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What does a freelance trainer train?


Hi everyone, My background is Sales. I am currently employed full time as a Sales Manager for a global company. I want to do freelance training because I want to work for myself and I have delivered quite a bit of training in the current job I do. I loved delivering training and I was actually really good at it hence why I want to specialise in this field. But if I am offering sales training, is that just not enough? I've visited so many other websites and everyone seems to be doing a bit of everything. I mean what does a freelancer do? Is it where they approach companies and deliver any kind of training the company needs delivering for them be it sales, health and safety or whatever? Or does a feelancer specialise in certain areas and this is all they train? I am so stuck, I want to get off the ground but I just don't know how?? Is anyone else in the same boat? Or did anyone else even start off in the same boat? Everyone on this site seems to have made it somehow and appear to be doing very well. I have so much admiration for these people but how have you done it? Please help?? Ria

18 Responses

  1. silly answer to a sensible question
    Hi Ria

    1. Some freelancers are “independent consultants” and some are “associates”~if you are independent you set up your USP and compete with the consultancies~ if you are an “associate” you work for a consultancy delivering whatever they sell. Some freelancers (most) do both.
    2. If you freelance as an independent you probably have some sort of specialist reputation; you are known to a particualr market as a provider of XXX, but then almost all specialisations have crossover; if you are a management trainer you are bound to get to do some sales training; if you are a sales trainer you are bound to do some communicating/influencing/presenting/assertiveness (It’s all part and parcel of the same arena)
    3. Ditto as an associate
    4. Most training freelancers can also do TNA, design and some consultancy~ it goes with the territory
    5. Though many independents and freelancers specialise in an industry sector, most can work across sectors and disciplines
    6. No one owns up to doing badly; we all “sex up” our situation; it is a cross between PMA, the self-fulfilling prophesy, realism and accepting that no one wants to employ a failure!

    I hope this helps
    (yes….let them eat cake!)

  2. What does a freelance trainer train?
    Hello Ria,

    in addition to the advice from Rus, perhaps you could take a look at the competencies for a sales person, and identify the critical skills, knowledge, behaviours that are required for outstanding performance and then develop a portfolio of solutions around those competencies.


  3. What does a frellance trainer train?
    Hi Ria,

    Firstly feel good about yourself for taking the brave steps to being a freelance!

    Train what you are good at! From your experience you will probably be able to break down the elements of your role and skills into subjects you can train:-

    Sales Management
    Motivating your team
    Presentation Skills

    Would be amongst the things I would guess you could do.

    Put some outlines together on what you would cover on the subjects you come up with and you’re well on your way!

    Some organisations that use freelancers will have their own content others will want you to provide it. I would say have your own anyway! Then you are training on what is true to you and won;t get thrown by unexpected questions.

    Good luck and keep going!


  4. Follow up questions to your answers..
    Hi Rus- thanks for breaking that down for me. It was probably a silly question but I’m in a position where I want to make sure I understand absolutely everything. If I was to go either independent or do associate work, then would I need to advertise this? i.e. on my website and business cards?
    Colin- you are absolutely spot on! These are exactly what I will be good at but when you list it like that I don’t think I would have been able to come up with so many ideas so thank you. Could I brand myself as someone who has a list of these courses but also someone who can train other content? I guess by doing that it gives me the best of both worlds right?


  5. FAO Joy
    Hi Joy, thanks for the idea. This sounds like a good place to start- I’m thinking that by doing this I will hopefully end up with quite a bulky course? How long are sales courses meant to last? I mean is there a certain rule in the world of freelancing? At the moment if I was to write a sales course it would probably last about a day.


  6. Silly Questions
    Hi Ria
    You are welcome!

    You suggest that your question was “silly”; one thing I always tell delegates when I’m training;
    If you have a question and you are reluctant to ask it because you think it is a “silly question” remember this; the person who asks a stupid question remains ignorant for five seconds, the person who doesn’t ask the stupid question remains ignorant for the rest of their life. In addition to this you can almost guarantee that at least 50% of the other delegates will love you for asking a stupid question…because they were thinking the same thing but hadn’t the guts to ask!

    With regard to your business cards, my advice is “Less is More”; name contact details and a very brief “title”;
    Ria Bloggs BSc CMCIPD
    Learning and Development Specialist
    0101 234 5678
    [email protected]

    is probably all you need; it gives you flexibility

    I hope this helps
    Rus for all those who like cake

  7. Training help
    Hi Ria

    I know an author who’s book ‘Launch your Own Training Business’ may be helpful to you. Look up Sharon Gaskin, the Trainer’s Training Company – her book and courses are designed for people just like you and getting it right when you start could make a big difference.

    I get no commercial gain from recommending her (unless you bought her book via my site) but I have had some excellent recommendations for Sharon and her programmes, so hopefully I won’t get booted off for mentioning it to you.

    Good luck – and do cruise by my site and download all the free stuff – you’ll find lots there to help you start building your portfolio. Oh – is that allowed? ūüôā


  8. Some thoughts

    According to research we at the Learning Practitioners’ Association (incorporating TrainerBase) have conducted, the majority of freelance/independent trainers (regardless of business model) have come into training from an operational role (Sales manage asked to do training). So you are not alone there.

    As to the business model. There are 3 as we define: Direct, Associate and Super Associate.

    The Direct business model is that you do all your own marketing, branding, selling, administration etc, etc and deal with clients ‘direct’. Much of the support functions of running a business (because that is what you are doing) will take time and the level of activity in this model can be quite substantial. This reduces the number of days that you can ‘work’ (at fee paying delivery) and consequently your day rate will reflect that.

    The Associate model is where you work for (on a freelance basis) a number of larger (though not necessarily) training companies and deliver training courses to their clients. This type of model reduces the amount of non fee paying work (marketing, meeting with clients, sales, etc) and potentially increases the number of days you can ‘work’. The rates for this type of model are often half of direct work.

    The Super Associate model is a when you as an associate for another training company actually get involved in the pre contract negotiations, course preparation, evaluations etc but are paid or at least should be for doing this. The rate is likely the same as for associate work but not all of your ‘engagement’ with the client is delivery.

    Again our research suggests that the significant majority of freelance or independent (I use the term interchangeably) trainers do both. Around 6% only do Associate work and around 4% only do Direct; the remaining 90% ish do both 90/10 to 10/90.

    It appears that many starting out use the Associate model as a way into the market with many moving towards more direct work as their confidence and networks grow. Interestingly I was talking with a colleague who does about 50/50 and she suggested that the profit margin for both was about the same. Granted it is nice to be earning ¬£1,000 per day, but there is a lot of ‘business’ to do to get this. Sometimes you get just as much out (disposable income) from a ¬£500 per day associate job.

    Oh and one last thing; the response from purchasers is that they prefer specialists over generalists and price if I recall was third on the list of influencers.

    Hope this helps

    Chief Executive
    The Learning Practitioners’ Association
    incorporating TrainerBase (which as Sheridan comments is seen by many I suspect as a bit of a dating agency:)).

  9. I sort of did it!
    Hi Ria,

    I jumped from retail manager to trainer although didn’t have the nerve to go freelance! If you would like to get in touch I’m more than happy to talk to you about the transition.

    Best of luck!

  10. Get recognised as a trainer
    There’s a lot of very useful information on this thread. My nugget would be to learn about training through some form of accreditation.

    There are some very good trainers who haven’t done much (if any) formal study into ‘how training works’. However, I wouldn’t engage a trainer without some formal qualification in training, or substantial experience in delivering to groups, irrespective of the perceived quality of their delivery.

    I’d want to take on someone who could understand the needs analysis I’d undertaken and design an appropriate intervention; I wouldn’t want someone who would just deliver their strongest subject.

    I’d want someone who understood the reasons behind why participants (individually or in groups) behave the way they do.

    I’d want someone who understood why I needed to know how their delivery would change the knowledge level, behaviour, and performance of my staff; I wouldn’t want somone who showed me a ream of reaction sheets with scores of ‘5’ on them.

    Good luck!

  11. …a few more thoughts

    Along with the great ideas already posted – you might also want to think about related courses for management – like performance management, motivating teams, supervision and appraisal etc.

    The best publicity is always word of mouth – which you just can’t buy. So, you might think of offering a bit of free training to businesses you think you can help in return for their agreement to give you detailed feedback and a testamonial you can use on your website.

    Good Luck


  12. …a few more thoughts

    Along with the great ideas already posted – you might also want to think about related courses for management – like performance management, motivating teams, supervision and appraisal etc.

    The best publicity is always word of mouth – which you just can’t buy. So, you might think of offering a bit of free training to businesses you think you can help in return for their agreement to give you detailed feedback and a testamonial you can use on your website.

    Good Luck


  13. Thank you for your advice
    I have realised that I have spent so much time worrying about what to put on my business card, what to have on my website etc that I have not really done anything productive. I have been able to write myself an action plan of things I need to get on with. I do want to train some of my own content but as I am still quite inexperienced I think I would rather start off working for other training companies.

    Rus- I think your website is ace! I really need to get moving quick as the likelihood is that I will be out of a job by the end of October. Am I right in saying that so long as I have got some basic info on my site, it should be enough to get me started? I am thinking of sending all of the local colleges, the local jobcentre and small businesses a letter describing what I do and maybe offering some free work.

    Does anyone know of any decent training companies I can get in touch with in the North East?


  14. Remember you are still a sales person too!
    Hi Ria,

    I wonder if it will help you to continue to think of yourself as a sales person, as well as a freelance trainer?

    You’ll be well aware as a successful sales person that you won’t be selling courses, you’ll be helping your clients remove their business pain and/or help them towards a brighter future, even if things are ‘peachy’ for them just now…

    … so do as you surely did in sales – focus on the issues & challenges faced by sales people and sales managers (and you know these are 2 distinct groups!) and draw links back from the outcomes these 2 groups need to the tasks to be carried out to achieve these outcomes, and back from these tasks to the behaviours to be exhibited and the processes to be followed. From these you can then draw links back to underpinning knowledge, specific skills and specific attitudes required.

    This is known as an impact analysis, espoused very effectively by Robert Brinkerhoff in his book “The Success Case Method” – great for doing needs analysis & credible evaluations of training…

    You are one of simply thousands offering sales trainng, so consider what makes you unique.

    I don’t mean unique in the market place generally – that’s a trap I believe too many fall in to when following the ‘find your USP’ road blindly (USP = unique selling proposition) – look for what makes you unique in the eyes of a client for a particular, given sales opportunity (if you’re not familiar with Miller Heiman then grab their book on Strategic Selling, a recommendation to all in our line of work as we frequently are engaged in a ‘complex’ sales situation).

    Look for what your UBP or unique buying proposition is (this is well espoused by Andy Bounds in his great book, “The Jelly Effect”).

    Absolutely, get testimonials, and really understand your market – you may even want to consider specialising in a particular market. For example, I operate in the high tech market – direct sales techniques that might be employed over the phone or in ‘traditional’ cold calling environments simply wont ‘wash’ with most sales forces in this market, and vice versa…

    All sales are not the same, all markets are not the same!

    You only get 1 chance usually to make an impression – typically just 1-2 minutes to generate enough curiosity in the potential client to cause them to give you more time – time to continue to build your credibility with them, which is difficult to do if you don’t start from a position of targeting right away the specific issues of their market & environment…

    Good luck,


  15. Sort of on the same journey
    Hi Ria,

    I’ve recently been through the same journey as you are about to embark on and have learnt a fair few lessons, very quickly along the way, but at the same time have had quite a bit of success.

    I second/third the thoughts above about registering with sites such as Trainer Base and The Trainers Training Company – Sharon is very supportive.

    Although I haven’t lived there for a few years, I’m originally from the North East and I’m sure I can get a list of training companies from some colleagues and contacts I have up there.

    If you want someone to bounce some ideas off who is going through the same thing, then feel free to get in touch.


  16. Hi David
    How do I get in touch with you? Do you have an email address please?


  17. Hi David
    How do I get in touch with you? Do you have an email address please?


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