In a recent blog about Overcoming isolation as a freelance trainer, I touched briefly on how personally and professionally valuable it can be to connect with other trainers. As self-employed people, it’s very easy for us to become disconnected from other trainers or to view them as the competition.
Being part of a wider professional training community has so many benefits. It’s where I turn for support, insights and growth. I love being able to talk through challenges or dilemmas or to celebrate successes with like-minded people.
But how do you become part of a community of trainers? And, when you do meet other trainers, how can you connect with them without being wrong-footed or distracted by what they’re doing to build their training businesses or attract new clients?
Connecting with other freelance trainers to create a support network
Below, I wanted to share some of the methods that you might consider trying to find or build a community of freelance trainers in which you can participate.
1. Search the LinkedIn groups
LinkedIn groups are a great way of connecting with people who work within the same industry, have the same business-type or share the same interests as you. Just a quick search for ‘trainers’ on the Groups page of LinkedIn returns more than 4,300 group suggestions. It’s worth having a look through the groups, seeing how active they are, what sort of discussions take place and whether they reflect the industries in which you work.
2. Create your own LinkedIn group
Another option is to create and run your own LinkedIn group, so that you can influence and moderate the content. If you know other trainers, you can invite them to join the group and to spread the word about it within their own networks.
3. Create and use a specific hashtag on Twitter
If you already use Twitter, you could create a specific hashtag aimed at other trainers and use it in your tweets to spread your message. An example of one such successful Twitter community is @chat2lrn, which hosts regular Tweetchats with learning professionals using the #chat2lrn hashtag.
4. Participate in a Twitter hour
Throughout the week, you’ll find Twitter hours taking place on the social media platform. These are designated hours where people who want to connect with one another come together and chat by making sure their Tweets contain the appropriate Twitter hour hashtag. Although I’m not aware of a dedicated Twitter hour for freelance trainers, you may find you have a local networking group that runs a Twitter hour, which is a fantastic way to connect with businesses, including potential clients, in your region.
You could even think about running your own regular Twitter hour aimed at freelance trainers.
5. Create a community on Google
Connect with other trainers who use Google+ by creating a training community.
6. Continue your own training and development
As trainers, I think it’s important that we view our own training and development as a work in progress. It helps us to keep our skills up-to-date, to review our delivery methods and to remember what it’s like to be on the other side of the training experience. This is also a great way to connect with other trainers, especially if you’re taking courses aimed at extending your professional qualifications.
7. Join a peer group
I set up my Success Shapers Group Mentoring as a way for a small group of four freelance trainers to get together with me to move their businesses forwards. When you join a small mentoring group, it’s an opportunity to find supportive peers who will act as accountability partners for steps you’re taking to develop your business.
I also run several Trainer Talk Live events during the year, which bring together a vibrant and supportive freelance training community for you to connect with.
Even just meeting a fellow trainer one-to-one for a ‘coffee and collaboration’ session can help you to get focused on the next steps you need to take to grow your training business.
Seeing other trainers as a community, not competitors
As I’ve mentioned, it can be a challenge to connect with other trainers, especially if you’re experiencing some challenges in your own freelance training business. When you hit a bump in the road, it can feel as though everyone else is speeding past you.
My advice is always to focus on what you’re doing, on targeting your own ideal training customers and communicating your unique voice to your audience, instead of being distracted by or comparing yourself to other trainers.
Yes, they might be doing things differently. They might just have landed a huge contract or be booked up further in advance to you. But that’s not to say that opportunities aren’t out there for you too. They may be further along in their freelance training journey or be dealing with other challenges – you only see what they are showing to the world, not what’s happening behind closed doors. Comparing ourselves to other freelance trainers really is a case of comparing apples with oranges. It doesn’t get us anywhere.
I believe that it’s when we’re part of a community that we often best shine as individuals and begin to recognise our own unique talents. The collective knowledge, wisdom and experience of a strong community can help us see things in a different light, spot new opportunities and celebrate our successes in a way that we can’t do when we don’t have a community behind us.
Do you ever collaborate with other trainers? Do you see yourself as part of a training community or have you had an experience that’s made you wary of connecting with other trainers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.