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Freelancers online forum


Report from the TrainingZONE Online Workshop held on 29 August 2000 which was an open forum for all freelance trainers and consultants.

Online workshops are held every Tuesday. Click here to see the current programme.

This workshop was held as part of the launch of TrainingZONE's new Freelancers Advice Page.

Tim Pickles: This Freelancers workshop is intended as an 'open' session where people can raise any issue of interest/concern, ask questions, etc.

Sean Burke: Hi,

Sean Burke: Hi its sean burke, I'm based in Brussels, what are ye folks discussing ?

Matthew Haggis: Sean - nothing yet! OK, six people should be enough to have something to talk about, surely?

Tim Pickles: Anyone got any reactions to the new Freelancers information page we put up this morning? We'd appreciate feedback so we can continue to add in appropriate new content

Matthew Haggis: I've had a very quick look - useful. Good reference source that I have not explored yet.

Tim Pickles: We're getting a fair number of questions about professional idemnity insurance for freelance trainers/consultants - anyone found any useful advice or sources on this?

Sean Burke: Tim my initial impression was that it was good. I get the impression f rom some ASTD Members that forums for independent trainers area a concern of theirs also

Dave graves: Hi this is my first time, so i'm not quite sure how to proceed but i will join in as i get more confident

Matthew Haggis: Sorry Sean, what's the ASTD?

Sean Burke: Mathew, its the Amercian Society for Training & Development - also a good resource for trainers

Tim Pickles: Yes, ASTD are interested in this area. With greater internet usage, they get more postings. We also run a freelancers conference in the Discussion Area but it get's little traffic.

Wilma Taggart: P I Insurance - try Service Miller tel 0141 332 7845

Tim Pickles: ASTD = American Society for Training and Development

Tim Pickles: Wilma - do you use Service Miller - are they good and responsive?

Matthew Haggis: All things online lead to America at some point - is their training culture usefully aligned with ours, or can it be misleading to seek advice from over the pond?

Wilma Taggart: yes Tim - a broker but gave the best price at the time - £ 165

Wilma Taggart: Can I ask - do any traditional trainers feel 'threatened' by on-line learning increase?!!!

Sean Burke: Can i ask a question regarding buidling a training business - I come from more a consulting background, partly big five, and I intererested in finding out out waht practitioners have done to build their business ?

Tim Pickles: I think the US freelancers experience in different. There is more of a freelancers culture, but it's also more complex e.g. litigation, professional indemnity, requests for testimonials, etc.

Dave graves: Dave Graves, does anyone ever run intothe problem of agencies taxing you at source, i.e. employed, but offering no other employed benifits?

Tim Pickles: Three questions at once! Chip in to respond to any, but suggest prefixing your response with the name of the person you're responding to

Matthew Haggis: Dave, yes - I had a very unhappy exchange with an NHS organisation recently. Thought it was a straightforward freelance job and ended up with a P60 or whatever it is!

Wilma Taggart: Sean there isn't an easy way - but networking and cold calling is the answer

Matthew Haggis: Sean, is that what you mean (Wilma's answer)?

Tim Pickles: Dave: there are two issues about freelancers being treated like PAYE employees. (1) Ask your tax office to write you a letter confirming your self-employed tax status, then copy this to clients. (2) Try to get to grips with IR35 as employers are under instruction to treat consultants that they use a lot as employees.

michiel erasmus: Sean, it is a case of building competitive advantage thru the application of skills - need to 'offer' a training product that differentiates your product from similar offerings (as from your competition)

Wilma Taggart: Sean to add to Michiel's comment - if u do s'thing different aim to get publicity on it

Tim Pickles: Sean, in my freelancing days, we found it really useful to database every actual and potential client and then to create regular 'newsletters' for them which in effect said "Hello, we're still here"

michiel erasmus: Sean, Wilma is right, it is difficult and u need to do a number of things right - competitive advantage (differentiate u r product), get publicity, and execure a marketing strategy (target your market carefully)

Matthew Haggis: Sean (are you there?) - what have you done so far?

Dave graves: Dave Graves: Thanks Mathew, apparently if the brief is their brief and they pay you expenses and you can't "enhance your profit", you are deemed Employed but are not entitled to any employed benefits

Sean Burke: Wilma, Michael, thanks for feedback to my quuestion. You don't consider it a near imperative to have been in a training company beforehand ?

Matthew Haggis: Tim, what did you do when you became too busy to keep the newsletter up?

Wilma Taggart: Sean - not necessary however selling skills are essential

Tim Pickles: Matthew, the newsletter sometimes became a pain to do but we tended to create one when business was slack (and we needed more work); when business was really busy, there was no immediate need for a newsletter.

michiel erasmus: Sean, not a requirement...I've seen excellent lecturers (at University MBA level) that was not attached to any training company before...some marketing and seeling skills could be usefull

Matthew Haggis: Sean - I would expect many people to *like* the idea of a different background - no preconception of style or product, 'real' industry experience etc. Make the most of those sorts of things.

Sean Burke: Tim, did you work as a solo practitioner or did you build something with others ?

Tim Pickles: There is a "feast or famine" issue for freelancers. When you're really busy, there is no time to market for the post-feast period; when you're underworked, it's hard to create instant work.

Tim Pickles: Sean, we set up a network of 6-7 members, all self-employed, but effectively working as an association; each person responsible for own work but sharing overheads and able to put together one-off teams for contracts

Matthew Haggis: On the subject of 'feast and famine', why is this always seen as bad? As long as you store enough during the feast (and don't eat it all) isn't it nice to have some quieter times?

Jon Seaton: In my view alot of training 'regular' work comes down to having your name and reputation before people on a constant basis

michiel erasmus: Sean, to latch onto to Tim it is practical experience, skilles level, and the ability to give insight to the theretical in practical application and terms that could be most usefull

Tim Pickles: ...and we should also use the famine periods as opportunities for self-development!

Wilma Taggart: Tim yes i agree - another point how long can a consultant be away from the 'sharp end' and possible lose some skills?

Jon Seaton: Freelance training work is often supported not by the training but by regular contact with clients and potential cliets

Jon Seaton: It's a constant balancing act

Matthew Haggis: Wilma - ahhh, but what other skills are you picking up while you are 'away'?

Sean Burke: Is it your experience that few independent practitioners build up their own companies or is this generally not their ambition ? or is it too it too difficult ?

Wilma Taggart: Matthew - true running a business requires lots of skills

Matthew Haggis: I suspect many people choose freelancing as a lifestyle choice, not least to get away from 'the organisation', so building a bigger business is often not on the agenda.

Sean Burke: Getting back to Wilma's question, have any of you been experimenting with CBT or multimedia or web-based training ? I would have thought it would be a good activity in famine time of is the skill set just too different ?

Matthew Haggis: I prefer Tim's Framework idea - a loose affiliation of people who share and come together as they see fit

Tim Pickles: Following on Wilma's point above, your existing clients are crucial - it's much easier to get more work from an existing client than to invest in finding new ones.

Wilma Taggart: Matthew yes having lots of contacts to support is important

Matthew Haggis: Sean - right now I am starting to look into more online work, and what it takes to get it. Not got very far yet!

Jon Seaton: and treating existing clients well with regular contact and understanding of their needs can widen your client base through word of mouth

Sean Burke: Mathew (or anyone) - I've been doing some reading into WBT - can suggest some good resources if it helps you ?

Wilma Taggart: Yes Jon and asking clients for referral - often forgotten but important!

Wilma Taggart: Anyone - how can WBT help in 'soft skills' such as customer care where roleplay is needed?

Dave graves: Dave Graves: i like the idea of a loose association of freelance tarainers even iif it just means getting together for a beer now and again

Wilma Taggart: Yes Dave as long as the conversation is positive and supportive!

Helen Marshall: We use WBT at the moment for PC skills training, in my own experience, there is a basic flaw with using WBT for soft skills, ie, it gives us the theory but not the practical

Sean Burke: Wilma, I dont think it can help for role play, except to provide some backround orientation for the roleplay (and the cost-benefit needs to be carefully checked out utcheck

Wilma Taggart: Helen i am sure someone will be working on that challenge!

Dave graves: Dave Graves: i agree Wilma 'cos it can get a bit lonely sometimes, and it's good to talk to people who understand the "ups and downs" of freelancing

Wilma Taggart: Anyone so what's the best way to get one's courses on-line - WBT?

Jon Seaton: Some of the A+ certification CBT does provide videoed roleplay. It's not the same as actually going through the role=play but can increase understanding and skills

michiel erasmus: WBT not advisable for the soft skills training due to computer software not able to interpret 'emotional' issues. It is being addressed thru 'virtual reality'....but early days yet. WBT best suited for 'rules' based environments..i.e. computer programming, accounting, history, and so on

Sean Burke: Mathew, a great resource for info on WBT is in the US. One fo their publications is the Web training cookbook - which seems highly regared in the industry. there is also some good sources in the ASTD handbook for training

Tim Pickles: We're talking so some people who are very involved in Action Learning. Their approach to online and WBT is not to delivery learning content such as pages of text, but to use web technology to promote sharing, questionning, knowledge exchange within action learning sets - a different approach to soft skills learning

Matthew Haggis: [Tim - a process question: Is there an easier way of sending an email to a participant in these chats than writing the address by hand on a piece of paper and re-typing it in an email?]

michiel erasmus: In the case of soft skills training, or any other 'non rules based subject' training WBT and the net could be utilised for periphery activiyies...i.e. chat rooms, FAQ's, and other assistance tools

Helen Marshall: I agree with Michael however WBT can be used for role play as long as it is used in conjunction with methods such as conference calling or chat sites such as this one. The most appropriate thing would be for training telephone techniques for example.

Tim Pickles: For anyone considering WBT and online, a useful book is 'Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace' by Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt (Jossey Bass)

Wilma Taggart: Tim u r a mine of info.!! Thx

michiel erasmus: once again setting up a needs to address the strategy...(how will all the tools i'm going to use deliver the 'message' to the students/participants) differnet tools requires different skills sets ..not only for trainer but also srudent.

Wilma Taggart: Michiel so how does a trainer with courses to offer get onto WBT?

Matthew Haggis: W - u r v gd at abbr. I mst lrn. :-)

Wilma Taggart: Matt - thx!

Sean Burke: gosh new lingo !

Matthew Haggis: Getting back on track - I am *really* interested in the online support to training, as opposed to WBT itself. Surely this is where a great strength lies, not least in the asynchronicity of it.

michiel erasmus: Wilma...again a case of business strategy....where will this product offering fit into you're whole training offering...a number of issues then needs to be addressed...i.e. WBT strategy, content, design principles, gui (graphical user interface). and so on

Wilma Taggart: Anyone offered this WBT support in addition to 'classroom' training to their clients?

Sean Burke: Wilma, if you've got limited financial resources to invest, I think you need to start small, purchase an authoring tool and strart converting a suitable course to a low level multi-media offer. Might be a way also of differentiating yourself from others - have a some of your courses online to save classroom time for your clients (Tim, what do you think ?)

Wilma Taggart: Sean thx

Tim Pickles: Yes, I see offering courses online as an additional outlet for trainers, enabling them to reach a wider audience, but certainly not replacing stand-up delivery at present.

Wilma Taggart: Michiel it sounds as if u r an expert in these matters - perhaps u shld b providing ur service to trainingzone supporters!

Sean Burke: Tim, thanks for that - do you think this is feasible for independent practitioners - do you see it happening ?

Helen Marshall: Wilma, would the audience you are delivering to find WBT to be sufficient?

Wilma Taggart: Helen no client has ever asked me abt WBT yet! But interaction wld b essential for telephone skills etc

Helen Marshall: What kind of soft skills do you intend to deliver?

michiel erasmus: a nr of universities at MBA business school level experimentin with the net as support tool for the trainers.....and working fact latest developments have that the supplier of lecturing material supports the trainer/lecturer with full online facilities i.e. lecturing material available on-line, chat room set up, additional information (i.e. case studies) available on CD rom...and so on....

Tim Pickles: For many small training businesses, the cost/time involved in creating online content will be too much. And then they have to market the courses, and create traffic for their site in compeition with everyone else. We're looking at a tie-up with a software company who will do this as a 'package' for trainers, and TrainingZONE woudl probably host the course afterwards as well.

Wilma Taggart: Helen I specialise in customer contact skills - handling complaints, cust care t'phone

Tim Pickles: Actually there is a nice US site where you can author and publish courses on anything online, and earn revenues - see

Wilma Taggart: GOOD MAN TIM!!!

Sean Burke: Tim, interesting ! thanks - is it another type of training e-commerce site/broker ?

Tim Pickles: Sean, kind of - but worth a look - you can search for courses on 'how to neuter my cat' and probably find something !!

michiel erasmus: as a trainer one needs to be carefull not to want to do everything......trainer should focus on 'core business'....create content, deliver training lecturing...leave the development to specialist...but then need to do the planning for it obviously

Sean Burke: Tim, didn't I tell you I run a leadership course in neutering cats ?.....

Wilma Taggart: So Michiel r u the specialist?

Tim Pickles: I agree Michael - unless you really want to get into programmign as a hobby, career, you're better off leaving the computing side of online course creation to someone else.

michiel erasmus: no i'm the observer in the room....and is watching with interest

Sean Burke: michiel, i was checking your email address - .za - are you based in Zambia or Zanzibar ????

Tim Pickles: We normally wind up these sessions after 45 minutes, so I'll be leaving shortly - although you're welcoem to stay. I'll publish the transcript to the Workshop page later today.

michiel erasmus: Sean, no in South Africa.....

Matthew Haggis: Thanks all. 'See' you all again soon, I hope.

Wilma Taggart: Tim and all thx - Good Luck and keep checking favoutite site - traininzone!

Sean Burke: Is the logistics in preparing workbooks and course materials for participants, getting them printed and delivered a real headache for you guys ??

Tim Pickles: Thanks for the comments and suggestions folks - we'll follow up on several of them

Wilma Taggart: Sean - yes can be!

Helen Marshall: Thanks everyone!

Sean Burke: Thanks everyone

michiel erasmus: Thank u everyone......have a nice day.

michiel erasmus: Sean u could consider using electroninc tools for creation of course material.....savings could be substantial in the long run

Jon Seaton: Thanks Guys and Gals, time for me to go!

Don't forget to check out TrainingZONE's new Freelancers Advice Page.


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