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Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is defined as a personal commitment to keeping your professional knowledge up-to-date and improving your capabilities. It relates to any new skills, knowledge or experience you gain and are able to document – both informally and formally – beyond your initial training, giving a record of your learning and how you apply it in practice.
According to jobs.ac.uk, CPD should:
- Be a documented process
- Be self-directed by the individual rather than an employer
- Focus on learning from experience, reflective learning, and review
- Help you set development goals and objectives
- Include formal and informal learning
Some professional bodies include CPD as a requirement of membership and it is also a requisite of certain careers. However, even when CPD isn’t required, it can be a helpful way for you to track your career to date, fill gaps in your knowledge or skill set, keep your experience current, set goals for the future, or build your professional reputation.
Of course, when you work for an employer in a bigger organisation, opportunities for Continuing Professional Development are often identified for you, but as a self-employed/freelance trainer there is no-one waving a stick and forcing you to make CPD a priority.
Which begs the question: How do you identify, source and fund CPD opportunities when you’re going it alone as a freelance trainer?
Identify your learning objectives
You may find it helpful to have a spreadsheet where you can record a ‘Development record’ of your month/quarter/year. In this, the aim is to look at significant projects or events you’ve been involved with and identify a) how you’ve implemented what you already know, or b) gaps you’ve uncovered in your knowledge and what you might do to fill these gaps. Columns in your spreadsheet could include:
- The key days of the project
- What you did
- Why you did it
- What you learned from the project
- How you will or have used what you learned
- What gaps you discovered in your learning
- What further action you need to take to fill these gaps or consolidate what you’ve learned
By understanding where you currently stand in terms of your skills and knowledge, you can better identify where you would like to be and then set some goals for how to get there. In other words, the key question is: What do I want the outcomes of CPD to be?
Remember that CPD can come from informal opportunities too. Anything that gives you a new perspective, boosts your confidence or increases your interpersonal skills will make a difference to your CPD.
Finding CPD opportunities
Google is always a good starting point for finding CPD opportunities, as well as word of mouth recommendations from within your network. The Find CPD website, for example, lists over 4,000 UK-based CPD courses, many of which are available through distance learning. The sheer breadth of topics covered may surprise you and be a helpful source of inspiration.
If you are involved in a particular field, a Google search will quickly reveal whether CPD opportunities are available, especially through professional bodies within your field, many of which run flexible CPD programmes and events.
Local colleges and university may also run CPD courses locally.
In some cases, receiving mentoring or coaching – either one-to-one or through a workshop or event such as Trainer Talk Live – can count as CPD because it enhances your professional learning and development.
My advice is to identify what you want to learn and then start searching for what’s available to meet your needs.
Funding your Continuing Professional Development
If an employer has always covered the costs of your CPD, you may feel concerned that you won’t be able to afford to prioritise ongoing training and development.
It’s important to remember that CPD training costs are allowable for tax purposes if they are incurred ‘wholly or necessarily’ for the purposes of your business. Therefore, any training you undergo for the purpose of your professional development and the betterment of your business is a legitimate business expense.
You may be able to access funding for your CPD in the form of a:
- Grant, bursary or subsidy (which you may not have to pay pack)
- Bank loan (which you do have to pay back)
- Professional or Career Development Loan
- Advanced Learning Loan (for people aged 24+ doing Level 3 or 4 courses)
- Funding towards fees or day-to-day living costs
- Public body funding (e.g. from an education authority)
Again, it’s a good idea to reach out to your network and see whether they’re aware of potential sources of funding.
How important is CPD to you as a freelance trainer? Have you found it harder to pursue CPD opportunities since becoming self-employed? Have you been able to secure CPD funding? I would love to hear about your experiences in the Comments below.
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