How to become a freelance instructional designer? (All Details!)

Unlocking the Path to a Rewarding and Creative Career in Instructional Design.

Learning and development have become a must for individuals and organizations in today’s ever-changing world. The demand for effective instructional design is going up, opening up new routes for talented individuals who wish to pursue a career in this dynamic field. If you have a passion for education, a lover of technology, a flair for creativity, a desire for flexibility in your work, and have an entrepreneurial spirit, then becoming a freelance instructional designer might be the perfect fit for you. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the ins and outs of starting your journey as a freelance instructional designer, covering all the essential details to set you on the path to success.

Related Post: Is instructional design a good career? (8 Things to Know!)

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

How to become a freelance instructional designer
Photo by Beyzanur:

Before delving into the world of ID freelancing, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamentals of what an instructional designer does and how to hone your skills. Instructional designers are professionals who create learning experiences, materials, and resources to enhance the learning process. They work closely with subject matter experts (SMEs) and project sponsors to transform complex concepts into easily understandable and engaging educational content.

The responsibilities of an instructional designer may include:

  • Analyzing learning needs and identifying goals.
  • Designing instructional materials, such as courses, modules, and video content.
  • Implementing effective instructional strategies and methodologies.
  • Conducting formative evaluations and making necessary improvements.
  • Staying updated with the latest educational technologies and trends.

2. Acquiring the Right Skills and Qualifications

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

To become a successful instructional designer, you need a blend of appropriate skills and sometimes (qualifications) that demonstrate your expertise in the field. Here are some essential skills and educational backgrounds that can give you a competitive edge:

Educational Qualifications

While a formal degree isn’t always mandatory, many employers and clients prefer candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in fields such as instructional design, education, psychology, adult education, or other related subjects. This happens less when being a consultant or freelancer, but sometimes it’s still looked at, but here’s the thing, honestly, it won’t make you a better ID if you have a degree, so when deciding to go to university for Instructional design, you should take time to evaluate if it’s worth it or not.

Instructional Design Skills

As an instructional designer, you should possess strong skills in curriculum/course development, instructional theories such as ADDIE and SAM, and educational technology. Familiarity with eLearning authoring tools and Learning Management Systems (LMS) is also beneficial.

Creativity and Design

A freelance instructional designer must be able to think creatively to craft engaging and visually appealing learning experiences. Proficiency in graphic/visual design and multimedia content creation can significantly boost your attractiveness to potential clients.’

Project Management

Freelancers often handle multiple projects simultaneously, and that’s an understatement; this makes project management skills essential. Being organized, meeting deadlines, and communicating effectively with clients are critical aspects of successful freelancing.

Also, being able to develop project plans, timelines, and assessments is crucial to guiding your SME’s through the sometimes complicated and stressful process of developing learning content.

3. Building a Stellar Portfolio

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

A well-crafted portfolio is your passport to attracting clients and showcasing your Instructional design skills. You might have a few paid projects to showcase your work when starting, but don’t let that discourage you. Create sample projects, case studies, or even offer your services to nonprofit organizations to gain real-world experience. 

Soo how to become a freelance instructional designer, well although we’ve put it at number 3, well, it’s pretty up there,, and something you should focus on.

Here’s how to structure your portfolio

Highlight Your Expertise

Showcase various instructional design projects, such as eLearning courses, training modules, interactive content, and assessment across many industries if you want to expand your reach.

Explain Your Process

Provide insights into your design process for each project, explaining the challenges faced and how you overcame them to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Showing critical thinking ability is paramount to bringing on new clients.

Include Client Testimonials

If you’ve previously worked with clients or employers, include their testimonials to add credibility and positive feedback. It will show you know how to make a client happy and can stick to a brief while providing consultative expertise.

Update Regularly

Keep your portfolio up to date, adding new projects and removing older ones that might not align with your current skill level.

4. Networking and Marketing Yourself

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

How to network and market yourself
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc:

Networking and self-promotion are pivotal in answering the question, “how to become a freelance Instructional Designer?”. Here are some effective strategies to help you stand out in the competitive marketplace:

Join Online Communities

Engage with instructional design communities on social media platforms and forums. LinkedIn, Twitter, and instructional design-related groups can be excellent places to connect with potential clients and peers. You can also look at the eLearning designer’s academy with Tim Slade, another superb option, with a complete learning program available, tips, and community challenges.

Collaborate with Others

Collaborating with other freelancers or content creators can expand your reach and lead to new opportunities. This could be between you and the freelancers or online with YouTube colabs to gain notoriety.

Guest Blogging and Content Sharing

Write guest posts for educational blogs or platforms. Sharing your knowledge and insights will position you as an industry expert and attract potential clients. P.S., Taughtup is accepting guest posts if you’re interested, haha. 

Attend Conferences and Workshops

Participate in instructional design conferences and workshops to stay updated with the latest trends and connect with like-minded professionals. Every instructional designer needs to attend a conference once in their career, DevLearn in Las Vegas, where you can learn all about the new technologies in the L&D industry. Give it a try if you have the opportunity to go.

5. Pricing Your Services and expanding your professional network

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

Determining your pricing as a freelance instructional designer requires careful consideration. Factors such as your experience level, the project’s complexity, and the estimated timeframe needed to complete the task all play a role in setting your rates. Conduct research on industry standards and consider starting with competitive rates to gain initial traction in the industry. You can adjust your pricing accordingly as you gain experience and build a solid reputation.

6. Securing Clients and Contracts

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

When we think about, how to become a freelance instructional designer, it may take time to secure your first clients when starting out initially, but persistence and patience are key. Here are some avenues to explore for finding clients:

Freelance Platforms

Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr offer a platform to connect with clients seeking instructional design services.


Leverage your network and ask for referrals from friends, family, and previous clients.

Cold Emails

Research organizations or companies that may benefit from your services and contact them with personalized pitches. This needs a bit of planning and bravery but can result in the best opportunities.

7. Delivering Exceptional Services

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

As a freelance instructional designer, delivering exceptional services is crucial for building a positive reputation in the field and attracting repeat clients. Here are some tips to ensure you provide top-notch services:

Client Collaboration

Collaborate closely with your clients throughout the project. Understand their requirements, goals, and target audience to create tailored learning experiences that align with their vision. You should also be bold when giving tough feedback when the project calls for it; your clients will appreciate it overall. 

Effective Communication

Maintain clear and prompt communication with clients. Respond to emails, messages, and inquiries promptly. Keeping clients informed about the project’s progress builds trust and confidence.

Iterative Feedback

  1. Encourage feedback from clients at various stages of the project.
  2. Use their input to make necessary adjustments and improvements.
  3. Embrace constructive criticism as an opportunity to enhance your work.

Meeting Deadlines

Meeting deadlines is crucial in the freelance world. Be realistic about your schedule and ensure you can complete the project within the agreed-upon timeframe.


Maintain a professional demeanor throughout your interactions with clients. Demonstrate reliability, accountability, and a commitment to delivering high-quality work, but most importantly, make sure you are adding value.

8. Continuous Learning and Skill Development

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

Continuous learning and skill development
Photo by Polina Zimmerman:

Instructional design is a field that constantly evolves with new technologies and learning methodologies. As a freelance instructional designer, it’s essential to keep learning and upgrading your skills. Here are some ways to stay up-to-date:

Online Courses

Enroll in online courses or webinars to learn about the latest instructional design tools, methodologies, and trends. a

Udemy has some great choices, and Tim Slade’s eLearning Designer’s Academy is also great. 

Read Industry Blogs

Follow educational and instructional design blogs to gain insights from industry experts and thought leaders. Our thoughts are that our picks would be Taughtup (bias much?), eLearning industry, Josh Bersin, and training industry. 

Attend Workshops and Conferences

Participate in workshops and conferences focused on instructional design to network with professionals and gain valuable knowledge. This is a great way to meet like-minded people and to gain new perspectives from others in the field of instructional design.

Experiment and Innovate

Be bold, try new ideas, and experiment with different approaches to instructional design. Innovation can set you apart in the competitive freelance market.

9. Managing Finances and Taxes

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

As a freelancer, managing your finances and taxes becomes your responsibility. Keep track of your income and expenses and consider consulting with an accountant to understand tax implications and deductions for self-employed individuals. Consider setting aside a portion of your earnings for savings and emergencies.

10. Balancing Work-Life and Self-Care

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

Balancing work life and self care
Photo by Pixabay:

Freelancing offers flexibility but requires discipline to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Related: A Very Tired Instructional Designer on the Subject of Balancing Course Design in Remote/Hyflex Classes

Take breaks, practice self-care, and avoid burnout. A balanced approach will help you stay productive and motivated in the long run.

11.Scaling Your Freelance Business

How to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer? (All Details!)

As your reputation grows and you gain more clients, you may want to explore scaling your freelance business. Here are some strategies to consider:

Team Up

Consider forming a team of instructional designers or collaborating with other freelancers to handle larger projects.

Diversify Services

Expand your service offerings to cater to a broader range of clients. This could include designing different types of learning experiences or offering consulting services.

Create Passive Income

Develop and sell digital products like pre-designed courses or templates to generate passive income alongside your client projects.

Final Thoughts

So, let’s go back to our  original question, “How to become a freelance instructional designer”.

Becoming a freelance instructional designer is an exciting journey filled with creative opportunities and challenges. Remember, success in this field comes with dedication, continuous learning, and a commitment to delivering outstanding learning experiences for clients and learners. As you venture into the world of freelancing, stay curious, stay inspired, and let your passion for education and design guide you toward building a thriving freelance career. Embrace the freedom and flexibility that comes with being your own boss and make a positive impact through your instructional designs.

Happy freelancing!

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