but that only works with certain types of techniques. So some of the workshops that I’ve taught and also taken, you can’t really do… like you can’t really do that with encaustic, which requires a heated palette, and you know, you’ve got a propane torch or a heat gun or even jewelry where you’re soldering, you need more of a fixed space. So you’ve got to really consider how you’re going to demonstrate that, is everybody going to crowd around the table…

Laura

16:40
And with the pandemic, honestly, those days may be over, I don’t know, it’s harder to be crowded around a table looking at things. I know you can get some setups where there’s basically, you have a document camera that then has a projector or you can even set up your camera to like a mobile projector, they make those little ones that can stick in your pocket even. And you can project that onto a wall. And then at least people could see what you’re doing from wherever they are in the room.

Nikki

17:06
Yeah, that’s super helpful.

Laura

17:07
So something like that could be useful. Personally, I haven’t had to use that. And when I’ve done watercolor classes in the past, I have had people just come and hover around the table and watch and maybe come in two different groups so that it’s not too many people at once. But it is definitely a consideration. And it’s another reason I love Zoom. Because with Zoom, I can literally zoom in on Zoom, I can zoom in to like an inch from my workspace. And people can see exactly what I’m doing. And you can even record it, you know, you have that functionality. So people can watch it again later. So…

Nikki

17:41
You just miss out on being in the same space and have that community aspect of taking a workshop.

Laura

17:48
Yeah, absolutely.

Nikki

17:50
So what else do you have to think about in the workshop space that you’re setting up in?

Laura

17:54
Okay, so you want to think about things like, are there bathrooms available?

Nikki

17:59
That’s, that’s pretty important.

Laura

18:01
It’s pretty important, and also how many there are. So you don’t want to necessarily have a big bio break, you know, an hour into your class and there’s only one bathroom, right? So sometimes you can just say at the beginning of class, if you need to the bathrooms over here, just feel free to leave the room and you can catch them up when they get back or whatever. Sinks are important. You know, having a decent sink that you can clean, especially if you have messy art supplies, that you can clean in or if there’s any food or anything like that. Having a place to prep that or even a refrigerator to keep things cool is really nice. Having tables and chairs, right, you need to know how many tables and chairs can fit in the space. And how many people do you plan on having at your workshop? So those are all things to consider and will those be pre set up for you?

Nikki

18:45
And do you have to cover them with paper so that you know they’re not all messed up?

Laura

18:52
Right? Do you have to cover them? And do you need to bring the tablecloths for that? Or are they provided?

Nikki

18:57
Oh, and floor coverings too, sometimes, depending on your space.

Laura

19:00
Right. And I found you can go to the dollar store and they have those plastic tablecloths for literally 99 cents. So I’ve definitely bought those before for just a cheap thing to throw down on the table for a messy class. You also need to think sometimes depending on the venue, some of them require insurance.

Nikki

19:18
Oh right.

Laura

19:19
Let’s say you’re having a two day workshop, they consider an event and it’s not a place that normally has art events. They might actually ask if you have some type of event insurance.

Nikki

19:28
Right? Like if you’re going to a craft store or a dedicated workshop space, most likely, they’re insured. And you don’t have to worry about it. But if it’s someplace that you’re just renting out, that doesn’t usually do workshops, you probably need your own insurance.

Laura

19:45
Yeah, for sure.

Nikki

19:46
Yeah. So you also have to think about what’s appropriate to do in specific spaces. So like I said, I did a workshop in a brewery and I wouldn’t do an encaustic workshop there.

Laura

20:01
Not if there’s propane torches.

Nikki

20:02
No, the last thing you want to give to people who are drinking is open flames and the kind of heat gun that can melt your face off.

Laura

20:12
Not a great idea.

Nikki

20:14
No, so for a place like that, I would stick to simple drawing classes where the biggest weapon I’d give them is a pencil or a pen, right?

Laura

20:23
Right. Even those could be dangerous.

Nikki

20:25
Yes, don’t forget the pen is mightier than the sword. But not the blowtorch.

Laura

20:34
So you also want to think about the cost of renting a space that could require surrendering a percentage of your sales to the store, or maybe there’s a flat fee per hour. All of the venues will be set up differently. It’s just something to consider when you’re looking at spaces that you could teach in, and also how those payments will be captured. So you’d mentioned previously when you’re in a store, sometimes they will actually take care of that like Ephemera Paducah would take care of those payments for you if you were teaching there. However, in my instance, I have taught in the past in a community center, and now that I’m teaching online with Zoom, I collect all those payments myself. So when I first started out, I literally took PayPal, cash and checks, and I took those in advance, people would mail me the cash in the mail.

Nikki

21:18
Cash, what’s that?

Laura

21:21
Right. So I would take those payments, it was all manual, I had an Excel sheet, I would track who paid me and who didn’t. And when I sent them a PayPal invoice and whether or not it had been paid, and then I’d send out their supply list that they would need as each person paid. It was really a horrible manual, labor intensive process that made no sense.

Nikki

21:42
But now what are you doing?

Laura

21:43
Now I have a website with WooCommerce, which I’m very excited about I set up this year.

Nikki

21:50
Woohoo.

Laura

21:50
Woohoo. So with my online shop, it’s set up so that when somebody pays they pay through either stripe or PayPal online with a credit card or their PayPal account. And then they immediately receive a confirmation email that contains links to PDF documents. And those PDF documents include things like the zoom information to join the call, it includes the color suggestions, and even step by step instructions for them, so that they can have that if they’re unable to join the call, or would like to have those visuals. All of that’s available to them immediately, so I’m not tracking who got sent what, it’s all there. And then I’m able to even communicate with them, because I have this really cool plugin that talks to MailChimp, who is my email provider. And so I can actually set up what they call a segment and we’ll get into all this stuff in another episode I thought about mailing lists, but I set up a segment for the people that signed up for that class or registered for that class. So then I’m able to email just them with reminders and things like that. So it’s pretty cool.

Nikki

22:56
Awesome. And so that’s a really good solution for someone like you who teaching is one small part of all the things you do. But if you are someone like Kristin Williams with Ephemera Paducah, and teaching is your main thing, and you really want a full robust system to manage the whole process of marketing the classes, signing up for the classes, communicating with instructors, communicating with customers, students, and sending out reminders, taking deposits, and then full payments… then you can hire me, like Kristin did to build this full robust solution on your own website. For Kristin, we’re using a product called Event Espresso, which handles really every aspect of the event with a lot of back end customization that I had to do to make it fit the way that she wants it to work.

Laura

23:58
That sounds pretty awesome.

Nikki

24:00
It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.

Laura

24:03
I can aspire to that down the road.

Nikki

24:05
Yeah, absolutely.

Laura

24:05
Not there yet. But yeah, for teaching live workshops, this was a solution I could come up with fairly quickly on my own with my limited tech skills.

Nikki

24:14
And you did it beautifully. And it’s working really well for you.

Laura

24:17
And it works, it works. And the other cool thing is that my classes are set up so that you can either receive a kit in the mail or you can do a completely virtual version of the class where you just watch the video and use your own supplies. So if you receive a kit in the mail, you can then even it’ll generate like the shipping label out of my website, which is so cool. I just type it all in manually and PayPal multi-order shipping, which was kind of ridiculous.

Nikki

24:45
Okay, so let’s get back to a little bit more about the facility itself. Okay, there are things that you need to think of when you’re choosing a place to work and what you need to know about the facility itself.

Laura

24:59
Yeah. So sometimes you need to know very particular things about the building, for example, in the building that I used to teach in, I would go pick up a key a few days before the class, and then I would be responsible for that facility during that time. So I would be the one opening up the door, and managing the property, ensuring that I took the trash out afterwards and cleaned up the place appropriately. And if I had to put tables or chairs away, like all those types of things, or hire somebody else to do that for me, which I did for a while. So those types of things you have to understand and even quirks of the building, like, there was a building once that had a weird quirk with the fire alarm system. So the fire alarm would just periodically go off. And they’d say, well, you punch this, this and this, and it’ll make it turn off. But you don’t have to worry about it actually being a fire, which, you know, they probably should have figured that out, what was causing it?

Nikki

25:48
Yeah. Especially if you’re doing things like encaustic, where there could be a fire.

Laura

25:55
I did learn how to do that, so if I didn’t know how to do that, we would have been sitting with this fire alarm going off in the middle of class. And that would be very frustrating. And another thing is something like power, right? Like how much power do you need for whatever you’re doing in your class? So for example, Nikki with encaustic, that takes a lot of power, right?

Nikki

26:12
Oh, yeah, you’re using hot plates to melt your wax on, you’re using heat guns and all kinds of other tools, and it can really overload a system. I mean, I’ve had that problem in, not in my current studio, but in my previous studio, where I couldn’t do a heat gun and my hot palette at the same time on the same breaker. So you have to think about that kind of thing. But there’s been places where I’m like, okay, so the power is not strong here. So we’re going to use propane torches instead. But then, it’s also other things like if you’re teaching a sewing or quilting class, you know, how many sewing machines can you run? Or what other power tools can you run if you’re doing something like where you have to use drills and things.

Laura

26:56
And strategically placed them in different walls in the room or things like that, whatever’s necessary to make sure you don’t have issues that way. Also, remember to bring extension cords. I’ve been in situations before where I didn’t have an extension cord when I needed it. So…

Nikki

27:09
And maybe fire extinguishers.

Laura

27:14
That would be smart.

Nikki

27:16
Alright, so what else do you have to think about? Like if you’re doing an all day workshop, and I know a lot of yours are just like maybe two hours. But if you’re doing an all day workshop, you’ve got to think about…

Laura

27:30
Food. Yeah, food, snacks, drinks. Especially like the the place that I’ve taught in the past, does not have a vending machine. They have a water fountain. And that’s it, right. So there’s no they do have a refrigerator and a small kitchen, so you can tell people to bring their own snacks. And then I think providing people with recommendations nearby if you’re going to take a break for lunch, and you’re not going to cater lunch or a restaurant deliver lunch. Like you can always give them a menu in the morning and then organize the delivery with Uber Eats or something if you wanted to.

Nikki

28:02
And maybe think about having a few snacks and drinks on hand for in between. You know, we talked about how Kristin always has chocolate all the time. And her spa water. So just things to think about for when somebody’s stuck with you all day and you need to take care of them.

Laura

28:19
Oh, I’ve seen the most beautiful ones. And I can’t recall her name right now. But Flora Bowley for her workshops, hires this amazing, I call her like a food artist out of Portland. And she creates these plates of fresh fruit and figs and nuts and things. And it’s like the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen. It’s a piece of art, you don’t want to actually eat any of it, because it’s so pretty. But yeah, the presentation and having food available, and as Kristin does her spa waters. You know, having having that as a nice touch. It’s not a requirement, at least you need to be able to provide people with here’s a map to, you know, a couple places that are within a mile from here that I can recommend and say are pretty darn good. But I know when I go to a workshop, I tend to want to work through the lunch period, when I’m like in the flow. I don’t want to stop. I want to keep painting. I want to keep doing things.

Nikki

29:09
Right. So having lunch catered or brought in box lunches, really a great thing to do.

Laura

29:14
I think it helps. I think it definitely helps. Now, one of the concerns people have is how do I price a workshop? Like if I’m going to teach a live workshop, what in the heck do I charge for it? I think there’s a lot of considerations for that. And the first is you need to understand what is the facility costing me? Am I am I renting the facility or you know, or am I giving them a percentage of sales or whatever it is? You need to understand what is that?

Nikki

29:37
Another consideration is supplies? Are you providing supplies for the students to use? Or are you giving them a list and they bring their own or is it some combination of the two? And then do you work that into the cost of the workshop or sometimes people will have an extra materials cost?

Laura

29:57
Yeah, like a kit fee.

Nikki

29:58
I always love when there’s a supply kit where somebody’s put together a nice kit for you that you get to take home with you as a student.

Laura

30:04
Yeah, I think it’s fun. It’s a nice touch. And I’ve even seen some people create their own little branded bags to put the supplies in, if they’re being extra special. I have not done that myself.

Nikki

30:14
Yet.

Laura

30:14
But I think it’s a cool touch. Yet. Yet. So you might be able to buy supplies in bulk, but I think, to cut your costs a little bit, but then you can end up with leftovers and too many. And sometimes it’s hard to gauge how many students are going to have at workshop, if you don’t have like, you don’t sell them out all the time. And you have a capped number, right?

Nikki

30:33
Just make sure that you’re buying supplies that you can use.

Laura

30:37
Yeah, this is this is very true. So another thing to consider when it comes to this supply idea as well is when will you cut off your registration? If you’re going to be providing some supplies, you do need to have at some point, a cut off date that says, you know, I’m not going to take registrations up to the night before, if I have to go out and buy some extra supply somewhere, you know, if you don’t have enough.

Nikki

30:57
So what do you do?

Laura

30:59
Well, I have two different options right now for most of my classes. So one is that you can download an illustration that I’ve made and color along in the class. And then the second option is I can send you a kit that already has everything pre printed and done for you. That kit, it’s usually a greeting card kit that I’ve made. And usually a couple of them and you can get those in the mail. Now, if you’re going to opt in for the kit, then I’m going to send that out, now about 10 days before the class. Didn’t used to have to do that. But with COVID and the mail system right now.

Nikki

31:30
Slower than it ever used to be.

Laura

31:32
It’s so slow, and things get lost when you don’t expect it and some things show up one day later, and somebody who lives a block away from that person gets theirs eight days later. And there’s no real rhyme or reason to it. So I want to cut that off usually about ten days before, but for the one that you can download and print out and follow along, I’ll have that up to the day before, that doesn’t matter because they’re going to get everything in email that they need, and they can print it out and they can you know, they they’re responsible for that piece. That’s the way that I manage it, but if it’s a physical class, I would want to cut it off at a certain time in advance of that class so that I can get all my kits and my things together for it. So that was a little tangent on supplies. Just a small one.

Nikki

32:13
Right, but it’s important, it’s relevant.

Laura

32:16
When it comes to pricing, you want to think about how much time went into the planning and the design of your class? Is this something that took you an hour? Or did you spend days working on this and preparing for it? You need to think about that, along with sort of looking at the marketplace and seeing what similar classes sell for. I mean, do some research online, check it out and see, you’re not going to price your class at, you know, $350 if there are comparable ones at $99, or vice versa.

Nikki

32:46
But you might realize that the very first time that you teach a class, you’ve done all this prep work, and you really may not cover the cost of your time in the first class. But if it’s something you’re going to continue to teach, you can make that up in future classes.

Laura

33:02
And it also depends on the live class itself. Is it a one hour class, a two hour class? Is it a whole day or a whole weekend? Like depending on the length of your class, you would certainly want to adjust your price for that as well.

Nikki

33:14
Yep, definitely.

Laura

33:15
If you’re doing a live class like I do, where you mail a kit in advance or have that option for people, you also want to consider your postage. So there’s going to be postage related to that. So you want to make sure that you’ve captured that into your pricing. And if you also offer a replay, let’s say you’re capturing it on Zoom, and you have a replay, then is that downloadable for people to keep forever? There’s value in that. So you want to consider all of those different aspects that you can then market later in your class to say, look at all these things you’re going to get if you take this class, and that should be able to add to that fee a little bit.

Nikki

33:49
And then consider increasing your fees over time as your costs increase while you’re developing new classes. And your experience grows and your skills grow.

Laura

34:01
Yeah, you want to consider increasing your fees, not just as your skills grow, but also just, you know, inflation, it’s normal, all prices increase. So we shouldn’t feel guilty about having to increase our prices. The post office is increasing rates for shipping things. It used to be like $2. Now it’s like $4 to send something and that assumes it actually gets there.

Nikki

34:22
Well, everything goes up. Material costs go up. Your electricity goes up.

Laura

34:28
Yeah, all of it goes up. So it’s, I think it’s natural to increase over time. Just be transparent with people about increasing the fees. And I think everybody usually is fine with it, especially when you found your peeps. Right? And they they understand the care and attention and love that you put into preparing for a class.

Nikki

34:47
And speaking of preparation, let’s talk about just some general tips about things to do to prepare, when it’s time to teach that class.

Laura

34:57
Preparation is so huge. I mean, triple check your supplies list, what you’re purchasing, making sure you’re purchasing in advance to allow all the time that you need to have it shipped to you. If you’re demoing virtually, you want to set up all your supplies and your table space the day before. And I would ensure that all your lights are functioning properly that you have really good either natural light, or I actually set up some led table lamps.

Nikki

35:24
Make sure your cameras are working.

Laura

35:26
Yeah, your phone or your camera or whatever you’re using is working and functioning properly. And then double and triple check your internet connection, that you’re not having any weird problems with it.

Nikki

35:35
Absolutely.

Laura

35:35
Some days in the morning, I just go reset my router, just in case, just so it just doesn’t drop in the middle of the class. So those are all things that are helpful. And I’ve had situations where the internet connection wasn’t great. When I went over to Zoom to look at the cloud recording, it came across really horrible and grainy and frozen. So I had to literally sit down and rerecord everything from scratch myself and put it up on Vimeo as a separate video for people. Stuff happens, right? And you just work with it when it does. Yeah. But being as prepared as you can, is really helpful. Another thing is that I really like to do a little bit of surprise and delight.

Nikki

36:12
Okay, what do you do for that?

Laura

36:15
You know, I think it’s important to under-promise and over-deliver.

Nikki

36:18
Absolutely.

Laura

36:19
One of the ways to do that is to give people some little surprise or thing that they’re not expecting that they can take away from your class. For in person classes what I started doing, probably eight or nine years ago, was having raffles in class like little giveaways. I would bring a few giveaways. I started off in classes, maybe bring two or three little giveaways to give people and they would put their name in a hat and I would pick it out throughout the class. And then I started adding more giveaways to it. So that pretty much I had enough for everybody to get something little, right. And I would use raffle tickets instead of having everybody write their name down on a piece of paper, because that was so much easier. And I hadn’t thought of that before. So the raffles were really fun, because when people get really serious, sometimes they’re trying really hard to make something perfect or right or follow along. And there’s that tension in the room.

Nikki

37:09
And you just want to cut that tension.

Laura

37:11
Yeah, you just go giveaway time. Then you can pull it out, and everybody gets excited because they’re waiting for their number to be called and…

Nikki

37:20
And so what are you giving away?

Laura

37:21
So I’m giving away things like just little craft supplies, I’m giving away stuff from my stash that I haven’t used because people don’t really care or even things that are lightly used like a rubber stamp that might be really cool that’s been lightly used. I bring it all and people still think it’s Christmas. They’re very excited. Because I feel that way too, because I love getting little giveaways.

Nikki

37:41
Oh, even stickers, you know, or…

Laura

37:46
…anything fun, I just love it.

Nikki

37:47
…dead things from my collection.

Laura

37:49
Well, not that. But people get to go home with a little something extra that wasn’t part of the regular kit. When I transitioned to zoom, I wanted to keep doing that I wanted to keep giving people a little bit of surprise and delight. What I try to do in every kit that gets mailed out if somebody orders a kit, I put something inside of that kit that’s special. It could be some little supply, it could be like you said a sticker or something. What I’ve done the last couple classes is I did some mini watercolor paintings. So I had a whole class that was about vintage roses coloring and vintage roses with copic markers. And so then I actually did little watercolor roses. And they probably only took me a couple minutes each to do and then I let them dry overnight. And I did them on small pieces of paper I’d cut up.

Nikki

38:38
But it’s a nice little extra surprise that they weren’t expecting and something personal from you.

Laura

38:43
Yeah, exactly. And it’s flat and it’s lightweight. It’s not going to cost me postage, right. So I think doing something a little extra and special makes a live event even more fun to participate in. So what else do we need to think about Nikki?

Nikki

38:59
Um, well think about the communication with people before the class because they may have signed up for it a month or two ago. And you know, they forgot where the supply list was or, you know, they might forget the date, they might forget the class.

Laura

39:18
That is true.

Nikki

39:19
What do you do for your classes once people have signed up when it’s getting closer to time?

Laura

39:24
Um, well first of all, you do want to make sure that you open up the sign up for your class well in advance, don’t try to open up sign up for a class a week before the class starts.

Nikki

39:34
What’s your typical timeline for that?

Laura

39:36
Mine is usually a month before, so I try to have the project ready within a week of my last class of probably three to four weeks before the class

Nikki

39:44
Well, and that’s great for your online classes. But if you are in a workshop space, and it’s something that a person has to plan to take time out of their schedule, especially if they’re traveling…

Laura

39:56
Months, I would say months in advance.

Nikki

39:57
Yeah, you want to you want to announce the class as far in advance as possible and open up registration way sooner than that.

Laura

40:04
Yeah, especially if it’s a larger chunk of change, like if it’s more expensive class, people are also budgeting for that. So you want to be able to give them several months leeway time. What you want to do is over-communicate, you basically want to communicate with people at the point that they purchase, and then maybe three weeks ahead, you would want to remind them of the supply list, you know, things that they should order to make sure that they have time to order those things and get them in time. A week before you would want to send them reminders and even up to the night before or the morning of just to make sure that they don’t forget, because life gets in the way sometimes and absolutely people forget. It’s definitely happened with students of mine before where they like, oh my gosh, I forgot we were having this class.

Laura

40:47
Which is another thing to consider. And that is whether or not you’re going to provide refunds to people. Are your classes refundable or not? I has an interesting topic.

Nikki

40:58
And are yours?

Laura

41:00
My classes personally aren’t are not refundable, unless there’s a special circumstance. And I know for example, with COVID, when COVID happened, and I had to cancel classes, I’m certainly not going to charge somebody for that. They if they don’t want to purchase a kit or do a class online, and they wanted to do the in person one, I’m not gonna say no, you gave me this money, and it’s not refundable. But in general, I don’t refund. And the reason I do that, there’s a couple reasons I do that. So one is that a large part of the work in my classes is the step by step instructions of the project, it’s choosing the right colors, and all of that information comes to people after they register. They’re going to get everything they need to complete that project, right the moment they purchase it,

Nikki

41:43
Right. So they’ve already gotten quite a lot of benefit before the class even happens.

Laura

41:48
Correct. I’m basically giving the class away at that point. And the other thing is people, when people have skin in the game, they will show up. I think you’ll notice that if you offer a free class, see how many people show up for the free class?

Nikki

42:01
Oh, yeah, I sign up for all kinds of free things that I don’t go to. But if I pay for it, I’m a lot more likely to. But now, I know that it’s different if it’s a physical space, and a more expensive course I know a lot of people will do, you know, you can get a full refund minus a small deposit, if it’s more than 30 days in advance. And the closer it gets, the lower your amount of refund will be.

Laura

42:28
And also you can have a policy that says if you find somebody to replace you, then there’s no there’s no cost to you.

Nikki

42:36
So there’s no right way or wrong way to do it. The important thing is set your policy and make sure that people know what your policy is, so that when they’ve signed up for your class, they’re agreeing to that policy.

Laura

42:49
And the bottom of both on my actual page where people purchase the class as well as at the bottom of every registration email has a list of class policies. So there is absolutely no way people will know that that wasn’t a policy unless of course they didn’t read it. But right, that is helpful for you to be able to have that to point people to if they’re saying, oh, I didn’t realize this, you can show them where that was definitely a part of it.

Nikki

43:13
Right? But of course, if you have to cancel the class for any reason, that’s your own issue, not theirs, then of course, you’ll refund them.

Laura

43:21
Absolutely, yes, if you cancel the class, you refund someone. But if you didn’t cancel, and somebody just missed, if you do have a virtual class like a Zoom one, and you recorded that, you can absolutely point them to the video and say, hey, you didn’t miss out, here it is, I’m gonna send the link after the class. And I usually put a password protection on the video and provide the cloud recording link. And just a thing for people to know that’s interesting is that Zoom has two different recording capabilities. You can either record to the cloud, or you can record locally to the hard drive of your computer. If you do the computer, you can actually record HD quality, which is nice. If you you know, want to sell that replay later to people, you want something that’s pretty high quality. If you’re doing cloud recording, it’s super convenient, because it basically processes in the background and five minutes after your class is done, you can send people a link to it. But it’s always going to be SD quality for now. If you have more than two people on the line, they downgrade the quality. They don’t want it to take up too much bandwidth on their servers. So it’s going to be a little grainy and you just have to be aware that it’s not going to be super great quality.

Nikki

44:32
Okay, so sounds like recording locally is the way to go if you can.

Laura

44:37
If you can figure it out. I haven’t figured out how to do it with a document camera like with my phone as the document camera. So I’ve just been using cloud recording because it works and people don’t expect to have anything super fancy when they’re also getting the live class but if I were to resell it, I would definitely want it to be HD quality. Alright, so what if you’ve recorded the class you can send a follow up email even if it was a live class. So you can always send a follow up email to your students and just thank them for coming to the class, maybe remind them of some products that you have for sale as well or a future class that you might be offering. Just to sort of continue the conversation with that group of students, especially if it’s it’s a group that you wouldn’t see all the time, like in my classes very frequently are the same people, or, you know, people who we’ve we’ve created community over time, but I know some of the classes you teach Nikki, you might only because of the nature of the class, you might only see those people once right?

Nikki

45:31
Well, yeah, because the ones that you do are mostly project based. So you can always have a new project with similar techniques. Whereas what I’m teaching is more technique based. So you’re probably only going to take the intro class one time, but if I want to keep in touch with them, I may schedule another intermediate class, or I may not, I may just want to get them on my list so that I can send them updates about other things that I’m doing. So you definitely want to follow up with another email after the class to inform them about what else is going on.

Laura

46:07
And if you have a Facebook group, you can ask them to join that. You can always poll your students either through email or the Facebook group, ask their opinion about things, ask them what they want to learn. You can’t just assume what they want to learn, but just find out what is it that they’re interested in, You can even do a google survey through Google Forms, which is what I use. And that’s really helpful to get feedback from people. You want to encourage people to share their creative work with others and the things that they’ve made in your class on social media.

Nikki

46:34
But you want to make sure that you’re encouraging them to share the work that they’ve done. But let people know that this is something that I created in Laura’s copic marker class, not that they’re passing off your drawing that they’ve colored as their own original work, right?

Laura

46:52
Correct. You do want to make sure that they give you credit. And you know, you put your copyright on the top of any of the digital files that you put out there. And let them know that those are for them. And you would love for them to share the work they’ve produced with their friends. But if a friend walks up and says, oh, that’s so cool, I see the instructions. Can I have those? You know, you want them to then refer those people to you and say, Oh, well, I’m part of this copic club. And if you’d love to join it, here’s the information on the website. And because that would be really great for you to do that, but not to just pass off your intellectual property rights to somebody else.

Nikki

47:25
And a great thing to do when you’re teaching a class is to bring work of your own to sell in that class. In-person classes are a great place to sell your work. Absolutely. I know that I have taken workshops at Ephemera Paducah again, and I took some jewelry classes from Susan Lenart Kazmer and have bought several pieces of her beautiful jewelry. I bought a gorgeous mixed media piece from Kate Thompson when I took a workshop from her.

Laura

47:58
And I bought pieces from both Tracey Verdugo and Nancy Medina in their painting workshops. So I can attest to it’s a great place to purchase work. You can even offer a tiny discount, like 10% off for anybody who buys your work in that particular workshop.

Nikki

48:13
And some people will even sell their demo pieces at a great discount because it’s something that they’ve just created on the spot.

Laura

48:19
So what are our key takeaways, Nikki, because all of this can seem really overwhelming.

Nikki

48:26
Well, teaching live workshops can be a great way to supplement your income and to grow a creative community. But there’s a lot of things you need to take into consideration, and you really need to figure out what the best way to do it is for you.

Laura

48:40
Well, to make things easier for you, we’ve created a special PDF checklist with info on all the things you want to take into account when planning and implementing your live workshop. And once you have figured out what works best for you, it gets a lot easier because you can basically just repeat your process.

Nikki

48:59
So now it’s your turn. We’d love to hear from you in our Facebook group or on Instagram @startistsociety about your own experiences with workshops and classes, either as a teacher or a student. Do you have any great advice to share from classes that you’ve either taught or taken? Is there anything we missed from either of these perspectives?

Laura

49:20
To be today’s show notes and download your copy of the teaching live PDF checklist, go to startistsociety.com/teachinglive.

Nikki

49:31
Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

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