This week, I will share what I believe to be the 15 Best Freelance Instructional Designer Tools with you. It’s a pretty common occurrence that I get asked questions about which tools I use, how I work as a consultant and a freelance instructional designer, and how I manage my business. So, beginning with this blog post and continuing through the next 3-4 posts, I am pulling back the curtains and sharing what has worked for me.
If you have a different set of favorite tools or have questions about any of the 15 Best Freelance Instructional Designer Tools below, be sure to leave me a comment at the end of this post.
Now first, let me tell you my success as a consultant and freelancer didn’t just happen. I first launched out on my own back in 2013. And, I started, failed, stopped, started again, failed some more and again and again. Instead of failing forward fast, which is optimal, I failed forward slow. I let self-doubt creep in which is killer to your business. If you’re going to go for it, go for it with all your might. Now, this does not mean quit your job. This just means that whether you are working your business as a side hustle or your full-time gig, give it your all. What you focus on, grows. So be sure to focus on the right things.
Every consultant and freelance instructional designer has their own set of favorite tools but, in my opinion, the following are the 15 Best Freelance Instructional Designer Tools. What makes them a favorite? Things like ease of use, cost, and impact to my business are all factors that influence how much I like a tool.
15 Best Freelance Instructional Designer Tools
If you are in business for yourself, even as a side hustle, you’ve gotta have a website for your business. Your website is like a storefront window. When customers pass by, they take a quick peek to decide if they want to enter and explore.
I like WordPress for a few reasons. First, it’s easy to use. Second, you don’t need to be a programmer to build a nice-looking site. Anyone can use WordPress without too much of a learning curve. I hired a freelance designer to build my site but since then, I have taught myself how to do most of what I need to do. Third, it’s pretty robust. There are plugins galore that make managing your site and building pages super easy.
I only recently learned about Jetpack, but man, it’s like my morning coffee. I am totally addicted. I used to look at Google Analytics every day, but Jetpack is now my go to for analytics. Every morning, I open up Jetpack to see how many visitors I had yesterday. Which links did they click on? Did I have any conversions? It’s very addicting and super important information. You need to have insight into what is working and what isn’t in your business, and Jetpack can give you that insight.
I use G Suite for my business communications and document storage. The email is professional looking and customizable. When you look at my email address, Shawntay@ShawntayMichelle.com, it doesn’t look like a Gmail account, but it is. I also use Google docs to share folders with clients as well as Google Hangouts and Google Chat to communicate with them. If you are interested in G Suite, here is a sweet deal for you. If you follow this link, you can get 20% off of the Basic Plan with this promo code: 33NHC3WEQX3MXR or 20% off of the Business Plan with this promo code: 96FFTW96XTXDG9Q. If you don’t want to spend any money, you can use Google Docs and create a Gmail account for FREE!
If you have more than one project going on, you need a project management tool. I use the FREE version of Trello but as I invite clients to boards who have never been on Trello, I earn Trello Gold, which unlocks some of the premium features for a month. Can you say, “AWESOME”?
With Trello, you can set due dates, assign tasks to team members, and communicate with people right inside the tool. It’s super easy to use, and you can’t beat the price. Oh, and there is an App, too, so you can get notifications and respond to clients from the palm of your hand!
Zoom is one of my favorites for video meetings, and I use the FREE version. I use this tool for video conferencing more than Google Hangouts, unless my meeting is going to be longer than 45 minutes. In that case, I use Google Hangouts. Zoom is cool because you can share your screen and record the meeting either as audio or video. Because it does allow for video recordings, I sometimes use Zoom to record video trainings. It’s super easy to use and the price is right.
This is fairly new tool for me. I just recently started using it to edit video and record my screen for some how-to videos. I paid $99 for this tool, and I love it. In the past I would record in Zoom and edit in Premiere, but now I can do it all in Screenflow. And, ScreenFlow is a heck of a lot cheaper than Premiere. Now, if you do a lot of video editing, you might want the more robust features available in Premiere. If you are doing pretty basic video editing, ScreenFlow might be a good option for you, too.
Here is another FREE tool that you can use in your business! I use Buffer to schedule my Social Media posts to Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. One of the nifty Buffer features I like is the ability to create a posting schedule. If you have specific times that you post each day, you can create a schedule so that only those time slots appear when you go to schedule. Again, this is another super easy to use tool that offers a FREE version.
The name speaks for itself. This is the FREE tool that I use for my Twitter account to 1) scan a variety of tweet types to see what I want to read and respond to; and 2) schedule my Tweets. The column format and post types, like What’s Trending, Saturday Motivation, make using Twitter via TweetDeck fun.
If you post to Pinterest, you know that posting can be very manual and time intensive, unless you have a handy dandy tool like Tailwind. With Tailwind, you can use the Chrome extension to schedule Pins for items you come across on the internet as well as schedule your own content. What is really cool about this tool, is that it provides you data on how your Pins are performing, which is super helpful in designing future Pins that engage prospects. Oh, and you can post to Tribes, groups of people with related interests, who will help you promote your content when you help them promote theirs. It’s Win-Win!
Unfortunately, there is not a free version of Tailwind, so I had to pay for this tool. The cost was $120 for the year. You can get a free trial, but that’s it. Tailwind is also a great tool for posting to Instagram. The drawback is that you have to pay for a second subscription to use Tailwind for Instagram. To keep my business costs down, I just use Buffer instead of paying for the second Tailwind subscription.
Another awesome FREE resource! If you need images and can’t afford to pay for them, this is a fantastic resource. I use Unsplash multiple times per week. This tool is loaded with images. I suggest you go to the site and start exploring.
Nearly 100% of my Social Media posts are built in Canva. There is a FREE version of Canva but this is one that opted to pay for. The cost was $120 for the year. I opted to pay for this one so that I could customize my images with my color palette and fonts. The free tool works just as well as the paid version, in my opinion, it just limits your customization. Like the other tools, this one is very easy to use.
When building a business, you want to capture leads, especially if you have a product to sell, such as templates, guides, or online courses. OptinMonster makes capturing leads very easy with a variety of types, which are all customizable. This is another tool that I opted to pay for. I could have used the FREE option in MailChimp but as someone new to capturing leads, I needed a tool that didn’t require much of a learning curve.
We’ll have to see if I keep OptinMonster or move to another option when my subscription runs out. The verdict is still out on my long-term usage. My annual cost for OptinMonster is about $400. One of the frustrating things about this cost, is that I see the prices on their website dropping so I am paying more than you would if you signed up today.
I use the FREE version of the is tool and just love it! I use it to manage my list, segment my list, and communicate with my list. I haven’t explored the opt-in pages yet but doing so is on my To Do list. Communication is key to repeat business so as you get clients, get them added to your list so that you can keep in touch with them and send them messages from time-to-time.
This is my NUMBER ONE favorite book for anyone in instructional design and training. This book largely focuses on training delivery but as an instructional designer, you need to be constantly thinking how the trainer would deliver the training to the audience and keep them engaged. This book is loaded with tons upon tons of ideas to do just that!
If you have never been formally trained in instructional design or are new to instructional design, this course can take you through the process step-by-step. By the time you finish this course, you will have a complete course to launch! So, if you want to excel in instructional design but don’t quite know what you are doing or lack confidence in instructional design, check out this online course.
So, that’s my complete list of the 15 Best Freelance Instructional Designer Tools! Let me know if you have other favorites or if you plan to try one of these outs. Now, for full transparency, for some of the recommendations above – not all, not even most, if you click on the link and purchase, I might earn a small commission. That small commission has nothing to do with why I am recommending the tools, however. I am recommending them because I use them and like them.
Got questions or comments?
My free Facebook Group is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.