"The Bigger The Company the Smaller the Rate!"

And I've gotten a new low... A recruiter emails me about a job. For Mercedes Benz. Cool, right?

They want (you to move to MI, and...)

"Required Experience:
   • 7 years minimum overall business experience
   • 5 years minimum experience in instructional design and development"

THE RATE?   "$30/hr Max w2"

I mean, that's INSANE right?? Or is this (CRAP) the norm now? Am I missing something?? I got my Masters in 2011 (ISD), and first gig out of the gate was $35/hr. When I've interviewed for Real Jobs, for ID roles, I'm saying "low $70,000's"... could THIS be why I'm not getting jobs??

C'mon you smart people, reality check me!



15 Replies
Matthew Bibby

Completely unacceptable rate given the experience they are looking for.

Maybe for someone brand new to the industry with no real world experience... but for someone with 5 year minimum experience in ID and development, that rate is just insulting.

Keep in mind that I'm based in Australia and our $$$ is valued differently to USD, but even at $38AUD per hour... yep, insulting.

Maybe you should ask them if you buy a new Mercedes for $30,000? 

Christy Tucker

I remember seeing one a few years ago that was asking for that plus a bunch of technical experience at $24/hour. The job sat vacant for months and months for some reason.

If the job was at a university, that actually wouldn't be too far out of line. Higher ed salaries for IDs are often significantly lower (and I don't understand why, since that's a hard environment to work in).

You can compare different scenarios and get benchmarks with the eLearning Guild salary calculator. Using the variables of Michigan, Bachelor's degree, instructional design, individual contributor, 6-8 years experience, manufacturing, 5000+ people, and major metro area, I get a benchmark salary of $72,409. That's $34.80/hour.


Christy Tucker

For the broader take on W2 rates, check the salary calculator. What does that show you as a benchmark for the W2 job you interviewed for? Were you able to find any other benchmarks from Glassdoor or other sources?

Freelancing is a completely different question from the W2 rates, and that's not what you asked. First, as long as you view freelancing as not a "Real Job," you aren't ready to make the leap. If you view freelancing as "pretend work," prospective clients will pick up on that attitude and either not hire you or negotiate you down to a lower rate. After all, if you don't take the value of your work seriously, why should they?

If you can stop sneering at freelancers and consultants who don't have "Real Jobs" long enough to read a bit more, there's a lengthy discussion on pricing here. There are no quick and simple answers, and the rate is very wide. https://community.articulate.com/discussions/building-better-courses/what-s-the-going-rate-for-freelance-work

The low end of freelancing work isn't much higher than the rates you're seeing for W2 work. That usually means subcontracting. It can easily end up as less than the total salary you make as a W2. It's possible to make more (I broke 6 figures in my first full year being independent), but that requires a number of factors: successful negotiation, accurate estimation, time management, and a bit of luck.

Michael Pereira

As a career Consultant, I can tell you that it varies. (I have been consulting and contracting since the late 1990s.) I see a lot of jobs in the $30 to $35 an hour range for E-Learning developers and I think that in some cases that is about right. However, I have landed a few E-learning roles from $37 to $42 an hour and even had one at $47 an hour and I think those are fair rates for what the job was requiring. (Basically they just wanted me to develop the courses in Captivate/Camtasia or Storyline. If that is all they want, no graphic design, no video production, then $37-42/hour isn't bad money in my opinion.) When I have landed roles that were paying higher ($50-60 an hour), they were usually termed multimedia developer, etc. and they were asking for a lot more experience and skill.

If you cannot code at least HTML, CSS and Javascript, cannot design or develop video and or cannot perform skilled graphic design with Photoshop and Illustrator for example, then I don't think you should expect rates in the $50 an hour range and above. The bottom line is that you have to bring the skills if you want to earn the cheddar. I have worked for major banks and financial institutions almost exclusively in my career with the exception of a few gigs with software companies (Adobe and Apple) and one Medical company. I can tell you that banks pay really well. For training developers the rates I have listed above is what I have seen in the Southeastern US. (Probably the lowest paying area of the US for IT, so adjust accordingly.) In the southeast we don't make as much as the northeast or the west coast, so location is part of it as well. The highest paying jobs I have had were when I wasn't developing training, sadly. When I work as a web developer or programmer or even a UI/UX designer I make more than when I work as a trainer. Multimedia developers get paid pretty well from what I have seen. But I think that  in general training is on the low end for IT workers.

There are plenty of websites that will tell you what you should expect in your area. Maybe try some of them and see if the money is off or the expectation? Good luck!

Alison  L.

So right, I am very much aware of salary calculators. I am sure those presented here will be of value to future readers of this thread. I was just hoping (and getting) some of the people from THIS Community, because people have a-good-head-on-their-shoulders around here.

@ChristyTucker - I have been a Freelancer (plus REMOTE- so spending a lot on upkeep) since getting my Masters at the end of 2011. So I certainly did NOT end to make "Real Job" sound like Freelancing isn't. How about "Real Employee?" Buuuut.. \* -DEEP BREATH!- *\ No one is snearing at you. And thanks! for the link to the previous discussion, although a little long in the tooth, still provided some really good considerations! 

@MichaelPereira - so the Consulting information helps (side note: I designed (developed, full stack?, etc) websites for 8 years before the Masters (in ISD). I tend to say $40 for straight development (ADDIE) from StoryBoards, $50(s) for learning design (ADDIE) , and then more for ADDIE, etc). Although I ALSO consider "development" to include the multimedia media... things.

I tend to push-back for Remote (just)-Development work BELOW-$30 because employers like to use it as an excuse to pay less, and seem to forget the person is trying to maintain their own hardware, software (licenses & subscriptions - $500 to keep Articulate 360 going soon!) PLUS: pay their own electricity, internet, phone.

Hmm. Probably not telling anyone reading this thread anything they don't already know. 

Still. Thanks for all the help! If you couldn't tell, I was so-very-much Freaking Out um... just a bit ;) 

Oh, and given the number of um, non-USA Recruiters reaching out  (eg. I got 9 DIFFERENT emails for ONE job recently!). I wonder how far down the totem pole this guy is. I have certainly seen an uptick in the R2Rep is actually being for a different company than the Recruiter is from. Meaning that sub (and sub sub?) contractors take a piece of the The Gig's $$, and kick the can down the road. Maybe?


Christy Tucker

Allison, you had a number of options for describing the position.

  • Hourly employee
  • Direct employee
  • Employee
  • W2 Employee
  • Full-time employee

Instead of any of those options, you chose "Real Job" and "Real Employee." Can you talk a bit more about why the word "real" is so important to you in describing those roles? What is the message you're intending to send when you use that word?

What do you call yourself when you're on 1099 contracts instead of W2 contracts? You call yourself a "real employee" when you're W2, but what term do you use when you're 1099?

Remote really doesn't have anything to do with whether or not you're W2 or 1099. I've worked remotely as a consultant (all 1099), as an hourly W2 contractor through recruiting companies, and as a salaried employee. When I was W2 (both as a contractor and as an employee), laptops and software were provided. That is, after all, part of the differentiation between W2 and 1099.

Alison  L.

Not trying to get into a semantic debate over job titles and words and word meanings.  Honestly, "real employee" was a quick thought as per how the US Gov't and Tax Code view things ( https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-self-employed-or-employee ) . I can backtrack and wipe "real" as an adjective in any former posts whilst prostrating accordingly, if required. 

In meantime, I thought this bit from that former thread was still helpful: https://community.articulate.com/discussions/building-better-courses/what-s-the-going-rate-for-freelance-work#reply-23803  (and can invite finders there to join us here!)

Christy Tucker

Years ago, I worked for a company that regularly referred to their "online courses" and their "real courses." They never directly called the online courses "fake" or "pretend," but nobody in the organization was unclear about which courses were valued more. It was reflected in promotion decisions, marketing efforts, and the respect for instructors (who often were the same people teaching the on-ground and online courses). In fact, that company devalued the online courses so much that they eventually eliminated the entire online development team and focused on their on-ground courses.

It's always uncomfortable to be called out for language. Whether you consciously intended the slight or not, people felt it, just like everyone knew where they stood at my former job. When I pointed out the language, you continued to emphasize the word "real." Instead of acknowledging a slip of the tongue and adjusting, you doubled down on it. That implies you meant something by it, whether conscious or not.

As Matt said, the words you use matter. If you call yourself a freelancer, that puts you in the category of being an extra pair of hands, taking orders and fulfilling project requests. If you call yourself a consultant, you put yourself in the category of being a strategic partner who provides guidance, advice, and support. Rates for freelancers are generally lower than rates for consultants. Those words matter in how clients view your role and the value you bring to an organization. Neither one is right or wrong; there's a need for freelancers who can jump in and finish a project efficiently, and a need for consultants who can guide clients to get better results.

You say you've been freelancing since you graduated, but now you're looking for a permanent job. If you describe that job you're looking for as a "real job," you're telling prospective employers that the work you've been doing the last few years doesn't really count. You're putting yourself at a disadvantage in salary negotiation because you seem less experienced. As much as you have held firm to that language in this discussion, I'm guessing it has slipped out in interviews or conversations with recruiters, whether you're aware of it or not.

You don't need to prostrate yourself or edit your posts. I know where I stand, and I'm deliberate about choosing language that reinforces that role to clients and peers. I would suggest, however, that you take some time on your own to think about the language you use and how it portrays you to your peers and prospective employers.

Matthew Bibby

Thank you for writing this Christy, I think this is something that will help many people. And as always, you've said it a lot more eloquently than I could have. I'm just going to stick with posting Pinocchio pictures!

Alison, thanks for linking to that other thread, there are some interesting discussions there.