How to Set Up a Successful Art Workshop
Why Set Up an Art Workshop?
The simple answer for many artists is that it is a useful, regular income for their art business. Selling paintings is an unpredictable way to earn a living, as they invariably sell in batches, so it's often a case of 'feast or famine'. Running a successful workshop is a great way to smooth out the peaks and troughs of cash flow.
How Much Control Do You Want?
There are two main routes to running a workshop. Which you choose depends on how much control you wish to have.
Firstly, you could link up with a venue already running workshops who will promote your session, take all the bookings and the clients' fees and pay you at the end of the month, less a percentage to cover their costs. This is similar to how most galleries work.
Secondly, you could simply hire the space to run the workshop, do all of your own promotion and take your own bookings and fees. You pay the venue up front for hire of the space.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these scenarios. In the first instance, you have much less control over the numbers of clients coming to your session as the venue sorts all this out for you. This means you will need to be in very regular contact with them, to ensure your sessions are promoted as heavily as those of other artists and so that you have a good idea of the number of attendees for each session.
As you are 'out of the loop' as far as bookings go, it does mean that you won't have client's contact details, so you won't be able to reach them for marketing purposes. You also need to be clear about when and how you will be paid. It would be very soul destroying to have to keep asking for payment.
On the plus side, having someone deal with all of the promotion and chasing of clients and booking fees does free up your time to do other things such as painting.
In the second scenario, where you are in charge of everything, you know exactly who's coming to your sessions, you have their contact details and you have their cheques in the bank. But on the downside, workshop venues will want payment up front, so you will have to work hard at promoting your session and filling it with eager painters. You will also have the hassle of chasing people for their money.
Finding a Venue
Having decided how much control you want to have over your workshops you need to find a suitable space in which to run them. The table below lists the absolute essentials required for running a workshop.
Contacting galleries and already existing arts centres is probably the best place to start. Ask if you can visit their facilities so you can see for yourself how good they are. Take a class there if possible, so you can see how things run from the client's point of view.
Be very clear at the beginning about who does what and what equipment is provided. Most arts centres will provide easels and drawing boards as a minimum, so that the artist need only supply consumables.
Most importantly, check how the finances work. In the UK, we are very squeamish with regard to talking about money, but it's vital to understand where and when your money is coming from. A reputable arts centre should give you a contract to sign that details all of these things.
Insurance is also vital. The arts centre should have insurance that covers you whilst you are working there, but it's a good idea to have your own public liability insurance just in case one of your paintings flings itself off the wall at an exhibition and attacks a visitor (alternatively, you could take your chance in court arguing that this was an art installation and it was meant to do that - good luck!).
What Do You Need to Set Up an Art Workshop?
Would be Nice
Plenty of light
Big equipment provided
Parking close by
Promotion of your workshops
Lots of willing clients
How Many Students?
The number of clients you have is partly, but not entirely determined by the available space in which you have to work. You need to choose a venue big enough that you can teach sufficient people to cover your costs. As a rough guide, I would say a minimum of five clients is a reasonable number, and you are likely to have fewer clients when you are starting out.
The temptation is to fill the sessions with people, but you do need to provide quality teaching and students expect a good amount of one-to-one time with the tutor during a workshop. Eight clients is a good maximum number per session, certainly when you are starting out, but you could extend this slightly if you have one or two experienced students in your group, who will need less teaching.
Pricing Your Sessions
The price of your workshops needs to be competitive when compared with other artists locally, but it also needs to cover running costs. When coming up with fees, you need to consider the cost of the venue and insurance, and the cost of consumables such as paper, brushes, pencils and paint/pastels and any refreshments you provide. Students will expect tea/coffee and biscuits to be provided as a minimum, although most are happy to provide their own lunch.
As a rule of thumb you should be able to price your sessions so that roughly one third to one half of the amount will cover your costs and the remainder is profit.
If you enjoy teaching, running an art workshop is a valuable asset to your art business, providing a regular income and helping smooth out cash flow. In my experience, they are also a pleasure to run. What could be better than a roomful of like-minded people, exploring their creativity together.