What I Learned Going Freelance (Revisited)

I got a request from another professional on LinkedIn to provide some advice to someone considering going freelance in the learning industry. I don’t know if I have any secret formula for making it on my own, but I can share my personal experience.

I was working at the Toronto International Airport as an eLearning Designer, Developer, and after five years, my contract concluded. Rather than looking for the next company to work for, I decided to start my own consulting business. I knew that my employment was ending about three or four months beforehand, so my wife and I had time to save up some extra money. You won’t always have the foresight that I did, but if you think you might want to go freelance, this is something you need to consider. The day you start your freelance business will be the scariest of all. Your bank balance will likely not increase, and it will probably get sizably smaller.

Here are some of the expenses I had upfront that I can recall. I’m sure I forget some of them, but these were the main ones.

  • new laptop
  • software for a new laptop
  • office furniture
  • equipment to make YouTube videos (more on that later)
  • website
  • domain name registration
  • government sales tax registration
  • master business license (differs depending on your location)
  • business cards (probably not so important today)

Of course, I still had all the various household expenses that a typical family has to continue to pay.

My first problem was that I didn’t know where I would find potential clients. I had worked for precisely two companies in learning and design, but the rest of the world didn’t know who I was. I figured I needed to become well known to be successful in this industry. I started making YouTube videos about Adobe Captivate. I intended to clearly show that I knew the software well enough to have expert tutorials on YouTube. I hoped that someone looking for an eLearning developer would find my videos and reach out to hire me to have me build their eLearning for them.

This strategy did work, and I started to get clients to reach out to me for eLearning design and development jobs. There were two problems upfront. The first was that while I was working for the first client, I wasn’t looking for client number two or three and so on. When it’s just you, momentum can be a problem. The second problem was that my YouTube videos were generating questions from all these viewers. They had every conceivable question about the software you could imagine. I tried my best to help each person, but it was getting in the way of getting more paying clients. What I didn’t realize right away was there was an opportunity to pivot my business model, if only slightly. I realized that some of these people asking questions might be willing to pay me to provide one-on-one instruction. I changed my website from https://paulwilsonlearning.com to https://CaptivateTeacher.com and started promoting that I offered both design and development services as well as the one-on-one instruction.

As I approach the fifth year of my freelance eLearning business, I feel comfortable enough to not worry too much about where my next client will come from. A couple of things of note is that while I was not the first person on YouTube to teach people about Adobe Captivate, I am the most consistent. I have posted at least one video per week for five years, and my audience has grown from just a few views to over 1.5 million views. Each year that I have been freelance, Adobe themselves have invited me to attend and speak at the Adobe eLearning Conferences in Washington DC as well as Las Vegas. For the last several live events, I have been an instructor for their Adobe Captivate Specialist certification class.

So I guess my main message to anyone starting their own business is that some of your opportunities might be disguised as something else. Please don’t ignore these other opportunities. I quickly learned that ignoring these other opportunities could be overlooking a potential new revenue stream. It might seem at first that these other opportunities would get in the way of your main goals, but I can attest that your primary goals will still be there. My main goals might not be my main goals anymore. I now have revenue streams from teaching classroom courses, one-on-one classes, design and development work, and the YouTube channel has become very profitable as well. I used to say that the ad revenue from YouTube was enough to buy a pizza every couple of weeks, but I can no longer say that. Today I now measure it in vacations to Mexico for my wife and me to enjoy.

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What is Instructional Design?

If you are in the eLearning sector you may hear instructional design term before. But maybe you have not heard about many more things. So, let me dive deep into this article to give you more information about the instructional design.

Firstly, we can say for instructional design is giving training in a true way. When we are saying an instructional design perspective to reach people via in-class training or online training classes, there must be a checklist to create these kinds of courses. You must prepare yourself to create these courses. In this time instructional design helps us to create a great course with directions.

Let’s see some explanations about instructional design. In the academic perspective, this is the instructional design definition;

“instructional design is the creation of instructional materials. Though this field goes beyond simply creating teaching materials, it carefully considers how students learn and what materials and methods will most effectively help individuals achieve their academic goals. The principles of instructional design consider how educational tools should be designed, created, and delivered to any learning group, from grade school students to adult employees across all industry sectors.” [1]

And other sources giving this information to explain the instructional design.

“The instructional design process consists of determining the needs of the learners, defining the end goals and objectives of instruction, designing and planning assessment tasks, and designing teaching and learning activities to ensure the quality of instruction.” [2]

“Instructional Design is the art and science of creating an instructional environment and materials that will bring the learner from the state of not being able to accomplish certain tasks to the state of being able to accomplish those tasks. Instructional Design is based on theoretical and practical research in the areas of cognition, educational psychology, and problem-solving.” [3]

Sara McNeil defines the Instructional design as a:

“Process: Instructional Design is the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of instruction. It is the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction and learner activities.

Discipline: Instructional Design is that branch of knowledge concerned with research and theory about instructional strategies and the process for developing and implementing those strategies.

Science: Instructional Design is the science of creating detailed specifications for the development, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance of situations that facilitate the learning of both large and small units of subject matter at all levels of complexity.

Reality: Instructional Design can start at any point in the design process. Often a glimmer of an idea is developed to give the core of an instruction situation. By the time the entire process is done the designer looks back and she or he checks to see that all parts of the “science” have been taken into account. Then the entire process is written up as if it occurred in a systematic fashion.”[4]

“The term instructional design refers to the systematic and reflective process of translating the principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials, activities, information resources, and evaluation.” [5]

As you see, there many definitions of instructional design and most of them similar to each other. Because of that, we have to focus on the main issue and work on it. We want to deliver all information to the audience in a true way. We have to create our materials for our audience and we have to know our audience very well. We have to know them. We can say that preparation is the most significant part of the instructional design.

Let me share some information with the multimedia format. You will find a few videos below and all of these videos are only on this blog post in order.

What is Instructional Design?

In this video, Dr. Gardner from Franklin University explains what instructional design is to MS Degree students of Instructional Design and Performance Technology. The is 4 minutes and 46 seconds and very useful to understand out topic.


[1] https://online.purdue.edu/ldt/learning-design-technology/resources/what-is-instructional-design ,15/03/2019
[2] https://educationaltechnology.net/definitions-instructional-design/ , 15/03/2019
[3] Siemens, G. (2002). Instructional design in elearning. Retrieved January, 21, 2013. http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/InstructionalDesign.htm
[4] Sara McNeil, http://www.coe.uh.edu/courses/cuin6373/whatisid.html
[5] Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (1999). Instructional design (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructional_design 15/03/2019

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Where to get high-quality, low-cost photos for your eLearning projects

While you or your organisation might subscribe to one or several online image libraries such as Getty Images, iStock Photo or even Adobe’s own photo library, in this post I’d like to highlight three low-cost (or even free) photo resources that let you search for and access photos instantly.

  1. Unsplash (https://unsplash.com)

    Unsplash is a well-known photo library that lets you use images for free (and without attribution) for personal, as well as commercial projects. The site lets photographers submit their photos who hope to get further (paid) business due to exposure on the site.

  2. Pexels (https://www.pexels.com)

    Another free photo library that lets you use photos freely without attribution. There is also a sister site called Pexels Videos which gives you access to free video resources.

  3. Death to Stockphoto (https://deathtothestockphoto.com)

    This site also offers photos, which can be downloaded by paying for a subscription. There is a separate subscription for companies/brands and for freelancers.

If there are any other good photo libraries you’d like to share here, post them in the comments!

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4 Steps to Selling Your eLearning

If you’re thinking of a career as a freelance instructional designer in elearning or instructional led training, or you’ve already made the leap to running your own ID business, you will need some sales skills. For me when I decided to go freelance, it was a return to the skills I already knew. After all, my career before training design was in retail sales. I just needed to blow the dust of these skills to become successful as a freelance instructional designer. to make things easy for you, I’ve broken the sales cycle down to a simple four-step process.

1. Building a Relationship

We’ve all got the email asking us to quote on a potential job. If you type up the quote and email it off, I promise you will never hear from 99% of these people ever again. That’s because you haven’t built a relationship with your potential client. I always set up a meeting whether it’s online or face to face to first of all discuss the potential client’s needs. Building that relationship is about many things, but an important aspect of it is trust. Think about it, do you trust an anonymous email, or do you trust someone who you’ve had a conversation with and listened to you speak.

2. Identify the Need

During that conversation, I do more listening than talking and allow the potential client to talk about their business needs. That’s right I said business needs. Companies don’t have training needs they have business needs. In fact, identifying the business goal is more important than any learning objective. For example, if Groot industries need to sell 100,000 planks in the upcoming year and they only sold 90,000 in the previous year, their business goal is to sell 10,000 more planks. Identifying the needs will mean lots of questions about the business. At first, you might think that the sales department has a performance gap in that they are not selling those 10,000 more planks. Once you do some more uncovering you might learn that the factory is not producing enough planks to cover that potential 100,000 planks. In either case, you need to ask lots of questions until you uncover the real need.

3. Demonstrate How You Can Satisfy That Need

One mistake I made in this area was in my speech patterns. I often would say things like “I think I can help you with this…” or “I’m pretty sure my training can solve your problems…”
A sales colleague of mine role played this out and he pointed it out to me. Since then I now say things like “My training solution will give you the results you’re looking for…” or “I can design an eLearning course that will address your needs and give you the results you’re after…”
Being confident in your skills and abilities will be contagious. People will also have that confidence. If you’re wishy-washy with your answers about your training solutions, they will likely hesitate.

4. Ask for the Contract

So often sale people forget to ask for the sale. Some people don’t ask for the sale because they are afraid of rejection. I think generally people want to buy things. Certainly, business managers want to get solutions to their business challenges. If you’ve done all the steps correctly up to this point, confidently ask for the sale. You can say things like “When would you like me to get started?” or “What email address can I use to send you the contract?”
You might be surprised that they will just take the next step without any objections.

If this article has helped you get started in your freelance business, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you have any other suggestions that could help others get started in freelance instructional design, feel free to put your story in the comments section below.

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What You Need to Know to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer

If you would prefer to watch this on the YouTube channel to get the live chat, here is the link: https://youtu.be/GWUcHr6PC9g

The post What You Need to Know to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer appeared first on eLearning.

#eLearning #LIVESTREAM – Going Freelance 08/14/2017, 16:00 EDT

In this live stream, I thought I would talk about what my business is all about, how I work with clients, who my clients are and generally what you need to know about starting your own eLearning business. I will also discuss what part YouTube plays in all of this as well. I admit I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to discuss what’s worked for me, What hasn’t and so on.

Follow the link right now to set up a reminder for yourself so you get notified when this LIVE STREAM goes live.


Use the same link to join the LIVE STREAM while it’s in progress.

If you enjoy my LIVE STREAMS, please share them with your colleagues and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you’re notified of all my upcoming events. If you subscribe to my YouTube channel you will receive my Adobe Captivate 2017 – Responsive Custom Quiz Questions online course from Udemy for only $10 ($50 value).