Lessons Learned Going Freelance

April 23, 2017
I have been designing and developing with Adobe Captivate for over 12 years. Getting into the training field by accident, I've worked as a senior instructional designer for companies such as Bell Canada and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. When I decided to start my own eLearning development company, I began creating video tutorials on YouTube to share my knowledge of Adobe Captivate. As of fall 2017, my videos had been seen all over the world by hundreds of thousands of viewers and my channel has over 6,000 regular subscribers. I now work with companies all over the globe, consulting, designing and teaching eLearning for a variety of learning opportunities.
Legend 293 posts
Followers: 42 people
16

Lessons Learned Going Freelance

I have been designing and developing with Adobe Captivate for over 12 years. Getting into the training field by accident, I've worked as a senior instructional designer for companies such as Bell Canada and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. When I decided to start my own eLearning development company, I began creating video tutorials on YouTube to share my knowledge of Adobe Captivate. As of fall 2017, my videos had been seen all over the world by hundreds of thousands of viewers and my channel has over 6,000 regular subscribers. I now work with companies all over the globe, consulting, designing and teaching eLearning for a variety of learning opportunities.
Legend 293 posts
Followers: 42 people
April 23, 2017

Recently I’ve had several individuals reach out to me asking for advice about going freelance or getting started in eLearning instructional design. I thought I would share my thoughts about this so that others might benefit from my answer.

young multi ethnic business people group walking standing and top viewI think it’s important that you have the competencies that organizations are looking for when it comes to learning design. Take a look at as many eLearning job postings as you can and see what credentials these job descriptions have in common. I live in Canada and fell into eLearning and instructional design by accident. When I left my first job in the industry after about nine years, I noticed that the job listings were looking for CTDP certification. CTDP is the Certified Training and Development Professional designation and is administered by the Institute for Performance and Learning. I took the better part of a year to complete the requirements and I now have this certification and even display it on my website. In other countries, there may be other credentials. In the United States, the certification is called Certified Professional in Learning and Performance or CPLP for short, and this can be gained from the Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD).

young multi ethnic business people group walking standing and top viewThe second thing you need is something to distinguish yourself. Because eLearning designer/developers can literally work from anywhere in the world, you might be competing with tens of thousands of professionals, maybe even hundreds of thousands. When I decided to begin my freelance career I had worked for exactly two organizations over a period of fourteen years. This meant that only a handful of people knew me and my reputation for developing great eLearning. To address this I starting a YouTube channel dedicated to Adobe Captivate tutorials. This has brought me some notoriety within the eLearning industry but more importantly, it has brought me to the attention of organizations looking to hire someone like me. It also brought me to the attention of the eLearning team at Adobe, who have in turn invited me to speak at several of their live events in the United States. This has given me even more exposure.

You should participate in the community of eLearning designers and developers. I try to stay active on the Adobe eLearning Community by not only sharing my latest videos but also answering user questions whenever I have the time. You never know when someone in the position to hire a freelance designer might see and like your post enough to hire you for a job. This has happened to me on at least one occasion.

young multi ethnic business people group walking standing and top viewFinally, there is salesmanship (sorry I’m not aware of a word that is more gender neutral). Learning to speak to your potential clients is extremely important. In a previous career, I was a salesperson. When I decided to go freelance I had to brush the dust off those old skills. Early on I lost potential business because I failed to say the right thing to potential clients during those formative stages of a business relationship. Instead of saying “I’m pretty sure I can do that for you” try “Yes I can do that for you” instead.

Avoid phrases like “I think so” or “I’m pretty confident I can get that done.”

Instead, focus on providing confident answers that suggest you will have no difficulty meeting or exceeding your client’s expectations.

Also, don’t sell yourself short. If you think that offering your services at a discounted rate will help you until you build your reputation you will likely be disappointed. Again, early when work was scarce I did work for less money. Not only was I disappointed with the revenue but I had to say no to a higher paying job because of the previous commitment.

Decide how much work can you do in a year, how much you want to earn and do the math to figure out what you should charge and stick to that rate. I have made the mistake of accepting less money for more work and in the end, I was very disappointed in how it made me feel about the work, the client, and the money earned.

16 Comments
2017-04-23 16:45:06
2017-04-23 16:45:06

Great article Paul. It's cool of you to share those lessons. I'm sure that there are many who will agree with you - and it may save others some pain as they begin to consider following a similar path. --Allen

Like
(1)
>
Allen Partridge
's comment
2017-04-24 01:19:43
2017-04-24 01:19:43
>
Allen Partridge
's comment

Thanks Allen.

Like
2017-04-24 10:59:58
2017-04-24 10:59:58

Thanks for the advice, Paul. I'm brand new to e-learning and I need all the help I can get when it comes to starting a new career in this exciting field!

Like
(7)
>
Alisa Kennedy
's comment
2017-04-24 11:37:32
2017-04-24 11:37:32
>
Alisa Kennedy
's comment

You're welcome. Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel If you'd like to learn more about eLearning and Adobe Captivate. https://goo.gl/iuA6Lm

Like
>
Paul Wilson
's comment
2017-04-24 12:25:58
2017-04-24 12:25:58
>
Paul Wilson
's comment

Already did :)

Like
>
Alisa Kennedy
's comment
2017-04-24 22:10:04
2017-04-24 22:10:04
>
Alisa Kennedy
's comment

:)

Like
>
Paul Wilson
's comment
2017-04-25 00:14:28
2017-04-25 00:14:28
>
Paul Wilson
's comment

and Que the Salesmanship : ) Just kidding, love your videos! Cheers Steve

Like
>
Stephen O Hearn
's comment
2017-04-26 21:28:13
2017-04-26 21:28:13
>
Stephen O Hearn
's comment

Thanks, Stephen.

Like
>
Alisa Kennedy
's comment
2017-04-28 07:48:21
2017-04-28 07:48:21
>
Alisa Kennedy
's comment

Happy to provide advice as well If you need any help as well Alisa, I was in your shoes two years ago. Got a job in elearning without any experience and had to learn on the job. Paul's channel has helped me from the beginning of my job as a Captivate developer. I will be starting my own soon as well :).

Like
>
luke westwood
's comment
2017-05-08 12:45:55
2017-05-08 12:45:55
>
luke westwood
's comment

Ok, thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one new to elearning!

Like
2017-04-25 15:08:40
2017-04-25 15:08:40

Great advice Paul. I agree with all your points. And thanks again for all those free YouTube videos and your posts here.

Like
(1)
>
Ugur Akinci
's comment
2017-04-25 15:32:18
2017-04-25 15:32:18
>
Ugur Akinci
's comment

Thanks Ugur.

Like
2017-05-08 11:29:21
2017-05-08 11:29:21

Very interesting post, thank you for sharing Paul! Do you feel specializing in one specific sector might be a good way to "stand out from the crowd"?

Like
(1)
>
Chloé Wibaux
's comment
2017-05-08 12:50:07
2017-05-08 12:50:07
>
Chloé Wibaux
's comment

For me what has always been to my advantage is my willingness to adapt to the changes an organization needs. Make sure the decision makers know you have the skills to do this.

Like
2017-10-05 03:41:16
2017-10-05 03:41:16

Great article, Paul. It's nice to see the 'curtain unveiled' to see what the behind the scenes of a freelancer looks like.

Like
2018-03-23 14:47:02
2018-03-23 14:47:02

Paul, appreciate your insight. A couple items I really gravitated toward was the certification factor and marketing factors. Thanks for sharing.

Like
Add your comment