Setting up my own after-school drama club transformed my life: freeing up my time and tripling my finances.
Aged 22 and fresh out of drama school, I needed to find a job that would: a) work around auditions; and b) pay the bills. I landed a job at a weekend theatre school for children. I was lucky. The headmistress received dozens of CVs a week. Many of my friends wanted drama teaching work but they couldn’t get it, so they turned to lesser-paid jobs. But there is so much teaching work available to them - available to you. How do you get this work? You create it. Creating the work is easy and more profitable than working for an already existing group. By setting up your own after-school drama club, you can earn £60 to £90 per hour. You have no boss to answer to, you have creative freedom, and you can take time off when you need - providing you can find a cover teacher.
Could you set up your own after-school drama club?
Maybe you’re an actor, looking for work that has nothing to do with pouring drinks? Or you’ve just finished a degree in drama? Whether you have experience with children or not, all you need to run your own after-school drama club is a passion for drama and the right business model. You don’t need any teaching qualifications to teach an after-school club. People who trained at drama school or studied drama at university tend to make outstanding teachers. A passion for the subject will be infectious - and far more valuable than any teaching qualification.
If you run your own after-school club, you are the boss: you choose what you want to teach. So, you’ve always wanted to devise a play? Now you have a cast to work with. You love playing drama games and experimenting with improv - so will your class. Ever since you were a kid, you wanted to direct Alice in Wonderland? Now’s your chance.
A school, or a hired theatrical space?
Why an after-school club? Surely setting up a drama group in a theatre or artsy studio would be better? Yes, the latter sounds more sexy when telling your friends, but I ran drama groups from The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, Jackson’s Lane in Highgate and Sunbury Studios and, financially, it did not work. I’d be getting £10 - maybe £20 - a class if I was lucky, and it was hard work to market. Really hard work! Class sizes were too small, with only 10 to 15 students a class. Plus, the cost of hiring these places is high, even when you’re on discounted rates.
Using a school hall is normally free (or at least very low-cost), as the school is more often than not delighted for you to run an after-school club for them. But, more importantly, the school will do your marketing for you. One letter home to all parents about your drama club, and the next day, you have 30 students signed up, plus a waiting list of ten - maybe even twenty, depending on the size of the school. This totally beats standing on Hammersmith High Street in the rain, trying to get people to take one of your soggy leaflets about your drama group at The Riverside Studios!
A drama class can be the place where even the most angry, shy, or academically challenged child can shine. A well-taught drama class gives its students confidence, a place to be creative, and a platform to let off emotional steam. Drama can change lives.
If you’re a drama teacher at a theatre school or theatre company, you will inevitably get certain types of student: middle- and upper-class kids with parents who are willing to fork out lots of money and give up their Saturday morning to drive their child to class. But what about all those kids who don’t have parents who will do that for them? Well those kids don’t get to do drama.
Not outside of school anyway.
If you, the theatre practitioner, go into a school and offer a reasonably priced drama club, a whole cross-section of that school’s kids get to enjoy drama. If you price it right (see my book Teach Drama: How to Make a living as a Freelance Drama Teacher for pricing), then parents will send their children - even if the child doesn’t have a pre-existing interest in drama. Many parents will book their children into your class, essentially because they get to pick up their child an hour and a quarter later from school! Then, it’s your job to make those children love drama. Now that shouldn’t be too hard… After all, it’s a pretty cool subject, right?
By setting up your own after-school drama club you will be teaching children who would never have had the opportunity to do extra-curricular drama otherwise. I’ve taught the most unlikely of children drama through my after-school clubs, and wow did some of these kids resist drama to start with, complaining that drama’s ‘stupid’ or ‘for girls’. But, a few weeks into term, it was often the students who resisted it the most who proved to love it the most. Deeply satisfying!
One very troubled eleven-year-old boy I once taught turned his life around with drama; this turnaround started with my club. It wasn’t just him, though: I have seen a lot of kids turn their lives around because of my after-school drama clubs.
Isn’t setting up an after-school drama club hard work?
In a word, no! Honestly, it isn’t. Just a little paperwork, and then you’re away. I’ve found working as a freelance drama teacher for other theatre companies hard work, as often they expect you to work extra rehearsals unpaid, carry out school visits for them for free, or write reports on children for them - again, for no money. Running an after-school club is not hard work in comparison; it’s about the same amount of work, just better paid.
However: be warned that if you set the club up wrong, then you don’t get paid well enough for the work. When I first started out, I over-priced, and didn’t get enough students, therefore I didn’t make enough money. But after some adjusting and tweaking of the pricing model, I found the right setup that made me £90 an hour. I made this model work over and over, in several schools. I was working ten hours a week (five teaching, and five spent on lesson planning and paperwork), and made £450 a week during term times (30 weeks a year). I’d still be doing it today, but I chose to stop, to allow me to have a baby and write a book for you.
To make the after school club work, you need to have the right business model. Your business model will determine whether schools, parents and students sign up to your club. I'll show you this model, and everything else you need to know, step-by-step in my book Teach Drama: How to Make a Living as a Freelance Drama Teacher. Look forward to seeing you there!