Are you wondering how to become a freelance trainer? It’s a question that many trainers wrestle with at some stage in their careers.
It could be that you’ve recently been made redundant or you want to strike out on your own. Perhaps you want more variety or to step away from in-house politics. Or maybe you’re new to training but want to start as a freelancer.
Whatever the impetus, you’re wondering whether you could make a living as a freelance trainer.
The advantages of becoming a freelance trainer
There’s no doubt that freelancing does have its advantages. You can choose when and where you work (including from home), enjoy more variety in your working day and develop your experience with a range of clients.
At its best, freelance life gives you complete control over your career. If you want to achieve something or offer a specific service, the only limitations are those you place on yourself.
The disadvantages of becoming a freelance trainer
But, of course, freelancing is not without its disadvantages. You must go into freelance life with your eyes wide open.
You can’t rely on a fixed salary every payday for a start and, especially in the beginning, many freelancers find they’re facing a cycle of feast or famine.
Working from home can come with plenty of distractions and you need to be disciplined to maintain a healthy work/life balance – it can be tempting to put more and more hours in when your office is in your house.
As a freelancer, you also need to develop a wide range of business skills such as managing finances, sales, marketing, strategic planning, etc.
Some of these skills may come naturally but others may not.
The first steps to becoming a freelance trainer
Before you leap to become a freelance trainer, it’s important to plan and research as much as possible. This will give you a road map for how to move forward.
Ask the following questions:
- How will I cope financially while I get my freelance training business up and running?
- Where will my clients come from? (A good rule of thumb is no more than 30% of your income should come from one client.)
- What training services can I offer right now?
- How much should I charge?
- How and where should I market my services to reach my clients?
You don’t have to know everything about freelancing before you start as a freelance trainer – we all learn from experience – but it will help you to feel more in control to have some answers in place for the questions above.
Brand new to training?
If you’re brand new to training with no previous experience, you may need to develop some core skills.
There are several Train the Trainer programmes available (Google ‘train the trainer courses’ for an overview of what’s on offer).
Many would-be trainers also gain certifications in various psychometric assessments, personality-type tests and reasoning tests.
You may also find helpful knowledge and information via conferences, webinars, case studies, YouTube videos from other trainers, and many other sources.
Many trainers find it helpful to work with a coach or mentor at different stages in their careers, including when starting.
Know your numbers
I think having a clear picture of the numbers in your business is essential, whether you’re just starting as a freelance trainer or you’ve been freelancing for years.
- What are your monthly outgoings? (Keep track of your business and personal outgoings)
- How much do you need to earn?
- How much do you want to earn?
- Do you have specific dates when annual insurances or memberships need to be renewed and paid for?
As you bring in more business, you can start tracking stats like:
- Incomings and outgoings
- Most profitable clients
- Busy/quiet times of the year
Knowing your numbers will help you to pinpoint how you need to structure your training services to meet your income targets.
If, for example, you decide to charge £300 a day to deliver training and you want to earn £3,000 a month before tax, etc. then you know you will need to book in ten training days per month.
Learn from other trainers
One approach to help you become a freelance trainer is to reach out to trainers who are already freelancing to learn what works for them and what doesn’t.
If you don’t feel there’s anyone you can email or message via LinkedIn, you can still do this by listening to podcasts, reading blogs, following other freelance trainers on social media and spending time on their websites.
Each of these platforms can give you valuable insights into the business models freelance trainer use and how they go about running a successful training company.
Pinpoint your ‘value proposition’
A value proposition is defined in the dictionary as “(in marketing) an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers”.
In other words, what is it about you as a trainer or your training that will be valuable to your clients?
Make a list of the most persuasive reasons you have for people to book your training.
What are your strengths? How do you differ from other trainers? It could be your training style, your experience, or the results you’ve delivered. Or it could be what you’re most passionate about professionally.
Your value proposition should be at the heart of all of your marketing.
Choose a niche
Many freelancers – regardless of role – struggle to find work because their marketing message is too broad. In trying to reach everyone, they appeal to no-one.
In my experience, one of the most powerful things you can do to become a freelance trainer is to identify your niche and talk about it confidently.
Your niche might be specific to an industry or a type of role or person across multiple industries. The key is to be as targeted as possible in your marketing.
Imagine your ideal client sitting across a table from you and talk to them.
Create a website
These days, most people expect a business to have an online presence, including a website.
I’d always advise setting up a website (even a very basic one) because it’s one online marketing tool over which you have complete control – unlike your social media pages, which are ultimately owned by the platform they’re on and could, potentially, be shut down at any time.
Your website is the perfect platform to cultivate your reputation as a trainer – use your About page to show how your skills, knowledge and experience are relevant to your target clients.
The Services pages can highlight the key benefits of hiring you as a trainer.
You can even add a booking form to your website to automate some of your diary management.
I know you have a million and one demands on your time but writing a blog allows you to develop your marketing voice and position yourself as a training expert.
Think about the big topics you cover in your training or the issues that your target clients are focused on right now – these would make perfect topics for your blog.
Even if you have no experience at all as a trainer, you can start writing blog articles that highlight your knowledge and give potential clients an insight into why they should hire you.
Build your mailing list with an irresistible freebie
Any business can and should build a mailing list of people who have provided contact information such as an email address with permission for the business to use it to stay in touch.
The power of your mailing list is that everyone on it has expressed interest in hearing more about your training services.
But how can you get people to sign up?
The most common approach is to offer what’s often called an ‘irresistible freebie’ or ‘lead magnet’ as an incentive. This could be a taster session, a free ebook, a video tutorial or something else altogether.
Make time to market consistently
It can take three to six months for the marketing you do today to deliver results. People won’t often buy from you the first time they hear about you but, if you reach them regularly with targeted marketing messages, each ‘touchpoint’ should bring you closer to a sale.
As with any business, it’s essential to market where your potential clients will be. Over time, you will build up a clearer picture of this.
Think about marketing opportunities through networking, social media, public speaking, industry press, online and print.
The keyword with marketing is consistency. You need to market a consistent message on a consistent basis.
When you’re quiet, it’s tempting to go at your marketing with all guns blazing, only to let everything fizzle out when you’re busy. But this all-or-nothing approach can fuel the feast and famine cycle often associated with freelancing.
I think little but often tends to yield better and more predictable marketing results.
Keep up your continuing professional development (CPD)
As a trainer, it’s essential to keep your skills and knowledge fresh. This will help your clients by giving them relevant, forward-thinking training. It will also help you to maintain your competitive edge and to evolve your business in line with client demand and your passions.
There’s some good information about CDP on the CPD UK website.
Build your network
Freelancing has the potential to be lonely. This is just one of the reasons that I think networking is so important for freelance trainers.
Through networking, you not only have the potential to meet new clients and other trainers but also other business owners who may be able to share their insights into what it takes to run a successful company.
Depending on the networking group, you may be able to share challenges, learn from others or even celebrate your successes.
Networking can also be a great source of referrals.
Be open to collaborating
Other trainers are your competitors, right? Well, not necessarily. They can also represent potential collaborators.
If, for example, you can find a trainer with complementary skills and knowledge to your own, you could co-facilitate training sessions. This is a great way to broaden what you can both offer to potential clients.
Stay in touch with your past and existing clients
One final point is that many businesses focus so much of bringing in new clients that they forget the value of those clients who have already hired them.
It’s so much easier to sell to someone who already knows you as a freelance trainer and who has had a good experience working with you in the past.
For this reason, try to follow-up with training clients after a training contract is complete and stay in touch at regular intervals. You never know, a quick email to ask how everything is going could be a nudge to book more training.
Know your goals and work towards them
Becoming a successful freelance trainer rarely happens overnight. For most of us, it’s a steep learning curve that involves some mistakes, missteps and changes in direction along the way (all of which make us better!)
Pinpoint your goals and stay focused on working towards them. Every time you make a decision concerning your business, ask yourself whether that decision will take you closer to your goals or further away.
Review your marketing, sales, how you spend your time, and your finances regularly so you understand what’s working for your business and what needs to change.
Reach out to others. Ask for advice and support if you need it, and give advice and support when you have it.
Keep learning as it will make you a better teacher. Listen to your gut, pursue your passions but keep one eye firmly on money matters.
While freelance training may not be for everyone, many freelance trainers say they would never go back to working for someone else.
If you’re wondering how to become a freelance trainer, take a look through The Trainers Training Company blog, which is packed full of advice and information about running a freelance training business.