Updated: April 2020: Can you set up a training business all by yourself?

I first wrote this blog way back in 2008 but this question remains so current that this article still attracts about 100 views a month. For this reason, I think it’s time for an update.

If you’re about to go freelance and start up a training business, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to do everything you need to do on your own. Or is your best option to hire or outsource some support? This may be a more pressing question if your budget is limited.

While you might expect me to advocate going it alone, I actually believe that you should put as much support in place as possible from the outset.

I’m not suggesting that you aren’t capable of creating your own business. Of course, you are. As long as you’re clear on who is it you are going to work with, you take the time to understand your marketplace and you create a training product that is wanted by your market then it’s totally possible.

But just because you can go it alone doesn’t mean that you should.

Why freelance trainers need a team

Even if you will be freelancing, it’s essential to start building up a team around you to ensure your success.

There are so many hats to wear when you run your own business. From trainer to marketer, SEO expert to advertiser, accountant to administrator, it’s unrealistic to expect that you can step effortlessly into every role. Instead, freelance trainers often spend so much time keeping an eye on all the balls they’re juggling that they get stuck where they started.

No doubt you’ve heard the proverb that “No man is an island” – it especially applies to building new businesses.

While I’m sure that you have a whole host of amazing skills, I also know that there will be some aspects of running a business that won’t come as naturally to you. No-one can excel at everything. While you may be able to learn how to do your accounts or fix your computer when it’s not working, I would ask whether this is the best use of your time and energy?

In my experience, it’s far better to hand over certain tasks in your business to someone skilled in that area (even if it means paying for their support) rather than struggling through on your own. That way, you can keep your focus on your clients and your training services, i.e. the areas of your business that will make you money.

Identifying the right support for setting up a training business

Having helped many freelance trainers set up a training company over the years, I recommend that you find support in these areas from the outset:

  • Accountancy

There are some fantastic accounting programmes available to small businesses these days. However, I’m not sure they can ever fully replace the support of a good bookkeeper or accountant. An accountant can advise you on issues like tax-deductible expenses or financial decisions affecting your business, as well as making short work of your annual tax return. A bookkeeper can help you to record and track your monthly incomings and outgoings. While many freelance trainers carry out these tasks themselves, outsourcing can save you time. money and give you peace of mind.

  • IT support

Computers make life easier when they work! But there will be days when you just can’t get your PC to do what you want it to do. While you may not need to bring in IT support on a regular basis, it’s advisable to find someone nearby who can respond quickly to a callout if you’re having IT problems. It’s worth asking small business owners in your area who they would recommend if you don’t have any IT contacts.

  • Administration support

Running a training business comes with a fair amount of administration. Tasks such as posting on social media, sending out contracts, invoicing, finding images for your blog, diary management, taking calls, editing podcasts, etc. can all eat into your time. A good solution is to outsource to a Virtual Assistant (VA). Most VAs can be sourced by the hour or on an ad hoc basis so there’s no need to commit to employing someone. It’s reassuring to know that you can hand over your admin and that someone can complete it to your requirements in a fraction of the time that it might take you.

  • Business Buddy

If you’ve been part of a team in the past, the freelance life can come as a bit of a shock. We all need someone who can prop us up on our bad days and congratulate us on our good ones. This is why I recommend that you have at least one business buddy that you can talk to about your business. One of the reasons I set up both The Trainers Training Company and Trainer Talk was to give freelance trainers a community in which they could find support and friendship.

  • Coach/Mentor/Advisor

A coach, mentor or advisor is someone professional who can support you objectively, as well as challenge you and keep you on the straight and narrow. Having the support of a coach or mentor as you set up a training business can help you identify opportunities and avoid common mistakes.

"Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life." – Quote by Amy Poehler

  • Positive friends and family

It’s so important to have people outside of your business who know what you are capable of and encourage you to succeed. They don’t need to understand what you do – the important thing is that they’re in your corner, cheering you on at every turn.

So, can you set up a training business all by yourself? While it’s possible, it probably isn’t advisable. In my experience of planning and setting up a training business, the sooner you recognise that it takes a team to create business success, the quicker you will realise your business goals. 

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