Whether you are just starting out or are already are one of the 53.7 million freelancers who make up the U.S. workforce, you just might find these 10 tips to build your credibility as a freelance instructional designer helpful.
I think you will agree that we are so fortunate to live in a time where we have the ability to define the way we work. Technology has shifted the work norm from 8-5, working for a company with a boss, and working in a brick and mortar building to picking our own hours, being the CEOs of our own businesses, and working from anywhere in the world!
I once rented a beach bungalow in Costa Rica for 3 months and managed my freelance and consulting business from there. It was an AMAZING experience! Freelancing opens up a whole new way of living for many. Right now, today, about one-third of the US workforce is forging their own way as a freelancer. See the study commissioned by Upwork, here.
Building your credibility as a freelancer is simple but not easy, especially if you are just starting out.
The following 10 tips to build your credibility as a freelance instructional designer can help you stand out as one of the many millions of freelancers in the US today.
Tip 1: Set Up a Professional Website
Your website is like the window front of your business. If you want people to come inside, your ‘window front’ needs to look amazing and inviting. One of my colleagues has an amazing website that immediately makes you think, “WOW” and speaks to the quality of her design work. Check it out for yourself at SherylRhoades.com.
Like Sheryl, you want people to click on content and explore your site. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars building your site, but you do need to make sure that it looks good and that everything works. With tools like WordPress, Google, and YouTube, you can easily build your own site without hiring a website designer.
Tip 2: Build a Portfolio of Your Work
At least once a week, I see questions like, “How do I build a portfolio?” Some people go all out and build webpages hosting work samples. Others, like me, have a file of portfolio examples that I pull from to show clients. I like to tailor my portfolio examples to specific clients and the projects they are hiring for.
However you decide to set up your portfolio, you will want to make sure that the items you include look professional, are error free, and show a wide range of skills. For example, I have samples of facilitator guides, participant guides, webinar facilitator guides, post training debrief cafés, live and OnDemand training courses, “How To” video trainings and more.
What if all of your work is proprietary work that is not yours? Don’t fret, you can always rely on your past experiences to create your own training content to show. You don’t need to use the actuals from a client a or a company that you worked with. Your skillset is yours and you can use it to come up with your own original content. Yes, this takes a time investment on your end, but it is worth it in the end, especially when it gets you hired.
Tip 3: Look the Part
It’s not enough to say that you own your own company. You’ve got to look the part. How do you look the part? Here are some things to consider:
- Do you have a legitimate business name?
- Are you using your home address or a business address?
- Do you have website?
- Do you have business cards?
- What’s your email address?
- What’s in your email signature?
These are all things that factor into how others view your business – credible or not credible.
Tip 4: Provide Social Proof Through Testimonials
Anytime you work with a client and things went well, ask your client to provide a testimonial. The more testimonials you have, the more credibility you have.
There is a psychological phenomenon called social proof that can help you boost your credibility. Social proof is where people will look to see what other people are saying or doing to make their own judgment. When you have testimonials, you are helping people form their judgment about your work based on what others have experienced.
When I ask for a testimonial, I remind the client of all of the things we accomplished together by listing out the key deliverables and/or results. Then, I ask for very specific things like, “how was it working with me? What value did you receive? Why did you choose me?” Even if the client doesn’t use any of these questions in their testimonial, it gives them a starting place to build their testimonial from.
Tip 5: Give Away Your Knowledge
Another way to build your credibility is to show what you know by giving away free content. You can give away free tools, resources, and courses. Check out my FREEBIE page here. You can blog and provide expert tips and tricks, too.
All of these content avenues are opportunities for you to demonstrate your knowledge in your field. Even if your client doesn’t care about any of these things, when they see all of these things on your website, it creates the proof that you actually know what you are talking about and that you can do the things that you say you can do.
If your super bold, you can volunteer to lead workshops and webinars, too, which is another way to build your credibility and network. Check out this free webinar on how to create training videos by Nadya Nathan out of the UK. I participated in her free webinar and received personalized one-on-one coaching from her. It was awesome. She knows her stuff! She is a credible resource. How do I know? I know because she gave away her content and knowledge for free.
Tip 6: Social Media Presence
If you have a social media account to market your business, make sure that it is nurtured, loved, and represents you in a way that makes you proud. Sometimes, we get so bogged down by the sheer number of things that we need to do that we get into the bad habit of just ‘checking things off’ as done with little to no regard to quality.
Just because something is done does not mean that it was done well or meets any specific need. When working with social media, invest some time into it. The whole purpose of your business social media presence is to attract potential customers so keep it interesting, informative, and attractive.
Tip 7: Education/Certification
Nothing trumps real world experience but if you have a degree or a certification in instructional design, you can highlight it to further establish your credibility as a freelance instructional designer. Where do you highlight it? You can highlight it on LinkedIn, add it to your signature in your email, and talk about it in the bio section of your website.
Tip 8: Know Your Worth
Before speaking with a client, know how you plan to charge. Will you charge by the project or by the hour? Whatever method you choose, you need to know how to price yourself and about how long it takes you to complete various tasks. What you don’t want to happen is for a client to ask you your rate and you respond with, “I don’t know. What do you think?” Confidently knowing your rate sets you apart from the amateurs who are still struggling to figure things out.
In addition to knowing what your rates are, you should know your payment terms as well. Are you looking for a Net 30 payment or something else? Often times, your client may dictate these terms, but it is always good to have an answer when you are asked what your preference is. Need some help figuring out your payment terms? Check out this article by John Rampton where he covers 10 Invoicing & Payment Terms You Need to Know.
Tip 9: Tools & Documents
For more details on the types of tools you might want to use in your freelance instructional design business, check out my blog post, 15 Best Freelance Instructional Design Tools.
How can tools help you with your credibility? That’s a great question. When you don’t have professional tools, such as a professional email, calendar, or video conferencing tools, you present like an amateur or a hobbyist. Paying clients want real results and usually want to work with real professionals. They don’t want to close their eyes and hope that you can deliver. When their early interactions with you are professional and you are using professional tools with ease, you build your credibility with them.
The documents and forms you have or don’t have also impact your credibility. For example, as a freelance instructional designer there are 3 pretty common documents you will likely use. They are 1) the NDA; 2) the proposal; and 3) the contract. Because these are tools I use often, I have them ready to use with my branding, logos, and information already populated. If a client asks me to submit a proposal, I pull out the proposal, fill it out, and send it to them. If I need an NDA, BAM! I’ve got one. Got a contract? Yep! And, these are all professional looking and tailored to my business.
Tip 10: Create Systems
I have systems for everything. From filing to scoping meetings to contract administration to billing to managing projects and much more. When you have a system in place for specific activities, you can walk through processes and meetings with ease and professionalism. Again, it’s about setting yourself apart as a professional and making your prospective client feel comfortable that you’ve got it together.
Recently, I was hired by a client from up North to work on an ID project and at the onset of the project, she told me that she would be very involved and would likely have trouble letting go and letting me run with the project, even though she hired me to project manage the instructional design project. I assured her that would be fine and that she should do whatever she is comfortable with.
However, once she saw my systems in action and how I manage my projects and my transparent communications, she completely stepped aside and has confidently let me lead her project. We talk once a week or as needed. It is an amazing partnership, which we both value and benefit from. She has told me many times how nice it is to work with a professional. And, I feel the same about her. Win-win!
Credibility is Compounding
Before I close out this post, I want to say one more thing about building credibility. Building credibility is compounding. Meaning that all of the little things that you do compound overtime to strengthen and build your credibility as a freelance instructional designer. You don’t have to do everything to build perfect credibility to start but you do need to start and add to your credibility arsenal as you go. Eventually, you will have all of the credibility that you need to win over new clients time and time again.
Got questions or comments?
My free Facebook page 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.
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