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free workshops (employee for a day)

updated sun 4 feb 01


David Hendley on sat 3 feb 01

Dear Cindy, the next time I'm in Custer, South Dakota I'm gonna
come buy a pot from you. We need to get rid of that big zero on
your sales tax form and it sounds like SD needs the income.

With all due respect, I think your logic for not charging to do a workshop
is a little wacky.
Don't charge for your time because you would have to fill out a tax
form? Come on, you aren't serious are you?
If I'd had that attitude I never would have sold my first pot because
I would have been too worried about collecting and reporting sales
taxes to take the chance.
In Texas, teaching a workshop is a tax-free event. I can't imagine
that it would ever be taxable in any way other than contributing
to your income, which is subject to state income tax in most states.
You don't have a 'certified pottery instructor' licensing fee do you?
Philosophically, I hate the idea of basing what you do on tax laws.

As for insurance, materials, etc., for every workshop I've ever done,
someone else takes care of all the details. All I do is show up and
do my thing.
In this case, I don't think it is a valid comparison to base what
you charge on what karate or dance lessons cost because they
are providing facilities as well as instruction.
In a sense, you are the 'wholesaler', and the group that is sponsoring
the workshop is the 'retailer'. Hopefully you will both make money,
but the sponsor is taking the risk. I would not take on all the
aspects, including providing the facilities, of doing a workshop.
I think basing your fee on what you could be making by staying
home and working, plus traveling and misc. expenses is the way
to arrive at a price.

As a funny aside, last spring I did a one day workshop at a near-by
community college. I'm used to filling out forms when doing
workshops at state schools, but this was extreme; probably 5
pages worth.
Well, when I finally got my check (state schools are also slow to
pay), they had deducted social security and Medicare from my
workshop fee!
Oh well, I thought, ten bucks down the drain. Not worth long distance
calls to fool with.
Can you believe I got a W-2 from the school last week? According to
their records, I was their employee for one day!
I went back to my books and backed out my pay from my business
ledger so I wouldn't pay SS and Medicare twice.
On my tax return this year, I'll be an employee (for one day) for the
first time in 25 years.
David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas

----- Original Message -----
From: Cindy Strnad
Sent: Friday, February 02, 2001 10:01 AM
Subject: Re: Do I give a workshop free or charge?

| Several people have written to say that giving a workshop free of charge
| would be folly. I'm not so sure this is the case. Charging for the
| could end up being more trouble than it's worth, unless you plan to embark
| on a career of workshop teaching.
| I sell wholesale and, though I do have a tax number, I file my report
| term with "0" in the tax payable box, because I just don't sell retail.
| Well, occasionally, but that has all been out-of-state, so it doesn't
| In my state, there are sales taxes, excise taxes, service taxes. Hell,
| tax everything tangible and a few things that aren't. We don't have a
| tax base to draw from--that's the excuse. At any rate, I'd just as soon do
| gratis workshop as deal with learning all the new taxes I'd have to deal
| with.
| Second, if the group expects you to do the workshop in your own studio or
| your own property, you have site insurance to consider. Especially for an
| event involving a pit fire. If you're willing to take the risk on your
| that's fine, of course, but I'm not sure that would be wise, and I'm not
| sure it would be legal. If you have the people visiting as friends, that's
| one thing, but if they're paying you to be there, they become customers,
| that's a whole 'nother matter. If this troubles you, don't neglect to talk
| to your insurance agent before agreeing to have the event at your place.
| Chances are good that, with a small group, you can get by without even
| thinking about either of these things. I wish you didn't *need* to think
| about them. I think the laws in our country are more restrictive than they
| should be. But if you're going to break the law, you ought to at least
| you're doing it, so you can be appropriately devious and, we hope, not get
| caught. I'm not encouraging this risk, BTW, but it's your call, and I
| wouldn't condemn you for it, either.
| That said, if you decide to charge for your time, I recommend you call the
| local art center, if you have one, and find out what their workshops
| customarily run. If not, find out what other teachers charge for their
| What do piano lessons cost? Karate classes? How much would you spend to
| learn how to train your puppy? Is this charge for private or group
| If dance instructors are charging $10/hour group lesson, I really believe
| you're entitled to the same.
| Especially if the workshop is to take place on your property. If the group
| is providing a site, you might charge less. If you have to pay high rates
| for one-time site insurance, you may need to charge more.
| If you provide materials, you can include them in the lesson cost or sell
| them separately (either retail or wholesale). You shouldn't give them
| but you know that.
| Alas, nothing is as simple as it seems.
| Cindy Strnad
| Earthen Vessels Pottery
| RR 1, Box 51
| Custer, SD 57730