Tag: independent consultant

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

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

ID and E-Learning Links (5/8/16)

    • Many users are beginning to discover, however, that a larger number of social network connections may be less valuable than a smaller, more intimate circle. With an enormous collection of friends or followers on a network, you lose the benefits of intimacy, discoverability, and trust, all of which can work better when you have fewer connections.
    • When you connect to everybody and their dog, your second-degree search results will include people who don’t actually know anyone you know, so you won’t be any further ahead in reaching them than you would be by simply cold calling.
  • Preliminary findings from Saul Carliner and John Murray’s research and interviews with “star consultants” in the field of learning

    tags:training freelance consulting e-learning instructionaldesign research

    • Participants also indicated the types of assignment they feel are inappropriate for them. Most of the assignments refused could be characterized as “conventional.” Several participants specifically mentioned that they distance themselves from training about products and software to focus on more strategic projects.

      One participant avoids “order-taker projects.”

  • This article explains content chunking from a usability perspective, but this applies to writing for elearning too

    tags:writing usability memory

  • Add a feedback button to your website that lets users highlight areas with problems and make comments and suggestions. Screenshots and user browser info are automatically logged. I wonder if this could be used for collecting feedback on elearning, both during formal review cycles and to collect ongoing feedback after courses have launched.

    tags:tools webdesign

  • A book and resource list for learning about going beyond the superficial and supporting “deeper learning”

    tags:learning book research

  • Create CSS buttons

    tags:css tools html

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

Freelance Instructional Design: More Tips from the Trenches

I’ve gotten some great tips from others working as independent consultants or freelance instructional designers in comments on my Getting Started as a Freelance Instructional Designer and Tips for Starting to Freelance posts. I love having so many brilliant and generous people in my network who freely share the wealth of their knowledge.

Networking

David Harris shared his experience with networking:

My approach is to network with local organizations and groups that benefit me socially with like minded people, and gives me a sense of organizations needs and the niche I can fit into to help them meet their learning objectives.

I’m really only networking online right now, but reviewing the comments from last summer reminds me that I should be working on some face-to-face connections too.

Rebecca notes that networking is an ongoing process:

I think the biggest thing to success in consulting is to cultivate your networks and keep them going. I make a point of regularly (at least one a year if not twice a year) to try and book a lunch with key contacts – these are people that are working full time for companies that I might want to contract with, or people that know people who might be looking for a contractor. I also use social network sites like LinkedIn to let my network know that I’m looking.

Portfolio

Several people here in comments and in LinkedIn groups mentioned the importance of a portfolio, including  Judith Christian-Carter:

[U]se your portfolio because most discerning clients are looking for people with a good track record and ‘put yourself around a bit’.

Diverse Clients

Michele Martin adds more information on diversity of clients:

One other thing I’d say about having a diversity of clients is to try to draw from different industries, areas of the country, etc. One thing I’ve discovered is that the more diversity in my client base, the better. You’d be surprised how many of the same financial and other issues impact companies in the same industry at the same time. It’s something we don’t always think about.

Retirement

Gwynne Monahan reminded me to not forget about retirement:

In addition to an accountant, meet with a financial planner as well. One thing #freelancers tend to forget is that thing called retirement. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, finding new clients/business and focusing on just getting up and running. Planning for the future, for retirement, should also be in the mix. Like liability insurance, it’s easily missed until it’s too late.

Contracts & Cash Flow

Joanne M. Lozar Glenn shares a great tip about smoothing out the bumps in cash flow:

[S]et up your agreements/contracts with clients to include a deposit that must be received before you start on the project. Helps with the income gaps, especially with new clients.

Resources

Simon Weller shared this resource:

Hello, I made the move about four months ago…and while it’s been difficult on many levels, it’s been a fantastic experience on the whole. A great book for me was Flying Solo (http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/). It focuses on the idea of being a freelancer (in any profession or industry) and offers strategies for soloists to make it work, to connect with others and awareness of the pitfalls. It was an easy, but eye-opening read. Good luck!

Taruna Goel shared her story of moving to freelance: From An Employee to a Consultant – A Story of Embracing Change. She is back to being a full-time employee now (along with moving from one continent to another–nothing like big changes!), but I appreciated her reflections on the changes.

I’m in a number of groups on LinkedIn, but lately I’m paying more attention to the Freelance in Instructional Design and E-Learning Industry group, a sub-group of the Instructional Design & E-Learning Professionals’ Group. (I’m not positive the link to the group will work. If it doesn’t, either search for the group name or look for the group at the bottom of my LinkedIn profile.) This isn’t the most active group, but it’s a good place for asking questions specific to freelance instructional design work.

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences. Seeing others who have made this transition successfully makes me more confident that I can do it too. I know I’m not alone, and I have this whole network of people out there who I can turn to when I need advice.