No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Ask the expert: How do I find work?


Question markA couple of questions have been asked on Any Answers recently concerning finding work or going it alone. We asked Peter Mayes of Trainerbase to reply.

The question:
I'm considering going it alone as a training consultant. Any advice would be appreciated. How to do I get started finding work/clients to work with? I don't know many people to start networking and I seem to hit a brick wall when I try to offer my services - any tips would be wonderful.

Peter Mayes replies:
There have been a couple of recent postings regarding trainers setting up as independents and how best to find work. As long term members of will know, this is an ongoing question and dilemma for many.

The premise behind the dilemma for those looking to become independent is not necessarily their ability to provide learning and development, the difficulty is their ability and attitude towards running a business; whether it be 'lifestyle' or 'commercially' focused. I have seen over the past years comments such as "I'm a freelance management trainer, I want to deliver training, not sell or do this business stuff; will someone else do it for me". Whilst it may be possible to outsource, or perhaps abdicate, some of the non fee earning functions, when all is said and done, as a sole trader or a managing director of a training company you have to take responsibility for your independence.

My thoughts and advice are based on the work I and a group of 10 other learning practitioners have carried out over the past two years in determining what we believe are the principles of being an independent learning practitioner. Without going into the specifics I would like to say that the TrainerBase Standard for Learning Practitioners was devised as a way of helping trainers and learning practitioners get work.

Core principles of the TrainerBase Standard
The Standard is based on three Principles: Personal, Operational and Commercial.

The Personal Principles revolve around your commitment to your own development, the way you act, react and impact on others and how you build relationships. Many independents are their business. A failure to develop the individual is a failure to develop the business. The advice within this principle is: learn how to communicate well, develop relationships in as many areas as possible and continually update your knowledge and skills. Put simply; don't be shy, get out and meet people; get on the phone and speak to people; get online and chat with people. And whilst you are about it; learn.

The Operational Principles are likely to be the easiest for you to prove your competence, especially if you have a relevant qualification. The operations you undertake follow the traditional learning cycle of: analysis, design, delivery and evaluation. The advice within this principle is: know as much as you can about the theory of learning. There are many train the trainer courses on offer; consider a grounding in fundamentals that will support whatever sector expertise you have. You might be the most knowledgeable person you know in your specialist subject, but without knowing how to impart that to others, your success as a learning practitioner may be short lived. You will certainly be found wanting when compared to the many trainers in the market place who do know the theories of learning.

And then we come on to the Commercial Principles; this is where many aspiring independent trainers, consultants and contracts fall over; they have no sense of business. Before considering going it alone or if you have already done so, I urge you to consider the following:
Do you know what you want to gain from being an independent? 'It was better than being employed' is not sufficient and will likely result in you returning to employment.

Consider the costs
What are your success criteria? What do you want to earn and most importantly; how much do you need to charge per day to earn this? As an employed trainer £300 a day may seem a king's ransom. I can assure you that after a few months of occasional fee earning days you will realise that is worse than the minimum wage.

And how will you know how you are doing in relation to your targets? Being told by your accountant that you are insolvent or have a considerable tax liability is too late.
Oh yes, do you know what the minimum requirement is for setting up a commercial entity and what other legal requirements are there once you start operating? Bureaucracy is the bane of an independent's life and one of those unseen pitfalls that just eat up time and resources. And then there is the marketing and sales. What is your business model; direct work or associate work? Or a combination of both?

Direct work, where you deliver to the end client who pays you, requires you or an outsourced service (that you have to pay for) to get all your contracts. The marketing, sales and associated risks involved in this are considerable. If direct work is your primary business model; expect to earn a fee on 75 to 125 days per year. It can be quite disheartening for a keen independent to realise how little time they will actually be doing what they want to be doing.

If your business model is associate work, you will work for another training company and deliver to their clients. With this model you are more likely to gain multiple days from a small number of other training providers who will keep work coming for between one and three years; that is the average for a framework agreement that these organisations are likely to have with their clients. As an associate you will have less risk, less marketing to do, fewer overheads and expenses are likely to be covered. You will likely get between 125 and 200 days work per year, however your daily rate will be up to half that of your direct work.

Lots of the trainers I meet and who are members of TrainerBase do a combination of direct and associate work. Many starting out with a predominant associate model and as they gain experience, move towards the direct model. Their increase in rates reflecting their growing confidence and level of expertise and experience as an independent trainer or learning practitioner.

The final thought
I fully appreciate that what I have eluded to may seem daunting, however I would prefer you to be daunted before you consider becoming independent rather than reeling from the disappointment of not succeeding and returning to the perceived safe environment of the corporate world.

Suffice to say, the independent - going it alone, finding their own work - is a challenging and fulfilling endeavour and I know of many who, having taken the leap, would not wish to return to their previous life. Whilst I may have sounded negative about all that you need to consider, this is the reality and if you deal with that reality appropriately, then there is no reason for you not to succeed.

Our expert:
Peter Mayes is the founder and Chief Executive of TrainerBase; the Association for Learning Practitioners. TrainerBase has been operating on the internet since early 2002 and has grown in size from a small database on trainers to a trainer-related portal of 5,000+ trainers, purchasers and others with an interest in learning and development. TrainerBase changed constitution in late 2007 with the view to being recognised as the voice of learning practitioners in the UK. Peter has been instrumental in developing the Standard for Learning Practitioners and the Certified Learning Practitioner accreditation process, which has been set up to enable TrainerBase members to get more work.

In light of the questions about 'going it alone' that have been asked on recently we're also running a feature today on starting your own business, provided by Take a look here


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!