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Running a workshop or short course is a great opportunity for creatives to diversify income while sharing their skills, knowledge and passions. But before you run a workshop of your own, it pays to do a little research to ensure there is demand, a venue and that you have the time and skills for marketing to ensure your event is a success.
What can you offer?
I believe we’re seeing an increase in the number of self-hosted workshops as education becomes more democratized: learning by the people, for the people! Many creatives have mastered processes and adapted techniques to make them more easily shareable with others. Ask yourself: what can you offer? What will participants specifically gain from undertaking a workshop with you?
Does someone else already offer it? Do people want it?
Dig around the Internet and you’ll see a whole bunch of workshops being offered by retailers, artist collectives and practicing designers. As you browse what’s available, here are some questions to guide your research.
Does anyone else currently offer workshops in your field of expertise?
If you have competitors, great! It means there is genuine interest from others wanting to learn this set of skills. How do your competitors run their workshops? Can you do it better?
If you don’t have competitors, ask your friends, colleagues and even strangers whether they or someone they know would be interested in taking one of your workshops.
Find out where your competitors are located. Can you find alternate regions or locations to attract another demographic?
Outline the purpose of your workshop.
The more clearly you define the purpose of your workshop, the easier it will be to hone in on your target market.
Does your workshop require prior skills or knowledge, or is it introductory and inclusive?
Are you offering professional development or sharing knowledge or artisan skills?
Will there be something physical to take home afterwards, either a handmade object or a set of reference materials?
How long will the session go for? Can you condense it into one day or will you need to stretch it out over a weekend or multiple evening sessions?
Define the aims and goals of your workshop so participants know what to expect. Tell them specifically what prior knowledge or skills they’ll need, what to bring, what’s supplied and what you’ll provide.
Find a space.
Venue rentals can easily eat away workshop profits and the ability to pay yourself after costs, so it’s worth considering other options. Could you run your workshop from your home or studio? Could you find a venue partner who will benefit from you bringing in new customers? Consider linking with a food and beverage or retail business to boost sales in exchange for free space. You could also consider profit-share so there’s a mutual benefit from cross-promotion and marketing. Make sure your venue is easy to get to, accessible to public transport and has parking options.
Sell tickets. Promote and share. Sell more tickets!
Give yourself six to eight weeks lead-time to book a space or find a collaborator or host. You’ll want to have the event information up with a minimum of four weeks to market and promote. If you don’t have an existing online shop, consider using a third-party booking system such as Stickytickets, Eventbrite or WeTeachme to manage sales.
To promote your event, create a flyer or image that effectively communicates your workshop outcomes. If you don’t have graphic design skills, an edited photo or simple graphic designed on Canva.com can be really effective.
Share your workshop visuals, information and booking link across social media channels. Encourage others to share the event details. Link with your target market via Facebook groups and send emails to your database, friends and family. Get the workshop information out there! Promote and share! Keep going right up until launch time.
Do a great job. Get feedback. Build a tribe!
Finally, you’re running a workshop! Give it your all to make it special and memorable. Follow up with an email to let people know you appreciated their time and interest, and ask if there’s anything you could do to make it better next time.
Building an audience takes time. Sometimes the people who would most love to come to your workshop are unavailable or simply forgot to book tickets. Have a second date ready to gauge interest and send through to any enquiries that come through.
Emily Wills is the creative director of SURFACE 1°22, a surface pattern design studio. In her various manifestations, she has worked as a fashion designer, illustrator, curator, arts educator and printed textile designer. Emily founded the SURFACE 1°22 Design School in Melbourne, offering hands-on workshops and short courses in surface and textile design. For more information, visit her Facebook page and Instagram feeds (@surface122designschool and @surface122).
Photography credits: Tendai Hatendi