Today’s article is the third in my series on teaching art to kids. Make sure to check out articles one and two if you haven’t already.
OK, so you’ve done all the brain-work. . . you know who, what, and where you’ll be teaching, plus how much you’re going to charge to do it. Now for the tricky questions: “Where are the students?” and “What will I do once I get them?”
Begin a marketing push as soon as you have made up your mind to teach. Word of mouth has been my best marketing too—I started telling parents of my kids’ friends and classmates; I told the art teacher up at the elementary school; I even told the kids and parents at the private school I was currently teaching in (I did get permission from the schools first!).
To aid in spreading the word, it helps to have a few basic business tools, such as a business card and a web page. I give the business card to anyone I meet with a child who asks what I do for a living and then I direct them to my website (printed on the card) for my current teaching schedule.
I also have a basic biography and my teaching philosophy on my website. If you already have a website or blog, update it immediately, even if you can only say something like “Class schedule coming soon!”
As soon as you have a solid class schedule with ages, times and cost, print a simple flyer and put copies at libraries, local preschools, mom’s clubs and anywhere that may grab a parent’s attention. Always get permission first—for example, I am not allowed to distribute the flyers at my children’s public schools.
Unless you have a separate store-front type location, do not bother with print or newspaper advertising. It is too expensive for the small return. Instead, look for free ads or write-ups in local child-oriented newsletters, blogs, and websites.
Be official and organized
Be completely prepared before you sign up your first student. Create a Studio Policies document, or some kind of rulebook where you can openly print your policies on missed classes, bounced checks, refunds, inclement weather, etc. Make sure the parents receive these when they sign up.
Print out an enrollment form where you can gather basic information such as name, address, age, allergies, emergency contacts, etc. I also have a part at the bottom of the form where the parents sign a waiver of liability and acknowledge that they have read and agreed to my Studio Policies.
You will also need to come up with a system for signing up students. I have a form that lists each class and only has spots for the number allowed. This will help you order supplies and not overbook your classes.
Don’t forget to decide how parents will pay for the class. I have found it to be extremely helpful to require a deposit from the parents at sign-up, because if they have already paid for 20% of the class, they are less likely to cancel at the last minute.
I explain to parents that the deposit is non-refundable as I order supplies ahead of time and it is much harder to fill an open spot at the last minute. The remainder of tuition is due on the first day of class.
Finally, you may also wish to create a system for yourself to follow up with parents. I send out an e-mail one week before class starts reminding parents of the class day and time, instructions for getting to the studio, and any other important information.
Get ready to teach
Before you teach your first class, make sure your studio is student friendly. Set up tables and chairs to allow for clear walkways, child proof the bathroom, and be vocal about your boundaries to the students, especially if some of them are playmates to your kids.
Consider your own art creation as well. For instance, I do not paint with oils during my teaching seasons since I do not feel that I have proper ventilation for young lungs.
If you have not already done so, now is the time to create an official lesson plan. I generally clear out a two hour block of time and drag a dozen or so books off my shelves and start looking for ideas. Since I already have a theme (line, color, etc) that I am basing my lessons around, I simply look for projects or artists that I can use to illustrate this theme.
Consider drying times when picking projects. My students will usually stretch their projects over two sessions so individual steps can dry in between classes.
I also make sure I have some quick filler projects in case students finish quicker than I anticipate. The very last project of the session needs to be “dry” so parents don’t have to juggle wet paint as they pick up their kids.
Once you have determined the actual projects and you have a fair idea of the number of students you will be teaching, it is time to order supplies.
I buy most of my supplies on-line through Dick Blick but I frequently supplement those with supplies from local mega-art and craft stores.
Buy supplies at least a week before classes to allow for delivery time and always order a little extra. I ALWAYS have a last minute sign-up unless all my classes are already full, and you may too.
If you’ve done everything listed above, you should be completely set-up, fully organized, and prepared to teach!
Don’t worry if you have just a few students to start with. My very first class was a class of three and one was my own son! Fast-forward a year and I had over 30 students in one session.
If you’re ready to take your art class to the next level, make sure you’re subscribed to the free EE newsletter and watch for part four of this series, coming soon!