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Top 7 In-Demand Skills of a Successful Instructional Designer


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Embarking on a career in instructional design is a journey filled with opportunities, and success hinges on a diverse set of skills. Whether you're new to the field or seeking advancement, understanding the key competencies required can be a game-changer. In today's blog post, we'll delve into the seven crucial skills every instructional designer should possess.

  1. Teaching or Training Experience: While not mandatory, having a background in teaching or training proves advantageous for instructional designers. Drawing from educational expertise aids in effectively communicating with clients and trainers, facilitating the implementation of instructional designs. A detailed exploration of common skills shared by teachers and instructional designers can be found in our blog article.
  2. Predicting Learner Challenges: An exceptional instructional designer anticipates areas where learners might encounter difficulties. This skill requires the ability to foresee questions and concerns based on predicted reactions, even in remote or online learning settings. Understanding learner experience levels helps tailor instructional designs to strike the right balance of information absorption.
  3. Design and Creativity: The ability to transform a wealth of information into engaging, professional-looking digital materials sets outstanding instructional designers apart. Skills in innovation, web design, graphic design, and multimedia design are invaluable in crafting visually appealing and effective instructional content.
  4. Proactive Communication and Project Management: Effectively communicating timelines, costs, and potential scope creep is a crucial skill for instructional designers. Timely identification of challenges allows for proactive solutions, ensuring project timelines and budgets are maintained. This requires transparent communication with clients, highlighting the impact of any proposed changes.
  5. Collaboration and Interpersonal Skills: Instructional designers often collaborate with various individuals, from subject matter experts to clients. The ability to work harmoniously with diverse personalities, titles, and communication styles is essential. Successful instructional designers navigate these interactions with finesse, ensuring effective collaboration throughout the project.
  6. Project Management Proficiency: Project management skills, including negotiation and leadership, are particularly beneficial for freelance instructional designers managing both design processes and business aspects. These skills contribute to streamlined operations, ensuring client satisfaction and successful project delivery.
  7. Aligning with Client Expectations: Adept instructional designers possess the ability to visualize and articulate client expectations, translating them into concrete project details. Thorough planning, including creating outlines, storyboards, and flow charts, sets the stage for successfully meeting and exceeding client expectations.

If you aspire to become a successful instructional designer, possessing these seven skills is non-negotiable. The dynamic nature of the field requires a combination of teaching experience, foresight, creativity, communication, collaboration, project management, and client alignment. If you're ready to take the next step in your instructional design career, consider exploring resources like our Freelance Instructional Designer Library and eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners Library. Additionally, our ID Plan Academy is designed to guide you in building and growing a thriving freelance instructional design business, providing a step-by-step roadmap for success. Join our waitlist to be among the first to access this comprehensive program and elevate your instructional design career to new heights.



One of the perks of being an instructional designer is that the work can transcend across all industries, creating a plethora of opportunities for the career of an instructional design to choose from. While at the same time, rendering a wide array of skills necessary to land the job and be successful.

When you're breaking into the instructional design industry or trying to advance, it's hard to know the skills needed to succeed. But you should keep in mind that when choosing to become a new or improved instructional designer, there are a few skills that every person should know.

So in today's podcast episode, we're going to be talking about seven skills that each candidate instructional designer should possess.

Number one is teaching or training or experience. All right, I probably shouldn't have started with this one, but it's pretty important if you are a former teacher. So instructional designers aren't required to have experience in training or in education, but it can be quite beneficial for you if you do.

This also comes helpful when training your clients or trainers to implement your instructional design with their learners. So if you'd like a more detailed list of common skills that teachers and instructional designers have.

Check out my blog article. Why instructional design is a good fit for teachers skills that they have in common. A link to the article will be posted in the show notes of this episode.

Number two, your ability to predict areas where learners might get stuck. A good instructional designer should be able to stand in front of or pre-empt questions and apprehensions from learners based on predicted reactions.

This is easier to do if the learners are in a face-to-face course or interact with you on some level. However, as an instructional designer, you have to almost forecast the places where learners or users will get stuck.

The more you know about the learners, the better that you can predict the pain points of your user base. Learners experience levels can usually indicate how much information is too much and how much is not enough for learners to grasp and apply both simple and complex concepts.

The more you know about the learners, the more impact you can have on their overall training experience, time and experience along with continuing to grow your skills will provide you with the tools for success in preparing and anticipating well crafted questions.

Learners may ask, this takes nothing short of hard work and dedication as you work towards improving your effectiveness, not just to your learners but to the entire industry.

Number three, your skill ability in designing and creativity, creative skills like innovation, web design, graphic design or multimedia design will set you apart as an instructional designer.

When building attractive professional looking digital materials that complement the instruction, an instructional designer's job is to create something out of nothing, taking a brain dump of materials and information and crafting it into something tangible. So for this reason, design and creative skills are especially useful in this field.

Number four, your ability to proactively communicate timelines and costs or avoid scope and creep. There might be times when you believe you've conducted a detailed scope of work with a client.

But when you really dig into the job, there might be more that meets the eye. Good instructional designers present all the issues for the client to evaluate whenever they pop up.

It's your job and responsibility to help them see the amount of time needed to complete the work before it becomes scope creep and negatively impacts deadlines. The sooner these challenges or circumstances are brought to light, the more likely you will keep everyone on the team happy and things running smoothly.

So here's an example, you're nearing the end of a project and your client surprises you with a wish to add a new feature that you know, will take longer than the current deadline to complete.

After taking the time to listen to the request and ideas and calculating the projected costs. It's crucial that you show you've listened to their ideas and clearly understand the requests but you also need to let the client know that if their ideas are added to the current project, it will push the deadline out by however many weeks.

Whenever you relay the time frame, you should also tell them why it would extend the current deadline and tell them it's up to them to decide whether they can deal with the extension or whether to do without the new feature and stick with the plan deadline, educating your client and sticking to the facts shows that you can proactively communicate timelines and costs and avoid scope creep.

Number five, you can work well with others. Instructional designers have the opportunity to work with many titles and individuals. As an instructional designer, you need the ability to work with and collaborate with all types of individuals regardless of personality, title or communication style.

For example, there will be times when you will work with individuals such as an SME who will help you with unknown details in a project.

Number six, good project management skills, it can be super beneficial if you have common project management skills such as negotiation and leadership, especially for freelance instructional designers who are managing their design process as well as everything that entails managing things on the business side of things.

And number seven, your ability to match client expectations when determining project details for a client, a set of expectations will be held in their mind and you will often have a picture in your mind as to what that looks like, a good instructional designer can picture the client's solution in their head while bringing about the best possible resolution or outcome.

This may mean creating an outline, a storyboard to plan the final course and a series of flow charts to illustrate the proposed solution. The more planning that is done upfront, the smoother the project will go with satisfying the client's expectations.

So how do you take the next steps? If you have all the skills discussed today, or at least most of them and still have that excitement to become an instructional designer, then let's get started.

You can take a shot at planning and starting your instructional design career on your own or you can learn from the expertise and growing library of content available in our freelance instructional designer library and our eLearning and instructional design for beginners library.

It exists so that aspiring instructional designers like you don't have to make all the mistakes that I did in the beginning. So I've compiled every resource that I can possibly think of and created a thriving community of like-minded instructional designers and have helped thousands of new and aspiring instructional designers go from dream to reality.

I hope to see you over there in the academy very soon, but feel free to listen to more podcast episodes or browse my blog. If you're still looking for more information on starting an instructional design career or freelance business.

So I'm super excited to tell you all about a program that I've been working on for instructional designers who want to start build and grow their own freelance instructional design business.

It's called the ID Plan Academy. The academy is going to help you with building an instructional design business that you love and generates predictable recurring income and finally gives you the freedom and lifestyle that you want.

Instructional designers need the ability to choose their own clients and projects. That's what having your own business and instructional design is all about. If you want flexibility and the ability to grow your own skills.

This is also a perfect program for teachers who are trying to leave the traditional classroom and want to finally become their own boss. Finally get to enjoy the reasons why many people go into teaching the creative aspect, enjoy a career where you can spend time creating things and less classroom management and grading.

You'll learn how to build a good professional network of diverse professions. Do you wanna facilitate a good work-life balance while meeting your financial targets become more profitable with more predictable income streams, attract and help mission-driven businesses achieve their goals.

Finally get the grips with the tools you need to learn while building stunning and memorable portfolio projects that align with your niche and what you actually want to do, understand what clients are actually looking for and how to adapt your portfolio and CV your resume accordingly to attract the clients that you want and the projects that you actually enjoy working on.

I'm going to help you eliminate the guest work by giving you a step by step road map to follow. You're going to be tapping into the collective knowledge and experience of a community of freelance instructional designers and experts who are there to support each other.

My plan is to create the most practical and comprehensive program to help you plan start and grow a successful freelance instructional design business. This is not going to be about learning a bunch of tired theory. When you've completed the ID plan Academy road map, you will have fully completed your instructional design portfolio and website that has everything in place to achieve real long term success.

You'll also learn all the marketing strategies, everything about how to set up your business so that you find the clients and projects that you actually want. I'm going to provide you with all the resources I can to help you implement what you learn and make growing your business, finding clients, managing your projects and all of your instructional design business tasks as easy as possible.

So if you're ready to take your freelance instructional design career in business to the next level, then be sure to join the waitlist for the academy to be the first to find out when it's open and also get the best possible price.


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