This is a guest post by Emily Helms, an incredibly talented, intelligent and compassionate writer, bookworm and creative copywriter (she’s humble too, but trust me, this girl has the “brain smarts”.)
If you’re a creative biz owner who is just starting out, I’m willing to bet that the money isn’t rolling in the door yet. In that case, teaching may be a great way to earn some extra cash while honing your skills.
I’ve taught for almost two years in three different settings: out of my home, out of a community arts school, and most recently, out of a teaching studio at my local music store.
In this post, I’ll go over some advantages and disadvantages of teaching to help you decide whether it’d be a good addition to your artist’s bag of tools. I’ll also go over some of the things you’ll need to consider before taking on your first victim…er, student.
Advantages of Teaching
The benefits of teaching go beyond earning extra dough to buy some merch at the next concert you attend. You’ll learn more about the nuts and bolts of your craft than you ever thought possible. And the feeling you get when one of your students performs an epic guitar riff or paints a mind-blowing picture can’t be beat.
On the pragmatic side, your creative business will benefit from your teaching work. You might pick up some new marketing tricks for increasing your exposure as a teacher and an artist.
You may even come up with an info product or two, creating a new income stream for yourself. For example, I’m creating an e-book and an educational game based on my teaching experiences with my students.
Disadvantages of Teaching
Teaching isn’t for everyone. To be a successful teacher, you’ve got to have lots of patience and great communication skills. No matter what age your students are, you’ll need to be able to break down the steps of your craft and explain it to them in a way they can understand. To see if you’d go crazy doing this, find somebody who knows absolutely nothing about your craft, preferably a child, and try to explain some aspect of what you do to them. If you find yourself getting impatient with all their questions, you might want to rethink the teaching thing.
Teaching isn’t like getting any old part-time gig. With an hourly job, you only work your scheduled hours, and you get to go home at the end of your shift. You probably avoid thinking about your job much during your off hours. With teaching, though, you’ll need to budget more time than just the hours you’ll teach. You’ll need to market yourself, and you’ll also spend time on administrative tasks and lesson preparation.
Nuts and Bolts
So you’ve decided to teach. Now you’ll have to decide how to go about it. I’ll go through a few of the things you need to consider.
Where and How You’ll Teach
There are a lot of options for the setting in which you’ll teach. Will you teach offline, in person? Or will you be location independent, teaching via an online service such as Skype? Consider your lifestyle and what’s comfortable for you.
Think about whether you want to affiliate yourself with an existing group, such as a community art school, or fly solo. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but as a beginning teacher, I’d encourage you to affiliate with an organization for your first few years. Not only will you gain traction faster, you’ll have the implied endorsement of the group you’re working with.
If you decide to affiliate with an existing group, always make sure to ask whether you’ll be treated as an employee or independent contractor. Most of the time, you’ll be treated as an independent contractor. This is better for you, because you may be able to deduct supplies you buy for teaching on your taxes, you’ll have more autonomy, and you usually can be paid directly by the students, rather than having to wait for a paycheck.
If you’ve already built up a considerable following, consider doing your own thing. For instance if you’re an experienced blogger with decently sized mailing list or a local artist with a thriving business, chances are that some of your fans would jump at the chance to work with you more intensively. Consider renting space in an existing arts school or community center for your classes if you’re teaching in person.
How will you structure your lessons or courses? How long will the courses be? This might depend on the age of your student. If you teach individual lessons, the progress the student makes and the curriculum you use will largely depend on his or her individual progress and ability. If you teach a group course, you’ll want to have the curriculum, as well as any books or supplies your students need, planned out ahead of time.
Don’t think that you have to have impressive credentials in order to teach. I don’t have a college degree in music, and the whole time I’ve been teaching, I’ve never been asked about it by a student or parent. Know-how, good teaching skills, and patience are more valuable than degrees or initials behind your name.
The most important thing is that you’re more experienced and skilled than your students, and that you can communicate your knowledge to them. Don’t put off getting started because you don’t think you’re skilled enough yet; even if you only think you’re a 5 in your field, you’re a 10 to someone not as far along as you. If you’ve not been practicing your craft for long, but know you’d enjoy teaching, start by working with absolute beginners.
If you’re going to be a teacher, you should familiarize yourself with different theories on students’ learning styles. Widely recognized theories include the VAK (Visual, Aural, Kinesthetic) learning styles and Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Be prepared for the fact that some students will learn differently from the way you learn things, and learn to adapt your teaching to these differences.
The ways you market yourself as a teacher will likely be different than those you use to market your art. If you give drum lessons, you can’t just slap hand-drawn fliers all over bulletin boards like you might for your band’s next gig. Also, you may have to tone down your image if your artistic persona isn’t mainstream. Skulls on your marketing materials would probably up the “cool” factor in the eyes of your potential students, but dead animals might scare parents away if your target audience is wee rockers.
Consider putting up a website, or add a teaching page to your existing one. More and more frequently, potential students are searching online before contacting a teacher. You can even put up a FAQ page to answer potential questions instead of fielding calls. Consider starting a blog, which would help promote you as an authority figure in your field.
Think outside the box when it comes to potential students. If the thought of herding a group of snot-nosed little kids makes you cringe, then market to a different age group. There are plenty of adult professionals who want to continue pursuing their creative passions; perhaps you could market to them. Or what about senior citizens?
Payments and Policies
How will you take payments? Most teachers accept cash or checks for individual lessons. If you’re teaching a course, your students will usually pay the entire fee before the course begins. Some teachers offer the option of online payment, such as PayPal. It’s up to you and what you’re comfortable with. Don’t forget to figure out your policies concerning cancellations, rescheduling, and refunds before you take on your first student.
So—Will You Take the Plunge?
Teaching can be fun and rewarding. You’ll find yourself thinking about the nuts and bolts of your craft much more often and how you’ll communicate them to your students. It can also be another income stream to help buoy you during slow times with your creative biz. Want to find out more about teaching? Check out the resources below for more information.
A Few Resources by Other Awesome People on Teaching
Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences – on LD Pride
7 Simple Things That Make Online Courses Irresistible - on Courses That Matter
Art as Business: Teaching/Giving Workshops – on Alexandra Hedberg
5 Tips for Beginner Teachers – on Music Teachers Helper Blog
Emily Helms is a freelance copywriter, blogger, and music teacher. When she’s not busy rocking her creative biz, she blogs about life as a solopreneur at http://www.emilyhelms.com. If you enjoyed this post, check out 10 Popular Career Myths You’ve Been Told: MythBusters Edition.
Don’t miss all the fun! Sign up to receive blog updates by RSS. And while you’re in a signing-up mood, don’t forget the Grymm & Epic Gazette – you’ll get my FREE ebook “Unleash the Beast: Release Your Inner Creative Monster”, as well as a weekly dose of creative inspiration. Grymm!Emily Helms is a freelance writer, blogger, and music teacher. When she’s not busy rocking her creative biz, she blogs about careers, social entrepreneurship, and postmodern life at emilyhelms.com. If you enjoyed this post, check out 10 Popular Career Myths You’ve Been Told: MythBusters Edition.