How to find a qualified e-learning freelancer/consultant?

May 16, 2016

A question I get asked often is:

"Where should I look if I want to hire an Articulate contractor?"


"How do I make sure I hire the right freelance e-learning developer?"

What advice would you offer to those asking these questions?

If you were on the hunt for a consultant/freelance ID or e-learning developer, where would you look, what would you look for, and what steps would you take to ensure the right person is hired? 

Thanks in advance...

12 Replies
Natalia Mueller

I have found no better resource than this community. Weekly challenges, shared resources with links back to their website or blog, helpful comments and discussions are all insights into ID/Developer methods, personality and design style. I don't need to have someone physically present for this type of work and that opens up far more options than if I limit myself to someone local. 

I'm particularly interested in their analysis and design process so I know what to expect while pairing them with SMEs. I also like being able to see a lot of samples/examples of their work. That makes me comfortable with the quality I can expect and frees me to focus on working with them on content and leave the design/development to them. 

Cindy Turner

I look out here at portfolios and on LinkedIn. Also, I look at resumes posted on the E-learning Guild. When I've been in positions of hiring e-learning IDs, I am most likely to hire someone with a great portfolio. I also ask them to complete a short work sample from material related to the type of project I'm hiring for. I look for people with a background in instructional design, not just e-learning development. Seems like this is hard to find, though. 

Christy Tucker

I know it's not quite your original question, but I had a past project where we hired voice over talent based on her existing demos. Her work for our project was very flat and nothing like her demo. I have learned that for hiring voice over talent, a custom demo really makes it easier to determine if they'll work for your particular project. It's especially hard to tell how they'll narrate e-learning if their demos are for radio or commercials.

I wouldn't necessarily expect a custom sample from e-learning developers, but a 30-second or 60-second demo for voice talent seems to be pretty common in their industry.

Cindy Turner

Yes, I have... A person was hired to work on my team and I then had to ask that the person be let go because his work just wasn't in line with the quality expected for the e-learning modules. The modules were being sold, so they had to be good. I learned that I need to advocate for always being involved in the hiring process if I am in a "lead" position (seems like a no-brainer but I was also a contractor and the person felt I shouldn't be involved). Another time, I had to go behind an ID and basically re-do all of her work in Storyline. It put a lot of stress on me! So, I quickly learned that it was important for me to review someone's work as they went along...on a weekly basis (although I don't like micro-managing like that). Future projects went more smoothly with that method...I was able to coach and ask for corrections. I also created a style guide and that was very helpful. One of the hardest things to find in an e-learning developer these days seems to be artistic ability/graphic design skills. It can't be assumed that a good ID will make a good e-learning developer, even if they know Storyline very well. But, on the flipside, it can't be assumed that an e-learning developer knows a lot about instructional design (or as I mentioned has good artistic ability). Thus, the conundrum in our field these days.

Christy Tucker

The link to the ONILP LinkedIn group James mentioned is

Right now, if I was hiring a developer, that would probably be my first stop, other than people already in my network.

In terms of evaluating portfolios, I like seeing samples that demonstrate good design principles. If I see lots of "clicky clicky bling bling" (interaction just for the sake of clicking) or voice over narrating every word on the screen, I'll probably pick someone else.

Natalia Mueller

I have had some great contractor/freelancer experiences, but I've also lived the aftermath of bad ones. All of them happened because the person selecting the developer did not have an ID or eLearning dev background and didn't have someone with that experience involved  to help with the selection process. The ramifications were blown budgets, extended timelines and even damaged reputations.

Some Lessons Learned 

1. If you don't have an ID/Developer background, include someone who does when selecting a contractor and at least early in the review process

2. Do your homework - When demos/samples are reviewed make sure someone is looking for not just the look and feel but the intentional design behind the product. Also have the contractor explain their process and how they incorporate clients. 

3. A defensive or argumentative contractor is a huge red flag. It has to be a collaborative effort between the ID/Developer and SMEs. While I expect contractors to utilize and share their expertise, they also have to be open to feedback and keep that process as smooth as possible.

4. Cut your losses. It's certainly worth it to coach a contractor early on to get on the right track together but if they aren't meeting your expectations &/or aren't comfortably open to feedback for changes, seriously consider a plan B. There's nothing worse than a long, painful struggle that ends in a product you don't want to deliver. That and subjecting SMEs to an unpleasant process is what damages reputations. 


Tim Danner
Nicole Legault

Has anyone ever encountered a situation where they ended up with a contractor or freelancer who wasn't up to par? If so, what were the ramifications of that? Any lessons learned? 


We've run into this a number of times because (1) the PTB don't want to pay for quality, (2) the condition of the our content due to poor planning early in the process can make the Storyline development difficult, and (3) we usually end up scrambling to find someone at the last minute. The result has been contractors missing deadlines and/or producing work that wasn't exactly at the level we wanted. Eventually, I was able to lobby for a process by which we secured bids from companies that specialize in Storyline development and solicited samples from them. So far, that approach has worked, despite being limited by the PTB not wanting to make a financial commitment.

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