Monday, June 22, 2015

Create Your Own Classroom

In one of my earlier posts, I talked about partnering with existing businesses when you're just starting out, to help with getting your class off the ground.  This has it's advantages in helping with marketing and promotion but you're also limited to teaching what they want you to teach, when they want you to teach it.  They may set the price of the class and pay you a wage.  If you want more control over who, where and what you teach along with how much money you earn, consider offering independent classes, workshops or retreats.

You will need to find a space that suits your needs, fits well with feel of what you make and attracts the right students to join you. Here are some  practical things to consider when choosing that ideal space:

Flooring-When I'm teaching painting classes, one of the first things I look at is the floor.  I typically steer clear of space with carpeting as just a little paint can damage a carpet quickly. I look for easily flooring that won't mind a little paint and can be easily wiped up.

Ventilation-If you're working with anything involving fumes-like paints, sprays, sealants, torches, etc... you want to insure you have windows that open to allow ventilation.

Light-Consider the type of lighting you need.  I prefer bright, natural light for painting classes.  For jewelry classes it's important to have good overhead light.

Electricity, Running Water and Bathrooms: Although this seems like a weird thing to include, I have taught classes in a yurt in the woods where there was not electricity, running water or bathroom facilities (except for nature and an outhouse.)  If these are things you need, you may want to have an indoor class.  If you don't need them, you could consider throwing up a tent at a park or public space for a class-opening up a world of possibilities.  For painting classes, we need access to a sink or we need to bring our own water for cleaning brushes. For jewelry classes, it helps to have a place to wash your hands.  We also have tools that we may need to plug in to an outlet.

Temperature Control-Will you need air conditioning or heat?  Don't assume these are available in the space.  If you're planning in the winter and your event will be in the summer, it might not occur to you to ask if the space has air conditioning.  We recently taught in two spaces that did not have air conditioning.  You want to make sure in warmer months that if air conditioning is not available, that you at least have fans at the ready.

Room Size-How big of a space do you need?  Is there room for tables and chairs?  Are they provided or do you need to bring them? How many people could you reasonably fit for your class in the space?  The space can also be too big for the size of your group and the atmosphere you want to create. Does the layout suit your needs?  Are you able to keep the whole group together or will people need to be in separate areas?

Access-Is the space accessible to people with limited mobility?  First floor space or access to an elevator is best. If there are stairs only, let people know. When I teach at the yurt I include in my description and make sure people are aware that there is a 15 minute uphill hike on a wooded trail to reach the space.

Parking-Where is the parking in relation to the space?  Is there enough to accommodate your class? Consider the time of day of your class and what else might be happening at the same time that might impact parking spots.

Entrance and Exits-How many access points does the room have?  Will the public be passing through the classroom space and does this matter to you?  Some people have classes in a food court at the mall, where others prefer quiet, uninterrupted space.

Length of Class: If you're holding a two day class, you want to make sure the space is comfortable and inviting with room to move around and spread out. If you're having a two hour class, you can use a smaller space as people will come and go relatively quickly.

Meals: The length of the class can impact the room size and accommodations that you need. If you plan to cross over meal times, do you need a kitchen for storing and preparing food?  Do you want to have food prepared and delivered for you during your event?   

Ambiance, Environment and Feel-What kind of feeling do you want to create for your students and how will the physical space help you create the right atmosphere? Do you want a large, light, bright and open space with fresh air blowing through and lots of room to move around? Or, do you want a small, intimate space to facilitate group closeness and connection?  Do you want to be outside and connected to nature? I recently found a quaint little cottage-space that looked like a perfect artist studio.  I inquired with the owner and she agreed to let us host an intuitive painting class.  W
e were able to create just the right mood, beginning with the space.

Rental fees:  What is the charge for room usage?  Is it hourly or a flat fee?  What is included in the price and what is expected of you in terms of clean-up? Is a deposit required?  What is the policy in the event of cancellation?

Insurance: Are you required to have separate insurance?  Some entities require you to carry your own policy to protect them in the event that someone is injured during your class.

Need some help getting started?  Here are some ideas:

Libraries-Many have private rooms that can be rented.  In our area, many reserve these rooms for non-profit entities, so check their policies.

Churches-Often have public space available for a small fee or donation.  In most cases, you do not have to be part of the congregation to utilize this space.  The photo above is a beautiful church where we recently taught in Clinton, NY.  It has lofty ceilings, giant windows, hardwood floors, a kitchen, tables/chairs, no air conditioning and limited parking.  People coming into the church may walk through the space as well.

Recreation and Community Centers-Often have public space available to rent

Malls and Stores-Makers have reported using the food court or public space in Malls, coffee shops, Panera and other businesses where it is typical for groups to gather (and make a purchase of course.)

Businesses: Consider approaching businesses to use their space in the off hours.  Many businesses have conference rooms or open space they may make available to you.

Parks:  Many parks have pavilions and public spaces both indoor and outdoor, available to rent.  These are often used for picnics and parties.

Hotels, restaurants and other facilities where wedding receptions or conferences are held:  Hotels often have a variety of public rooms available and can provide food for longer events as well. Check wedding advertisements for places that offer showers and receptions to get the ideas flowing.

Private Homes: Your home or your student's  homes can often be a great place to host classes.  There are pros and cons to weigh, especially if bringing people into your own home or studio, such as privacy, liability and safety against low cost and convenience.

Retreats, Cottages and Lake houses:  These are my favorite for longer retreats, but don't rule them out, especially in the off-seasons, for shorter events.  Retreat centers may be willing to rent just one room or a cottage owner may allow you to use the space for one day in the winter months.

Vacant Businesses, Homes and Apartments:  Although I have not tried this, we have considered approaching businesses that had space vacant and for sale, to find out if we could rent it for a short duration.  

Have other ideas on teaching space?  Post them in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You Don't Have to be an Expert to Start Teaching

Yep, it's true so embrace it.  If you make and sell something successfully, you can likely start teaching right now because you already have two key pieces of what you need.

1) You know how to do something really well.
2) People have shown that they like what you make through buying it-so you make something of value.  You have a track record of successfully producing a quality product that there is a market for.

If you're able to explain things in a clear way that is easy to understand and follow and you're enthusiastic about the topic-you have everything you need to begin.

When I first approached our local Adult Education Program to start teaching jewelry making, I only knew how to make one thing:  Earrings!  I had made and sold hundreds of earrings.  Nothing else.  I had focused exclusively on learning to make different types of earrings and I could explain to beginner jewelry makers exactly how they could do this too.

Necklaces?  Nope.  Bracelets-I hadn't gotten that brave yet... but I knew how to make one thing well so the class I proposed was-spoiler alert....Earrings!  My students made at least 3 pair of different style earrings over 3 class sessions.  I still teach this class and my students often want to keep learning more when it's done. (I have since learned to make many different types of jewelry, but this is where I began.)

The key here is not to focus on what you don't know.  You aren't going to try and teach people how to make necklaces if you don't know how to make them.  You are going to teach what you know how to do well and share your success.

Don't let what you don't know hold you back from sharing the gifts you have right now.
Don't compare yourself to other instructors who have been making and teaching for years.  Start with what you are able to share with confidence.

The other key in starting where you are is to target the right students.  I would not target my Earring class to advanced jewelry makers.  It is for beginning jewelry makers and this is clear in the class description. Gear your descriptions and content to the level of maker that you feel you can comfortably teach. Teaching kids is also a great way to get started (and where I began with teaching painting classes) when you're not 100% comfortable yet.

The bigger questions to ask yourself than are you qualified to teach is do you want to teach and are you able to explain things in a clear way that people can understand and follow? I think the best way to figure that out is to test it out by teaching a real class and then decide if it's for you.

You don't have to already be an expert to begin, but teaching is one thing that does help build your reputation as an expert as you grow.

Ready to get started crafting your own classes?  Join our mail list below: