What is your hourly rate as an instructional designer? How much do you make if you’re a full-time salaried employee? What about freelance or consultant rates? People frequently ask me these questions, and I always refer people to the same resources. Use these benchmarks to use as a starting point, but you’ll need to adjust for your experience, education, skills, industry, whether you’re a full-time employee or independent consultant, etc.
Note that since I’m in the US, all of these resources are US-centric. Hourly rates and salaries outside the US will vary, although Canada seems to be pretty comparable.
Salary: Around $80,000
The eLearning Guild Salary Calculator is one of the best tools for comparing the variables that affect salary in the US. Enter your location, education, job focus, experience, etc. and get a benchmark salary to compare. The 2018 report puts the average salary for elearning professionals in the US at $84,421.
Members in the eLearning Guild (including a free membership) can access the 2018 salary report for more detail, including international data. The 2019 salary report took a different approach since salaries have been fairly stable, focusing on job roles and trends.
ZipRecruiter lists the average salary for instructional designers at $78,699.
Hourly Rates: Around $37/hour
Salary.com puts the hourly rate for instructional designers at $32-39, with an average of $35/hour.
ZipRecruiter lists the average hourly rate at $38/hour.
Don Clark has collected highlights from several sources on how to estimate instructional design cost and time. He lists the rate for an e-learning designer as $37/hour, based on a salary of $78,000.
Consultant and Freelance Rates
The quick way to calculate a freelance hourly rate is to double your W2 or full time hourly rate. When you work independently, you have to pay additional taxes and buy your own software. You also spend a lot of time that isn’t billable (proposals, marketing, professional development, etc.).
Writing Assistance Inc lists rates from $70-105+, with an average of $90.
Harold Jarche’s “So You Want To Be an ELearning Consultant?” article is now 10+ years old, but the idea of ranges of rates for different activities is still relevant. Click the table at the bottom to expand it and see the details, adding $5-$10/hour for current rates. Design tasks are $50-100 on his chart; development tasks are $30-60 (I would update this to at least $40-65). Technological and business analytical tasks can earn you up to $200. Ray Pastore created an updated version of this list in 2014 showing rates from $35-$250/hour depending on the task.
Freelance Rate Calculators
Although it isn’t specific to instructional design or e-learning, Flying Solo’s Hourly Rate Calculator is a useful tool to determine your hourly rate as a freelancer based on your expenses. This calculator is more detailed that the one listed above.
Here’s another similar rate calculator from Use Pastel.
Jeffrey Rhodes’ presentation on how to price consulting work explains how to determine your hourly rate as a consultant and how to estimate and price services.
Instructional Design Careers
Want more info? Check out my other posts on instructional design careers.
Looking to hire an instructional designer?
Originally published 9/3/2013, last updated 5/2/19