Tag: project management

My Typical Week as a Consultant

Everyone manages their time a little differently, but I’ve been asked several times what a typical day or week looks like. I’m an independent consultant, so my schedule is different from people who work full time for a single company. I work from home and have a pretty flexible schedule. It’s hard to say what a single day is, but here’s my basic weekly pattern.

My Typical Week as a Consultant

Every day

I usually start my day with email and moderating my LinkedIn group (eLearning Global Network). I do other social media (Slack, reddit, Twitter) during transitions, especially if I’m switching from one project to another. That gives me a little mental break between tasks.

I take a 20 minute nap most afternoons. I have found I’m more productive when I get a quick power nap, so it’s worth taking the break.

Monday morning

First thing Monday morning, I catch up on email and work on my business. That means following up with prospects, working on my website, catching up on my blog if needed, networking, etc. Sometimes this is some professional development time spent reading or taking online courses.

It’s so easy to put off working on my business that I decided I need to do it right at the beginning of the week. I always have something I could be doing for a client, but I try to “pay myself first” and put at least a few hours into working on my business every week.

Monday afternoon

Client work. Right now, I have 3 different projects for clients.

  • Storyboarding a course on child care standards
  • Storyline development for a tech startup
  • Revisions to content in an LMS that I converted from face-to-face

I try to have two projects in progress at all times, ideally staggered so they’re in different phases. I prefer having some variety. I love writing and storyboarding, but I can only write for so many hours in a day before my productivity drops significantly. If I have one project that requires writing and one that requires development, I can switch between the two and keep my productivity higher.

Tuesday

Tuesdays are usually client work, sometimes including phone calls with SMEs or project managers.

I know I’m most productive in the mornings, so I try to tackle my hardest or highest priority task before lunch.

Wednesday

Wednesdays are usually more client work: storyboarding, development, or LMS work.

Thursday morning

I spend at least 45 minutes on my blog on Thursday so I can publish a new post every other Tuesday (at least that’s the goal). Every other Thursday, I join the meeting for the Online Network of Independent Learning Professionals. That’s a virtual community for freelancers and consultants.

Thursday afternoon

I try to schedule calls and appointments on Thursday afternoons when possible. That means I have calls with prospective clients, SMEs, or project managers. I also do some client work.

Friday morning

On Friday mornings, I wrap up my client work for the week.

Friday afternoon

Friday afternoons are spent closing out the week. I send status updates to clients, update project plans, and set goals for the next week. Every other Friday, I review and categorize transactions in my accounting software so tax time is easier. If I have time, I do some client work or reading for professional development.

What’s Your Schedule?

What’s your schedule? How do you budget and manage your time? Let me know in the comments.

Looking for More?

Liked this post? You might also be interested in my tips for staying productive while working remotely.

ID and E-Learning Links (4/30/17)

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

Instructional Design & E-Learning Links

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ID and E-Learning Links (2/19/17)

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

Instructional Design and E-Learning Links

Tools That Make Consulting Easier (And a Few More I Need)

Tools for ConsultingI have now been working as an independent consultant for over 5 years. These are the tools I use to run my business and work with clients. I’m a one-person business, so I need tools that let me manage the business side of things efficiently. This list is constantly evolving, and I have a list of solutions I need as well.

Collaboration and Communication

  • Zoom: Zoom is my preferred platform for video conferencing. I have used all the other major tools (WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.), but Zoom works with the fewest technical challenges. It also includes the option for calling in on a phone rather than just VOIP, so you can get better quality audio. For $150/year, I can host unlimited high quality group video calls with up to 50 people.
  • Google Voice: I use Google Voice for my business phone number. This is a free service I can forward to my mobile and landline phones. I schedule my Google Voice number to go directly to voicemail outside of business hours .
  • Dropbox and Google Drive: I use both Dropbox and Google Drive to share files with clients, depending on the clients’ preference.

Stock Images

  • Storyblocks: Storyblocks (formerly Graphic Stock) is the source for many images for my blog posts and presentations. I use it sometimes for courses, depending on the content. It’s $99/year for unlimited downloads. I love it for backgrounds and basic images where I don’t have terribly specific needs.
  • Can Stock Photo: When I need more specific images for courses (e.g., a non-white male teacher talking to a female elementary student), I mostly use Can Stock Photo. Credits are fairly reasonably priced, and subscriptions are also an option.

Other Tools

  • Google Sheets: I use Google Spreadsheets to track my time, collect review feedback, and do light project management.
  • Remember The Milk: I manage my daily to-do list with Remember The Milk.
  • WordPress: This blog is on a free WordPress.com site; my business website and portfolio were built with  WordPress.
  • Dreamhost: My business website and portfolio are hosted by Dreamhost. (Get 40% off by using my link.)
  • Amazon: I use Amazon Affiliate links for my book reviews. I don’t make much income this way, but $250 a year is better than nothing.
  • HelloSign: I used to digitally sign contracts with Adobe Acrobat Pro (and sometimes still do if a client sends it), but mostly I use HelloSign for digital signatures. If you don’t sign documents often, you can do 3 signatures per month for free.

What I Need

I have a few needs for software currently. If you have found a great solution for these, let me know in the comments.

Update 2017: My original text is below so you can see what I was considering in 2016, but I have decided on Wave for accounting. I’m still using Google Sheets for project management, but with an add on called ProjectSheets.

  • Basic Accounting: I have been using QuickBooks Self-Employed for tracking expenses. I like how it automatically syncs with my accounts and makes it easy to categorize transactions. Unfortunately, the program repeatedly and spontaneously insists on adding my personal accounts as well. They also recently broke their mobile app so I can no longer categorize transactions on my phone. I’ve had enough glitches in the last few months that I don’t quite trust it anymore.
    Wave is the first one on my list to evaluate because it’s free. If I can do what I need with that, I don’t need to pay for something else. Several people have recommended Freshbooks, but it’s more expensive and I don’t think I’d use many of the features. Xero and FreeAgent have also been recommended. If you have experience with any of these, I’d love to hear about it.
  • Project Management: I currently manage projects in Google Sheets. It’s fast and simple to set up, and it shares perfectly with clients. This works OK for basic projects and small teams. It’s hard to visualize what’s happening though, and I’m starting to hit the limits of what I can really do. I’m starting to investigate other options now. I used Easy Projects with a past client, and that might work. I’ve heard positive reviews for MavenLink. There are some other free and low-cost options as well.

Your Tools?

What are your must-have tools? Any suggestions for accounting or project management?

As mentioned above, I use affiliate links on my blog. Several of the links above are affiliate or referral links. If you make a purchase after clicking these links, I get a small payment. Some of these links (including the Storyblocks  and Dreamhost links) also give you a discount.

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Book Review: Training Design Basics by Saul Carliner

Saul Carliner’s second edition of Training Design Basics is written for people who are brand new to the field and are creating their first training program. This is a great book for those who are just getting started with training. People switching careers into training or instructional design from another field would also find a wealth of information. Training managers who don’t come from a training background but want to understand it better would benefit, as would project managers who are looking for what to include in their task lists and how to estimate time and cost.

This book is heavy on the practical, day-to-day considerations of creating training. It’s filled with little notes on the details that you might not think about if you’ve never done this before: what to include on title slides and prefaces, how to choose fonts and font sizes for online and printed content, leaving larger margins on one side of the page for printing bound materials, and marketing your course. The tips all feel very authentic and based on lessons learned by actual practitioner. For example, there’s a suggestion to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door of a conference room when you’re recording audio. Carliner also recommends waiting a day before responding to reviewer feedback so you have time to plan and “an opportunity to calm down should any comment raise your blood pressure.” I know some more experienced instructional designers who might do well to follow that last bit of advice.

The book is organized to clearly follow the process of creating a training program from start to finish:

  1. Basics of Design (including ADDIE and adult learning principles)
  2. Planning (including estimating schedule and cost)
  3. Analysis (what he calls “Information Needed to Start a Project”)
  4. Objectives
  5. Organizing Content
  6. Choosing an Instructional Strategy
  7. Developing Materials
  8. Preparing and Producing Materials
  9. Quality Checks
  10. Administration

Every chapter ends with a worksheet or checklist you can complete to apply the content of that chapter. Most of the time, the process described in detail is for a “platinum” project with high complexity and impact (and correspondingly high resource investment). When you’re working on lower level “silver” and “bronze” projects, Carliner explains how to adapt the process and what shortcuts you can take.

The first edition of this book focused on classroom training. One of the major updates in this second edition is the addition of elearning, both self-paced (which he calls “self-study”) and virtual instructor-led training. There were times where I felt a little like the elearning material was “tacked on” as an afterthought, but the foundations of everything are fairly solid. Because this is a book on basics, the underlying assumption seems to be that elearning is mostly linear and generally suited for lower level training. If you’re just getting started with elearning, this is a good place to begin, but don’t stop here. There’s a whole world of more immersive and engaging elearning out there, so plan to keep reading more books and recognize that this is just a launching point.

If you’re completely focused on elearning and don’t do any classroom training, you’ll be able to skip some sections of this book that aren’t relevant (or vice versa if you only do classroom training). Likewise, if you’ve been working as a training specialist or instructional designer for many years, you’ll find that much of this is review for you. Even with my 10+ years of experience both in classroom training and instructional design, I still picked up a few new things though. For example, I will be using Carliner’s calculations of “fudge factor” or contingency for time estimates based on the level of uncertainty. This is a good book for filling in the gaps in your skills if you are an accidental instructional designer or trainer who doesn’t have formal education in training design. This isn’t the book if you want the theory and research behind all these decisions; it’s a step-by-step how-to guide for creating your first training.

I was interested in reading this book because I know many readers of my blog are new to instructional design or are hoping to make a career change. If you’re one of those readers, this book is an excellent choice for practical tips on Training Design Basics.