What is your hourly rate as an instructional designer? What do you make if you’re a full-time salaried employee? People frequently ask me these questions, and I always refer people to the same resources. These are all just benchmarks to use as a starting point, so you need to adjust for your experience, education, skills, industry, whether you’re a full-time employee or freelance consultant, etc.
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 $35-65, maybe $40 as the minimum). Technological and business analytical tasks can earn you up to $200.
Writing Assistance Inc lists rates from $65-100+, with an average of $85. I believe those rates are what companies pay to them, rather than what the ID actually makes, so assume there’s a fee taken off the top.
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. That’s clearly a full-time employee rate and not a consultant rate.
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 2017 calculator puts the average salary for instructional designers in the US at $78,649 (up from $76,502 in 2016). Those who have 12 years or more experience have a benchmark of $90,954. All membership levels in the eLearning Guild (including a free membership) include the more detailed salary survey for those interested in digging deeper. Those outside the US can find international data in the report as well.
Brennan Dunn provides articles, resources, and courses about how to price yourself as a consultant and get paid what you’re worth regardless of your specialty. Start with the Freelance Rate Calculator to see if your rate is sufficient to meet your annual goals. This calculator provides comparisons of how much you’ll make if you increase your rate by different percentages. If your rate is too low to meet your goals, sign up for the free email course to learn strategies to price yourself better.
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.
Bryan Chapman includes some cost estimates with his benchmarks for how long it takes to create learning. In his survey, one hour of level 2 e-learning cost an average of $18,583. At the 184:1 ratio for that level of learning, that’s about a $100/hour rate, but that includes everyone on the team (IDs, project managers, SMEs, developers, etc.).
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.
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