Have you ever encountered a situation where you needed to find a resource to help you with an e-learning or instructional design project? If you have, you might know first-hand that finding the right contractor (one who is reputable, affordable, available, and has a solid skill set) is crucial to a project’s success. On the other hand, hiring the wrong person can end up costing you a lot of time, money, and headaches. To avoid the latter, here are some tried-and-true tips you should follow next time you’re looking for a freelance instructional designer or e-learning dev:
Identify Your Requirements
Before you start the hunt for the perfect candidate, you want to be 100 percent clear about your requirements. This way, you know exactly what to look for, and can filter out the applicants who don’t meet your basic prerequisites. Skill sets vary broadly from one training professional to the next. One candidate may be both an instructional designer (ID) and e-learning developer, while the next focuses solely on one or the other. Some candidates have graphic design abilities; others don’t.
To identify your requirements, make a list of all the key tasks the candidate will need to do on the project. For example:
If the task is ...
Then you’ll need a candidate with …
Create learning objectives and design the course
Solid instructional design skills
Develop the actual course in a specific e-learning authoring tool
E-learning development experience
Create custom graphics in Illustrator
Graphic design abilities
Not sure exactly what you’re looking for? Here’s a helpful list of six common training titles and their duties that might help you sort out your needs.
Keep in mind: the more requirements you have, the more difficult it will be to find someone who meets all your needs. With that in mind, prioritize your requirements in order of importance, with the first three through five as your absolute deal-breakers, and the ones further down the list as negotiable. This will force you to consider what’s actually most crucial in your project.
Create and Share a Job Listing
Now that you’ve identified what you’re looking for, you need to turn that list into a clear, descriptive job listing. Some people skip the job listing, but how can you really be sure you know what you need if you haven’t even taken the time to document it? Additionally, a job listing is a marketing tool you can use to entice people to work for you—it’s a competitive market out there and you want to attract the best candidates! A poorly written or sloppy job listing won’t attract the stellar, high-quality candidates you want. An enticing job listing that lists specific tasks and duties to perform will attract more of the right people with the right skills.
Your job listing should include:
- Job title
- Job location
- List of main duties and tasks to be carried out
- List of key qualifications, including education, experience, and specific skills
- List of any enticing aspects or benefits of the job
- Instructions for applying*
* Here I would include a disclaimer, that only candidates with a portfolio or work samples will be considered. Read this article about why you need an e-learning portfolio if you’re interested in reading more about this topic.
Creating a job listing can be as simple as whipping up a PDF document that is hosted on a server, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, that has a shareable URL link. Another way to create a job listing is directly in the E-Learning Heroes community, by starting a new discussion with the details of your job listing in the Building Better Courses forum.
Once you have a job listing, you need to get it out there and make it public. You want as many candidates as possible to see it and apply to boost your prospect pool for your project.
One obvious way to get your job listing out is to share the link for it on social media channels. Another option is to create a new job posting in the E-Learning Jobs Hub, which includes a link to your job listing.
Seek Out Qualified Candidates
Recruiters know that the best way to find the perfect candidate is to seek them out, instead of waiting for them to come of their own volition. Great places to look for qualified candidates include:
- E-Learning Heroes Community: This should be your first stop when looking for IDs and e-learning developers, since it’s the largest e-learning community on the web, with over 500,000 registered members. See for yourself who the true experts are by viewing member profiles, reading their forum responses, and viewing the demos they’ve shared for the weekly e-learning challenges. You can also have a peek at this list of freelance ID and e-learning developers.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool for finding candidates, particularly if you do a keyword search and narrow down by skills and city.
These are just a few of the resources where you can find your own qualified candidates, and then reach out to them and ask them to apply for the job.
As previously mentioned, it’s highly advisable to view samples of a candidate’s work before you consider hiring them. You want to know that the person you’re hiring can not only talk the talk but walk the walk, so to speak. A qualified design professional should always have a portfolio, and someone who doesn’t have one should be a red flag to you.
Once they’ve sent you a link to their samples or portfolio, you should look for:
- Quality of visual design
- Quality of instructional design
- Quality of writing skills
- Diversity of examples
- Variety of authoring tools used
Your project requirements will dictate how much weight you give to each aspect of their portfolio. Many people use examples in their portfolio that have filler text or placeholder content because the original content is private or confidential. Keep in mind that filler text is fine but will make it more difficult to judge a candidate’s writing skills or instructional design experience. If that’s the case, and those skills are critical for your project, consider asking the candidate for writing samples, or follow up with specific ID questions in the interview.
These are just a few of the tips you can follow next time you’re looking for a freelance or contract ID or e-learning developer. Remember, the time you put into this process—seeking out candidates, assessing resumes, and reviewing portfolios—will be well worth it when you end up with an awesome candidate who delivers on everything you need for the project. Got any tips of your own for finding the perfect freelancer? Let me know in the comments below.
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