What to Expect of Freelance/Contract Developer

Jun 05, 2018

My company is considering hiring a freelance/contract elearning developer for a particular project, and I'm trying to figure out what we can reasonably expect. In general (I'm sure there's no one, universal answer, but there's probably an industry standard), would the developer provide us the .story file, or would the developer retain that and provide us only the .zip package?


Which party generally provides the necessary media (e.g., images) for the course?


Is there anything in particular we should watch out for in the contract/terms and conditions?


Thank you!

5 Replies
Julie Stelter

Hi Ryan,

When I'm hired for freelance work I'm paid to complete the work and turn over all source files as part of the contract. The contracts do not always specifically say this but freelance work is "work for hire." So the freelancer does not retain ownership. Typically I turn over source files after I've been paid. The zip files are sent when completed. 

I have had different scenarios with images. It all depends upon the client. Sometimes the client has their own stock photo subscription which they allow me to use. Other times, I use my own and include that cost as part of the fee. The image license, if purchased from a stock photo source, is usually limited to the image being used in the course it was purchased for. 


  • Start slow with new contractors. Choose a designer/developer to produce 1 course. If it goes well, give them more business. If not, move on. 
  • Do not choose a contractor based on price alone. An experienced designer/developer works faster and more efficiently than someone who is starting out and may be low-balling to get clients. The learning curve is steep with instructional design, developing in Storyline, and working for hire.
  • Make sure individual freelancers have a back-up plan if something serious should happen in their life. Many designers/developers have networks but it is a good thing to ask.

Best of luck!



David Tait

I agree that the developer should provide all necessary source files once they've been paid.

It's not unusual to ask a developer to put together a small sample based on your content as part of the selection process. We're often asked to do this and it's a good way for both parties to get to know each other's methods.

Richard Watson


Lots of good advice from David, Julie and Matthew. I too provide .story master files to my clients after completing a project and receiving final payment. Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Check out their online portfolio's to see the types of content they create. What is their focus? Technical software training? Healthcare training? Is it close to the type of content you want them to create for you?
  • When you receive the .story masters,  remember it will be important to back them up and maintain them in case you need to perform updates later. Otherwise, you'll be dependent upon the freelancer to hold and maintain .story masters which can be a disaster if neither of you address this. If you ask them to maintain the backups, then expect to be charged an administration fee.
  • You are paying for the value the freelancer brings to the transaction. So, don't go for the person who presents the lowest price. Look for someone who is a good fit for your organization. I pride myself on building long-term relationships with my clients instead of just treating them as another business transaction. I like to think I bring value to them above and beyond the actual content (delivering on time, within the budget, quality work that fits their needs, consulting on how to address their business challanges via training) ...
  • Keep in mind that you are looking for someone who is good at managing the project. Check references to make sure they are known for meeting timelines, providing quality work, communicating effectively, etc.
  • In addition to designing content, you may need to consider their background. Many times, I have clients who need assistance with loading and testing e-Learning content (SCORM packages) and addressing a wide-range of challenges associated with getting content created and delivered to the final audience (voice over, audio files, SCORM versions, mobile vs. desktop options). If you think you'll need more help than just creating content, keep that in mind as you look at each person's portfolio/background.
  • When it comes to images used in e-Learning, I've both provided and had the client provide images. The key thing here is to make sure that images are licensed for use; otherwise, it could create problems down the road for you. Expect the freelancer to charge for optimizing and preparing images if you provide them.
  • Will you provide audio narration or need a professional voice over person?  How many revisions will be included in the price?
  • Are you looking for someone who can create content from "scratch" or someone who will use a template. Many times, this can separate developers and the quality of work they create. In other words, if they always use templates, expect the final result to look like many other clients they design/develop for.

Wow! That's just a bit of what you should consider when working with a freelancer. I do this on a full-time basis so if you have more questions, please feel to reach out to me directly as I don't check discussion threads on a regular basis. Happy to answer additional questions you might have.



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