Tag: consulting

How to Become an E-learning Freelancer Vol. I-III: Book Reviews

Richard Watson published his ebooks on the practicalities of freelancing in the elearning field last fall. The books are a series in three volumes, with information expanded from his blog posts on freelancing. All three combine Richard’s personal stories about his freelancing journey with practical tips for creating and running a freelance business.

Volume I: Launching Your Freelance E-Learning Career

As you’d expect in any book about starting a freelancing career, this book includes very practical tips about setting up a business structure, self-employment taxes, and accounting. For example, you’ll find advice on when to hire a bookkeeper or CPA instead of managing the finances yourself (and the difference between what a bookkeeper or CPA can do for you).

Chapter 4 has practical advice for what hardware and software are necessary and helpful. This chapter differentiates this book from other general sources on getting started with freelancing. You can find information elsewhere about creating a business website with WordPress, but few sources list specific hardware recommendations for a computer for elearning development.

In my opinion, the most valuable information in this volume comes before the practicalities of technology and finances though. The book starts with big questions.

  • Is freelancing a good fit for you?
  • What are your goals? How do you set good goals for your business?
  • What are your core values as a freelancer?

I regularly hear from people who aren’t sure if they want to be freelancers or if they’d be happier as an employee. Independent work isn’t for everyone. Figuring out if it’s a fit before making the leap is important. Identifying goals and values helps increase the chances of being successful as a freelancer. I didn’t use as formal a process as what Richard recommends when I started my business, but I really like the core values section as a way to clarify what kind of business and clients you want.

Volume II: Marketing Yourself and Finding Great Clients

The second book on marketing and finding clients is useful both for people just getting started and those who have been working independently for a while but need to improve their business.

I struggled to name my business, and my professional brand is still split between this blog and my company, Syniad Learning. Richard explores the pros and cons of branding as an individual or as a company. Whatever you decide, he offers advice on how to do that branding and how to build a portfolio.

The chapters on finding clients are great for everyone, even as reminders to those of us who have been working on our own for a while. Richard digs into bad clients, including why they’re harmful and how to avoid them. More importantly, he provides suggestions on finding better clients and keeping those clients as long-term partners.

Volume III: Managing a Successful E-Learning Project

In addition to tips on keeping projects running smoothly, the third volume includes information on writing proposals and determining project costs. If you’re looking for specifics on what to include in proposals and example language, this is a good place to start.

Richard also details the pros and cons of hourly versus project-based pricing, a continual topic of discussion even among experienced consultants and freelancers. (In the interest of disclosure, I’ll note that Richard cites my post on elearning hourly rates as a source for benchmark data.)

I enjoyed the chapter on closing out a project is finished because that’s an area where I think I can do better myself. I haven’t always been consistent about reflecting on what went well and what didn’t, but the list of questions included in this book is a good place to start that conversation.

Overall, I think all three books have a lot of practical advice, especially for those who are thinking about making the leap to freelance or who are just getting started.

You can buy all three books on Amazon:

If you’re looking for more books to read, check out my book recommendations on Amazon.

Consulting Isn’t My Backup Plan

Although I’ve been self-employed for almost 5 years, I’m still regularly contacted by recruiters about full-time positions. Most of them are polite and professional, and I often refer them to other colleagues who I know are looking for work. Once in a while though, I hear from someone who just doesn’t get it. For example, I received a message on LinkedIn from a recruiter we’ll call “B.” He said he had an opportunity for me but didn’t provide any other details. I replied that while I’m not looking for full-time work, I’d potentially be available for consulting if he had a problem I could solve.

He replied with this message. In case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t one of my fictionalized stories–every mistake you see in the message below is exactly as “B” wrote it.

This is a Direct Hire position, I am confused as if you are looking for consulting work, wouldnt you be interested in W2 contract?

Besides the lack of professionalism in his writing, “B” demonstrates an attitude I have unfortunately seen in several recruiters over the years. They assume that consulting is a “backup plan” I’m using to fill the gaps while I’m looking for a “real job.” They simply can’t fathom that anyone would choose to work for themselves.

Puppeteer controlling two businesspeople

Personally, I’d be hard pressed to go back to working in a “cubicle farm.” Working from home and setting my own schedule makes me more productive, along with giving me the flexibility to spend more time with my daughter. I cherish being able to pick which projects and clients I work with; I can turn down prospects where I’d just be an “order taker” or tweaking PowerPoints. I don’t have to accept unreasonably short timelines or woefully insufficient budgets. I can focus primarily on the scenario-based projects I find rewarding. I never have time to be bored because there’s so much variety and so much to learn.

Certainly sometimes people go out on their own because they’re forced to when a regular job ends. Some freelancers are truly working independently as a stopgap measure until they find another long-term job. It happens, but I wish recruiters wouldn’t assume that’s what everyone is doing—especially when they’ve been running their own company for multiple years like me.

Many consultants are like me. We prefer working on their own and aren’t motivated primarily by those external forces. In their article Secrets of Star Training Consultants, Saul Carliner and John Murray explain that the people they identified as “star consultants” in the field were mostly independent because they chose this path:

For the majority, however, the forces pushing the participants into private consulting were internal. Some expressed a desire to move beyond a certain work environment. One expressed an interest in earning more money. And the most experienced of the participants expressed a desire to improve the effectiveness of learning experiences.

If you’re a consultant, what would it take to get you to leave consulting and go back to full time work? Once you’ve cut the strings, is there anything that would convince you to go back?
Image credit: (c) Can Stock Photo