I’ve recently returned from a two-day Train the Trainer course in London with the College of Public Speaking. Whilst I do a fair amount of learning from my office (reading, online network discussions, the odd webinar and online course), it reminded me how valuable it is to get out of the office, really dedicate time and focus on training and learn in a practical way with other participants.
- provided plenty of strategies, models and ideas I can implement and use in my training;
- forced me to step out of my comfort zone as we had to practise presenting in front of the group, watch the film back and be critiqued;
- gave me the opportunity to take time away from the office to think and reflect.
As a bonus it also provided two professional trainer certifications (with The Institute of Leadership & Management and NCFE).
This training was the most expensive I’ve been on since becoming self-employed but I felt it was a worthwhile investment, boosting my skills in an area of work that I love and want to do more of.
It was a small group of only six of us and a fairly eclectic bunch:
- a former dentist who is now a motivational speaker having sailed around the world;
- an Italian actress who now does public speaker training for corporations;
- a pawnbroker who trains people in diamond identification;
- a hairdresser who trains people around the world;
- someone who trains people in technical audio-visual kit;
- and then me – I run marketing and audience development training for people who work or volunteer in museums and cultural organisations, as well as for freelancers working in the sector.
As a freelancer working predominantly in the cultural sector, I found it refreshing and fascinating to work with people from such different backgrounds, with different approaches and different trainees to work with. There were definitely things I learned from other delegates as well as the very experienced trainer.
It did what all good training should do for freelancers:
- develop existing skills or provide new skills, expand knowledge;
- provide ideas and inspiration;
- improve confidence;
- combat or at least reduce ‘Imposter Syndrome’;
- provide time to reflect;
- provide time out of the office and normal work bubble.
However, in our Museum Freelance Twitter chats and events, freelancers often raise how hard it is to find the time or money for training.
So my freelancer training tips are:
1. Don’t neglect your training and development needs
They are important – you are important. In fact your business and career depend on you being up-to-speed and relevant for your clients. Learning and growing also helps personal growth and is good for the soul! So make sure they are on your to-do list.
2. Set aside time for it
I know this is easier said than done. And actually one of the reasons why going on a course can be useful – once you’ve booked and paid you’re more likely to go. In contrast, your home reading pile grows and grows… Different things work for different people, for example:
- Can you set aside 1-2 hours a week? Friday afternoons? Or half a day a month? Schedule it in your diary, make it regular.
- Can you make yourself accountable somehow? Do it with someone else?
- Can you bring reading for train journeys?
- Can you listen to a podcast whilst you go for a walk to break up the day? Or while you go round the supermarket?
3. Identify your training needs and priorities:
- Is there anything that is critical and urgent? For example, I went on a GDPR course in spring as the legislation was coming out and going to affect me and my clients.
- Are you stuck in a rut with your freelance business? For example how to write a marketing plan or make the most of your finances?
- Do you need to deepen your knowledge of a particular sector so you can understand and relate to your clients better?
- Or are there areas of skills and knowledge when it comes to your work you need to brush up on or develop?
4. Make the most of free learning opportunities
For example podcasts, blogs, Twitter chats, freelancer forums and networks, catch-ups with others, and see if you can get a mentor. There are lots of free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) you can do and some museum development organisations also allow freelancers onto their (free) training courses and conferences. I’m going to pull together a list of opportunities I’ve found useful and will do a separate blog post once that’s ready.
5. Be prepared to invest in training
And this may mean in both time and money – where you have identified a clear need. Can you plan ahead and set aside a certain amount each month for this? Look at reviews or ask in your networks for recommendations, and see if there are rates for the self-employed. For example, the Institute of Cultural Affairs have a self-employed rate of £340 for a brilliant two-day course on Group Facilitation Methods I went on a few years ago (compared to a standard rate of £545).