Train the trainer
January 21, 2006 4:24 PM   Subscribe

I am thinking about starting my own computer training business, which I think would be a good fit for me based on my passions, interests, and professional background. I have combed the internet and can't seem to find any information on the intricacies of the business. Does anyone have experience in the business as a trainer or entrepreneur? I would love to hear some intelligent opinions on how to become the worlds most successful independent computer trainer.
posted by jasondigitized to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you want to train individuals or businesses or what? You'll probably need to sign up with one of the big training companies - like Element K, first, before considering going into training. You don't want to have to write your own books, for sure.
posted by k8t at 4:40 PM on January 21, 2006

With any business, Marketing is what makes or breaks it. Unless you've got someone who will be sending you people to train, you have to be willing to go out and make connections that will. If you aren't someone that enjoys going out and selling themselves, find someone who is or find some way around it.

In my previous occupation, I was self employed in a field that had absolutely nothing to do with marketing, but it turned out to be about 90% of the job.
posted by 517 at 4:49 PM on January 21, 2006

Response by poster: I agree 517. I am not uncomfortable with selling myself. One idea I had was to offer free training in certain technologies as a community service to churches and other large groups. I think that would be a good platform to cross-sell, generate word of mouth, and do my part in the community.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:57 PM on January 21, 2006

Perhaps at a senior citizen group? Quite a few seniors would buy computers if they knew some basics.
posted by crw at 5:56 PM on January 21, 2006

I worked in the training business for a few years- it's not a bad niche once you're established. In good economic times businesses need to train their employees, in poor economic times people are switching careers and need training.

However, you really do need a good front person who will find the work for you. (See 517's comment). Do you like to travel? Good, because that's what yu will need to do.

Honestly, I would try to work for a company who would set you up- being a self employed training business owner means you have no life- but you'll probably make some good money.
posted by jeremias at 6:04 PM on January 21, 2006

I train clients as a part of my business, which is IT services for small companies. Here's what I've learned:

1. Expect to spend much more time developing your curriculum than actually training anyone. That's part of the territory but if you're planning to bill by the hour, factor the non-billable time into your rates. I learned this the hard way.

2. Obviously IT trainers need to continue learning to be effective, so factor the cost (time and money-wise) that's needed for you to stay up on your chosen niche.

3. I agree that associating yourself with a company for a time might be wise. I have arrangements with a local computer store to use their training facilities when they're not in use.

4. Standardize your training curriculum wherever you can. Standardize your pricing wherever you can.

5. And if you don't have one, a projector and a decent laptop are a must-have.

Finally, enjoy yourself. I love the "ohh...THATS how you do that" moments from the group.
posted by Slap Incognito at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2006

What kind of training are you talking about? I contract with a big, international company to teach (very) technical courses -- programming, database administration etc -- for them. They do all the work finding students, I turn up and actually deliver the material. They can charge a lot for a four-day course -- full price is around $2200 per person. If you can find a few people to pay you that rate as an independent trainer, you're set with one course a month. On the other hand, they can charge that rate because they have 30-plus years of reputation to build on, very established contacts with many, many companies, lots of sales people, and extremely good courses. There's no way you will be able to charge that sort of rate, even for technical courses. At that price, people will go with the company they've heard of.

Don't forget your overheads when you're thinking about this; renting a hotel conference room near the airport in Los Angeles, for example (I'm in LA) costs $300 to $400 per day when you add in refreshments, which means that if you're charging, say, $1100 per student (half the big company's rate, to get some butts on seats) then 1.5 of the students you're teaching are paying just for the room.

And if you're talking about teaching Word, Excel etc, then your per-student rate drops to... well, certainly less than $100/student/day, I'd have thought. Which means you'll need a lot more people at each course to make a living at the job. I looked in to that sort of thing and decided that it just wasn't financially viable for me -- even as a secondary business. I can make more money doing other things, with less of a headache. (I can't imagine teaching 25 secretaries how to add up a column of numbers in Excel without wanting to kill either myself or them in very short order.)

517 is right on the money regarding marketing -- that's what it's all about. Word-of-mouth will certainly help if you're good at the job and your courses are well-received, but ultimately that will take years to build up. You need good, strong marketing materials, probably at least one outgoing sales person. So budget a fair chunk of change to start with before you see any income. (Especially since, whatever you say on your contracts, it will be hell trying to get companies to pay up before the course actually runs.)

Good luck, though! I know lots of the above sounds negative, but teaching (adults) can be a lot of fun, and remarkably rewarding. E-mail's in the profile if you want more info or thoughts...
posted by littleme at 7:44 PM on January 21, 2006

I'm like littleme (all of what he says is good advice) - I contract with a company that does technical teaching. They have a lot of in-house trainers that they use for the bulk of their courses (mostly Windows and Office) then they bring me in to teach the ones that the in-house trainers can't handle, mostly C++ and Unix.

This arrangement pays quite well and is easy because the company handles the overhead of finding students, buying coursework books (MUCH easier than writing your own) and providing facilities. If you're just getting started in training, I strongly suggest you go with an established training company first; doesn't matter whether you're an internal trainer or a specialist contractor. Only once you know that you're good should you go independent, both for the sake of your own financial risk and for the sake of your students. It also means that you can get all the marketing and business stuff done without worrying about actually teaching.

If you're good within the training company, you will get noticed by customers and headhunted; that's the position of power you want to be in for your negotiations. Be very careful of the no-compete clauses you have with the firm you started with, you do not want to get a reputation of untrustworthiness let alone a lawsuit.
posted by polyglot at 8:44 PM on January 21, 2006

Residential or small business? (Or large business?) Wealthy suburb?

Make friends with the building manager of a condo filled with senior citizens. That's 20-40 clients right there. Most of your referrals can come from there, too.

Network. Have your friends, especially those who know lots of mothers, give out your name.

In September I sold a 300-client computer teaching business, mostly oriented toward home and small biz help. If that's your niche, post here and I'll drop you an e-mail if you'd like more advice.
posted by jbb7 at 9:13 AM on January 22, 2006

Response by poster: jbb7, yeah I think that could be a good niche. How did you get started in it? My email is in my profile. I would love to hear about your experience.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:58 AM on January 22, 2006

jbb7, Please send me an email as well. I tried to email you after your last posting but... Email is in profile.
posted by Ferrari328 at 12:31 PM on January 22, 2006

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