Freelance Heroes

Hi, and welcome to the "Freelance Heroes" thread, a place where Articulate Freelancers help each other. Got a question about freelancing? Or perhaps you have an e-learning asset that may be valuable to those "doin' their own thing"? This is the place to share--to give.

To start things off, I'd like to share a short list of questions that help me figure out what kind of training a potential client wants. (So often they have no idea what they want.) The list is far from exhaustive, but may be of some help. Looking forward to meeting you. --Daniel  

1302 Replies
Bruce Graham

OK - I have an "informal" plan, it's just not written down in a formal document called "Business Plan".

Of course it is important to know what your aims and targets are - or else how will you ever know if you hit or missed them. You have to know this so that you can change and grow your business appropriately.

I think this makes a lot of sense before you start.

In conjunction with Nancy's comments - it's important to know what you will not do, but to know who can do it for you, because you will probably be asked to do things for which you have no skills and experience. My particular area for collaboration is illustration and video production/editing. I would love to lean more but it is not my area of core expertise, so I get other trusted colleagues to do it for me.

Bruce

Daniel Brigham

Ann Evans said:

Hi everyone,

I need to buy a new microphone for voiceovers. Has anyone got any advice or suggestions about what spec to go for? There's a lot of choice out there and wide variation in prices. I'm happy to pay for benefits that are real but don't want to over-specify for quality that won't be noticed in e-learning courses.

Thanks in advance!

Ann

Ann:

Ann Evans said:

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

Hi, Ann: My two cents: go to a company in your area that rents and sells audio equipment to local venues. They should allow you to try out multiple mics, and find the one that sounds the best for your voice. All mics are different, very much like an instrument. Far more important than the mic is the performance of the VO talent. That's the hard part. Expect to pay between $150 to $300 for a decent condenser mic. Of course, you can go usb-type as well.
Daniel Brigham

Welcome to Freelance Heroes, Brett:

What helped me get off the ground was the people you see here. I asked honest questions and got very helpful feedback from those more experienced than I. Hope you hang around and can see what I mean.

This field demands many skills, so it'll help to find a focus. The question that has helped me most is "What do I like doing?" And related questions, "On what type of projects can I do that?" and "What types of clients/organizations are the best fit for me?" I have to say "No" way more than I can say "Yes."

Yeah, this sounds me-centered, but like Cyndi Lauper, I just want to have fun. Again, welcome. --Daniel

Brett Schlagel

Thanks for the wealth of information and advice, everyone. The full time gig is here to stay for both of us for quite some time, we have a few goals we want to achieve before diving into this with our first client, we currently are looking to attend seminars, classes, and such as well as a few other things to gain more of the freelance experience, we'd like to do all this within a year before buckling down and getting our first gig. 

@Ann:

We currently use a Blue Snowball - Ice as our microphone for recording narratives and voice overs. We picked this up at our local BestBuy after running through about 6 other microphones and this one was pretty impressive. It's a condenser mic and produces a very clean and crisp recording. It ran us about $60 and outperformed the $150+ mics we were toying with. Here is a link to one:

http://www.fullcompass.com/product/443957.html?utm_source=googleps&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=googleps&gclid=COLC9-uf0LkCFeoWMgodaDQA5g

Belen Casado

I've been following your conversation with @Brett, and felt identified with him when I started my freelance job 1 year ago.

As @Daniel puts it:

Daniel Brigham said:

What helped me get off the ground was the people you see here. I asked honest questions and got very helpful feedback from those more experienced than I. Hope you hang around and can see what I mean.

But... the last months in my "small business" have been almost empty of projects. I have some money saved for this kind of situation so it wasn't money what I was worrying about, but the lack of work to do. I started (following my rather than informal business plan) sending my profile to different projects, and some of them where for positions inside an office -again.

The thing is that I've been selected for a really good and well paid position in a North-American company with an office based in Madrid, where I live. And now I don't know what to do. This position is international, it's instructional design and more, and I think I could grow with it. However, I would lose my freedom, my working from home, my going out with my dog at any time I want...

And I ask you, experienced and successful freelances: have you ever had this temptation? What have you done? What would you do in my case?

I'd really appreciate your opinions.

Thanks!

Belen Casado

Bruce Graham

Yes Belen - I have been tempted.

I think that you have a special position in that your country is having a VERY hard time. I would take the role, however, I would try and continue "part-time" in some way if you can.

I think that, if the right role came up for me, I would go back to a "fulltime" role - however I would want to try and do it on my terms in some way.

Freedom is all very well, but it needs to put food on the table.

Bruce

Belen Casado

Bruce, taking into account that this advice comes from you... I cannot do anything but taking the role.

You're so right! Yes, the situation in Spain is REALLY difficult, I see lots of people -close to me, not in the news- that can't find a job even if they try day after day.

I think that I feel flattered with the offer of this international position, but yes, I think I could feel much better if I could continue with some freelance jobs.

I asked to work from home but it seems not possible, they want me to develop a good relation face to face with the SMEs in the office. Maybe I could work from home once a week after I show my skills and professionality. Well, I'll let you know when this is done. Anyway, I'll keep connected to Freelance Heroes -my heroes.

Thanks again, really!

OWEN HOLT

Bruce Graham said:

.......

I think that, if the right role came up for me, I would go back to a "fulltime" role - however I would want to try and do it on my terms in some way.

Freedom is all very well, but it needs to put food on the table.

Bruce

That describes me... Full Time Employee / Freelance "Hobbyist"

Holly MacDonald

Belen - Bruce is right (as usual), with this:

Bruce Graham said:

Freedom is all very well, but it needs to put food on the table


Take the role, and think of it as a step in your journey. You can use time in the evenings/weekends to "gear up" for a future freelance stint. You'll learn some great things from within the company, so use it to grow as an instructional designer, a consultant and a business person. Our careers are journeys and sometimes they take a turn. It usually takes 3-5 years to really establish yourself in a service business, so recognize that having a rough first year can be considered normal. 

Let us know how it goes, we're rooting for you!

Holly 

Sheila Bulthuis

Agree with Bruce and Holly 100%.  Belen, it sounds like the perfect opportunity for your situation - meets financial needs and gives you an opportunity to do good, interesting work and maybe even learn some new things. And taking a job now doesn't mean you'll never be a freelancer again, it just means for now you'll do your freelancing as a "hobbyist" like Owen. 

Congratulations on the new job!

John Cecil

Image / photo site question:

I've been asked to price for some Storyline work.  I want this particular gig, since it is in a field I want to break into, and I also have an idea of the scope, since I wrote the PPTs that they will be based on.

It looks like I will not have access to the client's image bank, so they want my quote to reflect my purchase of images.

I've never developed without access to a photo library - anyone have a good site for images, and know what the price-per-image would be?   The end user would be public education. 

Thank you, John

Andrew Sellon

Belen Casado said:

Bruce, taking into account that this advice comes from you... I cannot do anything but taking the role.

You're so right! Yes, the situation in Spain is REALLY difficult, I see lots of people -close to me, not in the news- that can't find a job even if they try day after day.

I think that I feel flattered with the offer of this international position, but yes, I think I could feel much better if I could continue with some freelance jobs.

I asked to work from home but it seems not possible, they want me to develop a good relation face to face with the SMEs in the office. Maybe I could work from home once a week after I show my skills and professionality. Well, I'll let you know when this is done. Anyway, I'll keep connected to Freelance Heroes -my heroes.

Thanks again, really!


As always, you're getting good advice, Belen!  And the challenge in finding clients is pretty much global, I think.  I have certainly felt the pinch here in the US.  As others have said, the most important thing is being able to pay the bills.  If situations make that difficult or impossible via freelancing, then it's great to have the offer of a stable, secure (as secure as any job can be these days!) position--especially one that will use your skills well!  And as anyone else in this group will also tell you, freelancing on the side, or returning to freelancing at a later date, can still be options.  We all crave stability even as we crave freedom.  Kind of like cats.    I think we have to remind ourselves that it's natural for the balance to change now and then over time.  Best wishes on your new job!

Andrew

Andrew Sellon

John Cecil said:

Image / photo site question:

I've been asked to price for some Storyline work.  I want this particular gig, since it is in a field I want to break into, and I also have an idea of the scope, since I wrote the PPTs that they will be based on.

It looks like I will not have access to the client's image bank, so they want my quote to reflect my purchase of images. 

I've never developed without access to a photo library - anyone have a good site for images, and know what the price-per-image would be?   The end user would be public education. 

Thank you, John


Hi, John--and welcome!  There are a few points to discuss here.

  • If the client does have an account with an image bank, why won't they make it available for this project?  That seems very odd.  Have you gently inquired/pushed back on this point?  If they have an account already, you might have free or discounted use of images from that bank.  So it's really worth finding out why you would not be allowed access, and seeing if they will reconsider.
  • With regard to how much you should quote, on the rare occasions a client can't/won't share their image bank, I tell them that images will be priced at cost, once all proposed images are approved by the chief stakeholder(s).  Most sites will let you use a watermarked version of an image in your storyboards to show clients, and then you can purchase the actual image once you have client signoff.
  • There are a huge number of image banks out there: iStockPhoto, BigStock, Getty, etc.  Pricing depends on the image and the image resolution.  Web-only (low resolution) is always cheaper than high-resolution print, for example.  Visit a couple of sites and you'll get an idea of pricing.   I'm sure others will weigh in with their favorite sites. And there are a few sites out there that offer some free images--but usually, not enough, and not good enough quality.  Here's are some links about some of those:  
    http://blog.efrontlearning.net/2010/10/free-stock-photos-sites-for-e-learning.html 
    http://www.elearningonlinetrainingsoftware.com/10-free-stock-photo-resources-for-elearning/  
    http://www.public-domain-image.com 
    If you are not charging the audience money for the courseware, and the client has Microsoft Office licenses, then you could also use images from Microsoft's site for free.  But they cannot be used if there will be fees involved for taking the courses.  And the selection is of course more limited.
    And there are a lot of great free downloads from Articulate and this community!
    You might also consider a site like eLearning Brothers, who offer a range of characters and other images and interactions for an annual fee: http://elearningbrothers.com  It all depends on what you need.
    (If music is to be involved for any slides, that's another whole kettle of fish, but again there are many sites out there.) 
  • The big unspoken factor here, however, is the time you may spend looking for "the perfect images"--which can be substantial.  Clients can be very picky, as you likely know, and finding the "right" images can be very time-consuming.  So you need to factor that into your quote, as well, in whatever way makes you comfortable--unless you can arrange it so that you agree on the type of image you want ("photo of happy children playing" or whatever), then let the client surf though and pick the images they want to try out in the storyboards.  I've done that with particularly challenging clients, and they like that.  I wouldn't ever purchase an image until it has been approved in the context of the complete storyboards.  And your paperwork should state clearly that if (when!) they change their  minds and want a different image, that is additional, at cost again.  But never overlook the time it takes to select images.

Anyway, those are some thoughts to get you started.  Others will chime in with favorite image banks and other advice, I'm sure!

Hope this helps,

Andrew

Bruce Graham

 John,

Have you considered using custom icons?

They are cheaper to produce (when you find and trust an illustrator), they are less "cheesy", and they are yours.

I struggled with this problem a year or so ago - now I sell the benefits of doing this to virtually all my clients, and have a wonderful re-useable library building up too - they are VERY easy for an illustrator (or you?) to re-colour.

Here are some from a Wall Street Clearing House.

The Clearing House is also a great "hotel" when required, just with a label change. The "Put" has been almost every document known to exist. 
Bruce

Andrew Sellon

Glad it was helpful, John!  As long as the client is happy with the "look" of what they've already produced, and aren't looking to go in a completely new direction, then it sounds like a good approach.

If you go with eLearning Brothers, let me know what you think.  I am likely to subscribe myself at some point, when the client need calls for it.  Keep in mind that with eLearning Brothers, you have the right to keep using their images as long as you maintain your subscription.  If you choose to let it lapse, you keep all the courseware you've built with their images in place, but cannot then reuse those images in new courseware (something of an honor system).  

Bruce--I love the custom icons approach.  You're right, we should basically all be hooking up with a good graphic designer for some fundamental, reusable "library" items like these.  Now, I just have to find the right artist...!  Recommendations?

Gina--A bunch of us have suggested this; the thread has become so unwieldy.  And I only subscribe again from time to time, as my inbox tends to fill up with well-meaning folks writing humorous (but non-substantive) one-word responses to someone else's post.  It would be great to talk seriously about taking our freelancers forum to a separate channel, where we can sort posts by topic and search easily (that has always been a challenge on the Articulate forums).  And if we could include the option to send one-word replies only to the poster rather than everyone on the thread, that would be downright magical.  

Daniel Brigham

Sheila Cole-Bulthuis said:

Agree with Bruce and Holly 100%.  Belen, it sounds like the perfect opportunity for your situation - meets financial needs and gives you an opportunity to do good, interesting work and maybe even learn some new things. And taking a job now doesn't mean you'll never be a freelancer again, it just means for now you'll do your freelancing as a "hobbyist" like Owen. 

Congratulations on the new job!

Belen: congratulations on the new gig. Employment is a wonderful thing. We'll miss you. --Daniel
Daniel Brigham

John Cecil said:

Thanks to all for the image advice - it looks like I can try a subscription service, rather than a per-image fee. The images match pretty closely what the client already has produced.

John

Welcome, John. You might check out shutterstock.com. Something $250 a month to subscribe, but you can download as many photos (and in whatever sizes) you want. So basically, if you know what images you want, you can get all of them for $250. Warning: the selection isn't as good as istock or getty, but it's workable. --Daniel
Belen Casado

OMG! This is much more than I expected... Well, to be honest, yes, I expected this very good advice from all of you!

Well, Daniel, I hope you don't miss me, I hope to still be around and continue developing my skills in Storyline.

True, this is not "all or nothing", but another step in my career and for sure I can learn a lot from an international position.

(My English will improve, too ).

I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm really really grateful of belonging to this community.

Belen Casado

Helene Sobelman

We have an oppening for a designer/developer in my office... while this is a full-time position.. and ideally we would fill it as such.. i i figured i'd share the posting here in case any of you freelancers happened to be looking for a full-time gig..

eLearning Instructional Designer/Developer – Capital Region, NY

This position is with the CUNY School of Professional Studies (SPS) and is located in the Albany-Rensselaer, New York area.

CUNY SPS is looking for a creative instructional designer/developer to join a dedicated and dynamic distance learning development team working in the human services industry. The team uses synchronous and asynchronous learning technologies to create change and efficiencies in human service agencies throughout New York State. Team members have a track record of creating cutting-edge learning experiences and integrating technologies into blended learning solutions.

For more information and to apply visit: https://www.rfcuny.org/hr/pvn/cgi-bin/show_job.asp?pvn=RIS-1592