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.
3. G Suite
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.
When I first started out using email marketing, I used the FREE version of the is tool and loved it! Today, I have a subscription. 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.
14. Training from the Back of the Room
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!
15. Instructional Design Lab
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. If you are interested in learning about tools specific to instructional design, check these out.
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.
FTC Disclosure: Hey, there! If you happen upon a link to a product or tool, you should assume that it is an affiliate link. If you click on it and like it and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission. We only promote tools and products that we believe are helpful and good.
The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShield