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The dos and don’ts of freelance training

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Sharon Gaskin gives her top tips on how to make it as a successful freelance trainer.

Those of you who know me and are familiar with my work will have heard me freely admitting to the mistakes that I made in my first year as a freelance trainer. I’m not ashamed to say that there were plenty of them and a big driving force for me in creating The Trainers Training Company was to help other people avoid those same mistakes!

Over the years I have learnt a huge amount about success and failure in the freelance training world, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the things you do in your first few weeks and months that can really make a difference. So, here are some useful tips:

Don't...

  • Just go for the first bit of work that comes along. So many new freelance trainers accept anything on the basis that it’s better than nothing and then live to regret it when they realise that low value work will not allow them to have a profitable business.
  • Spend a fortune on marketing stuff, i.e. things like a logo, glossy brochures, a web site. Yes, these things are important in the long run, but they are not essential to starting a business, and they can be a severe drain on your cash flow if you are not careful.
  • Put all your eggs in one basket. One thing that I see all the time is people leaving their employer to go freelance, then going back to that company to do work for them as a consultant. They have a nice source of guaranteed income to begin with but are then left with nothing when it dries up.
  • Network for the sake of it. Failing to plan your networking activity and spending time with the wrong people is a sure-fire way to waste time, money and energy.
  • Try to do everything yourself. You will quickly realise that there are many other activities involved in running a training consultancy than just delivering training. Engage other people who have specialist skills, who can do these activities better and quicker than you and who would enjoy doing them! Getting other people to do these things will free up your time and enable you to focus your energies on the things that you are good at and that will get you results. Hiring a Virtual Assistant who looks after my web site and email marketing was certainly one of the best decisions I ever made and I now wish I had done it a lot sooner.

Do...

  • Work out your business model: Are you going to work as an associate, only with direct clients or a mixture of both? How much do you need to earn and what are you going to charge to ensure that you achieve your financial targets?
  • Get a good quality business card and a professional email address (i.e., not [email protected]) These are the only essentials you need to begin with.
  • Put together a marketing plan. Who, exactly, is your target market? How are you going to reach them? How are you going to make sure that you make the time for marketing activities that consistently feed your pipeline?
  • Develop a networking plan. Who do you want to meet? Where can you meet them? Which networking activities are going to bring the best results and can you afford them?
  • Be prepared to invest in your business. It can be a big shock to begin with when you realise that all the personal development you used to take for granted in your corporate days has to come out of your own pocket! But that doesn’t mean that it all has to fall by the wayside. Quite the reverse. The most successful freelance trainers I know are the ones who actively seek out and take opportunities to learn new skills to move their businesses forward.
  • Think carefully about the type of work you really want to do. Starting your own business gives you a golden opportunity to shape your own destiny, to really do the work that fires you up and gets you motivated to the point where it doesn’t seem like work at all! You are going to be doing this for the next 10, 20, even 30 years so you might as well enjoy it to the full. If you’re the type of person (and I know I am!) who wants to just get on and DO, all this planning stuff can sometimes feel a bit tedious, impatient as you might be to get out there and get clients.

But believe me, putting the time into these activities and properly going through the thinking process can save you weeks, months and years of frustration and pain, as well as giving you the best chance of creating a profitable and successful training business.

Sharon Gaskin is the Founder of The Trainers Training Company and works with freelance trainers to help them create successful businesses. For more details go to www.thetrainerstrainingcompany.co.uk.

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