Freelance Instructional Design: More Tips from the Trenches

I’ve gotten some great tips from others working as independent consultants or freelance instructional designers in comments on my Getting Started as a Freelance Instructional Designer and Tips for Starting to Freelance posts. I love having so many brilliant and generous people in my network who freely share the wealth of their knowledge.


David Harris shared his experience with networking:

My approach is to network with local organizations and groups that benefit me socially with like minded people, and gives me a sense of organizations needs and the niche I can fit into to help them meet their learning objectives.

I’m really only networking online right now, but reviewing the comments from last summer reminds me that I should be working on some face-to-face connections too.

Rebecca notes that networking is an ongoing process:

I think the biggest thing to success in consulting is to cultivate your networks and keep them going. I make a point of regularly (at least one a year if not twice a year) to try and book a lunch with key contacts – these are people that are working full time for companies that I might want to contract with, or people that know people who might be looking for a contractor. I also use social network sites like LinkedIn to let my network know that I’m looking.


Several people here in comments and in LinkedIn groups mentioned the importance of a portfolio, including  Judith Christian-Carter:

[U]se your portfolio because most discerning clients are looking for people with a good track record and ‘put yourself around a bit’.

Diverse Clients

Michele Martin adds more information on diversity of clients:

One other thing I’d say about having a diversity of clients is to try to draw from different industries, areas of the country, etc. One thing I’ve discovered is that the more diversity in my client base, the better. You’d be surprised how many of the same financial and other issues impact companies in the same industry at the same time. It’s something we don’t always think about.


Gwynne Monahan reminded me to not forget about retirement:

In addition to an accountant, meet with a financial planner as well. One thing #freelancers tend to forget is that thing called retirement. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, finding new clients/business and focusing on just getting up and running. Planning for the future, for retirement, should also be in the mix. Like liability insurance, it’s easily missed until it’s too late.

Contracts & Cash Flow

Joanne M. Lozar Glenn shares a great tip about smoothing out the bumps in cash flow:

[S]et up your agreements/contracts with clients to include a deposit that must be received before you start on the project. Helps with the income gaps, especially with new clients.


Simon Weller shared this resource:

Hello, I made the move about four months ago…and while it’s been difficult on many levels, it’s been a fantastic experience on the whole. A great book for me was Flying Solo ( It focuses on the idea of being a freelancer (in any profession or industry) and offers strategies for soloists to make it work, to connect with others and awareness of the pitfalls. It was an easy, but eye-opening read. Good luck!

Taruna Goel shared her story of moving to freelance: From An Employee to a Consultant – A Story of Embracing Change. She is back to being a full-time employee now (along with moving from one continent to another–nothing like big changes!), but I appreciated her reflections on the changes.

I’m in a number of groups on LinkedIn, but lately I’m paying more attention to the Freelance in Instructional Design and E-Learning Industry group, a sub-group of the Instructional Design & E-Learning Professionals’ Group. (I’m not positive the link to the group will work. If it doesn’t, either search for the group name or look for the group at the bottom of my LinkedIn profile.) This isn’t the most active group, but it’s a good place for asking questions specific to freelance instructional design work.


Thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences. Seeing others who have made this transition successfully makes me more confident that I can do it too. I know I’m not alone, and I have this whole network of people out there who I can turn to when I need advice.

5 thoughts on “Freelance Instructional Design: More Tips from the Trenches”

  1. Thanks for the great article and helpful links. I am starting out on the instructional design freelancing journey and seeing articles like this one gives me hope!

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