Freelance Trainers – if you’re not available, what then?

Recently there have been a number of enquiries for training which I haven’t been available to provide, mostly due to having bookings already but sometimes because it’s a subject I don’t usually cover.

Back in 2010 when I first started Can Do Courses, I was available.  I was REALLY available and took every opportunity which came my way, writing bespoke courses which took lots of preparation time and were (sometimes) hard work to deliver, and being very grateful for the work.  I’m still grateful, of course, but as my business grew and my contacts gave me lots of repeat business, I found myself in different traps.

Trap 1 – “We only want you to do the training”

Naturally it’s very flattering to be told that your training hits the right note and that you are valued enough for a re-visit.  I’ve never underestimated the power of the personality behind the ‘brand’ and it has been a real source of pride that there have been so many further training dates off the back of an initial single date.  But what if you’re not free and you have someone else in the team who is a fantastic trainer?

Trap 2 – “We only want a one-hour session”

In the world of Edu training, twilight sessions are commonplace, but what if you have a trainer based in, say, Durham and the training is in Carlisle?   What if you ARE free but that a 700-mile return trip is economic madness – not to mention the time commitment – to travel yourself (from the South East) to cover that session.

Trap 3 – “We want a session on quantum physics [or another specialist subject]”

It’s easy to try and keep your client happy, and of course you’d like the business, but you have to be realistic about what you can deliver, if you’re going to do it with competence.  Some of my clients think that I can facilitate a session on any subject, but of course I can’t.  Others think that I must know LOADS of other trainers in different specialisms and ask me to help source them. And I will admit that I’ve tried to help in the past, searching for trainers who provide other kinds of content, but hindsight has brought me to a decision where I rarely recommend or refer unless I’ve met the trainer and seen them in action.  In the early days of my business I failed to do this and made some mistakes!  [Don’t ask!]

What’s the solution?

Across the years I’ve accumulated some excellent trainers who’ve worked with me on course development, and with whom I work on a regular basis.  Some have been attendees at my training, others are former colleagues.  I’ve attended their sessions as a participant, kept abreast of their own course development in their niche subjects and I know for sure that they are a suitable alternative instructor in place of me if I’m not available.

But it has taken time, and effort, a great deal of trust and a few hiccoughs on that road.

Now, when a client requests training, I check all the details (dates, venue, subject) before I say who will be the trainer.  And quite often it isn’t me any more.