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“7 Essential Steps to Building a Successful and Profitable Training Business”

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Don't give up; the beginning is often the hardest quoteOne question I’m often asked is how to crack the corporate market as a freelance trainer. It’s understandable that the corporate market is attractive – many trainers find that once they have a foot in the door and have worked with one department, for example, new training opportunities come up for the same client with different departments, teams or sites.

Build your authority and social proof

To break into the corporate market, I would suggest that you begin building a strong and credible presence. You might want to add blogs, videos, podcasts and testimonials to your website that showcase your knowledge and back up your claims about what you have helped your clients achieve.

Alternatively, consider how you can position yourself as a thought leader with a unique take on an issue your potential clients might be facing. Try approaching trade magazines and journals or industry websites and seeing if there would be an opportunity to write a guest article for them.

If you’ve already had a corporate client, it is a good idea to approach them for a testimonial or recommendation, or even use them as the topic of a detailed case study that highlights the value you were able to bring to their organisation.

Even if your clients have been smaller businesses, their testimonials can still hold a great deal of weight. Generally speaking, social proof and testimonials will speak volumes with corporate clients, especially if they’ve never worked with you before.

Be honest about your business size

When you’re trying to attract corporate business, it’s tempting to pretend that your company is bigger than it is. Common tactics include talking about ‘we’ and ‘our team’ on a website or using a call answering service. Personally, I feel that honesty is the best policy – if you’re going to develop a long-term relationship with a training client, the chances are that they’ll cotton on that you’re working alone eventually.

Instead of concentrating on the size of your business, think about what value you offer. Use your website to tell your potential clients that you understand the challenges they face and you know how to overcome them.

Also, consider how you can use working freelance as a benefit; for example, they always get the same point of contact and access to your specialist knowledge.

Write your website to appeal to corporate customers

If you want to attract corporate clients, it’s important to have a website that talks specifically to them. Use images that reflect the corporate environment of your target clients and address their specific needs in your copy.

You can also use your website to bring attention to your track record, strengths and accomplishments in terms of how they have helped or would appeal to corporate clients. Can you help them understand legislation? Motivate their staff? Manage a period of high growth? Tell them this on your website.

You may want to use your website to show the kind of courses you can conduct – short videos from some of your training sessions would work well. Highlight what’s special about you and your training delivery, and give potential clients proof of your capabilities.

Consider niching

There’s a lot to be said for training within a specific niche where you can develop in-depth specialist knowledge. This enables you to become the ‘go-to’ trainer for your area of expertise.

Get active on LinkedIn

In a recent blog, we looked as using LinkedIn to build a training business. Many people feel that LinkedIn comes into its own as a gateway to the corporate market, which tends to be well represented on the platform.

To capitalise on the opportunities possible through LinkedIn, it’s important that you have a full profile. Consider using keywords that corporate clients would use to find a trainer in your headline, job title and summary statement as this will make you easier to find.

Try to devote some time each week to growing your network. Are there people within your contacts with corporate connections? If so, why not approach them for an introduction? Are there any groups that would include potential corporate clients?

Another tactic is to write articles for LinkedIn Pulse and participate in corporate groups to boost your visibility and authority within the LinkedIn community.

Do some detective work

If there are corporate clients that you would like to work with, try spending some time on their websites or calling their switchboard to identify the decision A simple hello could lead to a million thingsmakers. In a large corporation, trainers are often recruited through HR. Once you know the person to contact, you can see if they publish an email address online or look at which groups they participate in on LinkedIn. This may enable you to strike up a conversation or demonstrate your knowledge of their sector.

Don’t work on spec

Some freelance trainers are tempted to deliver training on the promise of future work without payment. Although it can seem like a sure-fire way to get your foot in the door, I would always recommend that you step back and think about the big picture. Working on spec or giving away freebies can make a statement about how you perceive your worth. You’re a professional and you deserve to be paid as such.

I recently read a comment from someone on Facebook saying that they had put their rates up for corporate clients because she’d been told her previously lower rates were a red flag about quality!

Be accountable

When working with corporate clients, it’s advisable to build some accountability and assessment into your training process, if it’s not there already. Your clients will want to see that they’re getting value for money.

You might want to carry out a pre-course questionnaire that assesses how the trainees feel about their knowledge, then follow this up with a post-training survey. What did they learn? Has their knowledge improved? Do they feel more confident? Positive results will give you something to show your client but you will also have a starting point to work from if the training did not achieve what you and the client hoped.

Do you work with corporate clients? What appeals to you about working in the corporate sector? How did you attract your first corporate client? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.

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