You’ve decided to do it. You’re going out on your own to break into the contract trainer market and start making all those big bucks you’ve been hearing about. After all, that MCSE has got to be worth something, right?

So you put together your resume, mail it out to all the training companies in your area, and sit back and wait for the calls to roll in. And you wait. And you wait.

You get tired of waiting, so you call up Joe, your old buddy who’s now running a training center in your hometown, and ask him what’s up with the resounding silence. He listens to your tale of woe, then laughs and says, “You’re going about this all wrong! What you need is a broker!” When you protest that you haven’t started making those big bucks yet so you don’t really have anything to invest, he laughs again and says, “No, airhead, I’m not talking about a stock broker—I mean a trainer broker!”

Why a broker?
He continues, “A lot of the training firms have stopped hiring contract trainers directly. Either they are trying to use only employees to keep their costs down, or they are working through a broker, or both.”

“Why would they use a broker?” you ask.

“Lots of reasons,” Joe replies. “The broker is going to have a big pool of people to draw from, so the training center doesn’t have to keep up its own contact list or try to find people from all over the country. A good broker is going to have access to trainers with diverse skill sets to take care of those obscure or rare classes.

Say, for example, that you were certified to teach Microsoft’s SMS product. That’s a hot product right now, but even so, the average training center may only need an instructor for it two or three times a year. It doesn’t make sense for the training center to hire someone as an employee just for that class. The broker, on the other hand, is dealing with training centers all over, each of which wants an SMS resource for one or two classes. Put them all together, and the broker could keep you busy.”

“Okay, I get the matchmaker part,” you say, “but is that all the broker does? Sounds to me like a good interactive Web site could do that job: Type in your skill set and the dates you’re available, and pop—there’s your training job for the week.”

You can almost hear Joe shaking his head on the other end of the line. “No, man, there’s LOTS more to it than that! Your broker will take care of your travel arrangements. They’ll make all the reservations, get the tickets, and send you the whole thing, including an itinerary. That’s a great time saver for you, plus the broker often gets better rates because of quantity.

“The broker keeps track of all your skills and certs, so they can match you up quickly with class requests. And the best brokers are going to track quality, so the training center knows that it is getting a top-notch trainer from that broker.”

Show me the money
“What about the money?” you ask. “The broker is a middleman, so doesn’t that cut into the money I’ll make?”

“Well, you’ve got to look at both sides of that,” Joe says. “Sure, you’ll make a little less than you would contracting directly with the training center. But remember, your broker not only lines up the work, he or she also takes care of negotiating the pay rate. The broker is in touch with the marketplace and knows the rates, so you can usually trust his or her advice about what to charge. And remember, they’re going to get a cut, so they want the rate to be good just like you do.

“And there’s another point, one that I think is the most important of all–-cash flow.”

Wishing you had paid attention in Econ 101, you ask, “Cash flow? What does that have to do with me? Isn’t that something big companies have to worry about?”

“Dude, you’ve got the same issues a big company has, now that you’re out on your own,” Joe answers. “Think about this: You teach the class one week, and by Friday in your mind you’ve already spent that big paycheck you’re going to get. How long do you think you’ll wait before you actually hold that big check in your sweaty hands?”

Starting to get a sinking feeling in your stomach, you stammer, “Th–three weeks?”

Joe laughs. “In your dreams! Most businesses work on a 30-day payable cycle, but some do 45 days. Then there are the big ones that are closer to 90! That’s the nice thing about a lot of these brokers–they will pay you in 30 days, whether the training center has paid them or not. Let me tell you, that’s worth giving them a cut as far as I’m concerned.”

“Okay, I’m convinced,” you reply. “How do I get started working with a broker?”

Check back here next week to hear Joe tell you how to find a broker and what you should expect from your broker. See you then!

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. Follow this link to send Bruce an e-mail.