The income of a professional visual artist can be a roller-coaster ride of financial highs and lows, and knowing this, many artists naturally turn to teaching art in order to bring in some bread and butter income. I myself have taken this path in the past, and along with my Wife we ran the largest private art tuition program in our local shire for about 5 years.
Today we still run a version of our original live tuition program, but now it lives online in a ‘Virtual Classroom’ instead, which suits our lifestyle very well, however, if you are just starting out and are thinking of teaching art in a live setting then here are some tips for success:
1. Be an art tutor because you want to share your love of art
Your students deserve an art teacher who really wants to share what they know. Artists who are in tutoring just for the money generally don’t last very long, or grow to resent their new ‘day job’. If this is you then don’t do it to them and don’t do it to yourself.
2. Be organised, professional and business-like
If you are going to be doing this for the long haul then you need to set your art tuition business up as a ‘real business’, just like all the other real businesses in the world. Your clients will respect you for it and place more value on what you do.
3. Create a structured course
Just running short stand-alone workshops is fine and dandy but that will mean that you have to find new students every time you run a new course. This can be expensive in terms of time and money when it comes to advertising and marketing your art tuition services.
If you create a structured course it’s much easier to retain the same students for a long time. Make sure you build in progression and recognition of achievement. This will require you to develop plenty of different art skills which you can teach over a long period. It’s hard work, but it will make you a better and more versatile artist in the long run. Remember you don’t have to create your entire course before you start teaching. You can just start with a general outline and create it ‘just in time’ if you are brave enough 😉
4. Create course materials which students can take home
This adds value to what you are offering and sets you head and shoulders above the rest of the private art tutors in town who are just teaching in an ad-hoc fashion.
5. Charge well for your classes
You will get more respect from your students if your classes are refreshingly expensive. Your professionalism will allow you to command a good price for your time. Don’t worry about the competition or community groups that charge next to nothing. You are not in that market. You are providing an excellent and very professional art tuition program and people will expect it to pay for it. Don’t undersell what you are offering by going too cheap.
6. Advertise in ‘Good Places’
We found over time that students who made enquiries via classified ads were harder to teach and generally did not stay with us as long as those who came via ads placed in the main part of a newspaper (usually the ‘lifestyle’ section). They also tended to be looking for ‘what they can get’ rather than ‘what they can learn’. The two audiences seem to have a different mindset. In our experience its worth advertising in places where people are looking for quality of service rather than value for money.
7. Charge up front
Many art tutors seem timid about asking students to pay up front, instead opting to allow them to pay on a week by week basis. Don’t be afraid to charge upfront on a ‘per term’ basis, and request a deposit to secure course places. This also makes things much easier administratively.
8. Keep overheads as low as possible
Renting a hall or commercial space is very expensive, and so are art materials. Do your sums. If they don’t add up, don’t do it. Adding more students to your workload will not get you around this. It will only make you very tired, stressed and overworked 😉
9. Share what you know freely
Many students came to us because their previous tutor seemed to be holding back their ‘trade secrets’, afraid that a students might steal a bit of their original art style. Don’t be afraid that a student will be become a better artist than you using your tricks of the trade. In our experience the students that really pick up the baton and run with it only reflect well on the master artist that taught them (that’s you).
10. Don’t forget why you are doing this
You are teaching art to support your art practice. Remember to leave time in your weekly schedule for your own art.