Telecommute Instructional Design Jobs

Laptop in living room by fireplace

About six weeks ago, I added a new feature to my sidebar: an Ask A Question button. This idea was mentioned on Problogger as a way to promote your blog, find out what content is actually relevant to your readers, and improve interaction and community. Since I was already getting a number of questions in comments, I thought I’d try this out to see what kind of questions I received.

Last week, I got a great question from Robert K.:

So my question is, are there instructional design companies that will let you work remotely to some degree or do most require you to be in office to interact with SME’s or other office staff?

The short answer to his question is yes, it is possible. It can take more work to find the right fit, but you absolutely can work from home.

I work 100% from home, although I will admit that it’s rare to find salaried positions that are 100% telecommute. But yes, some companies will let you work from home all the time, and many more will let you do so some of the time. For example, during one contract, I worked from home 3 days a week. One of my friends at that job worked most days from home; she even got permission to work only half days, all of it from home, for several weeks when her daughter was sick and needed extra care.

A Google search for “‘instructional designer’ telecommute” returns over 18,000 hits, so there are things out there. You do have to hunt a bit more though, especially if you want to work completely from home. I’ve been recruited in the past for jobs that required travel at the beginning and end of a project, plus perhaps occasionally during, but otherwise you could work from home. I’m not sure whether you can do any travel in your situation or if limited travel would be acceptable.

Dice and Craigslist both let you restrict your search to telecommute positions, although there isn’t a good way to do a national search on Craigslist. WAHM does a pretty good job of compiling new telecommute jobs from multiple sources, even if it isn’t the easiest site to navigate. You can use the Find command on your browser to search for “instructional” on the page with their job listings.

Especially for someone looking for telecommute positions, I would suggest looking at online schools and publishing companies.

  • Online colleges and universities, including community colleges, may be more likely to have telecommute opportunities. These are organizations who are used to having instructors work virtually, which makes it easier for other employees to telecommute too.
  • Research the online K-12 environment. This is an area with a lot of projected growth, so those companies will be hiring. The same goes for K-12 schools as higher ed; if other employees are already telecommuting, the infrastructure, policies, and organizational culture already support it.
  • Check out publishing companies; they are all doing a lot of e-learning now. Publishing companies should be more accustomed to telecommute work; after all, they don’t have all their authors working in cubicles.

Update 1/21/13: A recent discussion in a LinkedIn group turned up the names of several contracting companies that hire IDs, and some of those positions are telecommute or partial telecommute. I have also heard of a few other places since I first wrote this post.

  • Clarity Consultants hires a lot of instructional designers. I’ve only interacted with them minimally; I was never really looking when contacted me. Some people said they had trouble getting much response when they were looking for work. Check their job postings though.
  • The Cara Group is another company that hires a lot of IDs. They are focused on human performance jobs, so it’s not just a general contracting company. I haven’t worked for them (timing was never right), but I’ve talked with a recruiter extensively, and they seem like a good place to work through.
  • The person who mentioned Intrepid Learning in the discussion said they don’t have steady work, but they do hire telecommute IDs for projects.
  • MTS Technologies was listed as hiring only part-time IDs.
  • FlexJobs is a paid job search site that covers all industries, but only telecommute or flexible positions. I haven’t used it myself, but someone I worked with at Cisco has had great luck finding long-term contracts via this site.
  • Type A Learning Agency contacted me a few years ago. It didn’t pan out, but it appears they are always accepting applications for freelance instructional designers and developers.
  • I have completed several projects with Cine Learning. Cine Learning is focused on story-based development, so if you hate writing scenarios, don’t bother contacting them. They may not always be hiring, but their projects are really interesting and rewarding.

General Job Searching

For all that the big job boards (i.e., Monster & Careerbuilder) get dinged, I personally found them to be helpful. I’ve gotten jobs through both Monster and Careerbuilder, as well as the eLearning Guild’s job board. Certainly networking is still important and online job boards shouldn’t be your only strategy, but there seemed to be a lot of recruiters looking for IDs on Careerbuilder two years ago. Posting your resume wouldn’t take too much time, and it would make you more visible.

Curt Bonk assembled a terrific list of resources for finding instructional technology jobs.

I think anyone who is looking for a job should be on LinkedIn. It lets you build your network and see how you’re connected to companies you might like to work for. Although the author of Linked Intelligence isn’t updating much anymore, the archives of this blog have great information on how to use LinkedIn.

Don’t write off the general contracting companies like TEKsystems, Insight Global, etc., either. My partial telecommute work at Cisco for two years was through TEKsystems.

Your Suggestions

What advice would you give to someone looking for a telecommute instructional design job? Are there resources I should have suggested but left off my list? I know my list is fairly US-centric; I’m just not at all familiar with what else is out there in the world.

What have your experiences been finding instructional design jobs where telecommuting is an option?

Update: Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers.

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Image: ‘Day 2: Now THIS is what I call telecommuting…
http://www.flickr.com/photos/13684545@N00/456799827

38 thoughts on “Telecommute Instructional Design Jobs

  1. Good luck with your search. Keep me posted on how things are going. I know that many people are interested in finding jobs where they can work from home at least part of the time, so I’m sure that others would enjoy reading about your experiences.

  2. Thanks for this information. I, too, am looking for a telecommute opportunity. I find that it is difficult convincing recruiters and clients that it is possible.

  3. I have been telecommuting for the past 9 months with a company that supports online training for AT&T. I really enjoyed working from home and will search for other contracts that allow this form of employment. I have to mention on small set back though; if you do not have a savings account with 2 plus months worth of income, do not agree to one of these positions!! It can take up to five months to get paid for contract work. Make sure you read the contract before taking the position. Also, you may have to invest in programs and products required to complete the project…(o:

  4. Thanks for the comment. That’s a really good point about freelance work, regardless of whether it’s telecommute or not. I know a number of people who are successful in contract work like you describe, but being realistic about the finances getting started is important.

    The taxes for freelancers are another place where people get caught. I know one consultant who didn’t realize that she would owe employment taxes once she became self-employed; that was a huge sum of money that she had not planned for at all. She ended up needing a loan to pay off her taxes. I’m not sure how it is outside the US, but it’s a significant concern here.

    1. The website listed above appears to be a scam itself, don’t you love when scam artist promote their site stating it is not a scam.🙂 If you hold your cursor over every link on his/her page you will see pay per click links…hmmm I guess that is another method of earning an income while at home.

      1. Good catch JC! I guess I didn’t really look at it, and I should have before leaving the comment here. Thanks for being alert! I’ll edit the comment above so that hopefully no one will get caught.

  5. I work 100% from home as a salaried instructional designer, as do the other three IDs on our team, as well as the five Istructional Techs and their manager. We have the option to conference call in for most of our meetings, but I usually make the drive so I have opportunity for face-to-face networking. That is the only time I am in the office. I work for a college, writing courses mostly for online, but also for classroom or blended instruction.

    It was not easy to get this to be a work from home position. Fortunately, I had previously worked for the online division in another capacity, also working from home. When I started in that position, the Online Director had to fight for every work from home position, but as the Division grew by leaps and bounds, the college realized how much money it was saving them not to have to build or lease new office space. It wasn’t long before most of the online division were working from home.

    When I moved to Administration as an Instructional Designer, the higher-ups did not see the position as a work from home position–even though we had discussed in my interview the possibility of working from home 2-3 days a week after an initial period. However, I realized on day one that it was not really their intent to let me work from home. My first clue was that I was issued a desktop computer, not a laptop.

    It was an uphill battle (fortunately, my immediate supervisor was on my side), but I kept chipping away at the fact that spending three hours a day commuting was affecting my productivity. Normally, I would work into the evening to meet deadlines, when needed. However, after the early start and long drive, I just wasn’t up to the extra effort.

    At that time there was just myself and another ID, who was new to the organization. What clinched it was that we had a deadline coming up fast and we convinced them that working in a cubicle was simply not conducive to the concentration needed to write. We were told to go home and work until the courses were done. No one ever told us to come back, so we have worked from home ever since. It helped that our space was needed for others. Our department has since obtained new office space, but the IDs have just been assigned “hotel space”–a work area we can use when we come in.

    Two more IDs have been added since. One was an instructor at one of the campuses furthest away. He started out working from home and conference calls in to most meetings. The other ID was new to the college and started out in the office but now works from home.

    I’m sorry to be so lengthy, but I am hoping this may be of help to someone. The key to convincing an employer to allow you to work from home is to find the benefit to them–not the benefit to you. It also helps a lot if there is more than one of you and you stick together. If the other ID had come back to the office after meeting her deadline, I would have probably been expected to show up also.

    1. This is a great story to hear how someone made this work in an environment that didn’t really support it. I’ve seen several discussions online recently about this topic and just shared your story with a group on LinkedIn because I think others will find it useful.

    2. Pam – thank you SO VERY MUCH for the detailed info. It’s exactly the answer I was looking for – how other IDs convinced their employers to let them work from home. What would be helpful now is a list of potential employers and/or sites to search – Christy has provided some and I will explore these. BTW Christy – I truly value your website and blog. All very helpful information…

  6. I imagine it’s nice to have the balance and the option to have the face to face relationship. Often times I get lost in working from home and missing the social aspect that serves as a catalyst for my career

  7. Hi,

    Your article was quite informative. I’m an expecting first-time mother, and I’ve been a teacher for 7 years in private school for expatriate children in Argentina. I was hoping to be able to work and stay home with my child until he reaches school age.

    I’ve been looking for a telecommute job for the past couple of weeks, especially something in the Education field. I am particularly interested in being a instructional designer. I have applied for a few positions, but I haven’t heard back …yet.

    The websites you list are pretty good.

    http://www.craigslist.com — It’s helpful, but there are a lot of scams. I usually stick to the New York or other major job boards because CL charges a $25 fee.

    http://www.newtelecommutejoblist.com — a really, really fantastic telecommute job site with a few instructional designer opportunities. It’s probably the most legit telecommute job site I’ve seen.

    http://www.monster.com — fantastic as well because it weeds out a lot of scammers, but not many telecommute positions.

    http://www.careerbuilder.com — same as Monster

    It was nice to finally read about someone who is doing this! I was beginning to think that it wasn’t possible.

    Saludos from Argentina!

    1. I haven’t used it myself, but I recently heard from another ID that Flexjobs.com is helpful. They do charge a monthly fee, but they work to filter through the scams and only have telecommute jobs. (I have no affiliation, just passing on the link.)

  8. I just stumbled across your blog today (from a reply you posted to a Linked In discussion). I’ve been working remotely as an instructional designer for a year and four months. The company I work for is basically virtual. We meet in person about once a month, but otherwise we’re all at home except when meeting at clients’ offices. It’s wonderful! Unfortunately, I’m only part-time and need to find something full-time. I’m going to check out some of the resources listed here.

  9. I’ve been researching masters programs in intructional design and I’m really excited about the posibilities. After 20+ years in education, I feel I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Here’s the rub, I will be 59 by the time I complete a program. I am worried that age may work against me when comes to actually launching a career. Any thoughts?

    Thanks for a great site, Christy. With your info, I’ve already had alot of my questions answered.

    1. As much as I’d love to tell you that age discrimination never happens, it does. I’m afraid I don’t personally know any specific strategies for addressing that, but you might consider joining the Ask Liz Ryan group. It’s a free online networking group where you can get lots of advice on changing careers.

  10. Very good article🙂.
    I’m currently working as a Senior ID with a leading eLearning company in India but because of the pay reasons I looking for better opportunities abroad.
    Do the companies abroad permit telecommuting from India. If so how do I look for such opportunities, pls let me know.

    1. You probably can find freelance projects you can do from India via eLance, Guru, or similar sites. I’m not sure how much luck you will have finding long-term employment though. Most of the time when companies want to outsource significant amounts of work to India, they do so with a team and through a company like Accenture or NIIT.

  11. Hi. I’ve been reading through this and other threads on the blog. I’m going through a bunch of the websites mentioned in this post and comments to check out job opportunities and am listing some updates as I go.
    1. http://www.newtelecommutejoblist.com/ just lists the results of what are probably a Google search — no job listings.
    2. Cine Learning — currently hiring independent contractors who “specialize in instructional design and Flash development.” Submit resume via email. Go to About Us — Staff for more information.
    3. Curt Bank’s list looks good even though it was last updated in 2008, from what I can tell. The alphabetized, most up-to-date list is here: http://www.trainingshare.com/resources/Job-search-Educational-Technology-and-Instructional-Technology.php
    4. Cara posts lots of jobs in ID — the minimum requirement is 5+ years of experience. I suspect (but do not know) that career-changers will have a difficult time getting through the resume filters.
    5. I’ve been to flexjobs.com before. I read some reviews of the site and decided not to pay for a membership as the consensus seemed to be that the job listings were not exclusive. I guess users have to decide if the ease of access is worth the money.
    6. For people wanting a telecommute position, TEKsystems doesn’t have a location filter for “remote” or “telecommute.”
    7. I’m not sure where I found this site: http://www.educationonlineservices.com/careers/ The job listings page is unavailable right now.
    8. Check out Elance. I’ve submitted a couple of proposals. I don’t have a good feel for how well their system works.
    9. Virtualvocations.com You have to pay to see job details; however, if you are Google-savvy, you can usually find the original job posting yourself.

    1. Thanks Natalie.

      I have tried Elance but never had much luck. It’s not a bad place to get started if you’re a career changer and just need to get an initial short project or two under your belt. Because you’re competing against people in India, Pakistan, etc., rates tend to be very low. I know some people have been very successful with it though.

      1. Christy — I’m glad to hear your feedback about Elance. I wondered about the pricing issue. I have considered proposing a negligible fee to get a project, but in the long run, that would do more harm than good. People should be paid what their work is worth. Lots of small sellers on Etsy struggle because they are competing with others who charge nominal prices for goods that are worth much more if you consider the cost of materials and time.

      2. I do understand the point of charging what you’re worth for work. I am certainly much stricter about that for myself now even than when I started freelancing. I can afford to turn down work though; I’m busy enough that I don’t have to take a lower rate.

        On the other hand, it’s hard for me to begrudge someone who is trying to break into the field. What if you spend six weeks doing a small project at a low rate just to get a single project under your belt, and that then allows you to charge a “real” rate moving forward? I can’t feel angry with someone for that, especially when I know how hard it is to get that very first ID job.

        It’s also a common recommendation to do volunteer work to get a project for your portfolio (a recommendation I’ve echoed myself multiple times). I recently saw someone in a LinkedIn group make the same argument as you–you should never volunteer your time because it devalues your work. I don’t see working with a nonprofit as devaluing your work though. Maybe that’s why I usually recommend the volunteer route rather than the “work for an insulting rate on elance” route. In some respects, the free work for a nonprofit is worth more than getting paid a pittance on elance.

        1. You make good points. Maybe I should clarify my thinking. I am A-OK with volunteer work. I’m actually working on a couple of volunteer projects at the moment. In fact, I tried to do volunteer work for Purdue University, but I’m not allowed to do so because that work is saved for paid graduate assistants. And, as a newbie to the field, I expect any paid work I do will be compensated at the lower end of the range as I get going.

          For now, though, I’m going to avoid purposefully underbidding (say $100 for a $1,000 proposal) on Elance jobs for political and philosophical reasons. Hopefully, I can build upon and demonstrate my skills as a volunteer and then be a more marketable job candidate. If push comes to shove, I’ll reassess my stance on Elance in the future!

  12. In theory your idea makes sense but US companies will not hire a remote worker unless that person has authorization to work in the US and employers are reluctant to sponsor so remote work is only available to those already in the US. So much for the globalization of the workforce.😦

    1. There are lots of legal and tax reasons for that. The laws haven’t caught up with the ideal of globalization. There are circumstances where you can cross international borders (like elance gigs), but not generally for long term jobs.

    1. I just did. At the moment, it lists exactly 1 instructional design job on the entire site. A search for e-learning turned up not a single e-learning development job (although some related jobs). It might be a fine site in general, but it’s not a good choice for instructional designers.

  13. Greetings all – Im in my 50’s, teach and develop courses for the online environment, and developed a lot of curriculum and education programs for a for-profit college. I have a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in public policy. I do have have any ID experience, other than developing curriculum and using a lot of varied media in presenting information to students in the virtual environment. I have taken an Articulate Storyline all day seminar/course; however, I do not own the software to create any presentations. What would I need to try to get into the ID field or is it too late for me? Thanks for any help on this.

    1. I don’t think it’s too late to switch careers, although you probably will never get enough experience as an ID to make tons of money in this field. The easiest place to break into the field is on the e-learning development side, working with rapid development tools like Storyline. You could try Captivate too; the cost for an annual subscription to Captivate is much less than Storyline’s purchase price (around $250).

      Since you’ve already taken a course in Storyline, start by downloading the free trial of Storyline and building a few short demos. Start an online portfolio and demonstrate your skills in Storyline with those demos. You need something to be able to demonstrate your skills.

      Network in your local area. Join your local ATD (formerly ASTD) chapter if you have one. Local business groups might be helpful too. Start making those connections and finding out who needs help.

      You can also network online. There are lots of great groups on LinkedIn.

      Reading book and blogs about instructional design to improve your skills. Apply what you’re learning through reading in your portfolio samples.

  14. As already mentioned here, there are a number of freelacer websites out there that with some luck can provide you with if not permanent then at least on an on-going basis. Personally, a good job done on a ‘reverse-dutch-auction’ job site (where employer posts a job – often one-off – and freelancers put in a bid and a winner is selected by the emmployer to do the the job) got me an on-going work with that employer for quiet a long while. CatchUpNews.org is one such site… relatively new but fast growing in popularity Worth checking out.

    1. Emily, thanks for sharing the site of the company you work for. I think it would have been a little more transparent of you to note that you’re employed by CatchUpNews.

      Also, for anyone else reading the thread, CatchUpNews had 0 e-learning or instructional design jobs posted when I just checked. It appears to be a UK-only site, and I found it a little clunky (the search page repeatedly reset in the middle of me typing, for example). Maybe in time it will grow enough to be useful, but it’s not currently worth any time for people in the ID and e-learning fields.

    1. Try Jam Pan. It’s heavily weighted to UK jobs, but you’re more likely to find European jobs there. Upwork does have low rates. It can be a way to find projects when you’re just getting started, but long term it’s better for most people to find their own clients.

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