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Twenty things every trainer should know before going freelance


LIGHTBULBThinking of going freelance? Or perhaps you face redundancy and working for yourself seems attractive? Sharon Gaskin shares some practical advice from trainers who have already created successful freelance businesses.


1. Have a business model
Decide on what sort of business you want. For example, do you want to work as an associate only, direct for clients or a mixture of both? How much money do you need to earn to pay the bills? How many delivery days are realistically available? What do you need to charge to ensure you get this? And is it realistic?

2. Don't waste money when you first start out
Business cards, graphics, website, brochures, networking events, business coaching – must haves or nice-to-haves? It can be very easy to get carried away, but you may not need it all right at the beginning. Only buy the essentials you need to run your business – and save the rest for when you have more cash.

3. Invest in your marketing skills
"There is an art and a skill to learn to successfully promote and sell training programmes – having a great service/product is not enough."
Julie French, Academy of High Achievers

"Marketing is an every-day activity. The more you get into the habit of doing this, the more you will avoid the feast-and-famine syndrome."

4. It can take a long time to get work from prospective leads
"Keep in touch in an appropriate manner, so they don't forget about you. One day they just might phone you up with some work!"
Sarah Jefferies, CNN Consulting

5. Indiscriminate networking can be a waste of time
If you go to every networking event going, you will be exhausted and broke within the first three months. Work out your target market first, assess where they might hang out and choose your networking events accordingly.

6. A full diary doesn't equal a profitable business
It's very easy to accept almost any type of work when you first start out. But in the long term you can get trapped into a cycle of doing lots of low value work which doesn't produce the income you need, makes you feel devalued and de-motivated, doesn't give you the time you need to find high value work and makes it harder for you to charge what you are worth.

7. Don't undervalue your time
"You need to bear in mind that freelancers only ever work a certain number of days a year. So much time has to be spent finding work/business development."
Janette Rawlinson, Just Real Solutions

8. Build relationships with other independent trainers
Don’t treat other trainers as your competitors. They can be a good source of business as they can pass on work they are not able to do. And it's really nice when you are able to return the favour!

9. Don't panic about the quiet times
"Try not to worry when you have a quiet time: don't panic. Just make the most of it. Have some free time or use that time to develop your personal skills."
Sue Wotruba, The Change Team

10. Budget for the things you took for granted in corporate life
Don't forget about your IT help-desk, stationery, phone bills, professional memberships, training and development. You will have to pay for all this yourself now!

11. Practice what you preach
"It's important to follow your own advice and practices that you have trained and encouraged others to follow! For example, time management, planning and incorporating time for effective prospecting."
Steve Pitaway, KTP Solutions Ltd

12. Don't count your chickens
Work is never guaranteed until you are actually in the training room! The company may decide they have different priorities, they may have their training budget cut, or the key decision maker leaves. You can minimise this risk by having terms and conditions of business, including a cancellation policy and getting each client to agree to them up front.

13. You can't do it all yourself
"It took a while to realise that things I didn't enjoy took me ages and I didn't do them particularly well. However, someone else could do them quickly, efficiently and get results."
Alison Clarke, Dramatic Results

14. Specialise in a niche
"Specialising is very important in order to 'stand out' and 'attract'"
Tony Burgess, Academy of High Achievers

15. It can take a long time to get work from prospective leads
Yup, we know – this one has already been mentioned but it came up time and time again from all the trainers we interviewed, so we just had to mention it again!

16. Don't assume that large corporate companies are not interested in 'one-man bands'
"I have learnt that this is not the case. I found it helpful to think about all the training I commissioned when I was a training manager in large organisations – all the people I used were independent consultants. The reasons I used them were that they were reliable, professional, good at what they did and I liked them."
Sharon Gaskin, Winning Training

17. It can be tougher than you think
"I wish I had realised how much harder it would be than I had ever imagined. It has been a real test of resilience!"
Trudie Donnelly, TD Stress Consulting

"It's very easy to accept almost any type of work when you first start out. But in the long term you can get trapped into a cycle of doing lots of low-value work."

18. Marketing needs to happen every day
Marketing is an every-day activity. The more you get into the habit of doing this, the more you will avoid the feast-and-famine syndrome. Just one phone call a day to one person in your network can make all the difference.

19. Don't sell yourself - just your business
"When I first started and got out there to sell myself to others, it was really scary. Suddenly I wasn't hiding behind a company's product and I was taking the rejections personally. But once I realised that I needed to stop selling 'me' and focus on building relationships with people, it much more fun and easier to market my business."
Karen Skidmore, CanDoCanBe

20. It can be intensely satisfying!
Yes, it's incredibly hard work. Yes, you need to stick at it. And yes, you have days when you look at the job ads with longing. But there's nothing to beat that feeling of being in control and living your life as you want it! It makes it all worthwhile and once you take that step you rarely go back.

This is a shortened version of a free report available from The Trainers Training Company. Sharon Gaskin is the founder of The Trainers Training Company, helping trainers create successful training businesses. For more information visit or call her on 0777-3370193.



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