One of the big realisations that I had when I first became a freelance trainer, especially before I started outsourcing a lot of the administrative jobs that come with running a business, is that I needed to get to grips with the technology I needed to use in my business as quickly as possible.
During my earlier career, if the computer crashed there was always an IT technician on site to call for help. Software was automatically updated and we only noticed the importance of the server on the rare occasion that it went down. I also didn’t have to worry about maintaining a website, making sure people could sign up to and receive a free ebook, uploading a weekly blog to my website. These things weren’t part of my employed life.
But it’s fair to say that, like many freelancers and small business owners, freelance trainers face a whole range of technology-related challenges. It can be a steep learning curve – one that has often had me figuratively tearing my hair out with frustration.
Are the technology gremlins holding back your training business in some way? Is there something you would love to know how to do but don’t know where to start?
Perhaps you paid someone to design your website but you now have to pay them every time you want to change something (if you can get hold of them)? Or perhaps you’re free to edit your own site but lack confidence in case you change the wrong thing?
Maybe you’ve written a free ebook aimed at your potential training customers but you have no idea how to add it to your website or make sure people receive it when they sign up to your mailing list?
It could be that you want ways to simplify or share your diary, take bookings online or offer distance learning options but you have no idea where to start?
These are my top five sources of help when the technology gremlins are sucking my time:
1. Virtual assistants
If you’re starting out in your freelance training business, I understand that you might be worried about the cost of outsourcing technology-related tasks. It’s worth knowing that things like adding a freebie to your website or updating your blog are tasks that most virtual assistants can carry out quickly and inexpensively, in a fraction of the time it would take you. If you balance out the billable time you could save by handing over the task, it might make sense to hand your technological challenges over to someone else.
VAs are great people to speak to about diary management and online booking systems. It’s worth asking a few different virtual assistants and seeing which systems they recommend. Of course, you could always ask your network of fellow trainers too. What systems do they use? What works well? What would they recommend?
2. Web designers
These days, many web designers run affordable membership clubs or ad hoc webinars aimed at helping freelancers and small businesses learn how to update and manage their own websites. Open source platforms such as WordPress are incredibly easy to use once you know the basics. If you want or need to maintain control of updating your website (perhaps because money is short), you might want to consider signing up to a web design programme for beginners.
Search for ‘Build a WordPress website in one hour’ and I think you’ll be amazed by how many affordable (or even free) tutorials you’ll find
3. IT support
Unfortunately, the technology gremlins can be particularly tricky when it comes to the IT hardware and software you use for your business. It’s important to consider whether you need remote IT support or whether you need someone who can come into the office when you need them? Will you store your work on a server or would the cloud be more suitable? How will you store secure data?
It’s worth asking your local network of friends, family and other businesses whether they know anyone who provides ad hoc remote and on-site IT support to small businesses in the region. Can they help you with hardware set-up and installation? Can they respond to emergencies? What are the costs? Do you need to pay a monthly fee or as and when you need support?
There’s a good article on things to consider when setting up an IT system for your small business over on smallbusiness.co.uk.
It never ceases to amaze me just how much information there is on YouTube. If you’re struggling with the technology gremlins, the chances are that somebody somewhere in the world will have created a handy video tutorial to walk you through solving the problem or at least creating a viable workaround. This is a great option if money is tight or if you need an immediate solution.
5. Plugins and widgets
One of the fantastic things about having a WordPress website is that there are so many widgets and plugins that have been designed to help you adapt your website to meet your needs and the needs of your clients. Discovered your website is sending out spam emails because it’s been hacked? That’s OK, a plugin like WP Antivirus Site Protection will help you identify the source. Getting overrun by spam comments on your blog? Try Defensio Anti-Spam. Want to make your blogs easy to share? Add the Flare plugin to your website.
Have there been any steep technological learning curves for you since you became a freelance trainer? Who do you go to for help and advice? Have you found any great tutorials or websites? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.