Tips for creating a successful workshop

We’ve created this blog to give you an idea of what it takes to run a workshop, with step by step instructions which hopefully will give you the best start and plan to creating your first workshop!

1. Start with an overview.

Each workshop needs to be unique: is the idea in your head something that people would want to come to and try, are lots of other people in your area offering thus, and what makes your idea unique or different to theirs? Themed workshops always have good selling points; Mother and daughter, Winter warmer, Valentine’s day, Christmas wreath making are some ideas. These prove popular as you can hold them at the same time every year, which allows them to have the possibility of becoming an annual event for family or friends. Wreath making is a perfect example – once a year someone pays £40 to come to your event, it takes 3 hours of your time and they go away with something they’ll love and use for Christmas. You might be able to get 10 people to that workshop: that’s 10 wreaths in 3 hours, most likely more than you will be able to make yourself. Plus, you don’t need to worry that they’ve now got the skills to make their own one without your help, because by next year they’ll have forgotten what to do, but will just remember how lovely and helpful you were and their sense of achievement at the time so they’ll be back for the next year’s workshop!

Another thing to think about is ability level. Is it worth thinking about something simple as a starter to encourage people onto a workshop rather than being too ambitious which would require more resource outlay and have a greater chance of disaster? Getting a set of beginners to make something simple but effective will give you a pool of people who will be likely to come back and try something else which is better than attempting a complicated project that fails or doesn’t meet expectations so someone is put off trying again. A simple project will also need less initial outlay and will keep costs down when you’re doing your cost calculations.

2. Determine the goal.

What is it that you want to get from your workshop? Do you want to gain more potential customers? Or reach a larger audience? Are you using this to boost your monthly income in a short time?  Or do you want to turn this into another regular income stream?

All of these options require a slightly different approach, so it’s important to decide what would make the workshop a success from your point of view.  If you want a regular income from workshops the last thing you want to do is pass on all your tricks so people never come back! Alternatively, if you want to encourage more sales off the back of the workshop, make sure you don’t use the session to completely recreate your products or else there is no need for someone to buy the things you’ve made.

The idea is to get your customers hooked on the outcome you want so that each workshop gets you closer to your goal.

If you want to generate more sales, then using the workshop build that important trust factor so that people want to keep buying from you because they like you and have confidence in your products means you might price it slightly lower, keep the product simple and make your customers feel that they want to support you.

If you want to make workshops an important part of your income stream, then you still need to build the trust factor, but make customers feel that they’re really learning something, and that they’ll keep improving through the opportunities you’ll be giving them in future workshops. That way, although it might not directly impact on your product sales, it’ll give you a good basis for building up a pool of regular attenders who will be great adverts for your business.

3. Decide who needs to come.

Who is your target audience? Do a bit of research and find out what regular things happen for them; is there a time slot you can see that they have nothing on? Finding that time can be difficult, more activities and longer working hours mean that people have massive time constraints, so don’t make your courses too long. 4 hours is a max but 3 is about right, and it gives time for a coffee break if needed! f you’re running workshops for children, you can’t make them too late in the evening and should probably avoid mealtimes, especially for littlies. 10.30am on Saturday is usually a good time for families. If you’re running something mid-week for pre-schoolers be aware that there might be older children in the family, so make sure to avoid school drop off/pick up times when the parents might need to get their other children. In the evening 6:30pm is bang smack in the middle of bedtime routine for most people, if you’re targeting parents of young children make sure you avoid pulling them away from that, start before or after, so you allow that important family time to be as uninterrupted as possible. Think about any factors that could put people off committing your workshop, and time pressures definitely need to be considered.

4. Cost it out

The costing of the workshop will help you make or break on a day. Obviously you would rather make money on it, but it might be worth losing a little money to help build an image. Below is a table that we have prepared to give you an idea on what you’re likely to need to consider.

Our main categories are as follows; Location, Resources, Advertising, Booking Fees, Profit Wanted, Ticket Cost.

We have created a costing example for an imaginary workshop we want to run. It was costed out as it follows.  The original cost for a ticket was £20.00

Item Cost   Number Needed Total
Location £20.00ph X 3 hours £60.00
Resources £5.00pp X 20 people £100.00
Advertising £20.00 X 1 campaign £20.00
Booking Fees (using Attend) £0.65pp X 20 people £13.00
Total Cost (pp) £9.68 Expense Per Workshop £193.00
Profit wanted £15.00pp X 20 people £300.00
Total income required per workshop £493.60
Ticket Cost £25.00

From the table above it can be seen that with 20 people on the course, after taking into account the expenses for the day, each person would need to pay £25 (rounded up to nearest £) to achieve a profit of £300 in total. That would be £15 profit per person.

If you increased the ticket cost in order to make more profit, bear in mind that this would marginally increase the booking fees since they are percentage based, but it would only be by a few pennies per person.

If we keep the expense costs the same as shown above, the table below shows what you would have to charge to make a £15 profit per person based on a different number of people attending the workshop:

Number of people on the course 8 people 10 people 12 people 15 people 17 people 20 people
Total Profit £120.00 £150.00 £180.00 £225.00 £255.00 £300.00
Ticket Price £30.68 £28.68 £27.34 £26.01 £25.38 £24.68

Click here to download a .pdf version which we made earlier. You can print it out and work out your own costs and profit margin – using a pencil will allow you to tweak the figures to get the outcome you want. If your costs appear to be greater than you expected, keep reading for a few ideas to help you reduce your expenditure.

Ways to reduce costs

When planning your workshop can you cut costs in any of the following areas? Or do you increase your profit margin by increasing the price of your tickets? Think about quality when you’re looking at cutting expenditure though – are there things it’s best to pay a bit extra for in order to maximise their effect and therefore increase the success of your session?

  • Can you change the location? Barter for a better deal?

Can you reduce the space needed? Some businesses, especially ones who don’t work on weekends, might have a small workshop or a conference room available. Community venues are always a fantastic place to host workshops, they’re usually fairly cheap, and they are often in a great location on a bus route and have parking. Renting premises for a workshop can be the costliest factor, and if you have your own space for free it’s a bonus! If your numbers are small then maybe think about running your first session from home and see how it goes. That way you know where everything is and you save on the venue hire: ideal if you want to run a low-cost first workshop to encourage repeat attendees.

  • Reduce Resource Costs?

Can your resources be used again if you run another course or can you use them elsewhere? Speak to some of the larger suppliers as they might be able to offer a buying-in-bulk discount or have the option for a trade account. If there are small local businesses that you can get items from why not see if you can negotiate a discount for a little advertising, e.g. a banner in the room or a social media plug?

  • Advertising Local?

In the beginning advertising can be tough, especially if you’re starting out from scratch and you’ll need to spend more time and effort than you might have to do for your future workshops, but can you go local? Posters in shops are always a good idea, along with community boards. Social media can be a fantastic way of reaching your clients, make the most of free Facebook and twitter advertising if you have a large following already, but also increase your reach with their paid options if not.

If you don’t use social media, we highly advise you do, but the cheapest way to market has and always will be word of mouth, get friends and family to share, ask people who have purchased from you to share it with their friends, the web of connections and people who know about you/your workshops will soon grow!

Our friend Joanne Dewberry has written a great blog about free ways to advertise your small business, check out some of her ideas and see which ones would work for your workshop.

Online payments? Doesn't that cost a lot?

If your profit margins are small it might feel like using an online registration and payment portal for your workshop is just another cost you don’t want to pay. But bear in mind, taking payments in advance when your clients sign up helps with the number one pain point of a small business, cash flow. The money can be in your account within days of payment, before the session even happens, and will be available for you to use to pay for resources or other costs. Using an online registration option can also reduce the no-shows – if people have paid a deposit or even in full they’ll be more invested in the workshop and committed to coming along, rather than you losing out when someone says they want to come but hasn’t paid and changes their mind at the last minute.

Attend is one of the cheapest providers of an online registration portal (you’ll pay less than £1 per transaction for workshop fees of up to £50)  plus our app has a load of other benefits which will help you with the admin for your workshop and also give you confidence that you have all the necessary personal information about your attendees in case of emergencies. Have a look at our blog comparing our fees with some other providers and think about what you would gain if you have your attendees sign up for your workshop online. Attend offers you a variety of ticket options for your workshop, and our friendly team are always happy to help you with setting up your courses and connecting them to your website or social media posts.

Ready to go? Here's a timeline

Once you’ve settled on your workshop idea, worked out your costings and your advertising plan it’s time to put it into action. Here’s a rough timeline to help you decide when to take each step on the route to the big day.

5 weeks before: Book a venue – see if they will offer a cancelation with no charge if you cancel a week before, always good to have a backup if you don’t get enough to run your workshop.

4-5 weeks before: Minimum time to start getting the word out, this can be done through social media, word of mouth, but make sure you’re giving people enough time to find childcare, put the date in their diaries or rearrange other plans. If you’re using Attend or other online provider, get your ticket links added to your website or social media page.

3 weeks before: You should be getting an idea of how many people are coming by now. If numbers are still low it might be worth doing some more marketing, possibly paid online ads such as Facebook, or ask some local companies to share the information with their clients. If you have links to a school, then their newsletter or parent mail may be a good way to spread the word.

It also would be a good idea to start ordering your resources now, some companies may take 2 weeks to deliver depending on order size and where the items are coming from. It also allows you good time to return or exchange something if it isn’t quite right.

2 weeks before: The last push, always leave a week before your course to cancel if there aren’t enough numbers to run. It might be worth running your first workshop at a loss and use it as an image builder, get the word out then run another one!

1 week before:  With your workshop closing in, it might be a good time to practice your day, ask a family member to come by and go through the making process with them. Most of the time they will give you honest feedback but it’s also a good chance to change a tweak anything you might want to, just to make sure everything runs smoothly. And if you’re nervous, remember there won’t be anyone on the day who’s an expert or they would be running their own!

A day or two before: Do a last-minute check on your resources and make or purchase any refreshments you’ll be offering to your attendees. A nice cup of coffee and a biscuit goes a long way to creating a relaxed atmosphere and makes people feel like you want to give them a good time. If you’ve used Attend for your online registrations, send one text message to the whole group using our mobile app to let them know how much you’re looking forward to seeing them at the workshop and generate some extra anticipation.

On the day: Enjoy it! You’ve done all the hard work in the lead up to the workshop, this is your chance to make something with a group of interested people and really show them how to create something you love.

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