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Is there a safe way to become a freelance trainer? If you’re setting up a freelance training business, you may be trying to decide whether to go ‘all in’ and leave your current job or whether it would be feasible to run your freelance training business part-time until you get established.
For some people, option one is the best and only solution; giving up the security of paid employment can create a ‘sink or swim’ mentality, especially when you have bills to pay. On the flipside, this urgency can lead to a steep learning curve for new freelancers and, potentially, some less-than-stellar decisions. It depends whether you need pressure to get things done or prefer having a safety net.
Test the water
The second option, to run your freelance training business part-time, has a number of benefits and is achievable with good planning.
Many freelancers work for an employer for two or three days a week to ensure that they have a guaranteed income at the end of the month. You might consider talking to your boss about reducing your hours, or you may decide to look for a low-stress part-time position so that you are emotionally ‘free’ to concentrate on your fledgling business. You may even decide to continue working five days a week and build your business around this.
Before deciding what would be right for you, you will need to establish when, how and where you will deliver your training. If you’re working Monday to Friday, nine to five, will you still be able to run training sessions when your clients need them? Can you train in the evenings or online, or will you need to be available during the working week? The answer to these questions will depend on your client base.
Running a part-time freelance training business can be a great way to test the water and get all your ducks in a row before you make your training business your sole source of income. You can build your client list, secure bookings, and work on your marketing, safe in the knowledge that your bills are paid. This will enable you to make decisions based on factors other than your immediate cash flow.
But how can you stop your part-time freelance training business eating into your work time or vice versa? Is it possible to still have a life outside of work if you’re building a business and in employment?
Maximise your time with a set routine
My advice would be to create a realistic schedule and stick to it. When you’re working on your business part-time, things can and will take longer to put in place. And that’s OK. As long as you use the time you’ve earmarked in your schedule, you will keep moving forwards. Just don’t compare your progress to that of your full-time counterparts – it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
It’s helpful to have a set routine. For example, you might spend one evening per week on your marketing, a second evening preparing training materials, then spend two days per week delivering training. To keep on top of your inbox, you might decide to check your emails once a day after you get home from work so that people receive a response within 24 hours. Knowing what you should be doing and when will boost your productivity.
For the short-term at least, you might also decide to use your annual leave to work on your training business. This can be a great way to grab one or two weeks of focused time to move your business forwards. Or you could take one day’s leave a week over several months to keep the momentum going within your training business.
One benefit of creating a clear schedule is that it sets up some boundaries for you, your family and friends, your employer and your clients. It can help your friends to know when it’s OK to call or drop round for a cuppa and your partner or children will appreciate knowing when they’ll have your undivided attention. By building some downtime for yourself into your schedule, you can also make sure that self-care remains a priority, even if you’re burning the candle at both ends.
Your clients don’t need to know you’re working part-time. It’s a good idea to have a separate phone number and email address for your training business and your clients will expect that, as a trainer, you may be delivering training and have your phone switched to voicemail. As long as you respond as soon as you can, no-one need be any the wiser. If you’re only available two days a week, potential clients may assume that you’re working with other clients the rest of the week.
Create opportunities to build your part-time freelance training business
When setting up a part-time freelance training business, it’s a good idea to look at your wider network to see whether support is available through the people you know.
Do you know another trainer who could provide training on the days you’re in your paid job? Is there a Virtual Assistant within your network who could answer your training business calls and emails when you’re not available? Does anyone know of businesses that need your training services?
It’s worth putting out some feelers and letting your network know about your freelance business as they might be a great source of leads.
Talk to your boss
Although this isn’t the right move for everyone and will depend on your relationship with your employer, consider talking to your boss about your ambitions for your training business. This can help pave the way for conversations about changing your hours, spreading out your annual leave, or attending training courses to update your skills.
It’s important to be respectful of your current job. When you’re a work, leave your training business at the door. This should help ensure your boss’s support and underpin those all-important boundaries between your job and your business.