Getting Started as a Freelance Instructional Designer
If you are starting out as a freelance instructional designer or consultant, what do you need to know and do?
I am currently exploring my options for freelance work. I know many of you out there have made the leap from regular employee to consultant. I’m interested in any words of wisdom you might have. Do you have any favorite resources or books? Are there any lessons learned or great tips for the transition?
I have found a few resources already:
- Harold Jarche’s So You Want to Be an eLearning Consultant? is a great overview.
- I just bought Consulting Basics after reading Bill Brandon’s review. (It arrived today, so I haven’t started reading it yet, but it looks good.)
Please pardon the following blatant self-promotion.
My current contract is scheduled to complete at the end of July, so I am looking for projects starting in August. I have several leads right now, but if you have or know of any projects starting in August or later, I’d appreciate you keeping me in mind.
Update 12/4/2011: Now that I have made the leap, I’ve posted a few tips for making the transition to freelance.
11 thoughts on “Getting Started as a Freelance Instructional Designer”
I think the biggest thing to success in consulting is to cultivate your networks and keep them going. I make a point of regularly (at least one a year if not twice a year) to try and book a lunch with key contacts – these are people that are working full time for companies that I might want to contract with, or people that know people who might be looking for a contractor. I also use social network sites like LinkedIn to let my network know that I’m looking.
I do find that instructional design can be a difficult area to consult in, as a lot of companies/organizations don’t recognize it as a specialized skillset.
What business plans do you think I should lay down to be successful in the field of instructional design?
For your business planning, think about how you’re going to get clients. Who is your ideal client? What types of projects do you want to work on? How will you get leads–will clients contact you, or will you reach out to them? How will that work?
For myself, my blog is my primary marketing tool. That’s how clients find me. I have a plan for blog posts. I also promote myself on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. I plan to speak at 1-2 conferences this year and do several other online presentations and video/podcast interviews.
Then, think about the process when you find a lead (or they contact you). How will you qualify that lead? What questions will you ask? What’s the process that gets them from the point of being identified as a lead to the point where you sign an agreement?
Those plans will give you a good start as a freelance instructional designer.
Hello, I made the move to freelance consulting about four months ago…and while it’s been difficult on many levels, it’s been a fantastic experience on the whole. A great resource book for me was Flying Solo (http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/ – it’s Australian, but should still be useful). It focuses on the idea of being a freelancer (in any profession or industry) and offers strategies for soloists to make it work, to connect with others and awareness of the pitfalls. It was an easy, but eye-opening read. Good luck!
Hello, I made the move about four months ago…and while it’s been difficult on many levels, it’s been a fantastic experience on the whole. A great book for me was Flying Solo (http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/). It focuses on the idea of being a freelancer (in any profession or industry) and offers strategies for soloists to make it work, to connect with others and awareness of the pitfalls. It was an easy, but eye-opening read. Good luck!
Thanks for the recommendation. Flying Solo looks like it has a lot of good resources and articles on the site. Greatly appreciated!
Thanks for the encouragement, David and Judith. It’s good to know I’m not alone out there.
My portfolio does need an update so I can show some more current work. That will be one of my priorities as I make the transition.
Although I’m not strictly a freelance instructional designer, as there are two of us in ELS Ltd, we both work mainly (as sub-contractors) for other L&D suppliers. However, either way, it’s not always a bowl of cherries but when you get to work with some lovely people/clients then it not only makes it all worthwhile but you also know that you have made the right decision.
As David Harris says, use your portfolio because most discerning clients are looking for people with a good track record and ‘put yourself around a bit’.
Please feel free to contact me ( email@example.com ) if you want any more help, advice, support, etc.
Thank you for your post. I have just stated an instructional design and concept development consultancy in Tampa.
My approach is to network with local organizations and groups that benefit me socially with like minded people, and gives me a sense of organizations needs and the niche I can fit into to help them meet their learning objectives.
I am considering a few books for a basic understanding of the consultants’ bread and butter to stay afloat, but I am finding useful guidance by finding and connecting with consultants who are currently where I am working to be.
Your portfolio will help you illustrate talent and experience to prospective clients. I would appreciate your feedback on mine http://davidharrismed.com/portfolio and my blog I just restarted at http://davidharrismed.com/blog
Thanks again for your post.