Being a freelance trainer can be challenging at the best of times but if you’re in your first year, it can seem doubly daunting. While revisiting and updating my old blogs recently, I realised that it was way back in 2009 (where did that decade go?!) that I asked this question on LinkedIn:
Freelance Trainers: What was the biggest challenge in your first year?
At the time, I received some great responses. Though the years have moved on and we trainers are currently having to change the way we work, thanks to COVID, I actually think that many of the challenges to training business start-ups and freelancers remain the same. For this reason, I wanted to revisit this old article but add in some links to content I’ve created since it was first published to help you address each of these challenges.
1. Building a network from scratch – what to do when you either don’t know anyone or your previous network is a no-go area (built through previous employment)?
I’ve put together a whole category of blogs devoted to networking for freelance trainers. This includes creating a contact list from scratch and how to ask your network for help.
2. Getting your foot in the door of companies
Again, you can now find a whole ‘hub’ of blogs dedicated to building client relationships. You might find it helpful to read my articles about how to crack the corporate market as a freelance trainer and How to win more contracts through training referrals as just two examples of ways to get your foot in the door.
3. Knowing how to ‘sell’ yourself
When you’re new to freelancing having to market your training business can come as a shock; it was something you didn’t have to think about when you were working for someone else. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with a huge range of blogs about branding and marketing. The branding and marketing blueprint for freelance trainers is a great starting point.
4. Developing a solid business model
It’s important that you build your business on a model that’s practically and financially sustainable long-term. Again, you can find a ‘hub’ of articles dedicated to business planning, including training business essentials and how to create a profitable and repeatable business model as a freelance trainer.
5. Learning not to panic during quieter times
Want to avoid the feast and famine rollercoaster of freelancing? I’ve written an in-depth series of blogs about managing your fees and finances. If you use these blogs in conjunction with consistently marketing your training business, you should be able to generate a steady flow of business throughout the year or, at the very least, feel confident that the quieter times will be temporary.
6. Being effective and efficient with your time
You might feel like your to-do list is neverending and, with so many different hats to wear in your business, it can be hard to know what to prioritise. Over the years, I’ve written a whole host of blogs dedicated to productivity and mindset. This includes powerful daily habits, tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant and my productivity guide.
7. Defining your offering and product – not trying to be all things to all people
This can be a HUGE hurdle for businesses to overcome. Who do you want to work with? How are you going to package your services? You want to reach as many people as possible so is niching really the right thing to do? Identifying your ‘ideal’ client is a great start as it will help you to pitch your marketing to the right people.
8. Learning to be a business person not just a trainer
Every article on The Trainers Training Company blog has been written with the intention of helping you develop the skills you need as a business person. After all, you’ve probably got the training side of things down to a fine art. There are articles about everything from writing a business plan or legal issues to consider to social media marketing and blogging.
9. Learning that life is different as a freelancer – you don’t have to sit at your desk all day looking as if you are working!
This can take a shift in mindset, especially if you’re used to working 9-5 for somebody else. To help you, I’ve written blogs about topics such as finding time for reflection about your business or different ways of working such as earning a passive income.
10. Being brave, just getting your CV and yourself out there!
I’ve created a blog ‘hub’ dedicated to ways you can grow your reputation and showcase your expertise as a trainer. You can also find ideas about how to boost your self-confidence – why not try keeping a success file for your growing business?
Overcoming first-year challenges
All of the points above come from people who have actually gone out and done it! And the blogs I’ve written are rooted in my personal experiences as well as the experiences of the many wonderful trainers in the Trainer Talk community.
Learning not to panic during quieter times is particularly important, it’s just so easy to start fretting when your diary is looking a bit thin. Resist the temptation to look at the job ads – your time will be much better spent focusing on your marketing activity.
Note: This article was first published in February 2009 and has been updated in November 2020.