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Top Tips for Planning Your Freelance Instructional Design Business


When planning your freelance instructional design business, remember this:


Not every client will be the right fit, and you won't be the right fit for every client. Whatever you do, you mustn't force it.

There's a difference between taking on a stretch task and accepting a job for something you are not qualified to do. There is plenty of work to be found, even if that particular opportunity is not the right one.




As a freelancer or consultant, you are your sales and marketing team. If you claim to be a great instructional designer, especially one adept at designing computer-based and online training, you'd better get a web presence. Get on LinkedIn, create a website, and have an online portfolioRegardless of how you get started in the field, you'll need to network and showcase your personal brand.

Showcasing your portfolio online is sometimes a challenge. Most of the time, your work is protected through NDAs.

Use your website as a piece to show that you can design visually and write copy. Create a little demo learning experience.

Ensure your website showcases your skills and gives a glimpse into your design and instructional philosophiesBlogs are also a great way to help you to do this.



1. You Are a One-(Wo)man Band

When you start an instructional design freelancing or consulting business, you are self-employed. Self-employed means that if you get in a sticky situation, there is no one to handle it but you. Self-employed also means that you are your own sales team, marketing team, bookkeeper and accounts receivable, legal department, and PR rep. It's a lot of work. Be ready for it.


2. Plan in Order to Avoid Scarcity

When you're first starting, you will more often experience highs and lows. But even after that, sometimes, you will have projects that pay every two weeks, like clockwork. Sometimes, you'll be waiting a while for payment.

Sometimes, you'll be working 70 hours a week. Sometimes, you'll be working 5.

Sometimes, you'll be in good health and capable of doing it all. Sometimes, you'll need to take a vacation or a sick day.



3. Don't Let Yourself Fall Behind

Freelancing is great because it allows you to work on all different types of projects, which can help keep your skills sharp.

But, again, you are self-employed. So no one is building your career or helping you develop your skills, just you.

You need to invest money to continue your education, formally or informally. You might have to buy expensive programs, attend conferences with high fees and travel expenses, take courses that you have to pay for, or pay dues for professional associations-- things a full-time staff role might have covered for you. The other challenge is that you don't get paid while training or attending conferences as a freelancer.

Remember: You must stick to your deadlines and manage priorities as a freelancer. If you don't, you will be unhappy, and so will your clients.



4. Calculating Your Rate

A quick way to calculate your hourly rate is to double your W2 or full-time hourly rate. If you made $35/hour as a full-time instructional designer, you should charge about $70/hour as a freelancer.

You have to pay additional taxes and buy your software when working independently. You also spend a lot time that isn't billable (proposals, marketing, professional development, etc.).

Other ways to calculate a freelance rate:


5. Promoting Your Instructional Design Business

Finding clients is the key to running a successful instructional design business, and a solid marketing strategy is best. 

Your business website should include contact information, services, products, prices, and an "about me" page.

There are loads of website builders that are cheap and easy to use, and there are some basic strategies you can use to improve your website's search engine rankings, including:

  • Google ads

  • SEO

  • Online directories

  • Google reviews


Another place you should be promoting your instructional design business is via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are thriving networks full of potential customers.

Here are some general rules for marketing your business on social media:

  • Follow other industry leaders and engage with their content. 

  • Post content often and regularly. 

  • Post engaging content, not just promotional messages for your business.

  • Engage with users by replying to comments, taking polls, conducting quizzes, and running competitions. 

  • Switch up between written posts, videos, and photos. 

  • Link back to your business website in your posts. 

Freelance instructional design and consulting businesses should also be using email marketing. With email marketing, you can send newsletters and promotional materials directly to your followers' inboxes, so you don't need to rely on them finding it on their own.


So if you're new to life as a freelance instructional design business owner, you have all of this to look forward to…

It's never easy to start something new, and it can be even more challenging to start an instructional design business.

Before you take the plunge, a million questions could be going through your head...

How do I start? Where do I find clients? How much should I charge for a project? What if I do the work and don't get paid?

Hopefully, the tips provided in this article have helped clear up some of these questions that have been going through your head.

When you get those first clients through your door and start managing projects daily... 

And when this time comes, you'll learn these lessons very quickly.


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