Whether you’re already doing some e-learning work on the side or you’re considering becoming a full-time freelancer, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is much to learn about managing clients, budgeting your time, and keeping all of your projects on track!
Thankfully, the E-Learning Heroes community is here for you. Our generous community members, many of whom are current or former freelancers, often weigh in with helpful tips and advice on all sorts of tough questions from fellow freelancers. So, I thought, why not round up some of those great questions and their amazing answers and share them with you here!
How much should I charge?
If there’s one burning question faced by new freelancers, it’s “how much should I charge?” Coming up with your rate can be an intimidating prospect. Shoot too high and you could price yourself out of the market. Shoot too low and you’ll be leaving money on the table. It’s a tough call.
To make that call a little easier, you need to factor in a few things before coming up with a rate. Here’s a short list to keep in mind:
- Your value. Being a freelancer means you determine your value, so take a close look at your skills, experience, and the quality of work you can offer your clients. Recognize the unique value you can bring to them. Do you know the ins and outs of every authoring app, and then some? Are you an expert-level graphic designer, too? Are you an ace project manager? Factor all of those things into your pricing.
- Your operating costs. When you’re a freelancer, you’ve got to cover insurance, benefits, plus the day-to-day stuff like the cost of your hardware and software, your internet connection, your phone bill, and your office space. And don’t forget to factor in costs for attending industry events or learning new skills. Your professional development is also coming out of your pocket now.
- The going market rate. Do a little research online. What’s the hiring salary for jobs you’d easily qualify for? What do your competitors charge for custom e-learning?
Looking for some additional things to consider? Check out the incredibly helpful community tips in this discussion.
How do I estimate course development time?
A prospective client calls you up to gauge your interest in working with them on a project. You find that you’re pretty interested in the work and the client seems pleasant enough, but then the dreaded question: can you get this done in three weeks? What do you say when clients put you on the spot and ask you to estimate course development time? Here are some suggestions:
- Ask for more clarity before responding. You might be tempted to provide a broad estimate, and that may even satisfy your client. Ideally, they’d let you examine the source content before providing an estimate, but sometimes clients want to know you can do the work on their timeline, no matter what. If that’s the case, you can ask a few other questions to help identify potential areas of concern, like:
- What’s the target audience’s prior experience with this content? Are we refreshing or augmenting existing skills, or building brand new ones?
- What’s the visibility of this course within your organization?
- What happens if we don’t hit your timeline?
- Refer to industry standards. The industry gold standard for estimating course development time is The Chapman Alliance, which provides a series of ratios based around the level of complexity and interactivity of the desired output. These ratios can be a helpful starting point for (re)setting client expectations.
- Use your own benchmarking. If you track your hours, you might already have a good sense of how long it takes you to do the work the client needs. If you don’t already track your time, you should perhaps reconsider. Most freelancers will agree that doing so is a must!
For more helpful pointers and resources on this topic, don’t miss Over a Dozen Tips and Resources for Estimating Course Development Time.
How do I deal with clients who want me to do extra work for free?
One of the most challenging parts of a new freelancer’s job can be managing client expectations. This part of the job is especially tricky when your client starts asking for little extras here and there that might not seem like much at first, but add up to substantially more (unpaid) work for you. On the one hand, accommodating their requests seems like a good way to satisfy a client and gain their repeat business. On the other hand, it doesn’t make good business sense to let yourself be taken advantage of by a client. After all, do you really want repeat business from a client who doesn’t want to pay you fairly for the work that you’re doing?
If this predicament sounds familiar, here are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself before that next out-of-scope request hits your inbox!
- Take notes during those initial project kick-off meetings with your client. Document all the requirements the client shares in those meetings. Identify any potential areas of concern and ask questions. Capture all you’ve learned in a simple project plan and share it with the client before you move ahead.
- Put it down in writing. Make sure your signed agreement or statement of work with the client is clearly worded and defines all the boundaries with regard to the project scope, timeline, and deliverables, as well as the process for gathering reviews and approvals, and payment terms. You’ll also want to make sure your contract language specifically defines what happens if new deliverables or requirements emerge and the work becomes out of scope, along with when and how you’re to be paid for that out-of-scope work. If you’re not sure you’re on solid ground with your wording, it pays to ask an attorney to take a look and help you firm up your agreement.
- Let your clients know you'll price your work appropriately. If the client’s timeline is super-aggressive, you'll need to adjust your price to allow for sub-contracting work out to other developers or to accommodate the long hours you’ll need to do the work yourself. Usually, after hearing that the price is going to go up, clients will realize new flexibility in their deadlines or will make it clear that they’re willing to pay whatever they need to get the job done on their timeline. Either way, you win!
Really struggling to find the right words to manage this situation? Check out this excellent advice from the community for some helpful phrasing.
How do I find new clients and create a steady flow of business?
Most freelancers start out with a handful of clients that keep them busy, but they quickly realize they’d be up a creek if one of those clients suddenly cut back their outsourcing budget. Just like any other type of business, freelancing is most sustainable when you have a steady pipeline of good repeat business. That means always keeping your eyes open for new opportunities.
Ideally, you’ll want prospective clients finding and approaching you, rather than spending a lot of your time finding them. So how do you make yourself known in the industry? Here are a few ideas:
- Create a portfolio of your work. E-Learning Heroes challenges are a great source of portfolio material since they give you the chance to feature yourself at your most creative. Another pro tip: once you’ve got your portfolio published, add a link to it to your email signature and your social media profiles.
- Develop an elevator pitch. When someone asks you what you do, have a succinct and memorable response in mind. Make sure it defines who you are and what you do and why it’s special so you can stand out from competitors.
- Network online. Use platforms like E-Learning Heroes to demonstrate your helpfulness and your expertise. Not only is it a solid strategy to connect with other freelancers who may refer business to you in the future, but it’s also a great way to appeal to potential clients scouring the forums for freelancers.
- Network in person. One surefire way to meet people is to attend industry conferences and events. Go visit your favorite high-profile industry speakers and introduce yourself. Better yet, write a proposal to speak at industry events so you can really show your stuff!
- Collect testimonials from clients. When you go to Amazon to research new headphones, for instance, the products that offer an assortment of glowing reviews really seal make your buying decision so much easier, right?
The same idea applies to shopping for a freelancer. So if you and your client are really working well together, don't miss the chance to collect a glowing review of their experience working with you. By adding a client testimonial to your website, prospective clients will see that choosing you is the right decision.
Want more tips on how to market yourself? Check out all of the great advice Nicole has put together in this article, No-Fail Strategies to Succeed as an E-Learning Freelancer.
Looking for pointers on building your personal brand? A good place to start is this article, Boost Your Career by Building Your Personal Brand.
And if you’re brand-new to freelancing or struggling to find work, be sure to check out the E-Learning Heroes Job Board for loads of new opportunities.
No matter where you are on your freelancing journey, E-Learning Heroes is the place for you! Check out a few related articles to help kickstart your business.
- Here’s Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio by Tom Kuhlmann
- 5 Tips for Finding New E-Learning Projects and Clients
- A Day in the Life of an E-Learning Freelancer
What burning questions do you have about the world of freelancing? Share them with me in a comment. I’d love to lend a hand!
Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.