From education to employment

How to Break Into Freelance Instructional Design 

How to Break Into Freelance Instructional Design 

Have you ever thought of becoming a freelancer and switching from a nine-to-five work mode? Fortunately for teachers and instructors, it’s now possible to pursue a freelance career in the emerging field of instructional design. This job is in high demand as organisations of all types and sizes increasingly choose online learning for their training needs. 

The path to becoming an instructional designer is pretty much the same both for freelance and full-time roles. But the fun starts when you need to sell yourself as a professional. If you feel ready to embark on your freelance journey, this article will show you how to break into this field and aim for higher returns. Let’s get started. 

Freelancing vs. Full-Time Job: Differences You Need to Know 

Both freelance work and permanent employment have their own advantages. Instructional design is no exception. For example, an independent career in ID promises greater flexibility in terms of the projects you’ll be working on and the amount of time you’ll be devoting to them. Plus, as a freelancer, you can regulate your income and charge more for your work as a function of your increasing competence and personal brand.  

Still, independency brings its own challenges. First and foremost, you’ll need to know how to find clients, get projects, and how to keep the lights on in general. Managing your own business requires a lot of effort, and freelancers tend to blend several roles in one person — which goes beyond instructional design per se. 

Second, freelance work usually makes you contact different contractors and subject matter experts. That’s a much wider range of people in comparison with permanent employment in one company, but therein lies the potential to make a name for yourself and attract more interesting and ambitious projects in the future.

Now, without long forewords, let’s jump to the tried-and-true tips that will help you stand out from the crowd as a freelance instructional designer. 

6 Tips for Starting Strong as a Freelance Instructional Designer 

These tips are a brief squeeze of the super helpful curated guide “Freelance Instructional Design: All You Need to Succeed”. This guide is available for free and brims with essential knowledge that you absolutely need to make your way as a freelance instructional designer. You can download the guide via the link above. 

1. Try to niche down

To get a head start in freelance instructional design, you need to position yourself as an expert in a certain field. Actually, this can be anything that matches your interests or background: from corporate training topics to nutrition, wellness, or childcare. Choosing your niche and targeting a specific audience will help you find the way to your first contractors and build expertise in this particular field. Niching down is also effective for reducing research time for each new project and thus increasing your productivity. 

2. Comply with registration and tax laws 

Taxes got on this list not accidentally — as a freelancer, you have to register your business and pay income taxes since there is no employer who will do this for you. In the UK, you basically have two options: either register as self-employed (sole trader) or set up a limited company to become an employer. 

If you opt for establishing a limited company, there will be a flat rate of 19% which is better in the long run since your income will be increasing. You can also pay yourself a salary by signing up with the PAYE system. However, limited companies are subject to extra administrative pressure and delivering public reports on their financial activity. 

We highly recommend your getting acquainted with legislation in this regard on the website of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Most HMRC registrations can now be done online.

3. Juggle multiple projects at once 

Working on one main project may require months, and it is side projects that matter for your bottom line at the beginning. They are relatively quick to accomplish but really help you gain needed experience and hone your skills. Take on these smaller tasks as well, and once you master several top-selling topics, you can put content creation on stream and become more confident as a professional. 

4. Opt for an easy-to-use authoring software

To work on projects at cruising speed, you’ll need a robust and user-friendly authoring tool. With a PowerPoint-based toolkit like iSpring Suite, your entry into freelance instructional design will be smooth. You can start creating online courses without tech or design skills, in just PowerPoint, and deliver fascinating projects to your contractors.

With this tool, it’s easy for course creators of any skill level to deliver diverse interactive online courses, quizzes, role-plays, video tutorials, just like they would with more complex authoring solutions. This makes iSpring Suite one of the best online course software for educators who want to expand their careers and transition to instructional design. 

Carefully crafted ready-made fonts, colour schemes, illustrated characters, and backgrounds make your courses look neat and professional. Using these design assets, you can match the brand identity of your contractors perfectly. 

Complex authoring tools won’t let you get a safe and easy start in freelance instructional design. They require a fair amount of technical proficiency and prior experience and may put you at risk of missing project deadlines. By using a powerful yet entirely intuitive tool like iSpring Suite, you really can break into freelance instructional design and save your energy.

5. Get a portfolio 

An instructional design portfolio allows you to showcase your skills and subject expertise. According to Devlin Peck, emerging instructional designers who have portfolios tend to earn 15% more than those who don’t. That’s a great incentive to create one, isn’t it? 

To create a portfolio, collect and demonstrate your best works publicly. It’s wise to include the samples that suit your ideal niche and target audience, not just everything you’ve ever created. That way, you’ll have more chances to let your portfolio bring you where you want to be in your career. 

You can showcase your portfolio as a collection of 5-minute-long snippets on your personal website with a custom domain, on Tilda, for example. If you use iSpring Suite to create eLearning content, you can export your snippets in HTML5 format conveniently and publish them on your website in a few clicks. 

6. Demonstrate your expertise 

Instructional design is a highly competitive field, and you’ll have more chances to grow your client base if you build your online presence. Start by creating a profile on LinkedIn, join several communities, and don’t be afraid to show up here and there. You can publish endorsements from your contractors, network with industry peers, and find your way to decision-makers in the ID community who can elevate your career.  

Personal branding through LinkedIn can yield great results and actually convert your followers into clients. If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t be afraid to start small. You can check out this compilation of top eLearning experts to follow on LinkedIn for a dose of inspiration (make sure you’ve followed them as well!). 

If you’re starting as a freelance instructional designer or looking for ways to improve your performance, these tips will help you overcome the obstacles to greater profits and professional growth. We wish you the best of luck with your freelance work! 

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