Melisa Joy preps for her Michaels Craft Class
Over 1 million students signed up for Michaels craft classes in 2016. Many hobbyists turn to stores like Michaels as they try out a new craft, and in-store classes offer the opportunity to develop new skills. For craft pros, Michaels could be a place to connect with customers, hone your teaching skills, and grow a following for your craft business.
Michaels calls their Community Classroom, “a place to grow your maker community… and make extra money at the same time!” We’ve rounded up tips from Michaels craft class instructors to make it easy to start teaching your own class.
Sign up to teach
Michaels’ Community Classroom is powered by AnyRoad, a third-party experiential marketing company. Michaels uses AnyRoad’s platform to allow independent contractors to sign up to teach classes. AnyRoad facilitates the sign-up process for students, and distributes teacher payments.
In 2019, Michaels switched from using employees to independent contractors for class instruction. The requirements for certification and credentialing (from Craft Yarn Council or Wilton) have been removed. Any creative person can apply to teach at Michaels. Prospective instructors share contact info, a short bio, and a profile photo. Instructors must be 18+ to teach in Michaels’ Community Classroom.
“The process of applying was fairly simple and straight-forward,” said Jennifer Gibson, owner of Blue Dahlia Arts, who teaches Acrylic Pour Painting classes at the Armory Way Michaels in Seattle, WA. “They do not require a background check, so as instructors we are limited to teaching ages 13 and up,” Gibson said.
Before teaching classes at Michaels, prospective teachers must sign a contract with AnyRoad, which covers terms for teacher payments, an independent contractor agreement, community classroom best practices, and a mutual arbitration agreement. Teachers must hold insurance for their classes, if required by law in that state. The teaching contract is non-exclusive, and instructors are free to teach the same materials in other locations.
Michals craft class teachers are paid 70% of the total class fees collected. All payments are collected through AnyRoad’s platform; teachers do not collect cash at class time. Instructors are responsible for creating their class curriculum and setting their own class pricing. Many classes are priced between $25-75 for a 1-2 hour class.
Melisa Joy in the Michaels Community Classroom
Teachers are paid every other Tuesday via check or direct deposit for all Michaels craft classes taught during the prior two weeks. AnyRoad does not accept liability for workers compensation, nor do they offer tax payment withholding from teacher payments. Michaels’ Community Classroom teachers are not eligible to join company health insurance or retirement plans.
“The Community Classroom portal just went through a re-design and it is so much more user-friendly! It’s great that I don’t have to worry about [sending] another invoice. Payments have always been accurate and timely,” said teacher Melisa Joy.
Planning a craft class
When developing a craft class for Michaels customers, consensus seems to be that simple is best. Michaels craft class instructor Jennifer Gibson aimed to create a class that, “Just about anyone could try, the emphasis being on letting go and having fun, as opposed to focusing heavily on technique.” Gibson shares, “It’s very important to me that students leave feeling satisfied they learned something new and are able to repeat it again on their own.”
Instructors pay for all class expenses, including any supplies or tools students will use in class. One workaround is to require the students to purchase materials on their own before class, but this can lead to confusion for beginning crafters. Classes must only utilize supplies and materials purchased at Michaels.
Michaels offers a 15% discount in-store to their teachers. Instructors may also consider using their tax exempt status or reseller ID to order supplies from Darice, the wholesale distributor associated with Michaels. For instructors who teach on a regular basis, finding affordable supplies could boost profit margins.
To list a class on the Michaels site, you must include a description and photo of the finished project, which means spending time making a prototype.
Pricing a class can be complicated. Gibson shared that she prices her classes by calculating, “The supplies I needed to provide and the cost per person, how long it might take for the average student to complete the task/goal set forth, and determining the minimum amount I was willing to walk away with for each class.” Gibson selected a price of $39/student for a two hour Acrylic Pour Painting class.
Teaching Classes at Michaels
Michaels classes are marketed towards craft enthusiasts with varied levels of experience. Melisa Joy structures her class so that the project has varying degrees of difficulty. “That way if the class is speeding through, I have something up my sleeve to cater to their skill level. My goal is to have everyone walk away learning something new and feeling excited to continue creating,” Joy said.
The instructor is responsible for setting up and cleaning up the community classroom. “I like to make my set up as easy as possible. This usually means packing the night before and making sure I have enough [supplies] for 2-3 over the headcount,” said Joy. All kinds of crafts are encouraged, but power tools, soldering tools, or excessively sharp tools are not allowed in Michaels craft classes. The classroom is available on a first come, first served basis, and classes must finish 30 min before closing.
The instructor contract states that teachers, “May not distribute any materials, including brochures or business cards,” during their class. However, this rule doesn’t seem to be enforced, based on teacher testimony. Offering an opportunity for students to sign up for your mailing list gives you the option to reach out to your students again at a later date.
Michaels Community Classroom instructors report struggling with low enrollment and cancellations, but teacher Jennifer Gibson says she’s grown her enrollment with persistence. “My first three classes only had one participant, but I showed up and gave that person a great experience,” Gibson said. “Working with the store’s manager and finding better ways to promote the class was essential. After a couple of months my classes grew to being full or mostly full each time.” Gibson’s advice: “Be patient and keep at it.”
Briana Johnson of Sweet Bri’s Bakery teaches cookie decorating classes in Allen, TX. Johnson shared that Michaels continues to market new classes to past students. “People who have attended a Michael’s class in the past get alerts in regards to new classes, and that has brought them in to take my class,” Johnson said.
Coordinating with Michaels Team Members
One of the most common issues that Michaels Community Classroom teachers face is lack of communication and support from Michaels staff. Some instructors believe the classes aren’t effectively marketed on a local level, and that miscommunications can lead to the community classroom being double booked.
“Building a relationship with your store(s) can go a long way,” says teacher Melisa Joy. “I like to call ahead to confirm [Michaels’ team members] are aware of the class that day. Some stores are great about scheduling, while others can be very busy and potentially forget,” says Joy.
“I also like to introduce myself personally to the manager on duty and remember to thank any associate who helped me prep the room. If the employees remember what you teach, they’re more likely to recommend the class to an inquiring customer,” said Joy.
Leveraging teaching opportunities
Does teaching classes at Michaels help grow a following for a creative business? Some instructors say yes. “I include a business card with my contact information and website in case they have any questions after the class. One of the best compliments I receive is when they ask what I am teaching next. It’s great to hear they’ve had a great time and want to keep learning,” says Melisa Joy.
Teacher Briana Johnson offers some advice to new instructors: “Teach what you know and love. Your students will get so much out of a craft that you are passionate about.” With 1274 store locations, Michaels may fill a gap when other classroom space is unavailable. “Teaching at Michaels is great when you can’t find the right space,” said Johnson.
Erin is the textile designer and artist behind the home décor company, Cotton & Flax. She licenses her surface designs for fabric, home décor, stationery, and other clients. She’s also a teacher, writer, and enthusiastic advocate for small creative business owners. She lives in San Diego, California.