Security for Freelancers and Consultants

Many people are reluctant to become freelancers or consultants because the risk seems too high. You have flexibility to set your work schedule and take the kinds of projects you want, but you trade that for the security of a full-time job.

I’m not convinced that working independently is necessarily much riskier than a full-time job though. In fact, sometimes it can be safer.

Security for Freelancers and Consultants

The Risks of Full-Time Employment

Having multiple clients and income streams can actually be more secure than having a single full-time income.

Think of it this way: you would never invest everything in your IRA in the stocks of a single company. That would be ridiculously risky to trust your entire future retirement income to the success of a single enterprise.

But full time employees trust their entire present income to a single company. If they lose their job, they lose 100% of their income. They usually have to ramp up from nothing to find a new one.

Reducing Risks, Increasing Security

Multiple Clients Reduce Risk

I usually have at least two active clients at all times, plus sometimes smaller side projects and more in my pipeline. If one of my two current big clients suddenly cancels their project, it will hurt my income–but not nearly as much as losing a full-time job hurts. I’ll still have income coming in from my other active client.

Nurturing Leads and Your Network Increase Security

I also have the security of having additional leads so I can ramp up quickly on other work. I have a network of colleagues. I refer work to others when I’m busy, and they return the favor. I know I can reach out to my network if I need more work.

Being Able to Find the Next Project

Yes, my income is variable, and I have had both good and bad years overall. However, I don’t see freelancing as being as being that much less secure overall than having a full-time job. The security comes from being able to find the next project, not from having a guarantee that the current project is a sure thing.

After all, if you have a full-time job and it ends suddenly, your security is really a measure of how fast you can find a new job. Freelancers and consultants are generally better prepared for finding that next thing.

I think many of us consultants and freelancers probably have more security than we realize, and many people in full-time jobs don’t realize how little security they truly have.

More Freelancing Tips

Kai Davis shared some ideas on the balance of flexibility and security in his daily email newsletter for freelancers. This is based on my response to his email. If you’re interested in learning more about other ways to improve your security (and improve your processes as a freelancer in general), I recommend his newsletter.

ID and eLearning Links (9/23/18)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Instructional Design and E-Learning Links

8 Kinds of Training Where Scenario-Based Learning Works

In her book Scenario-Based eLearning: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Online Workforce Learning, Ruth Clark identifies 8 learning domains where scenario-based learning can be used effectively. These common topics for workplace training all involve more strategic decision-making rather than simply following a checklist of tasks.

  1. Interpersonal skills
  2. Compliance policies and procedures
  3. Diagnosis and repair
  4. Research, analysis, and rationale
  5. Trade-offs
  6. Operational decisions and actions
  7. Design
  8. Team coordination

Let’s look at each one of these kinds of training with some examples of what might be included.

8 Kinds of Training that Work with Scenario-Based Learning

Interpersonal skills

Simulated conversations as branching scenarios are great ways to practice interpersonal and communication skills. This is a common place to use branching, and one of the types of scenarios I most commonly build for clients.

For example, this branching scenario helps doctors practice talking to a patient about alcohol use to motivate the patient to change his behavior.

Compliance policies and procedures

We’ve all taken boring compliance training. “Oh look, another course on corporate ethics or blood borne pathogens, how exciting.”

But think about the drama in ethics or sexual harassment–those topics are ripe with stories and examples of what happens when things go wrong.

Blood borne pathogens always seems to be taught as a straightforward “here’s what they are, here’s why they’re bad, here’s what to do” approach. Why not grab people’s attention right from the start by telling a story about someone who didn’t pay attention and might have gotten infected? Use the story to show them why it matters.

The Lab by the Office of Research Integrity is a great example of ethics training with a compelling story and consequences for poor decisions. (Note that this is a few years old and requires Flash.)

Diagnosis and repair

Diagnosing a problem requires deeper analysis than can be practiced or measured via a single multiple choice question. You might try several different questions or tests to determine the root cause. Those steps might not need to always happen in the same order, which makes a non-linear practice exercise ideal. However, sometimes a troubleshooting skill would be better practiced with a more complex simulation than a branching scenario.

Examples of diagnosis and repair skills:

  • Doctors asking questions to diagnose a patient
  • Technicians determining how to fix an intermittent problem on a car
  • Managers investigating why performance has dropped in a team
  • Network engineers troubleshooting network reliability problems

Diagnosis and repair may have a single “right answer,” which makes these skills a little different from some others where branching scenarios are helpful.

Research, analysis, and rationale

Research and analysis require gathering and using information from multiple sources. Usually there are multiple possible acceptable solutions, rather than a single correct answer. They gray area makes these skills a good fit for scenario-based learning.

Providing a rationale for decisions requires context. You can’t tell someone “What’s the best car?” without knowing who that car is for and how they’ll be using it. A scenario provides the context that allows you to analyze the situation and provide a rationale for your recommendation.

Trade-offs

The classic project management joke says, “Fast, good, and cheap: pick any two.” You can have something that is fast and cheap if you’re willing to sacrifice quality. You can have something that is fast and good if you’re willing to pay enough for it. Those are trade-offs we make all the time in our jobs.

A great example of this is deciding which software to use. Storyline and Captivate both have advantages and disadvantages; which tool is the best choice for any given project is a matter of trade-offs. Which LMS is the best for an organization depends on a huge number of factors. Every system has some trade-offs for power, ease of use, and other functionality.

Operational decisions and actions

Operational decisions are exercises in analysis and trade-offs, balancing multiple factors. Clark recommends that these skills be practiced in a simulated environment, so they may need a less structured treatment than a branching scenario.

Design

Design skills often have a wide range of acceptable solutions. If you ask 5 people to design a website given the same constraints, you’ll get 5 very different solutions. All of those might be functional websites that would solve problems for an organization, although with some trade-offs. 

It’s hard in self-paced elearning to really effectively simulate designing something new. Unless you can create a very open-ended simulation, you have to sacrifice some realism and complexity. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t practice and assess parts of a design process through decision-making scenarios.

Team coordination

Several years ago, I designed a scenario-based course on improving equity in school systems. A scenario about a specific school system was woven throughout the course, including a number of key characters. One of the first exercises in that case was picking the team to work on the solution. Learners needed to include a variety of specialists and roles, as well as making sure different groups were represented.

The skills for communicating and coordinating with a team benefit from a scenario to provide context and practice making decisions. This domain can overlap and include several of the domains mentioned earlier, such as interpersonal skills, research, and trade-offs.

Looking for more?

Note that this list of domains isn’t intended to be a complete list, but a starting point to show a variety of ways scenario-based learning can be used.

Check out When to Use Branching Scenarios and 40+ other posts on scenarios and storytelling.

Scenario-Based Learning Experiences Podcast Interview

Jacqueline Hutchinson of The Lounge podcast and I had a lovely conversation on scenario-based learning. She had some great questions about how to use scenarios and storytelling in learning experiences that led to a really fun chat. We talked about some “horror stories” and scenarios gone wrong, using scenarios to make compliance training not sleep-inducing, and options besides branching scenarios for incorporating storytelling.

Listen to our conversation on scenario-based learning on her site or follow the links to listen on other platforms. The episode is about 45 minutes long.

As a side note, since Jac and I are both tea drinkers, I mentioned that I was drinking an iced lemon basil oolong from my local tea shop while we recorded.

What we talked about

  • What is a scenario
  • When are scenarios useful
  • Branching scenarios versus simple one question scenarios
  • Getting started with a simple scenario
  • Process for designing a scenario
  • How to determine when to use a scenario
  • Working with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)
  • How long does it take to design different scenarios
  • Manage the complexity of the scenario

If you’re looking for more, check out my other posts on storytelling and scenarios.

Podcast interview on scenario-based learning experiences

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Podcast Interview on Freelancing and Consulting

I recently had the pleasure of recording an interview for Kristin Anthony’s Dear Instructional Designer podcast. We spoke for about 45 minutes on moving into freelancing and consulting, positioning yourself in the market, finding clients, pricing strategies, and managing my business. Our discussion ranged from the practical topics of liability insurance and accounting software to the strategic topics of specializing in a niche and finding the right clients.

Listen to the episode on her site or on iTunes.

This season on Kristin’s show will be all about freelancing, consulting, and working independently. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now is a good time so you can catch the future episodes on this topic.

Podcast interview on freelancing and consulting in instructional design