Question for the Community

Greetings everyone,

Let me first start out by saying thank you.  This community has been so helpful (blogs, forums and tutorials).  Yesterday I graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a Masters of Education in Instructional Design.  I currently work as an Instructional Technology Coordinator, but plan on making a career in the ID field eventually.  In the meantime I feel I should develop my ID technical skills and build a portfolio up.  Below I've listed a few skills I want to tackle right away.

  • Improve Storyline skills (consider myself novice)
  • HTML/CSS
  • Javascript
  • PowerPoint
  • Graphic Design (Photoshop, Illustrator)

My questions for the community.  

  1. How do I get entry level work? 
  2. Do I offer my skills pro bono to non-profits?
  3. Are there online sites looking for volunteer ID work?
  4. What should my online portfolio contain?  
  5. If I do freelance work, should I form a business entity right away or wait?
  6. What technical skills do you recommend I start developing?

I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. Thank you all. 

13 Replies
Jackie Van Nice

Hi Chris,

Congratulations on your brand new Masters! Very exciting. I love that you've got so much skill building and other goals in mind. Just take your time and you'll do fine.

You probably saw Tom's post this week - as a new ID there are tips in there that are worth checking out: http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/3-things-every-new-instructional-designer-needs-know/

You'll get loads of advice here, but I'll just speak from my own experience. I've been an independent ID working directly with clients for 10+ years.

  • I had great success initially offering my pro bono e-learning skills to nonprofits, so I'd certainly recommend it. Approach it strategically so the size, type, location, or whatever matters to you most is right in your sweet spot. My approach to find nonprofits who could use my skills was to tell everyone I knew what I was looking for. Got connected quickly.
  • Again, Tom has great advice about what to include in your portfolio: http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/heres-why-you-need-an-e-learning-portfolio/. I referred to much of his advice when I put together my own online portfolio: http://www.jackievannice.com/?page_id=175059879
  • I started out as an S-Corp and found I despised the pain-in-the-neck factor of dealing with its requirements, so I shed it and went back to working under my own name as a sole prop. I pay more in taxes, but I truly don't care. I feel completely free and happy. You have to do what feels right for you, and no, you don't have to decide on an entity up front. You could start as yourself and see how you feel about it as you learn more about your options.
  • You already have a list of technical skills you plan to work on! Are you looking for more?
  • Biggest piece of advice I can give you to develop your skills, build your network, build your portfolio, and catch the eye of people looking for freelancers is to focus on the weekly challenges. My challenge entry this week is even about using the challenges as a career stepping stone: http://www.jackievannice.com/?p=175064196

Congratulations again, Chris, and I hope to keep seeing you here in the community!

Chris Chagnon

Jackie and Bruce I appreciate you responses.  I've been following both of you for some time, so I value your input.  Jackie please feel free to add any additional skills you recommend I develop.  I'm an avid reader also, so any books you recommend would also be helpful.  I already have quite the library.  

Bruce in regards to business skills, I've managed businesses in the past, taken courses on Small Business, read lots of books and blogs.  I'm currently reading "E-Myth Revisted".  I also done side work in the past as a Computer Technician and Slide Show Montage Creator.  My plan is to work in the industry for a while and also do freelance work at the same time.  I'm not prepared or experienced enough to make the leap to full-time freelancer.  My goal is to own my own E-Learning Business with a small reliable crew of ID's.  I know I have a long ways to go, but I'm driven.  My background for the past 10 years has been Information Technology in the Higher Education realm.  I manage all campus Instructional Technology.  I have a wide array of technical skills and experience.  

Bruce Graham

Chris Chagnon said:

Jackie and Bruce I appreciate you responses.  I've been following both of you for some time, so I value your input.  Jackie please feel free to add any additional skills you recommend I develop.  I'm an avid reader also, so any books you recommend would also be helpful.  I already have quite the library.  

Bruce in regards to business skills, I've managed businesses in the past, taken courses on Small Business, read lots of books and blogs.  I'm currently reading "E-Myth Revisted".  I also done side work in the past as a Computer Technician and Slide Show Montage Creator.  My plan is to work in the industry for a while and also do freelance work at the same time.  I'm not prepared or experienced enough to make the leap to full-time freelancer.  My goal is to own my own E-Learning Business with a small reliable crew of ID's.  I know I have a long ways to go, but I'm driven.  My background for the past 10 years has been Information Technology in the Higher Education realm.  I manage all campus Instructional Technology.  I have a wide array of technical skills and experience.  


You sound as thought you have a very sound, and well-considered plan. Good luck to you.

My only other advice is to not wait "...until you are ready". You will never be/will never feel as though you are.

There are too many skills to develop - which is where a lot of people go wrong. They spend so much time learning the tricks of the trade they never learn the trade. Focus on a few, and develop the rest rapidly when you need them, to the level you need them.

Shout on or off-forum if you need any advice, and once again - good luck achieving the vision - I have a feeling that with your attitude and experience you will do just that, and you have the beauty of your surroundings in which to thrive.

Ashley Chiasson

Hi Chris - 

Your post inspired me to post a little advice on my blog - 3 Ways to Take Your Freelance Instructional Design Full-Time (http://ashleychiasson.com/blog/3-ways-to-take-your-freelance-instructional-design-full-time/).
  1. Build a portfolio, get yourself online, apply for jobs like it’s your full-time job
  2. You can - but this can be a slippery slope, so tread wisely (research, research, research). Working with non-profits or small businesses to develop their training can be very rewarding, just make sure you get a portfolio piece out of it so you’re not just working for free :P
  3. Yes there are sites…one in particular is escaping me right now, so I’ll respond once it comes to me.
  4. Examples of your best work and samples that showcase your abilities.
  5. I would wait - I freelanced for 3.5 years before forming an entity - it’s really not required right away, especially if you’re just starting out.
  6. Personally, I find having some graphic design and programming abilities to be a huge help, but what you should really focus on is producing some solid portfolio pieces and finding a job to hone your abilities before you start worrying about the other skills you want to develop.
I definitely second Jackie’s post, and I agree with Bruce - you should have some business sense before going into business; it took a lot of research for me to make the leap from freelance (side gig) to full-time, and most of that research was about how to run a business. I’ve quickly learned that my least favourite tasks (that I’m not paid to do) are things like invoicing, accounting, and BlahBusinessBlah :P
Nancy Woinoski

Ashley is right on the money with her advice. So here is my 2 cents to add to what she has already said - when you are first starting out everyone asks to see samples of your work so I would focus my efforts on building a portfolio of really good examples instead of doing the pro bono work.  You can do the pro bono once you are successful. You might want to target a specific subject or vertical market that you have some interest in and build some examples that showcase your skills in that area. Then target your efforts to find work in that area.

There are about a million people in the eLearning space so the last thing you want to do is create some ho-hum examples that anyone and his or her dog can create.

You should also spend some time building up your professional credentials by answering questions here in this forum and in the groups on LinkedIn, and building a network on Twitter (something I have managed to fail to do by-the-way).   

Alexandros Anoyatis

Nancy Woinoski said:

You should also spend some time building up your professional credentials by answering questions here in this forum and in the groups on LinkedIn, and building a network on Twitter (something I have managed to fail to do by-the-way).   

+1

Nancy Woinoski said:

There are about a million people in the eLearning space so the last thing you want to do is create some ho-hum examples that anyone and his or her dog can create.

+2
Chris Chagnon

Nancy Woinoski said:

Ashley is right on the money with her advice. So here is my 2 cents to add to what she has already said - when you are first starting out everyone asks to see samples of your work so I would focus my efforts on building a portfolio of really good examples instead of doing the pro bono work.  You can do the pro bono once you are successful. You might want to target a specific subject or vertical market that you have some interest in and build some examples that showcase your skills in that area. Then target your efforts to find work in that area.

There are about a million people in the eLearning space so the last thing you want to do is create some ho-hum examples that anyone and his or her dog can create.

You should also spend some time building up your professional credentials by answering questions here in this forum and in the groups on LinkedIn, and building a network on Twitter (something I have managed to fail to do by-the-way).   

Great advice Nancy. Can you provide some examples of niche areas to develop eLearning?  I work in Higher Education currently, but I don't want to limit my options to just that environment.  What areas are in higher demand?  

Ashley Chiasson

Nancy Woinoski said:

I wasn't thinking so much about what is in the highest demand but more about targeting a niche market that you are really interested in or have some knowledge. 


For example, I developed most of my ID experience within the Defence sector, so I was all Defence-sector'ed out in my interests. I knew I wanted something different. I was really interested in the Higher Education market, so that's where most of my clients are. Start where you feel comfortable and let it align with where you want to go

Bruce Graham

Chris Chagnon said:

 

                   

What areas are in higher demand?  


Chris,

If you do not want/need to start immediately, this is always an opportunity to create a NEW niche area. Fin out an area with low/no demand - YET...and use that as your focus of operations. Demand can be satisfied, or it can be created. The second takes more work but will often yield better results.