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Getting down to the nitty-gritty

In other words –  what price to charge for classes and what’s a fair split for the instructor and shop owner on the teaching fees?  Given that money is such a taboo subject with many folks, I had to really dig to find the information I needed to set my class fees and determine if teaching sewing was even worth it for me to pursue. I believe in sharing, so I hope you find the following information helpful.

Unfortunately, there is no industry standard.  There are no hard and fast rules.  There is no “magical” percentage for the teacher/shop owner split.  Everything’s negotiable and dictated by your local market.

Depending on your area, pricing information may or may not be available online. You may actually have to call the shop or teacher to inquire.  Fortunately, I was able to find enough pricing info online for my area. As expected, my competitive research indicated higher class fees were the norm in the city (or “intown” as we call it here).  Class fees were also higher in the more affluent areas. Class fees in my suburban area average $30/session for kids or adults.  Sessions last anywhere from 75 minutes to 2+ hours. Students bring their own machines and furnish their own supplies at this price.  (Machine rentals are available at the quilt shop.)  Home-based sewing schools and after school programs charge students about $15/hour in my area.  Two of the intown locations provide everything – but at a substantially higher fee.

It’s enough to make your head spin.  

As an instructor, you can opt to be paid in 1 of 3 ways:

1) By the hour like a shop employee;

2) Flat fee per class, regardless of enrollment; and

3) Percentage of class fees collected.

For independent contractors, I think option #3 is potentially the most lucrative.  You set the minimum and maximum students per class.  Although the market drives the class fee, generally more students = more $$ for you and the shop owner.  (If you are a shop employee who teaches classes as part of your job, you will more than likely be paid only your normal hourly rate.)

Never forget that you are both in this to make money…no matter how much you might love sewing and crafting.

Percentages…percentages…what’s typical?  Note that the instructor usually receives the larger percentage of the class fees.

A 60%/40% split has been reported by teachers affiliated with one of the large chain fabric stores.

A 75%/25% split was recommended by one of the “business” sewing books I consulted.

My sewing mentor told me that I would benefit most from a 90%/10% split, and that any split over 75%/25% might price the sewing classes too high to meet my desired income target.  She also confirmed working under a 60%/40% split when she taught at a sewing machine dealer several years ago.

My mother, who owns a successful sales company in a totally unrelated industry, informed me that a 70%/30% split was the new standard in many industries, given today’s economy.

Personally, I think the sweet spot is somewhere between 70%-75% for the instructor and 25%-30% for the shop owner.  (A little more online sleuthing revealed that independent music instructors who teach in a music store generally split fees on 75%/25% arrangement).  After all, the shop owner is providing the space, furniture, equipment, utilities, customer service and handling registration.  If you want to keep 100% of the fees, then you need to look at providing your own space.   You may also need to work out an arrangement on who provides supplies and kits for the class.  Shop owners often like to kit up supplies for series of classes as a convenience to their customers.  Others expect the instructor to handle the kits.  Make sure you cover your costs.  In my case, we agreed that I would charge a nominal supply fee paid directly to me to cover the craft supplies needed for the kid sewing projects.  Any other kits would be made up at her discretion.

My minimum goal is to match what I make as a teacher on an hourly basis and be in line with local private tutors.  $40-$50/hour is about right for my area.  This may seem like a lot, but remember teachers can expect to spend 1-2 hours preparing for every hour of actual class time.  You have to factor this *unpaid* time into setting your class fees and minimum number of students you will accept to even hold the class.   And don’t forget about self-employment taxes…

Remember, your goal is to create a win-win for both you and the shop owner.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and deserve financially.  It’s all negotiable.  Good luck!