Whether you are starting out as a freelance trainer for the first time or you’re looking at how you can grow your existing training business, the chances are that you face one or more of five common business challenges that could be standing in the way of moving your business forward.
I’ve put together some hints and tips to include in your business planning.
1. You’re struggling to find new clients
Many businesses find it hard to attract new clients at some stage. For some, there is an initial flurry of interest and activity that eventually plateaus, while others find it hard to make an initial splash in the marketplace. If you fit into either of these categories, you’re certainly not alone.
We’ve talked in past blogs about how you can feed your sales pipeline and find new clients. The most important thing is to take a consistent approach. The marketing you do today may not pay off until three to six months from now, so you need to be constantly thinking about your marketing, even when your diary is full.
Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to bringing new clients through the door:
- Focus on growing your mailing list
- Keep in touch with people on your list
- Respond quickly to enquiries
- Concentrate on providing value
- Blog regularly
- Have a dream list of clients
Also, and this can never be repeated enough, remember that you need to get super clear about who your target clients are. If you know who you want to reach, then you’ll have a clearer idea of what you need to say, as well as where and how you need to say it.
2. You’re not sure how to compete with larger training providers
If you work alone or in a small team of trainers, you may worry that you’ll never be able to compete with bigger training companies for clients and contracts.
In fact, your size could be your greatest ally. As a freelancer or a member of a small team, you can provide your clients with a single point of contact, a personalised service, one-to-one support, your unique skillset and knowledge, flexibility, quick decisions and far less red tape than a larger organisation.
Think about what your larger competitors may have lost as they’ve grown. This is where your training business can come into its own. You may be in the position to provide a truly bespoke service or to respond quickly to demands in the marketplace without having to go through multiple approval stages in-house.
To overcome this business challenge, let your clients know how you can meet their needs and give them a sense of who you are as a person and what it is you will bring to their organisation.
3. You don’t have time for marketing and advertising (or know where to start)
When you’re a freelancer or in a small team, it can be hard to find the time to market and advertise your services consistently, let alone know where to start.
It’s important to take some time out of the day-to-day running of your business to create a strategy and set some goals. If you know where you would like your business to head in the short- and long-term, it’s far easier to make decisions. With each new opportunity that comes up, you simply need to ask, “Will this take me closer to realising my goals or further away?” If it takes you further away, then it is probably wrong for your business.
- What is it that you want to achieve?
- Who are your target clients?
- Do they spend time online? If so, where?
- Are they likely to attend networking groups in person? If so, which ones?
- Which social media channels do your clients use?
If you know who you want to reach – and you could use your existing clients as a starting point – you can research where they spend time online. For example, which social media channels do your clients tend to use?
With marketing and advertising, it’s better to choose one or two different methods initially rather than throwing your budget scattergun into every marketing opportunity that’s available. Above all else, you should keep an eye on the data surrounding your marketing and advertising activities.
- How many clicks does your Facebook ad attract?
- What is the return on investment (ROI) on your Google Ads?
- How many people are visiting a landing page that you’ve promoted on social media?
- How many sign-ups is your current lead magnet attracting?
By monitoring the data, you can begin to understand which marketing and advertising approaches work best with your target audience.
4. You find it hard to keep up with changing technology
Staying on top of changing technology is a challenge for any small business. Way back in 2015, I wrote a blog about five ways I protect my business from technology gremlins – although this was about when things go wrong, a lot of the advice applies to keeping up with changing technology too.
In my experience, it’s so helpful to reach out to your wider network and to listen to what they have to say. Virtual assistants and web designers tend to be goldmines of information about new technologies. I also find it helpful to chat to other trainers – they often make great recommendations about online training delivery options, WordPress plugins, project management software, customer relationship management (CRM) software, email marketing software, diary/appointment management software, and much more.
As I’m updating this blog in the autumn of 2020, we can hardly ignore how important technology has been during the COVID-19 crisis. Many trainers have turned to technology to bring their training services online and to future-proof their businesses. Now that companies realise that online training delivery is a viable option, we should expect to see a greater demand for a blend of online and face-to-face training, even when COVID-related restrictions have been lifted. Keep an eye out for my next intake for my programme, How to create a future-fit training business.
5. You miss working with a team
Many freelance trainers have times when they miss being part of a wider team. If this is affecting you, it’s worth looking at opportunities for collaborative working or associate work.
Some trainers love associate work because it means that they don’t have to get involved with the marketing or selling of a training programme, but simply turn up to deliver it when all of that has been handled. On the downside, associate work can be far lower paid than direct work for your own clients.
Collaborative work may be a better option, giving you the opportunity to work with other trainers on an equal footing. The idea of collaborative working is to bring two or more people or organisations together to jointly deliver a project.
Most of the trainers I speak to tell me that networking, both face-to-face and online through a community like Trainer Talk or Trainer Talk Live, is the key to finding collaborative or associate opportunities.
What business challenges are you facing right now? Have you come across any of the challenges above or is another issue affecting you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Note: This blog was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated in September 2020.