The Business of Teaching Crafts

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If you're teaching crafts to earn income, you'll need to think through all of the business and logistical issues around being a crafts instructor. Here's what you need to know about the business of teaching crafts.

Planning for teaching crafts doesn't end with developing a fabulous project, securing a venue for your class, and getting students to sign up. There will be several business-related factors you'll need to work out before you start teaching.

I do recommend you work these issues out ahead of time as much as possible. You'll avoid, or at least minimize, headaches, disappointment, and miscommunication if you can work out the details in advance of your first class.

Legal and Insurance Issues to Consider When Teaching Crafts

Glass jar full of colored markers against dark background. Text overlay - The Business of Teaching Crafts - Teaching crafts? Here’s how to negotiate fees, and manage business related issues.

First, whenever I mention legal or insurance issues related to your business, I need to clarify that I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not an insurance expert.

I can give you a heads up about a few things to be aware of, but I'm not qualified to give you specific advice on these topics.

You must talk to your insurance agent, and possibly your lawyer or other professionals directly to deal with these issues.

You can also get a mountain of valuable advice about the business side of teaching crafts in the course, How to Teach It, on Craftsy.

It's important to be aware that teaching your craft can have an impact on your business and/or personal and home insurance.

Teaching classes can represent a significant change in your business, and those changes can impact your insurance. Be sure to talk to your business insurance provider and clearly explain your plans to determine if any changes to your policy are necessary.

Keep in mind, if you're teaching in your home studio, that might impact your personal home insurance (not just your business insurance), so be clear about this plan with your home insurance provider as well your business insurance provider.

You may also need to be aware of business-related bylaws in your city, particularly if you're planning to teach classes in your home studio. You don't want to build up a thriving business teaching classes in your studio, only to have it shut down because you're not actually allowed to run that type of business from your home.

Visit your local Chamber of Commerce, or Small Business Administration office (if you're in the U.S.), and they will be able to point you to the information you need about bylaws that may impact your new teaching venture.

Communicating and NEgotiating with Partners

If you're working with a partner in any way - for example, teaching at a community center, or a craft shop - both you and your partner will have certain expectations. You'll need to ensure those expectations are clearly communicated, understood and agree upon on both sides. Ideally, you should clarify your agreement in writing to avoid misunderstandings.

Some issues to clarify with your partners include:

  • payment
  • expectations about course materials
  • responsibilities to promote the class
  • responsibilities during the class
  • non-compete agreements


How will you and your partner be compensated?

Will you pay a flat fee to rent space, and all students class fees will be paid to you? Will you and your partner split the class profits? How will they be split? Will you be paid a flat fee, and the venue that hosts the class will keep all class income over and above your flat fee?

Expectations About Course Materials

Are there any expectations about where students will purchase raw materials for the course?

If you're teaching at a craft shop, the shop owner will likely expect raw materials to be bought at the shop. Promoting their products will be a big part of a craft shop owner's motivation for offering classes.

Responsibilities to Promote the Class

Who is responsible to promote and fill the class?

Ideally, both you and your partner will be working to promote and fill up the class, but this expectation should be clarified because it can be a source of frustration if responsibilities aren't clear.

Generally, the more stake your partner has in filling the class, the more effort they will put into promoting it. If you're just renting a room in their space, they might not do a lot of promote your class. If, on the other hand, they will receive a share of the profits from the class fees, they can be expected to put more work into promotion.

Responsibilities During Class

Who will be responsible for what during class?

Will someone at the venue be available if there is a problem with the room? Who will take payments? Who will set up the room?

Non-Compete Agreements

Your partner may ask you to sign a non-compete agreement, particularly if you're teaching at a craft shop.

These agreements are fairly standard, and they are designed to protect the business that's hosting the craft classes. They will limit your ability to teach your craft in other venues, so you need to understand the terms, and ensure they won't unreasonably limit your own business.

Non-compete agreements can limit your teaching in a variety of ways. For example, a non-compete agreement might specify that you can't teach your craft at another shop within a certain distance from your partner's shop. Or it might simply state that you can't teach that specific class at another shop. 

I've never signed a non-compete agreement to teach craft courses, but I did sign two different non-compete agreements when I taught music at private music schools.

One agreement indicated that I could not take on a student of the school as my own private student within 6 months of teaching that person at the school. That stipulation was, in my opinion, a perfectly reasonable requirement. It protected the school and prevented teachers from walking away with their students, but it didn't unreasonably limit my ability to use my own skill outside of the school.

The other non-compete I signed indicated that I would not teach music at all within a 50 kilometer (about 30 miles) radius of the school within 2 years of my employment there. At the time, I lived more than 50km away from the school, so I knew if I wanted to take on private students, or work at a studio closer to home, I could do it without violating the agreement. However, if I had lived near the school, I might have found that agreement too restrictive because it would have completely prevented me from using my skills anywhere else in that area.

Read any non-compete agreement carefully. Think about how it will limit your ability to teach elsewhere and make sure it doesn't limit you in ways that are not acceptable. Some non-compete agreements are perfectly reasonable, and others, you might find, limit your own business in ways that are not acceptable.

Communicating and Clarifying Expectations with Students

It's crucial to set up clear expectations between you and your students in order to avoid disappointment.

First and foremost, ensure your class description is extremely clear, so students will know exactly what they are signing up for, and your class will meet their expectations.

You might even consider clarifying who the class is not for. For example, if you're teaching a large project that will take several classes and will require students to do a significant amount of homework between classes, you might clarify that your class isn't for someone who's looking for a quick project that can be finished in an afternoon. You can write information like this in a light-hearted way, but it will clarify exactly what a student can expect from your class.

Class fees need to be clearly communicated. Indicate the cost of the class, what that cost covers, whether the course fee includes the cost of materials and if there will be any other costs, when course fees are due and who to pay, and be clear about your cancellation and refund policies.

If the mere idea of all that negotiating fills you with dread, do check out Craftsy's class for craft instructors, How to Teach It. The instructor is fabulous, and she'll have you ready to teach your first craft class in no time.

Learn More About Teaching Crafts

  • Teach Art at Home or in your Community

    Want to teach art at home or in your community? Here's how to find the right venue to teach your craft and get started on your career as an art or craft instructor.

  • How to Be a Craft Teacher

    How to be a craft teacher in your community. How to get started teaching craft classes - what you need to plan, organize, and make happen before you teach your first class.

  • Best Crafts to Teach

    Discover the best crafts to teach. Whatever your skill, some craft projects will be a better fit for a classroom than others. Here's how to think through your own craft skills and discover the best type of project to teach to a class.

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