If you want to teach, you need a pool of potential students.
You need a following. And a following suggests there is a leader. If you expect people to sign up for your classes or buy your how-to book, you must step up and be the leader.
You've got to position yourself as an expert.
Becoming known for your skills is not an overnight process. It’s a process that you must be dedicated to and in for the long haul.
I built Art Biz Coach using all of the tactics I share below. I think it would be harder to start my business today because the market is much noisier than when I opened back in 2002.
Your market is also robust. There are more people seeking instruction, and there are a lot more artists who are teaching in their own studios, in art centers and supply stores, and online.
In business terms, this presents both a threat and an opportunity. The threat is that more people are competing for students. The opportunity is that you can differentiate yourself.
The distinguishing characteristics of a successful, independent art teacher are:
1. True expertise in the subject.
Make sure you’re not rehashing what your teachers taught you. That’s called plagiarism. What have you learned on your own that you can give your students?
2. Proven success in the subject.
Have you sold plenty of art? Filled your classes? Won awards?
3. A real passion for teaching.
You can’t get in it just to make money. You must care about your students.
4. Consistent demonstration of all the above.
Don’t be a sort-of teacher. Be one that makes a difference in people’s lives by living up to your promises and delivering consistently for your students.
Here’s how you can do that.
First, Find Clarity
Get clear about the students you want to attract.
Who are they? What is their learning level? Where do they live? Where do they hang out online?
Get clear on what you will teach and why.
How is what you teach different from what others are offering? Why are you the best person to teach this class? What can you offer that someone else couldn’t?
Make sure you really are an expert in the subject you choose.
After you have clarity, you can begin building your platform as a leader.
Promote Your Expertise
Catch the rest and tell us what you look for in a teacher.
Create an email newsletter just for students.
If you don’t want to bother your buyers and collectors with a bunch of content on how to make art, segment your list into students and buyers. Yes, they may cross over from time to time, but knowing who’s who on your list will make life much easier for you.
Target your teaching messages to potential students.
Write how-to articles.
Teachers need blogs! You need a place to show off what you know and a blog – built on your site in a space you control – will do the trick.
Don’t be stingy with your information. Potential students need to trust that you will share what you know. Package the information differently in your teaching, and they will learn even more by consuming it in a new way.
Leverage what you write. Turn articles into free downloads as an incentive for people to sign up for your newsletter. You might also find that you can tweak articles later and submit to other publications.
Share your content on social media.
Writing first on your site and then sharing to social media can result in more traffic for your site. Use hashtags that potential students might follow.
Speak for free.
Develop a talk or demonstration that you can offer to artist groups and organizations.
I can’t begin to tell you how many free speaking gigs I’ve done. My clients know I don’t want you speaking without pay for long, but you kinda need to do this in the beginning.
I still sometimes speak for free if the situation is right. It’s a fast way for a bunch of people to get to know me at once. (Let me know if I can speak to your group if I'm in the area!)
After you have a number of engagements under your belt, you can begin charging for your speaking.
Create audio and video.
Audio and video add a different dimension to your offerings because potential students can hear your voice or see you. This builds trust.
Someone once came to one of my workshops after seeing a video. She said, “I thought, yeah, I could spend two days with her.” Undoubtedly, others saw that same video and had different thoughts, but they aren’t the right students for me. (That’s another topic!)
Comment on artists’ work online.
Write positive notes when artists post their art online.
If they asked for critical feedback, give it in a supportive way. The Oreo approach to giving feedback consists of three steps: this is what’s right, this could use some work, and this is really good. Always end on a positive note.
Solidify Your Position
Get a teacher or coach of your own.
It took me a long time to realize how valuable a coach could be for me. (Duh! says the Art Biz Coach.) Some areas of my business wouldn’t have been such a struggle if I had worked with a coach much sooner.
I wish I could have a do-over because working with coaches has made me a better teacher and a better coach. My clients benefit because of my investment in guidance.
Finally, be consistent.
I said it above (#4) and it’s worth repeating: Students have to know they can depend on you. The best way to demonstrate your reliability is to be consistent with your offerings, your message, and your marketing.
Now, tell me, what do you look for in a teacher?