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Although it’s an issue that affects freelance trainers to different degrees, depending on their personality and circumstances, there’s no doubt that working independently can be lonely at times. You may find that you miss having a sounding board for your ideas or when you need advice about how to handle a tricky situation. Or just that your office feels painfully quiet without a team around you.
One of the most important things I have ever done as a freelance trainer is to build a network/community of other trainers around me. Having access to this community means that I always have people to turn to for support, advice, information sharing, best practice and more.
So, where can you find support and advice as a freelance trainer? Here are my five favourite sources of community.
These days, social media makes it relatively easy to connect with other freelance trainers, as well as other types of freelancers and self-employed individuals. I’d recommend searching for Facebook and LinkedIn groups to start with.
Personally, I’ve found it invaluable to spread the net wider than just freelance trainers/independent training consultants. Freelancers in other careers are a fantastic wealth of support and advice when it comes to business admin, marketing, bookkeeping and accounts, networking and all the other hats you have to wear when you have your own business.
Twitter hours/Twitter chats
If you’re a fan of Twitter, then I’d suggest taking part in some Twitter hours to build your support network. You can find a list of some current Twitter hours here. Is anything happening locally to you?
During a Twitter hour, you use that hour’s designated hashtag to take part in a virtual networking event. It can be a great way to connect with other freelancers, local businesses, and potential clients.
Face-to-face networking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be an exceptionally powerful way to make professional connections and grow your network. There are a huge number of networking events taking place around the UK, from early morning breakfast meetings to talks from professionals or even speed networking.
I’ve always found it helpful to ask people in my network what events they would personally recommend and why. This can help to pinpoint the most valuable opportunities.
Work with a mentor or hire a coach
A mentor is, ideally, someone who is on a similar path to you but several years further down the line. They can give you the benefits of their experience, offer support and advice with an understanding of your role, and help you create a training business that fits your dreams and goals. Working with a mentor can also help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.
There are different ways to work with a mentor. Through the Trainers Training Company, for example, I offering ‘Success Shapers’ group mentoring sessions, as well as the option of one-to-one mentoring. Group mentoring can be a fantastic way to meet fellow freelance trainers and form an accountability group where you support and encourage one another alongside the input of the group mentor. One-to-one mentoring might be your preferred option if you want to get super-focused on your own business.
Another way to get the support and advice you need is to look for programmes and events aimed at freelance trainers. At several points in the year, I run a dedicated ‘Trainer Talk’ networking and learning event for anyone involved in the freelance training community. These events combine talks and advice from training experts, as well as ‘clinic’ sessions and networking opportunities.
Support is a two-way street
Wherever you turn for support and advice about running a freelance training business, it’s important to remember that any relationship is a two-way street. Therefore, it’s essential that you offer support as well as seek it. The more you can become an active participant in training and business communities, and give without the expectation of receiving, the more it will pay dividends in the long run.