Get Paid to Train or Speak: What Independent Trainers/Speakers Do

The questions usually appear at the end of a train-the-trainer program that I’ve facilitated: “How can I do what you do? How do I begin creating my own (speaking, training, consulting) business? How do I become an independent, professional trainer or speaker?” Here are a few suggestions “from the field.”

think1. First dream it. Visualize (and write down) all the details you can see in your mind’s eye about what you want to create: the content that sparks your passion, how your dream can serve a larger community need, the first steps you need to take in order to move in this direction, what you want to achieve, how it will feel when you achieve it, a timeline you would like to follow, mentors who have already done what you want to do, connections that might lead to future clients or customers, etc. Don’t let your inner critic deter you from visualizing your dream (just tell the critical part of your brain that you’re playing a game; this way, it will be quiet while you dream on!). Visualizing is an important first step. If you can see it (in your mind) and feel it (in your heart), it will be easier to create it in real life (with your body).

2. Give it away for free. Before quitting your day job,  consider building your presentation and training skills by doing “pro-bono” speeches and training: for a community or church group, local businesses or non-profits, agencies or associations – wherever you can get the presentation practice with folks who might, in the future, become clients and customers. It doesn’t matter if you already consider yourself a Subject Matter Expert (SME) – teaching other adults what you know is a totally different skill set from being a SME, and being passionate about your content isn’t enough. In order to get really good at presenting and training, you have to practice, practice, practice.

3. Learn the rules of the road. Become “business savvy” and find out what the independent speaking and training professions are about. You will make your own way, certainly, and your journey will be different from those who have gone before you. However, with that said, it’s always nice to have a road map to guide you. And it’s also nice to hear from those who have traveled the road you wish to explore. So here are a few excellent resources to help you get started:

National Speakers Association This is the premier professional speaking association that also teaches independent consultants and trainers the “business of public speaking.” You do not have to become a member to attend their excellent national and regional workshops. In addition, if you live in or near a large city, you probably have a local chapter that you can join, if you wish.

Training Magazine This professional training development company holds an excellent annual training conference in the USA for beginner and experienced trainers. The company also offers a number of regional and online conferences and courses. 

Association for Talent Development Formerly ASTD (American Society of Training & Development), this is one of the largest professional training associations in the USA. The association holds an international training conference annually, for both members and non-members alike. 

Alan Weiss, President of Summit Consulting A professional speaker and consultant, Alan Weiss has a wealth of free information on his website about the ins and outs of independent consulting, and much of his content also applies to the business of adult training.

Finally, below are two slide presentations about the business of speaking/training, and below the slide sets are some more tips from a blog post I wrote on the topic a number of years ago. Enjoy!

Get Paid to Speak: How the Industry Works by Hugh Culver

20 Ways to Get Paid More as a Speaker from Hugh Culver

And from my old blog post:

* Go within. First, get clear inside your own mind, heart, and spirit with what you feel passionate about and what you want to do with that passion. Separate yourself from your ego, if you can (that’s a hard one for all of us!) and discover what it is about training that calls you, apart from the fame and fortune (both of which may take awhile to manifest!). A fabulous book to help you begin this inward journey is Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” (FYI – it isn’t about art!).
* Do it for free. Create two or three small (one hour or so) workshops that you can offer to local community groups, businesses, churches, and the like, and do them “pro-bono,” i.e. gratis. Also, send in presentation proposals to major conference events in your specific field of expertise. Usually, conferences don’t pay their presenters, but it is good exposure and practice. This will give you practical experience with your material and with different groups of people. Always get written feedback about what worked and what could be improved.
* Ask the experts. No two journeys are alike, and each independent trainer that I know had his/her own way of beginning the journey. So ask around, talk to people, read books, go to workshops, and gather as much information as you can. Then follow your own heart and mind. Know that your journey will be as unique as you are, and that’s the way it should be.
* Keep your day job (at least for awhile). It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both/and. You can do workshops on weekends, holidays, and vacation days. Sometimes your employer may let you take unpaid leave to speak or train. Or, within your own organization, you might be able to collaborate with your company’s training department to offer your specialized workshops (if that isn’t already part of your job).
* Take baby steps. No, you don’t have to have a business plan, business card, brochure, flyers, marketing capital, office, public relations agent, or a lot of money (at least not at first!). Many independent trainers who have all this now didn’t start their journeys with these pieces in place. You do what you can, choose one or two small steps to move you in the direction of your heart’s desire, and then walk through the doors when they begin to open.
* “Leap and the net will appear.” When you want something passionately enough to say “Yes!” to the risk, the work, and the challenge, and to walk towards it in spite of your fears, it almost magically appears. Maybe small things happen first (someone asks you if you can give a little talk to a community group), and later, larger opportunities appear (you get a call from a business person who heard you speak at a conference and wants to know what your fees are). In effect, “We learn to do something by doing it – there is no other way!” (Author John Holt).
* “Desire, ask, believe, receive.” From: “The Artist’s Way.” Enough said!

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