CXO

Brokered expectations: You need a broker, part II

If you want to begin a good working relationship with a trainer broker, here's what to expect.


After reading part one of this series, you’ve decided that it’s time you begin working with a broker. But you have questions. What should you expect from your broker? What should your broker expect from you? How do you find a good broker? This week, we’ll take a look at the broker-trainer relationship and how you can make sure it meets everyone’s expectations.

What your broker expects
First of all, a broker wants an up-to-date resume. Nothing bugs a broker more than to turn down a contract because he doesn’t have a resource available, only to find out that you are certified in that subject. Always, whenever your qualifications or personal facts change, update that resume and send it to all your brokers. Send the whole thing; don’t just send the change. You can circle the change if you want, as an aid to the data-entry person on the other end. But still send the entire resume, just in case they didn’t enter your last change for some reason.

Second, a broker wants to know your schedule. Obviously, if you are training almost exclusively for one broker that broker already knows when you are available. Most brokers, though, need to know you are available so they can match your qualifications and schedule with opportunities.

Third, a broker needs timely invoices. Some of us (mea culpa!) have been guilty of “waiting until later” to get our invoices completed. Remember, the broker can’t bill the client until you bill the broker. By delaying the invoice, you are holding up the cash flow for everyone. And, be sure your invoice is clear, detailed, and includes all necessary documentation. Don’t make the broker chase you down for receipts.

Finally, your broker needs a nudge from time to time. Most of them are overworked and understaffed, and the world of brokered services is a rough-and-tumble one. The opportunity of the day is the one getting your broker’s attention. Remind your broker from time to time that you are available and ready to train. Note that we said “from time to time.” If you haven’t heard from your broker in a month, it’d be a good time to call. This does not mean every day or even every week.

What you should expect
The first and foremost expectation from your broker is integrity. If your skill set is not marketable—or not marketable by this broker—-he or she should say so. If the broker’s getting $1,000 a day for you, he shouldn’t tell you he’s only getting $700. Your relationship with your broker is built on trust. I trust the brokers I work with, and anything that would damage that trust would make it hard for me to work with them again.

Also expect fair rates and fair percentages. Obviously these change from time to time and area to area. Nevertheless, if your broker consistently offers you rates substantially under market, or if your broker’s cut seems excessive, it’s time to look for another broker. You will find out quickly whether the problem is the broker or you. If you and your skill set are worth market rate, there is a broker somewhere that will pay that rate.

Finally your broker should give you details. What exactly are you supposed to teach? Where is the facility? How many students? Is there a per diem? Did they book the hotel, the flight, and the car? Will you get the material in advance? Will there be someone to meet you? Part of the reason you are paying the broker a percentage is that they take care of such details, leaving you free to teach. If the broker drops the ball too often, it’s time to find another.

How to find a broker
Don’t find a single broker—find a bunch of them! You should register with at least three brokerages. Diversification pays off.
  • Ask other trainers who they use (and be sure to ask how satisfied they are).
  • Ask training companies who they use and how satisfied they are.
  • Look around on the Internet. Then, when you find brokers you are interested in, drop them your resume. The amount of time they take to respond and what they say when they do will tell you a lot about them.

About 80 percent of my current work comes through one brokerage. When I first sent them a resume, I received an e-mail within 48 hours, thanking me for my resume. The e-mail continued to say, “Before we can represent you, we need copies of all your certifications, the evaluations for the last three months of classes you have taught, and a signed copy of our contract, which is attached.” Such a professional response reassured me that this was a first-class outfit, and my subsequent interactions with the brokerage have proven that impression to be correct.

More and more, the world of the freelance trainer includes the training broker. Getting and keeping one or more good ones can make all the difference in your career. In freelance training, it’s becoming true that you’ll either have a broker, or you’ll be broke!
Got a story to tell, good or bad, about an experience with a broker? Brokers, do you want to tell your side of the story? Drop a note at training@techrepublic.com and let me hear the gory details (sans names, of course). We’ll collect them for a future follow-up column.

Bruce Maples is a technical trainer and writer. Bruce is certified in several Microsoft technologies and frequently travels to client sites to troubleshoot problems and train employees.

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