How to find funding for training

Developing new and current skills is an important part of working for yourself. It can help you find more clients, increase your rates, or move into new business areas. But courses can be expensive, so knowing how to find funding for training if you’re self-employed will help whether you’re just starting out, or looking to grow your career on a limited budget. 

There may be more financial support available than you realise, as there are various sources of grants, bursaries, scholarships, and other assistance. But because many are provided at a local level or a range of organisations including trade associations, non-profits, and private companies, you’ll need to be prepared to do a bit of research. 

And unlike loans, most of these options don’t require you to pay the amount back in the future.  

When you’ve located sources of potential funding for training, it’s important to check the eligibility and application process. And if you’re unsuccessful at your first attempt, don’t let that dissuade you from looking for financial support in the future. 

If you can’t secure funding, there are also a wide range of free courses available online, or in person, offered by a range of organisations including Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and more, alongside Level 3 qualifications and Skills Bootcamps provided by the UK government. And IPSE members currently get access to the 12-month early-stage Incubator to support their new career.  

Where to find funding for training if you’re self-employed 

With a wide range of financial assistance provided at local and national levels, there’s no single resource which currently shows all the grants and schemes available. As a starting point for your research, sources of funding include: 

  • UK Government 

  • Local authorities 

  • Trade associations 

  • National and local charities 

  • Private companies 

  • Education and training providers 

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The type of funding you will want to look at depends on the type of training and education you want to pursue. If you’re trying to get support for a university degree or postgraduate qualification, then you may want to look for scholarships and bursaries. Some of these will be offered by the universities themselves, or by a range of private companies across various industries, (for example, Adobe Creativity Scholarships).   

For general career and skills training, you’re more likely to find grants to help you pursue your learning and development. These tend to be smaller and more flexible, but will still have eligibility criteria and limits on what the money can be used for. 

Often grants and scholarships will aim to support a particular type of individual or company. Many will offer help to new businesses, those with disabilities, encouraging women in STEM subjects, disadvantaged young people, or to encourage investment in a particular area of the country. So, it’s worth thinking about whether there are any criteria which make you eligible for a wider range of financial assistance. 

Different schemes are available in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, so it’s important to check any geographic restrictions. For example, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Enterprise Ireland and the Welsh government Funding Locator

Useful sources to check for grants and financial support 

There are a variety of useful websites and organisations that attempt to pull together most of the sources for grants, and other financial support for your business. 

These include both UK government and local authority resources, and private companies: 

Trade and Industry Associations: 

Private companies: 

Charitable organisations: 

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Can you claim any training costs as self-employed expenses? 

Any grant or funding may not cover all the costs of your training, and it’s possible to claim some of the money as a tax deduction when you’re self-employed. It needs to be a course improving the skills and knowledge for your current business, but does include transport, food, and other expenses. 

For more detailed information, we have an article dedicated to covering when training courses are tax deductible if you’re self-employed

If you’re applying for funding for employees, or looking to offer apprenticeships, or have any other concerns about tax relief related to business grants, it’s always worth speaking to a financial professional, such as those listed in the IPSE marketplace

How to improve your chances of securing a training grant 

There can be a lot of competition for any business funding, particularly for larger and better-known grants. It’s important not to make any commitments on the assumption you’ll be successful, or to give up in the future because your first application wasn’t approved. 

It’s also likely that any money will take some time to be processed and made available, and funding will rarely cover the complete cost of any training course. So, you need to plan for the remainder, and also other expenses such as travel or accommodation. 

Planning and research will certainly improve your chances of securing a grant. Make sure you understand the eligibility criteria, and any specific requirements for each particular funding programme. 

If it isn’t tied to a specific training course, then make sure you have some suitable options in mind. If the funding is project-based, then you’ll need to have a detailed plan for how the funding and outcomes tie with any grant requirements. 

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Don’t be tempted to try and bend your business, and plans, to fit a funding opportunity if it’s not really applicable. It’s better to keep looking for grants and support which is more suitable. 

Before you apply, try to talk with the grant providers, and find out as much as you can. It may also be possible to track down previous successful applicants for tips and advice. Local freelance and self-employed communities are very likely to not only have members who have previously secured grants and funding, but may also know the best people to speak to at your local council or business growth hub. Often, they’ll appear as guest speakers at events, which is a great opportunity to get extra insight. And IPSE webinars regularly include topics including small business grants and funding. 

When you’ve drafted your application, make sure you get someone to check it for any errors you may have overlooked. You don’t want to miss out on potentially thousands of pounds due to a simple spelling mistake or typo, or by failing to provide some simple information because you accidentally skipped a section. And it happens a lot more than you might expect. 


More support to grow your skills, and your business 

There are other ways you can get support and advice on growing both your personal expertise, and your self-employed business. For example, finding coaches or mentors, securing more clients, or raising your rates


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