Month: September 2013

Time Tracking Template for Instructional Design

As an instructional designer, I often need to estimate the time it will take to complete a project. One tool I use for determining my estimates is records of how long past projects have taken. Having everything together in a spreadsheet also simplifies my invoicing to clients. In addition, I track non-billable time. That’s primarily for my own interest; I want to see how long I spend on administrative tasks like invoicing as well as networking and marketing tasks.

I use a Google spreadsheet for this. You can view and save a copy of the template yourself. You can also download the template for Excel.

Columns in the time tracking template

Additional columns in the time tracking template


  • I use Ctrl+; to add the current date quickly.
  • Ctrl+: adds the current time for Start Time and End Time.
  • Time Spent will automatically calculate once you add your Start Time and End Time.
  • Leave the Invoiced column blank until you have actually sent the invoice. This lets you filter for work you haven’t invoiced yet by filtering for “blank.”
  • By default, the template is set up with ADDIE phases plus administrative, project management, and business development tasks. You can edit this list of Phases on the Named ranges tab. If you do change it, you may also need to adjust the data validation in the Phases column. (The numbers in front of the ADDIE phases make them sort properly in the pivot table.)

Pivot Table

I use a pivot table to analyze how I spend my time. The template is set up to group data by quarter and month for invoicing purposes. (Quarter and Month are calculated in hidden columns B & C of the Tracking tab.)

Pivot Table organized by Quarter and MonthYou can adjust the pivot table to group by phases instead of quarter and month. This is especially useful when you’re estimating time for future projects. You can see how long each phase took for similar past projects and use that as the basis for your estimate.

Time Tracking Pivot Table organized by ADDIE phases

You can also filter the pivot table by whether tasks or billable or not, client, phase, etc.

Feel free to use this template yourself. Edit it to make it compatible with your workflow and needs. If you have questions or suggestions for improvement, ask them below in the comments. Read more about how I determine my time estimates for designing and developing e-learning.


Instructional Design Hourly Rates and Salary

Money 2What is your hourly rate as an instructional designer? What do you make if you’re a full-time salaried employee? People frequently ask me these questions, and I always refer people to the same resources. These are all just benchmarks to use as a starting point, so you need to adjust for your experience, education, skills, industry, whether you’re a full-time employee or freelance consultant, etc.

Hourly Rate

Harold Jarche’s “So You Want To Be an ELearning Consultant?” article is now 10 years old, but the idea of ranges of rates for different activities is still relevant. Click the table at the bottom to expand it and see the details, adding $5-$10/hour for current rates. Design tasks are $50-100 on his chart; development tasks are $30-60 (I would update this to at least $35-65, maybe $40 as the minimum). Technological and business analytical tasks can earn you up to $200.

Writing Assistance Inc lists rates from $65-100+, with an average of $85. I believe those rates are what companies pay to them, rather than what the ID actually makes, so assume there’s a fee taken off the top.

Don Clark has collected highlights from several sources on how to estimate instructional design cost and time. He lists the rate for an e-learning designer as $37/hour, based on a salary of $78,000. That’s clearly a full-time employee rate and not a consultant rate.


The eLearning Guild Salary Calculator is one of the best tools for comparing the variables that affect salary in the US. Enter your location, education, job focus, experience, etc. and get a benchmark salary to compare. The 2017 calculator puts the average salary for instructional designers in the US at $78,649 (up from $76,502 in 2016). Those who have 12 years or more experience have a benchmark of $90,954. All membership levels in the eLearning Guild (including a free membership) include the more detailed salary survey for those interested in digging deeper. Those outside the US can find international data in the report as well.

Other Resources

Brennan Dunn provides articles, resources, and courses about how to price yourself as a consultant and get paid what you’re worth regardless of your specialty. Start with the Freelance Rate Calculator to see if your rate is sufficient to meet your annual goals. This calculator provides comparisons of how much you’ll make if you increase your rate by different percentages. If your rate is too low to meet your goals, sign up for the free email course to learn strategies to price yourself better.

Jeffrey Rhodes’ presentation on how to price consulting work explains how to determine your hourly rate as a consultant and how to estimate and price services.

Bryan Chapman includes some cost estimates with his benchmarks for how long it takes to create learning. In his survey, one hour of level 2 e-learning cost an average of $18,583. At the 184:1 ratio for that level of learning, that’s about a $100/hour rate, but that includes everyone on the team (IDs, project managers, SMEs, developers, etc.).

Although it isn’t specific to instructional design or e-learning, Flying Solo’s Hourly Rate Calculator is a useful tool to determine your hourly rate as a freelancer based on your expenses.

Image Credit: Money 2 by Daniel Borman

Want more info? You may be interested in my other posts on instructional design careers.

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