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Careers Clinic: Am I qualified to run a drama club?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I left drama school three years ago and, until this year, have mainly been funding my career via the usual call centre and bar jobs.

Last Easter, a friend of mine who had bought a stage school franchise asked me to be one of her regular teachers. I really enjoyed it and the kids seemed to like me, so I ended up staying for the whole term. Her school was based quite far from where I live, which meant that, while the atmosphere was brilliant, the travelling reduced my earnings to more or less the same as what I was getting from the other day jobs.

When I searched for other stage schools or drama clubs closer to home, I couldn’t find any. It occurred to me that if I set up my own after-school drama club, I would not only be doing something I actually enjoy to earn a living, but also providing a service where there isn’t one.

If you think this sounds like a good idea, my next question is: do I need a teaching qualification along with my acting training and experience to get started? While I want to make this work, I can’t afford the extra expense or time out right away.

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE Teacher training can certainly be useful for anyone wishing to make working in education and training a major part of their future career.

However, a formal teaching qualification really isn’t necessary to run an after-school or Saturday drama club effectively. What is essential is that you have to like children and be good at teaching them, so that they will want to keep coming back.

You were invited back to your friend’s school as a regular after your initial lesson, so we can safely assume that you can handle the teaching element.

If you have so far been used to turning up at somebody else’s school, doing your class, getting paid and then getting on with the rest of your work, having to market your own business may be new to you.

This doesn’t have to be daunting if you tap into existing local networks. Parent forums, children’s librarians, youth connection workers and other professionals already tuned into the local scene can all offer very good signposts to where you should be publicising your classes.

One of the key things you need to think about ahead of time is how much you need to earn versus what your expenses will be. As you learned when you were teaching at the other school and travel costs ate into your income, if this venture is intended to pay your rent and support your acting, it needs to make some actual income as well as being fun.

The solution isn’t necessarily to price high. More students paying less can not only make the venture work, but also help you achieve your goal of making training accessible to local families who might not otherwise afford it.

I recommend my colleague Samantha Marsden’s book Teach Drama: How to Make a Living as a Freelance Drama Teacher for more advice on pricing and marketing.

Try drama teaching: be the inspiration behind tomorrow’s performers

Something I personally recommend to actors running a teaching business as their day job is to identify at least one – ideally two – other actors or teachers you trust who you can call on for cover should a casting or a shoot coincide with your drama class times.

It could be that some of the teachers you have already met on the stage school circuit might want to set up a reciprocal arrangement, but even an enthusiastic non-teaching actor with a bit of experience working with children should be able to manage, if you take the time to write down a detailed session plan in advance.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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