Have you been considering taking a leap of faith to become a freelance instructional designer? If you’re just beginning your instructional design journey, freelance instructional design could be a good fit for you.
Breaking away from a set routine can be daunting. But there are some attractive benefits when you become a freelance instructional designer. The most exciting being you can work on your own schedule and be your own boss.
However, just like any other profession, freelance instructional design comes with its fair share of challenges.
First, ask yourself these tough questions:
- Are you ready for a new challenge?
- Do you have a knack for networking?
- Are you willing to work overtime while you build your freelance business?
- Can you go a couple of months without a guaranteed source of income before you find your first client?
Did you answer yes to any or all of the above? If so, these tips to become a freelance instructional designer are for you!
6 Steps to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer
Starting a new business is exciting but scary. I should know, I started out small and grew my side hustle to a main hustle! It’s especially stressful when that job isn’t a traditional, 9-to-5 with benefits.
For new instructional designers, freelance work can be a great introduction to the field. You get to choose what projects you work on without committing to one company. Not to mention, you’ll be taking ownership of a project for its entire cycle.
Freelance work can help you find your niche in instructional design. Or, it could be the perfect, flexible fit for you long-term. Here are my 6 best tips to become a freelance instructional designer.
Identify Your Target Market
Every professional in the eLearning industry has specific strengths, talents, and abilities. To achieve success as a freelance instructional designer, first identify your strengths. Every instructional designer is unique and works best under different circumstances. This is why you must figure out the right path for yourself before you dive into freelance work.
Make a list of your instructional design talents. Then use that list to find your niche. Here are just a few examples:
You’re a natural at determining training needs. You might highlight your consulting talents to clients who know they need help but aren’t quite sure what the right solution is.
You’re a project management pro. You might market yourself as a training leader who collaborates with other professionals to take a project from idea to execution.
You’re a micro-learning machine. You can showcase your bite-sized learning solutions to clients who have minor learning gaps and need a quick fix.
Not sure what your specialty is yet? Jump on the waiting list for the Instructional Design Accelerator crash course!
The bottom line is this: determine how your knowledge and abilities translate into solutions. Then, identify gaps in the market and figure out ways you can fill those gaps. Research the various niche markets, and figure out if there are any that offer steady and stable growth. Avoid exclusively chasing hot trends in the industry, as they’re likely to fade away quickly, leaving you without a target market.
Research the Industry
Now that you’ve identified your own strengths, it’s time to shift the focus to your competitors. Researching other eLearning freelancers will give you unique insights into the industry and target market in which you’re operating. The best way to become a freelance instructional designer is to discover what worked for existing freelance instructional designers!
Use LinkedIn to search for current freelancers in your area of expertise. What are they posting? What’s their relevant experience? How long have they been independent consultants? What does their portfolio look like?
For more in-depth research, visit their websites and read customer testimonials and reviews to hone in on their strengths and weaknesses. Wherever you detect a weakness, such as steep pricing or slow response time, use that information to your advantage!
Develop your Clientele
The next step to become a freelance instructional designer is to expand your network. You can’t freelance if you don’t have any clients!
Building personal relationships with your business network is a great way to find success in freelance instructional design. These connections may lead to referrals and increased lead generation. Your potential clients may include acquaintances from an eLearning conference, people you’ve worked with in previous jobs (even if you weren’t an instructional designer for that company), and even people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn or Facebook groups.
To be a successful consultant, you must work closely with your clients and, therefore, must forge trust, credibility, and mutual respect. Building a solid reputation will earn you new customers and ensure the loyalty of your existing ones.
One of the best ways to reach out to potential clients and sustain current ones is through blogging. You should start your professional blog as soon as possible if you don’t already have one. You can share knowledge and expertise in your blogs, which would further add to your credibility as a freelance instructional designer. Blogging can also increase traffic to your portfolio, which can mean more project offers
You should also create a separate social media page to update clients about new services, promotions, or events you plan to host. And make sure you stay in touch with them through regular emails and that you respond to them as soon as possible. To be successful in the long term, you must develop the habit of going out of your way to make your customers feel valued.
Collaborate with Others
Working solo has its advantages, but you may also want to partner with other eLearning professionals, especially if you’re new to instructional design.
This can be as simple as joining a Reddit or Facebook community. The current and aspiring instructional designers in The Hangout share tips, ask questions, and provide feedback to their peers all the time.
You might also want to partner with creatives like voice-over artists, graphic designers, video editors/animators, or eLearning developers. Having these professional contacts is beneficial in many ways. First, it’s one less step when you’re working for a client that wants a custom video, for example. But often these contacts can help you make new connections with potential clients.
Having connections in the industry can help you branch out and allow you to take on more challenging opportunities!
Create a Marketing Strategy
Promoting your services is at the core of becoming a successful freelance instructional designer. Marketing can feel like a full-time job, especially when you’re just starting out.
A holistic marketing strategy must also be reassessed and change as your business grows. For example, if you have exhausted traditional routes such as email marketing and social media promotion, you can try alternative guerilla marketing or warm calling strategies.
Set some time aside, preferably an hour or two, and promote yourself through forums, blogs, and other platforms that will help build your online presence. Make sure you link to a website that includes your portfolio and blog (this might just be your LinkedIn page). This way potential clients can learn about your services and specialties.
Keep in mind that the more effort you put into marketing yourself, the more clients and projects you’ll be able to take on. However, it is also essential to balance working on existing contracts and attracting clients for future projects. This may take some time to master, so be patient!
You can also check out this article on how to affordably market your freelance business.
Establish a Fee Structure
You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without talking about the money, did you? I know new instructional designers are all about the challenge of a new project and growing as professionals. But you’ve also got bills to pay!
Before you become a freelance instructional designer, you need to determine how you’ll price yourself. Do you want to change an hourly fee or a flat rate? Will you be flexible if a potential client wants the opposite fee structure?
Here, the research you conducted on your competitors’ pricing structure will help you make your plan more competitive. Try to keep your costs low, and remember that many clients will pay you more than 30 days after billing. To mitigate liabilities, you may ask for a sum of the payment up-front.
You will also have to calculate your expenses to ensure that you’ll be turning a profit. Remember those voiceover artists and video editors? If you’re enlisting their services, you’ll need to include their costs in your fee structure. Create a list of all the available resources to provide more accurate estimates to your clients. You may also include any expenses for additional materials and tools.
Don’t hesitate to adjust your costs over time. The more experience you have, the more your time is worth!
Wrapping it Up
Becoming a freelance instructional designer can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. There is fierce competition from talented eLearning professionals in every segment of the market. This is why it is essential to work to your strengths and have a clear idea of your target market.
Conduct in-depth research into the market segment that you plan on targeting to get intel on your competitors. Don’t forget, a strong relationship with your clients based on trust, respect, and credibility will allow you to attract prospects and sustain your customer base.
Collaborating with other professionals will enable you to take on more challenging projects and create a strong network within the industry. A comprehensive and multi-faceted marketing strategy will allow you to grow your business further.
And lastly, a competitive and strategic pricing structure will help you make profits and employ more resources for future eLearning projects! Are you ready to become a freelance instructional designer?
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