I received an inquiry from an instructor recently asking about class cancellation policies. She teaches at a large chain of art stores and that particular store manager had told her it was her duty to be at all of her scheduled classes irrespective of whether or not anyone had signed up to take the class. And if no one showed up to take the class, it was her duty to hang out at the store and drum up future business for her classes.
This instructor was quite upset and wanted to know my class cancellation policy and how I would handle a situation like this.
My question to you…. is this fair? When should a class be cancelled? How do we prevent classes from being cancelled? How would you have answered this inquiry?
My Class Cancellation Policy is as follows,
When a workshop is scheduled, I will be there unless the store has cancelled operations for that day.
As an independent art instructor you are in business for yourself.
You are not an employee. You are an independent businessperson with your own set of standards and policies.
If you have no students, you have no business. So set your own cancellation policy to maximize your goals.
But why do you want a cancellation policy. This instructor cited the costs she would incur even if there were no students. In fact she stated she needed 3 students at a minimum to conduct a breakeven class.
We may want to consider concentration on building class attendance than defining a class cancellation policy. I would perhaps consider a store cancellation act if you’re unable to generate enough students for a profitable class month after month after month.
When it comes to promotional work for classes, there are certain times it makes sense to be at the hosting store and all other times would be unproductive. But its your decision. And remember, class time and promotional times are not the same time. You need to promote at what stores call prime time. These are the times when the maximum hourly sales occur with the maximum number of prospects ‘in the store.’
So don’t confuse workshop times with promotional times. And do plan for both activities at each of your stores. This will consistently recruit new students so you never need to worry about establishing a class cancellation policy.
When it comes to class promotions, you need to determine what your hourly worth is and how much you expect to earn each time you teach. For me, the minimum is $200 for a 4-5 hour class.
Generally, I’m looking to make $400 to $500 for that period of time. I used to conduct 5-10 classes weekly.
So, if that’s the case, I need to have anywhere from 5-40 stores monthly making $200 each with the potential to grow to $400-$500 a class at 60-70% capacity.
You will probably have different numbers than I, but the point is youmust define your goals in terms of numbers. Use them as your guidelines as you plan your promotion.
If you have to keep cancelling classes because of sparse attendance, I’d think of a new location……. Because that ain’t working, dear!
Again, be ruthless with yourself.
Unless you have a missionary reason for being at that particular store location, you may need to find alternate locations. You must have right numbers of students in order to support your goals. For a business person, everything has to relate back to the numbers.
I’ve run myself silly teaching at 27 different stores a month. Guess what? I went back to the numbers and made twice to three times the income with just 12 stores. I was happier and my students got more of me.
Decide upon your Optimum number of classes will be and then translate this into the number of stores or locations you need to teach at. I mentioned above that optimum for me is 5-10 classes weekly.
What does that mean in terms of the number of locations for me to teach at?
Here’s an example:
· 5 stores that conduct one weekly class each.
· 5 stores that conduct two weekly classes each.
· 10 stores that conduct one weekly class each.
· 20 stores that conduct one monthly class each
· 40 stores that conduct one monthly class each causing me to double up on store locations daily.
· Any combination of stores/location/frequency that yield 5-10 productive classes earning me $200 each.
And you must factor in your time to include marketing activities to build and sustain your classes to meet your goals.
One of my most productive marketing efforts is demonstrating during prime sales time at stores and painting locations. This is typically (In my area) between 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for retail outlets. For Senior Citizen Centers its 9:00 a.m. to 11?30 a.m. So get to know the habits of your painting locations.
Demoing outside of those times, is a time and resource waste. I will draw crowds during prime time demos because of my big booming voice and shy personality. And within 30 minutes or less I have a painting completed. Everyone has to fill out a raffle ticket in order to be eligible for a drawing to receive the painting. I will do two paintings during each prime time period. I select my own times for demos and just arrange with the store manager directly
What all of this means is you call your own shots. You market your own stores. You’re the guru in charge of you. Do not rely on the stores to promote your classes because they won’t do a good job, if they do anything at all.
The stores are in business to sell supplies, not to teach classes. So guess where they will spend their marketing dollars?
And their promotional efforts won’t necessarily market to the right people for me. For as low as $40 monthly, I can advertise all year long in one of those little weekly country gazette newspapers that proliferate the sidewalks and driveways of America.
And every neighborhood is different in how people understand what’s going on. Radio, TV, newspaper advertising may or may not help you. But they cost money, so check out local clubs and see if you can demo at an upcoming meeting.
Another thing I do (with permission) is to have signs put up where the supplies are stocked on store shelves. The best candidates for recruiting to your classes are people who go to art supply stores to buy art books and art supplies and canvas. So help them find out about your classes by having little signs discussing your classes.
Advertising a two for 1. Or a freebie is dynamite.
A two for one is whenever a student enrolls into one of your painting classes they can bring any friend along once and that friend is a guest. You give away a student fee, but chances are (average), they’ll continue for 7-18 more classes. That multiplies quickly if you have a ‘guest’ in each class. If you’re doing weekly classes, you’ll probably be sold out in two months or less for each of your classes.
So for every class I give away, I expect to receive a return of $320.00 to $1,000 That’s good advertising returns, $8 for each $1 you spend. And its cheap. It doesn’t really cost you anything to give-away a class to a first time student.
If I could impart any one thing to new teachers, it would be this…….
You are in business for yourself. So get ruthless.
Get ruthless with your time, your money and your talents. Stand taller, chest out, head high. You’re an artist, you’re a professional instructor and when it comes to the demands of your time, your finances and your creativity, you’ve got to be ruthless.
You’ve got to stay focused on your goals. This means making the best possible return for each of your talents.
Now for a powerhouse secret that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S
Build the list…..
Here’s my over-simplified formulae for success …..
1. Find your niche market. In other words, know who really attends your classes, age, income bracket, all of that ‘stuff’. Know your customers. Know why they take classes, know why they take classes from YOU. Know your value from their eyes. Then promote it.
2. Create a web site featuring your classes. It’s cheap to do. No excuses whatsoever. It is now mandatory to have a website of your own to be successful in this business. It’s especially critical as it becomes the basis for your off-host-store marketing effort. Its where you send prospects, It’s how you build your list of interested students. The importance of the brochure and flyer is dwindling. Its importance may never die, but you will die if you don’t have a website. Just think of all of the people running around with mobile PDAs, laptops, cell phones accessing the web while they’re away from home. Think of where we were just 5 years ago…..Can you imagine 5 years from now….. Get the website up now.
3. Promote to your list and Sell, Sign em up for your classes. Book em Dano!
4. Repeat Step 3
5. Repeat Step 3
6. Repeat Step 3
Ok, I know. That is OVER-simplified!
The marketing of your classes?
You can have the absolute BEST demo.
The absolute BEST website
The absolute BEST brochure ever written, even up on your website.
A brochure that could sell ice cubes to Eskimos…
But if no Eskimos knows about your website, you ain’t selling any ice cubes!
So how do you get people to visit your website?
Initially, you can buy, borrow or swap traffic.
You can sign-up everyone watching your demos with incentives.
But once you have visitors to your site, how do you get them coming back again and again and again and again so they’ll sign up for your classes?
The answer is frequently overlooked…
It’s the list.
In fact, it is “the list” that allows me to communicate with you right now. If you hadn’t provided me (or this yahoo group) with your email address, you wouldn’t be reading this.
It’s communication that facilitates a relationship with your list and builds upon their desire to learn that translates into class signups.
It works. And it is work.
But you can do it. You can market to any store’s community so long as you believe that that community has sufficient people that match the kind of person you best sell (teach).
I’d prefer that you concentrate on your promotional activities and not your cancellation polcy.
In the words of that great marketeer, Heddy Lamar…..
that you do