In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron advises to make a list of resentments and fears before starting any creative project. This way you get them out on paper, put them up on the wall where you can see them, and you tell yourself "Well, I am resentful and I am fearful, and I'm going to do this project anyway."
So before I gave my first mindfulness workshop ever, I took her advice and I made a list of my resentments:
- Studio rentals are expensive but I want to keep the group small and intimate (5-10 ppl) and not charge them 40€ per ticket like they do at other workshops.
- I don't care about making a profit from my first workshop, but I also don't want to lose money.
- People in Paris make plans months in advance. I have only a few weeks left until everyone leaves for Christmas. I should have acted on this sooner. Look at that other mindfulness teacher, he is announcing his events months in advance.
I also made a list of my fears:
- I'm afraid no one will show up. I am nobody in the worlds of mindfulness and workshops.
- I'm afraid I'll have rented and paid 200€ out of my pocket for nothing.
- I'm afraid I won't have fun. I'm just starting to teach mindfulness, who knows, maybe I won't like it.
- I'm afraid people will find the workshop too long.
- Or they won't have fun.
- I'm afraid no one will come because the workshop is in English but we are in Paris.
- Or if I try to speak French and I will suck at it.
- No one will come because I'm announcing it short-notice.
Then I decided that despite all these resentments and fears, or maybe because of them, I am to give this workshop. Creating inspiration boards was a super fun activity I had learned from a life coach friend of mine; I had been doing this with friends the past 3 years and enjoying it a lot; I was going to add my own spice to it (a mindfulness meditation and a gratitude letter) to make it even better; I was going to do this workshop, even if no one shows up.
So I wrote the following next to my resentments and fears in capital letters:
I'M DOING THIS WORKSHOP FOR FUN. I'M DOING IT TO GET OUT THERE INSTEAD OF THINKING QUIETLY AT HOME. I'M DOING IT TO LEARN FROM IT. I'M NOT EXPECTING ANYTHING ELSE.
YES, MAYBE, I'LL RENT A PLACE AND NO ONE WILL SHOW, BUT I'VE SPENT 180€ ON WORSE THINGS IN MY LIFE.
Up until these lists, I was thinking "Yea maybe I will do this workshop" but I had not been taking action on it. Once I faced my fears, clarified my intentions and resolved on simply having fun, I was able to take action.
One evening, I went for a walk to take a break from work, passed by a lovely art gallery, walked in spontaneously and asked if I could rent their place. They said no. I contacted another studio a yoga teacher had recommended to me a month ago. They said yes. One thing led to another. I set the date, wrote the description of the event, prepared materials for social media. Everything I was doing seemed incredibly shitty and low quality, but I did anyway. I kept going because it became apparent early on that I really was learning.
I started making a list of gains too:
- I'm creating, pricing and promoting an event for the first time.
- I am writing an event description and preparing promo material for the first time.
- Wait a minute, I did all this before. Many times in high school and in university. For some reason, it seems so far away now. It's great that I'm practicing this muscle again.
- Putting up an event is giving me more motivation to finish my personal website.
- I am so lucky my partner is a designer and he is helping me. I am learning how to work with him when he designs.
- Wait a minute, I already know how to work with designers. I simply haven't done it in the last 6 months. It's great I'm practicing this muscle again.
- I am learning I can't and shouldn't try to do everything (like design).
- I'm getting connections in Paris either by the event itself or through its promotion.
- I'm getting followers on social media.
- The event propelled me to create a Facebook business page.
- I am having fun with all of this.
- I'm gaining a deeper appreciation for marketing; it's not an easy job.
In the end, I sold, to my surprise, 4 tickets to my workshop when I was expecting zero. This meant I only lost about 100€ on this event. Plus, a few who were interested but couldn't make it asked if I could repeat it in January or February. I will most likely make up for this loss then. And even if I don't, 100€ is a fair price for all that I've learned from this experience.
So what did I learn from giving this workshop that could be useful for you?
Date & Time
- The main problem was not being last minute. Two weeks notice was actually enough time, and one ticket was even sold the night before the event. But the date I picked was right before the holiday season when work is busy for most people, they are shopping for Christmas, or they are already traveling. I wanted to give this New Year themed workshop around the holiday season, but a bit before or a bit after would have been better.
- Saturday afternoons are prime time for most people, especially parents. Better to consider weekday options as well.
- I was aiming for 8-10 but 4 people was actually the right size for this workshop.
- Given that, it's better to do the workshop at my home or someone's home, so that I can eliminate my biggest cost item. I can at least see if people feel awkward about coming to my home. It could to the contrary add more of an intimate feeling. (One of my best friends, who is also a superb marketing manager, had recommended that I do the workshop at home with a smaller group to start things off simpler, but I had not listened to her because I had this idea of what it should look and feel like in my head. )
- One yoga studio I talked to (much later) said they only work with 50-50 revenue sharing. If home is still not an option, this model could be better to reduce upfront costs.
- I can also try to find space sponsors. Places who don't need the money but could use the visibility, or who like me and want to support what I do.
- The channel that converted the most was personal invitations to people I know or communities I was part of. This gives me more motivation to socialize more in Paris. Especially in the beginning but also always, most people will come because they know me or they know someone who knows me, even if they know me from a completely different context.
- Paid marketing (ads on social media posts) brought visibility but didn't convert. This could be because I was spending super low budgets just to try and learn how they work. (It was the first time ever I logged into Facebook ad manager.)
- My event image was a collage of magazine images and articles and the ad bots concluded it had too much text on it. The ad was approved but didn't run properly. Better to use clean images next time with little text.
- Doing several rounds of social media posts few days apart made the event more ingrained in people's minds. It also meant I could approach the event from different angles.
- I attracted a group of people that maybe wouldn't have been interested in an introduction to mindfulness course, but they were interested in reflecting on the past year and crafting something for the new one in this lighter mood. Teaching mindfulness in conjunction with other topics (crafts, creativity, writing) helps people ease into an area that may seem completely new to them.
- What I and my friends (early adopters) enjoyed a lot was also enjoyable and insightful for these 4 people! Plus, this mindset of expecting nothing other than fun and learning was a good way for me to ease back into doing events. The first steps we take don't have to bold or perfect. Micro-progress is great.
- I am not as bad at this as I've come to believe over the last decade. I simply haven't done it in a while. I would even be bold and say I am good! Out of the 4 who came, 3 were people who didn't know me, and they came based on the event promotion. What is even better is that there is a demand to repeat the workshop.
- I had a great time meeting new people, leading them through mindfulness, gratitude and inspiration exercises.
Have you done something recently that was new (or old but new) for you? How did you feel? How did you approach it? What did you learn? Leave your comments below, I'd love to know :)
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