14 Tips For Teaching On-site Workshops

Are you interested in teaching on-site workshops? I'm frequently asked how to do this so I thought I'd answer everyone in a single post - please share this post to further spread the word since teaching workshops is a trend in the making for bloggers. I think if you can teach and have something to share of value then consider running workshops because I LOVE TEACHING and I don't plan to ever stop - they fuel me and make me so, so happy. workshop1

(Above: This is a view of my home-based workshop. I have two rooms connected by pocket doors so both become my teaching space when I have events at home, but I primarily work out of this room below (photography by Debi Treloar). This is a photo from my book, Decorate Workshop.)

Let me get started by stating the obvious: teaching online and teaching on-site are two very different things. Online teaching is just that - teaching an e-course using mainly your computer. Teaching on-site is all about gathering together a group and teaching face-to-face which creates a whole different dynamic with completely different points to consideration. Also, teaching on-site in your own home or in your separate work studio is much different than teaching for a day out of a studio that you rent exclusively for your event. This post will only cover how to teach on-site in primarily your home because that is what most of you have been emailing me about lately. (Lots of these tips can be applied to teaching off-site too.)

But first, a little background. I've been teaching online for four years with my own e-course, Blogging Your Way, but my experience as a teacher came long before e-courses. I first started planning and teaching workshops as a project manager 15 years ago in the corporate world - so when it came time to teach workshops for my own company, decor8, I had a ton of experience to tap into. For some of you with little to no experience teaching, you may feel completely lost. I can relate - I once had no clue how to plan workshops either. We all begin somewhere so consider this your beginning!

This space makes me happy. If the place where you work inspires you then those good feelings flow directly into your work so it's vital to consider this early on while in the planning stages.

14 Workshop-at-home Tips: Okay, so you want to teach at home, you have your curriculum crafted and well, you're ready to go, right? Not quite. Here are some tips from a girl who has been there, done that. :)

1  Identify the space

What room in your home could be a great space for you to use as your office + workshop? Consider how far it is from your bathroom and front door. Maybe a formal dining room could be your office +workshop AND formal dining room (like mine?).  We tend to eat in the kitchen and use the dining room only for parties and special occasions so it made no sense for us to reserve an entire room in our home for only dining.

Will you teach there often? Will you work there daily? Will you work alone or with others? What will you teach and do you have room for your supplies? How many people do you plan to teach? Perhaps you work as a consultant. How many can the room comfortably accommodate for a consultancy? If you are a wedding photographer, you may need to sit with your clients and show them their photos - can you accommodate a couple and other family members if they plan to bring children or parents?

2  Envision the space

Create a board to collect your inspirations on Pinterest or a file folder for magazine tears. This helps to define your personal style and vision.

3  Materials, storage and equipment: Think about what you use and where you intend to store it.

What do you need for teaching and how and where do you intend to store your stuff?  (i.e. cabinets, boxes, desk drawers, etc.) Imagine all of the ways you could organize and where. The things that you use should be close to where you use them. Store paper and office supplies directly near your printer and desk, for instance. Don't put your craft cabinet in your guest bedroom if you plan to teach crafting in your new workspace.

Also, have a back up plan. If you teach sewing lessons, you may require all of your students to bring their own machine. It's been my experience to always keep a spare machine as a loaner in case one breaks.


(During a workshop in my office.)

3 Floor plan: Putting the puzzle together.

Decide where you will perform each function - working on your computer, printing, teaching, sewing, whatever it is that you do. I needed a large work table for my students and a very long space for my desk area so I could fit a printer, my computer, and stack work. I also required hidden storage because I have lots to store and since the room is also a dining room for my family - I wanted to reduce visual "office" clutter so that I could easily throw a dinner party in the space without having to hide stuff or redecorate the entire room!

Sketch out a few floor plan scenarios by hand. Consider flow - can people easily walk around? Once you feel good about the arrangement, take accurate measurements of everything - the room, windows, doorways, current furniture, pieces you'd like to purchase... And see if everything still works. If not, modify accordingly.

4  Consider your furnishings.

Shop around in your own home first and then make a wish list for other items and buy only what you need at first - you can "fill in" later. Then think of what you need for the space - do you have enough seating? Should you store some folding chairs too? How about the furniture itself - is it precious or antique? If so, you may want to move it to another spot in the home and put furniture in the space that you don't mind seeing it get beat around a little. Wear and tear WILL occur!


5  Lighting is key.

Make sure the lighting is really good. You need to see what you are doing! People tend to think of lighting last but it's a important to think about it right away. If you are teaching something that requires you to take photographs in the space, lighting is even more important. If you expect your students to take photos of your workshop for their blog, it's also important to ensure the lighting is great so that students look their best and your workshop photographs well. I know, a little detail but pretty photos makes people want to share your workshop with others and since so many are blogging and sharing online, you can bet someone is going to be using Instagram or bringing their DSLR with them!

Now I'm going to cover some things that go beyond storage, floor plans and aesthetics.

6  Theft, privacy, safety and accidents are constant issue that you need to really consider! Not everyone online can be trusted though a majority can. I've never had a problem with my students but I've heard stories so here is some advice:

* Place valuables in specific rooms and lock those doors when your home is in use for a work session with clients/students, etc.

* Make sure the things in your workspace can all be replaced and are not that "special" to you. For instance, if someone broke or ran off with your wooden stapler you may not care but if your precious vase from your grandmother disappeared or came crashing to the floor, you may be equally shattered.

* Consider too, your privacy and that of other family members. Ask your family how they feel about your idea to teach or work from home with clients.

* Bathroom use is something else to consider. Do you have a second bathroom or half bath that is close to your studio space? If not, are you comfortable with guests using your private bathroom and is that bathroom nearby to the space or does it mean guests going to another part of the house or to a separate floor to use the bathroom - if so, are you comfortable with that? Some things we may not think about in advance can really bug us later on so consider what you may want to keep "private" in advance and ensure that you can do so.

* For the sake of safety, screen your applicants. Ask them WHY they are taking the class, you may want to talk to them on the phone, make sure you look through their blog or website, google them, and most of all - trust your gut. Another way to protect yourself is to make sure you ONLY accept payment BEFORE the event (NOT same day in cash) and that all money is handled either through a bank transfer (wire) or Paypal so you know the person's true identify before they arrive for your workshop.

* Make sure your pets are not part of your event. Unless you are teaching a dog training class, your pets should be kept away from your classroom. Some people have allergies (please ask about allergies to food and pets before students arrive) but animals are funny little creatures sometimes. Some animals aren't used to lots of noise and "traffic" in the home and can get a bit weird-ed out by it - they may pee or bite or freak out.

* Consider also local laws and guidelines when it comes to teaching workshops from home - particularly insurance and what is covered in case someone falls on your property.


7  Consider storage for your guest

Where will they place their handbags, coats and shoots - is their space for that? When I teach, I use a rolling coat rack and I put it in my hallway since I don't want coats laying on my sofa or bed and with 15-20 students in my home per workshop - that's a lot of coats.

I also tell students to keep their handbags and equipment with them at all times because I am not held accountable for lost or stolen goods. They shouldn't be laying their handbag in the entryway with their shoes or putting a wallet on a random table with their keys. These items need to stay with them, on them, at all times.

Theft can happen so easily without a single bad intention since a lens cap, charger, even Macbooks and other computers all look the same so it's easy to pick up things as you are packing up that don't belong to you. And to leave with them. So it's a good idea if you have a bunch of students all using MacBooks for instance, to label them with a post it note or sticker with their name to avoid an accidental swap.

8  Charging Up

Where are your outlets? Consider if your guests will be able to locate them easily to charge their devices during class. You don't want students interrupting you to ask where outlets are of if you have a charger. Have some extension cords on hand and point out before class where those are located.

If outlets are hidden behind furniture, it's important to identify a charging station in a few spots with an outlet strip so students can easily plug in.


9  Shoes off!

I ask all of students to remove their shoes before entering my home but I also email them in advance mentioning that they need to bring slippers or socks because I don't allow bare feet either. I keep a few pairs of new socks (with tags on so people know they're new) and give them to those who forgot or missed my email. You can get inexpensive socks anywhere so it's worth having them in stock. I always let students keep them after use, too.

10  Refreshments

Think about food and drink. How will you handle feeding people? Is there a kitchen near to the room or will you put a small kitchen area in the room - mini fridge, coffee maker, etc.? Will you provide a catered lunch? Will you ask people to bring their own lunch? If so, will you have back up for those who forgot lunch? You may want to make a few sandwiches or salads just in case because you'll always have ONE student who forgets and this can really disrupt your teaching schedule if they need to go out to pick something up.

Keep plenty of bottled water and juice on hand and in the room during class with paper cups. Let students know that during class, they are free to help themselves at any time. I would avoid placing the bottles on the table (spills, laptops, you see where I'm going with this?), so create a mini drinks table or corner. It's a good idea midday, especially if you are teaching a full day, to serve complementary coffee and tea.

11  Supplies you should add to your list

Do you have aspirin, band-aids, tampons/sanitary napkins, enough toilet paper/paper towels, pens, paper, and other "stuff" that a student could potentially need? It's smart to have these miscellaneous things on hand so that students (or you!) don't have to leave your workshop to get what is needed. You really want to keep everyone together so that you can teach according to the schedule you have set.

12  Directions & expectations

Make sure everyone has directions and a clear idea of what they can expect from your workshop and what time is begins. end them everything they need in a single PDF two weeks in advance and then again 3 days before the event in case they missed the first one. Send a 3rd email the day before as a reminder and encourage everyone to show up on time - I ask students to arrive between 8-9 am so the arrival time is flexible but the start time is definite - 9:00 sharp. If they are late, they have lost time that they paid for to be there, and I think most people know that so they are usually on time. I also throw in that the early bird gets to select their goody bag (usually goody bags are not the same on the outside - different patterns and colors) and they can select the best seating first or something else to sort of nicely encourage an early arrival. Plus, an hour gives everyone time to arrive, get settled in and chat with one another. I usually serve a light breakfast during this time as well - bagels, fruit, coffee... And in emails I indicate that if they want to eat, to also arrive between 8-9 for best selection.

13 Photography

My home is still my home. Students are told at the beginning of class that they are only allowed to shoot in both of the workshop rooms, the entryway and wherever we end up serving food. It is your home, so it's your choice ultimately, but my husband requested this and though I honestly don't mind - my husband really does. Remember when I spoke about privacy earlier and talking to your family members first about where they draw the line?

14  Taxes

If you are collecting fees for teaching (you should be!), then you have to check out local tax laws and pay your taxes accordingly. Also, your students may require you to provide them with a formal business receipt for their taxes so they can write off the workshop, so make sure you have a template together and can provide those receipts upon request.

If you'd like to see my most recent workshop at home, click here for a really sweet video where you can see a full view of my teaching rooms and workspace.

SO! Those are my 14 tips for teaching on-site workshops (mostly from home). I'm planning another workshop in my space in June - can't wait! If I don't cover a point you'd like more information on, PLEASE ask it in the comments section so others can help you, including me.

(image: debi treloar, 7thingsfor7days, alittlebirdlove)