One of my favorite writers, bloggers and thinkers is Seth Godin. I recently listened to an interview Tim Ferriss did with him a few years ago. As always there were a lot of nuggets of wisdom shared by Seth during their interview. I want to share one of them today as it relates to trainers who are looking to, or already have started their own training businesses.
One of the pieces of advice I have shared with trainers over the past few years that asked for my insights on starting a training business is that you need to decide if:
- You want to build a training company where you get a cadre of great instructors with a range of expertise and offer a number of high quality courses. In this case you market the courses, not you and the company becomes the brand.
- It is just you and you offer high quality training in one or two areas of focus and expertise, which you personally teach. In this case you ultimately become the brand and in reality you are marketing yourself first, and the actual programs second.
I did not understand this when I started and I ultimately, and mostly unintentionally, went down the second path. Now that I reflect in it one of the main drivers behind that choice is that I wanted to be a trainer, not a training manager. As a result of that choice, when I step away from training Winning Mind Training basically ceases to exist.
So, back to the Tim Ferriss interview with Seth Godin. Tim asked a question relating to decisions entrepreneurs have to make about pursuing or abandoning an idea. Part of Seth’s answer speaks to the concept and advice I mentioned above.
“There’s a difference between freelancers and entrepreneurs. Most people who are independent are freelancers. They get paid when they work; they do good work and they get paid for it. A few people are entrepreneurs, building a business bigger than themselves, a business that makes them money when they sleep; a business where they don’t actually do the work that the customer is buying, and a business that they can sell one day.”
It struck me as I listened to that answer that myself and other trainers I know have chosen to become freelancers, while others I know in the training world have chosen the entrepreneur route. One is not better than the other. One is not the right path, and the other the wrong path. They are simply different paths. You get to choose based on which of these options best serves you, your lifestyle and your goals. It may be wise to examine the two paths and decide early. If you choose the freelancer route you can make the shift to entrepreneur later, it may just require a lot of work to separate you from the brand in order to market the programs you are now having others teach.
When the in-person contract training world stopped for 5 or 6 months due to COVID-19 it caused both freelancers and entrepreneurs in the training world to look at our businesses and determine if we need to add an online training element to our training model. Some have been very quick to adapt and do just that. Others, like myself, are still working at it. If you are a freelancer then you have to do a lot of the work yourself, where entrepreneurs may already have a team that can help with the heavy lifting.
If you are wondering what I am working on there are three elements:
- I am still working to grow the Excellence in Training Academy.
- I have developed an online workshop for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading program. I plan to have the website completed and up and running by the end of this month.
- I am assessing the Performance Enhancement Imagery workshop to determine the feasibility of making it into an online workshop as well.
If you are starting, or already have a training business either as a full time job or a part time gig it might be worthwhile to spend some time reflecting on the Freelancer vs. Entrepreneur framework and decide which best suits you. One valuable piece of advice I heard a few years ago, which I wish I had heard 16 years ago, is “Decide on the lifestyle you want and then build your business around that lifestyle. Otherwise the business will become your life and dictate your lifestyle.” Great advice.
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