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Photo courtesy of Marjie Kemper

Looking to teach your passion nationwide? It’s exciting and a little daunting, but you can do it! You’ll need to build your reputation and establish yourself as a qualified and capable instructor. For me, the transition from local to national teaching took about 12 to 18 months. Here are some tried-and-true suggestions for taking your teaching on the road.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already, start locally. It makes sense to hone your teaching skills in your own backyard. You won’t have to deal with the logistics and expenses of travel, and you’ll know if travel teaching is something you really want to do.

You have plenty of options. Possibilities include teaching at a local store, a meet-up, a retreat, a conference, or a tradeshow. Additionally, you may self-host an event at a local church, synagogue, or community center. Another option gaining in popularity is teachers banding together to offer a collaborative event. This team effort can be a wonderful way to reach new audiences, as you’ll each be exposed to one another’s marketing efforts.

As you’re making a name for yourself during this transition time, don’t forget other ways to market your expertise. Writing articles for industry publications, for example, will boost your authority and be a great selling point to storeowners.

Finding Venues

The logical place to start is with a local store. You probably already shop there, so you may not even need to introduce yourself to the owner. After establishing a relationship with your local store and teaching several classes there, consider moving further afield.

The general progression is local, regional, national. Research stores within 50 miles and consider those as secondary teaching prospects. Hone your findings. Some stores rely solely on owner/staff instruction. I live in New York, so it’s easy for me to visit several states within 50 miles and still drive home the same evening. Depending on where you live, you might need to drive considerably further and require a hotel stay. (More on that later.)

 

Photo courtesy of Marjie Kemper

After you’ve gained experience teaching regionally, approach stores in other parts of the country and consider teaching at retreats. These are usually multi-day events that offer a variety of full- and half-day workshops. Applications are generally due 12 to 18 months prior to the event, and most organizers include application instructions on their website.

Finally, consider teaching at a conference or an industry trade show. Teaching at trade events can bring an enormous boost in exposure and strengthen partnerships with manufacturers in your industry. The largest workshop I’ve taught was to 50 people at the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) show. The audience was made up of more retailers than consumers. Some shows will approach you to teach; others have applications online. Applications are generally due 8 to 12 months ahead of the event.

Photo courtesy of Marjie Kemper

Pitching Ideas

Before you pitch an idea, consider what other classes/instructors the store has hosted, and what differentiates you and your class project. This may be less of a concern for your local store since they won’t be covering any travel expenses, but it is a huge issue for a store that will be paying for your travel.

I make my initial pitch with a query email that is short and sweet. It includes links to my website and social media and mentions prior experience and publications. Once the store expresses interest, I follow up with very detailed class descriptions, photos, supply lists, and pricing.

When deciding where to pitch, consider the size of the classroom and the space available for each student. A comfortable classroom is a happy classroom. I’ve been to places where the students are squeezed in, and trust me: no one enjoys that. A larger store may offer greater earning potential as you can make more money in a classroom that holds more people.

Contracts, Promises, and Pricing

For all but my local store, I insist on a written contract. This eliminates any confusion about spoken promises. I include in the contract the project name and description, timing, three supply lists (what I provide, what the store provides, and what the students bring), cost per student, payment details, cancellation dates, cut-off date, promotional plans (mine and the store’s), and any related travel expenses and who will pay for them.

Besides the obvious expenses (hotel, airfare, meals), consider how you will get to the airport, park your car at the airport, secure ground transportation in the destination city, etc. Also determine who pays and when. I like the store to pay for the expenses up front rather than pay for them myself and await reimbursement.

Some teachers request a deposit 30 to 60 days prior to the event. In that case, it’s reasonable to request 50% of the projected revenue. So if you expected 20 students at $100 per student, it would be fair to ask for a $1,000 down payment. I haven’t personally done this, but I know several who have. I feel that if the store has already prepaid my air and hotel, I’m not concerned about the deposit. I do insist on payment at the close of the event.

Photo courtesy of Marjie Kemper

A Note of Caution

Beware the storeowner who asks you to forgo the hotel and stay at his or her home. I say this for a number of reasons, the main one being that I need downtime before and after class. When I am teaching, I am on and it is draining. For a multi-day event, I really need to go back to my hotel room and chill out so that I am good to go and back at 100% for the students the following morning. Additionally, you may find that there are odors (pets, smoking, etc.) that are difficult to manage.

Benefits of Teaching Nationally

The biggest benefit I’ve received from teaching nationally was when Craftsy invited me to teach an online mixed media class for them. I’ve taught at the last two Craft & Hobby Association trade shows, and it was through one of those gigs that Craftsy spotted me. As a result, I now have a course with thousands of students, which is, of course, far more than I could teach in person.

Teaching nationally also establishes you as an authority on your subject matter, which will help build your brand and may lead to additional teaching opportunities, interviews, publications, and relationships with manufacturers.

I’ve created an e-book on this subject that is chock full of additional information, checklists, worksheets, and sample documents. It will be available in mid-December. Sign up here to be the first to hear when it’s released!

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