eLearning Freelancer Invoicing Q&A

When you are a freelancer or independent consultant, you have to invoice your clients. It can be tricky to figure out the specifics of how to bill. These questions about elearning freelancer invoicing came from Deborah Rivera in response to my post about time estimates for elearning development.

eLearning Freelancer Invoicing Q&A

Different rates for different tasks

Do you charge the same hourly rate for each task? Some require more effort than others it would seem.

I charge the same rate for everything (if I’m charging hourly). Yes, some tasks require more effort than others, but it’s still my time. Even if I’m doing tedious or repetitive work like setting up a voice over script with file names, my time is still valuable. If I’m working on those easier tasks, I can’t also spend time working on the harder tasks.

Communicating voice over expectations

You mentioned you don’t do the audio. Do you tell the client up front they are responsible for finding their own voice artist or do you find it for them and let them know it’ll be a separate charge for that voiceover artist?

Most of the time these days I do fixed price projects and include subcontracted voice over in that cost (both what I will pay a VO artist plus a fee for my time to project manage). I usually work with VO artists who charge $0.20-$0.25/word, so I can get a rough estimate based on time using 150-180 wpm and the expected final time.

Regardless of whether I charge by project or hourly, I always help the client select the voice over artist. I usually give them a few choices and let them pick who they like best. If we’re getting auditions, I manage that part of the process too.

When I charge hourly, I either pay the VO artist myself and then include that on an invoice for reimbursement, or the client pays the VO artist directly. I leave it up to the client to decide.

LMS work

LMS Development. Should one just send an hourly invoice for this at the end of each development run? That’s been my approach recently as I have the hardest time scoping this bit of work out accurately.

I 100% agree that scoping LMS work is the hardest part. I have pretty good time estimates from past data on every other part of the process, but LMS work is so different from one client to the next.

Sometimes for LMS work I just send hourly invoices as we go, but I have used other structures. One option is selling blocks of hours (e.g., buy 50 hours; I’ll tell you when we use it up so you can buy more if needed). Another option is a retainer (e.g., I’ll spend up to 7 hours a week doing LMS administration for $XXXX per quarter). Retainers are probably the least common in our field, but great if you can show a client the value of doing so.

Your questions?

Do you have questions about elearning freelancer invoicing or costs for elearning development? Leave a comment below this post (or reply if you’re reading this in email). I’d love to do some more of these Q&A posts to directly address problems you face in your work.

3 thoughts on “eLearning Freelancer Invoicing Q&A”

  1. I have a not for profit rate to ‘share the love’ for new businesses and social good enterprises. Some of these clients have been repeat business.

  2. Catherine B Tencza


    I 100% agree that you shouldn’t have different rates. I can’t even imagine what the bookkeeping for that would look like! I sometimes offer a slightly lower overall rate to non-profits, but that is a different thing.

    I often use voiceover as a profit opportunity; that is, I charge the client more than the talent charges me. If I am identifying the talent, managing the communications, etc., then that seems fair to me. Narration costs are usually a pretty small part of the project, which makes this approach fairly easy.

    One more note: I have only used a retainer once, but it was mutually beneficial. The client was one who wanted someone who would jump at a moment’s notice, and it was making me crazy because it wasn’t enough hours to be worth the stress of doing that. He agreed to pay me a minimum of ten hours every week, whether he used it or not (with extra hours being billed in addition), and I agreed to prioritize his requests. It worked out great, and we were both happier with that arrangement. I don’t think it would work in a lot of cases, but for someone who needs regular consultation or technical assistance, it is worth considering.

    Thank you for an excellent post!

    1. Catherine, great point about different rates for non-profits. I have done that as well. It’s still a single rate for the whole project though. With my time tracking template, I know I could make it the invoicing work with separate rates, but it would be a lot of hassle.

      Adding a little profit to the voice over costs is a good business strategy. There is time involved. Plus, if you’re like me, you may have already spent time outside of any specific project networking with voice over folks and collecting a list of candidates.

      Your example with the retainer sounds like a perfect solution for that situation. It tends to fit for times when you’re doing ongoing maintenance or lots of ongoing revisions. Those situations aren’t as common in our field; it tends to be more specific projects with start and end dates. But, I had one client where I was doing a lot of ongoing LMS admin work, and the retainer made sense.

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