Karen Christians brings up some good points about teaching workshops
and kit prices and contracts. I teach 25 to 30 workshops a year.
They are generally multi-day events, the majority of them involve
travel, and most of them are arranged up to a year in advance,
sometimes much further.
I approach the issue of material costs by using the highest metal
spot price within the last year as my base price. Sometimes this
works out well, other times it falls a bit short. So, on top of that,
I figure out a slight safety margin in case the price goes up beyond
I don’t especially like to warehouse metals and stock materials far
ahead of events. I am not, unlike many instructors, making a
significant markup or profit on my kit fees. I am merely trying to
provide enough materials to accomplish the workshop curriculum within
a budget per student that covers the metal costs and any incidental
expenses such as shipping.
In the case of the most popular workshops which I teach several
times each year, I occasionally order larger amounts of metals but as
much as I am able to I prefer not to tie up resources in materials
that sit around for a long time. When the price is at a low point I
tend to order enough materials for several workshops if I have
several on the calendar. I am content to do this because I don’t
cancel workshops. When I set a date I use a contract (mine, not the
venue’s) and I fully intend to be on site at the stated date and time
and teach a room full of students. I don’t believe in the attitude of
“well, we’ll see how much interest we can get and if the workshop
will run”. I don’t schedule with venues presenting that attitude.
There are too few days on my annual calendar to work with
noncommittal coordinators and unenthusiastic program directors.
I also require a substantial non-refundable deposit with the return
of my signed contract to put a date on my calendar. The
non-refundable deposit is the venue’s way of showing good faith and
demonstrating the intention of doing their part to promote and
publicize the event and fill the benches.
The potential forfeit of the deposit, if they choose to cancel the
date, is their incentive to be as serious about the event as I am,
and to devote the proper amount of attention and resources to
ensuring a successful program.
I believe their risk needs to be equal to mine. Venues don’t tend to
cancel my events when they have made a financial investment to secure
a date on my workshop calendar.
This approach may not work for everyone else who is teaching but it
works exceptionally well for me. I am in business as a professional
educator and consultant. Like any other business, I rely on well
described contractual agreements which clearly outline all of the
details and responsibilities of
both parties involved. It makes the business of teaching simple,
and equitable. Out of 40+ venues where I have presented workshops in
the past few years there are only one or two with whom I won’t work
again. This has been due to difficulties with the venue management,
lack of professionalism, incompetence, and an absence of the
commitment to excellence I put into my work and that I expect from
Your mileage may vary
Michael David Sturlin