How to Start Your Own Workshop

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This may not be for everyone, but so many of you have asked about running your own workshopsI thought I’d share some of the things I’ve noticed that helped me grow, from my first workshop (when no one showed up!) to teaching an online workshop for over 30,000 people!

The most amazing thing, that I did not expect – is how transformative this experience is.

There’s a beautiful saying that goes “if you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” and through teaching workshops, I’ve gotten such a sense of connection, fulfillment and confidence. It’s such a privilege and something that we can all have!

If you’ve at all considered it – I say go for it!! Here are my top 8 tips, things I’ve learned from experience:

Start before You’re Ready

Maybe you’ve worked out how to make healthy chocolate chip cookies that actually taste good. Or you pack all of your kid’s lunches and they eat them. Or, maybe you make your own home cleaning products (that what my first workshop!)

You’ve probably know a lot more about it than someone else does – because you’ve spent more time trying it, testing it, making mistakes, learning… You’ve worked out the best ways to do it, the little tricks, systems, the best tools to use and where to buy them… if you have a happy obsession –  it means you’re ready to share it.

You don’t need a degree or permission – just genuine passion for what you’re teaching and sharing.

Nerves are Normal

Those butterflies you feel in your stomach, the thoughts of self-doubt are totally normal! Nerves are not an indication that you shouldn’t do something! It just means you really care. So never let it stop you from trying.

My early workshops were full of mistakes: I spilled things, I forgot things, I stumbled my words….  but you need to go through that to grow! And each time you do it again, you’ll get better and better.

The best advice I can give when it comes to nerves is that if you focus on yourself and how you feel – it shows. But if you focus on your students – people feel that – and will be very forgiving of the little nervous mistakes :)

I promise!

Share Stories, not just Facts

There’s something interesting that happens when we start teaching – we can fall into this weird professional mode, delivering all the very serious facts and details.

Here’s what I’ve learned – people don’t connect with facts, they connect with stories – the story of your passion, the years of experience making a million mistakes, and learning along the way…

If we just wanted the information, we could go to google. But having someone to connect with and guide you, someone who is like-minded and has gone through the experiences, someone that you can talk to, laugh with, and share stories with  – that’s the value of a workshop and why people love going to them!

Plan the structure

You will inevitably forget certain bits and it’s distracting to jump all over the place. Keep yourself in line by planning the structure of your workshop and think about every single tool, item, ingredient or material that you’ll need for each section.

It should be really well organized and thought out – so take time here. If you are demonstrating how to make a cookie batter – make sure you have the exact bowl and spoons ready (and a napkin for the messy bits) so that you’re not breaking the flow to search for something you need. Details matter!

To keep yourself organized, I recommend Milanote – is great for planning your workshop. It’s like a digital visual board, where you can plan out the “experience” of the class, the materials that you need to organize, and the content that you want to share. Having that structure will make you feel more confident when you start presenting.

A good idea is to set up a run through of your demonstration at home – you’ll be surprised at how it helps you spot things you may need.

Work out your costing

When it comes to pricing – it’s not always so straightforward. There’s a lot of emotion around money and for many of us, it’s hard to value our worth.

What you offer – your experience, your knowledge – it’s a resource. We can search the internet all day for ideas, recipe and how-to’s – but there is something very different learning directly from someone who has dedicated their time to it and made all the early mistakes. Being able to ask questions, hear insights, and connect – it’s so valuable! So, please don’t undervalue yourself!

Do keep detailed records of your spending!

Finding a space

Depending on what you’re teaching, whether it’s a sit-down talk, a demonstration, or hands-on activity – you’ll have different needs. But wherever you go, make sure it’s quiet. I was once invited to teach a workshop at a farmer’s market and it was so noisy that I had to shout my way through. Now, if I teach somewhere new – I always scout it out first!

Some ideas are: your home, someone else’s home, a condo’s function room, your local library, the university, or often cafes will open their doors since you’ll be bringing in people – you can work out a coffee and muffin package! Sometimes even workshop spaces rent out to other teachers….

I’m constantly on the lookout – whether I have a workshop on or not – and if I see a space that looks appropriate – I always ask…

Space rental can add a lot to your costing – so don’t be shy to negotiate!

Be Original

It can be tempting to look at how other people teach workshops and think that’s how you need to do it – but at the end of the day – your workshop needs to be done your way. Sometimes you don’t really know what that is until you start – and that’s ok.

I love details and design – so for one of my workshops I had a huge floral garland draped above me, flowers all along the table and on the walls – it looked like a wedding reception – but it was a workshop for how to use coconut oil :) and it was brilliant!

So, do it your way. Do what feels natural, genuine, and inspiring to you.

Tell the World

The very first workshop I ever hosted was at a cafe. I noticed they had a space and after a short conversation –  they invited me to use it. They even made up a little flyer about my workshop – and I happily left it to them to fill the seats. Honestly, I was too shy to invite people to come…

They told me 4 people had signed up. I was so excited and prepared all the materials. I showed up early and carefully set up the room and…. no one came. I sat there for 45 minutes, but absolutely no one showed up. It was a sad scene really! But I learned two valuable lessons:

  1. Get payment upfront. If you accept payment on arrival, it means a lot of people will “forget” to come and you’ll have to absorb the costs. Which is what happened to me because the cafe didn’t take upfront payment for workshops.Tip: to collect payment – you can ask for bank transfer, set up a paypal account or set up your own online shop using a free tool called Big Cartel )
  2. Get social. Your job is to market this wonderful workshop you’ve created! Create a flyer for your course (a simple free tool is Canva) you can get ideas for flyer design on Pinterest.Then share the flyer on your social media channels, email it to everyone you know and ask your friends to spread the word!

I hope these tips help or even inspire you to start your own workshop. It’s such a rewarding experience to share what you know with the world. Go for it! :)

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