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Heather Townsend

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How to win more business as a freelance trainer


Business networking expert Heather Townsend provides more excellent tips for the community in our 'how to..' month.
Ask any freelance trainer and they will tell you that over 90% of all their new business comes from one of four sources: 
  1. Existing clients wanting more work
  2. Existing clients recommending them to their friends and network
  3. Introducers passing them referrals
  4. Getting work as an associate for a training company
These four sources of work are probably the easiest and most cost effective ways of winning more business. However, all four of these routes to market rely on you as a freelance trainer knowing how to get recommended, or as often talked about 'referred', to others. In the rest of this article we will explore the seven things you need to do to maximise the amount of time you get referred to new work.


This may come as a bit of a shock to you, but there are tons and tons and, wait for it, tons of freelance trainers out there. There are the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as the brilliant and the downright incompetent freelancers. If you are going to make yourself memorable so that you are the 1st one asked to do the work, you have to stop saying you do everything. You need to become an expert in a particular subject or audience. I'm not talking here about saying you are an executive coach, or leadership expert – this isn't specific enough - and therefore memorable enough - to make you stand out from the crowd.
"If you are going to make yourself memorable so that you are the 1st one asked to do the work, you have to stop saying you do everything. You need to become an expert in a particular subject or audience."
It was only when I stopped trying to market myself to clients and training consultancies as a versatile, one-stop shop, that I started to receive a regular stream of work from referrals. Now, 80+% of all my work is referral marketing related, whether via social media or business networking. Focusing on a niche and building up expertise in that niche is a great way to justify higher day rates.


Many freelance trainers get their new business via training consultancies using them as associates on projects. To be the associate that they use on the project requires you to be top-of-their-mind. This means that you need to have a monthly conversation with all the consultants who have expressed an interest in using you as an associate. Even better, can you regularly tweet with them, leave comments on their blog and like their updates on LinkedIn? Diarise these phone conversations and make it part of your monthly routine to find out what projects they have coming up, and how you may be able to help them with these projects.


If you look back at where your work as a freelance trainer has come from, I'd willing bet a large pint that your first few pieces of work came from people you know, liked and trusted. I'm guessing you had probably worked with some of them in a previous life. Funny that! Being serious, your network, particularly those who have worked directly with you in the past, will be your best source of work as a freelance trainer. Part of your marketing routine needs to include keeping in touch calls, and quick interactions via social media, with all those people who are in a position to willingly give you work.


We've already talked about how specialising in a niche, and keeping your relationships warm are two great ways of getting recommended as a freelance trainer. This will help you keep top-of-mind with the people who can give you work. However, you need to make sure you create an online footprint, which shouts out how credible and good you are at what you do. Writing a regularly updated blog, as well as being active on Twitter and LinkedIn are some of the best ways to achieve this visibility. Sending personalised emails to your network with your blog post attached is a great way of keeping in touch and showcasing your credibility.


We talked earlier in this article about the many hundreds of thousands of freelance trainers plying their trade in the marketplace. The successful freelance trainers have realised that if they are going to generate more recommendations, and new business, then they will have to take the initiative. So, what do I mean by taking the initiative? For example, this is regularly ringing the training managers and training consultancies who have hired you to keep in touch. Or you could be proactive and request a phone call with a LinkedIn or Twitter contact who you have been talking with regularly online. Last but by no means least, when you have a client giving you positive feedback, do ask them if there is any other work you can help them with.
"The successful freelance trainers have realised that if they are going to generate more recommendations, and new business, then they will have to take the initiative."


The old adage about 'being stronger together', is certainly true when it comes to freelance trainers. It's a big bad world out there, but it becomes a less scary one when you work closely with other freelance trainers. Not only are they a great source of support, but when you share information and go-to-market together you can win more for everyone. When you think about which types of freelance trainers you want to have around you, try to have a group who specialise in your target market – but without your specialist skillset.


I have an electrician in my network who is expanding his business as a rate of knots. He gets all his business by referral because he educates his network when they should recommend his services. When he educates his network, he removes most of the barriers to him getting referred. So how does he do this? Very simply, he tells his entire network to tell him when they see a flickering light in a council run property. He then phones the council, and voila, normally gets the work to go and change the light bulb. Does your network know when to recommend you? How can you make it easy for them to recommend you?
What other ingredients do you use to generate more business by referral?
Heather Townsend helps professionals and firms become the go-to-expert for their specialism within their chosen marketplace. She is the author of the current best selling and award-winning book on business networking, The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking, (75 five star reviews on amazon). Heather regularly blogs at Partnership Potential, Joined Up Networking and How To Make Partner And Still Have A Life

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Heather Townsend


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