A school might contact you after seeing your work, on your website or through word of mouth. You could register on a database of artists or you could send information directly to a school – bear in mind that they get a lot of information sent to them. If you are successful and have a meeting booked with a school make sure you know all about your potential client.
Meeting the School
Sometimes you can find out about a school through their website but it’s even better if you can arrange to meet a member of staff.
It’s a good idea to have some photographs from previous workshops and a link to your website.
Immediately after the meeting, I write an email to the school outlining the workshop that we’ve agreed upon. I attach a written quote carefully detailing all the equipment and services that I will provide, what I expect the school to provide, and a breakdown of the times, dates, and the activities that will be included as part of the workshop.
Emailing is preferable to phone calls since it details what you’ve agreed. It is also more convenient for the school since your contact can pick up your communication directly and if a teacher goes off sick than your email will give their replacement all the information they need.
Your email should include who, what, when, where and how.
Even before your initial meeting with a school, preparation is key and you really need to make sure your paperwork is in order. Working with young people means you need to cover yourself for a whole range of possibilities and eventualities.
You can expect to be asked for your DBS certificate to prove that you’re safe and reliable for working with children. You can get this through an employer but if you’re self-employed you’ll need to apply for this online through an umbrella organisation.
It is vital that you have Public Liability insurance to cover yourself should anything go wrong. Think about covering your tools and your technological equipment too. If you can’t ensure this then make sure that you could afford to replace any equipment essential to your livelihood.
As an artist, you can expect to be working on a workshop-by-workshop basis as a self-employed service provider. You will need to register as self-employed through HMRC and this will give you a Unique Tax Reference number which you will need to put on your invoice.
If you do your own risk assessment you will discover the potential hazards and you can plan for any eventuality. There are plenty of templates available online.
Find out from the school if there are any special requirements your participants may have. Work with the school to adapt your workshop, tools and your materials to suit any learning, behavioral, or physical needs.
Ask the school what record of the workshop process and outcome they would like. This can be anything from evaluation forms to video or photographs of the workshop itself.
Photographing children can sometimes be an awkward subject to tackle because of privacy and child protection issues so I take photography permission forms for the school to complete and you can also photograph the activity – a busy table with hands makes a great image, the backs of children’s heads are usually fine in photographs and always remember some excellent photos of your finished piece.
The week before you deliver your workshop
Make a checklist of all of the equipment and materials you need to run your workshop and leave nothing to chance. If you need the school to provide any equipment be sure to agree this in advance and remind them near to the date. Do not assume that they will have what you need and make sure that your tech is compatible with theirs and works in advance. You are delivering a service for the school and it’s up to you to make sure that it will be a success.
Your participants will work at different speeds so be prepared with extra activities for rapid workers. Do try everything out in advance.
Store your gear in stackable crates, or use trolleys, so that you can be efficient at shifting your gear around the school campus. Load up everything in the car the night before. If you’re not sure about your travel times then consider a dummy run the week before and make allowances for heavy traffic at certain times of the day.
At the end of a workshop, I give out an evaluation form. If you are being funded to deliver the workshop your funder may insist on their own evaluation.
Good feedback is great, but bad feedback is never a problem because it gives me ideas on how I can improve for my next workshop.
The Day After
I use the feedback and a few key photographs to write an online blog. This helps the school and students reflect on their learning and is a great way to share their enjoyment. The blog acts as a great promotional tool and can be shared on the same aspects of social media that I use to promote my personal arts practice.
Get your invoice in as soon as possible after the event.
If you’re a new supplier to the school it might take longer for the admin and finance departments to process any invoice you send.
If you’ve been asked for any for additional paperwork then get this, and your invoice, submitted as soon as possible after your workshop has finished along with scans of the evaluation forms, photographs from the day, and links to the blog.
If the school agreed to cover your travel and/or material costs, remember to attach the receipts.
Invoices should include your name, date, address, Unique Tax Reference Number, and bank details.
You should create a unique reference number for your invoice so that they are easy to track and trace.
Keep a paper copy for when you fill in your tax returns at the end of the financial year.
I keep a file on each organisation I work with. Here I have sub-folders for invoices, evaluation forms, legal paperwork, and photographs from the workshop. I keep backups of everything on an external hard drive and key documents as paper copies.
It’s important to keep this evidence safe so make sure this is password protected.
Don’t be put off by the paperwork. Staying on top of it all isn’t that too big a task. It will help give you the edge and schools will remember you for your professional approach. You are a professional artist and workshop practitioner after all…