Who here is freelance and/or self employed?

Jul 15, 2011

Curious about how you made the jump and would love to pick your brain or have someone I could ask a few questions off.  Had to leave my position at University of California to relocate with fiance to Indiana, and looking to start doing this on my own or subcontract for others.  If anyone is amiable to answering my questions, PM me.

54 Replies
Joe Deegan

I am actually employed full time but consider freelancing as the night job.  I would love to some day make the jump to full time freelancing but not ready to leave the organization I am full time with just yet.  I wasn't exactly looking to get into freelancing but a few clients fell into my lap after building up a reputation through a lot of posts on forums like this, on twitter, and my blog and most importantly sharing ideas and samples.  The best thing you can do is share your work so that others can see what you're capable of and seek you out when they need help.

Kevin Thorn

Hi Hugh - I'll echo Joe's comment. I've been dabbling in freelance for a few years, but not until I became more 'public' in the blogosphere that I noticed the need. Probably hands down for me was entering the Articulate Guru Awards contest last year and entering the Elearning Guild's DemoFest which gave me immediate exposure.

Requests started ramping up toward the end of last year and it's been fairly consistent ever since.

Here's a few tips:

1. If you don't have a portfolio, start putting one together. You'll need it when folks want to see your work. If you don't have one, at least have some of your work available via a link you can send.

2. Get visible. I know it can be hard sometimes to balance everything with life and the interwebs, but participate in communities like this one and get active in the Twitter stream. 

3. Read AND comment on industry blogs. Folks will start recognizing your name and what you have to offer.

4. Start a blog if you don't already have one. If you're like me and fail at regular posts, at least it's an online space you can share your own thoughts and possibly some portfolio work.

Once you get 'plugged' in, you'll see several requests weekly of folks looking for everything from full instructional design to full out course development.

Hope that helps and pick away. I'll answer your questions the best I can.

Bruce Graham


Echo echo, (agree with both posts above...)

I was invited by a company that I worked for to take an immediate role in an aggressive cost-cutting exercise about 3 (?) years ago

I had a couple of contacts that helped me get started, however, blog, LinkedIn profile and other online presences have been INVALUABLE.

Managed to get a Fortune 500 contract out of one of those alone ... BUT, they do their homework, so be prepared to write, post, Tweet, blog, have a portfolio.

I consider myself as an "average Joe", I was pretty shocked to hear someone refer to me as an "eLearning rockstar" at a dinner recently!!!

Have a look at these, (more webbyness from me...), they may also help:



This one as well - the skills I think you need to succeed in freelancing...

Good luck.


Phil Mayor

It was great to meet Bruce in person a couple of months ago.  He is an elearning rockstar, I have never seen someone say so much in five minutes

I was asked recently if I would consider some freelance work, I would love to do it, just need to find some time.

I think if you have the opportunity to take the leap, jump with both feet


Kevin Thorn

Phil, I know having a day job and freelances on the side, time is always my biggest fear. I've been a 'freelance' illustrator/cartoonist for over a decade, but always kept things small and never took on big projects for fear I didn't have the time. 

In the last year accepting elearning design/development projects, I made a decision to treat my freelancing "time" as if I took on a second job at 20 hours a week. That's roughly 3 hours a night plus weekends, or 4 hours a night and weekends free. With that boundary set, I was more at ease because I could be honest with potential clients that I'm part-time and not a full-time freelancer...and knowing I limited myself to that amount of time investment.

Most weeks I get by with much less, but depending on deadlines I may work 30 (yes, wee hours in the morning). I still manage 2-3 elearning clients and 3-4 illustration clients consistently, but that's my max while I have a day job and keep the family balance. Even though the extra coin is nice to take my wife out to a nice dinner, she still expects me to do my chores!

I told myself I'd do it for one year at this pace and gauge if its worth expanding. Not that I couldn't "do" the work, but would I still have the passion and staying power after the first few months of infatuation to potentially grow it into something.

No doubt there's been a few all-nighters and moments of "what am I doing this for" but in the end I can't say no to a client that has a design or development challenge that I know I can help them with.

Bruce Graham

I would say that the biggest challenge, the one to crack is the time aspect. You cannot create more of it, you have to use what you have with incredible efficiency; both when very busy, and when not very busy.

You have to be incredibly efficient with admin, email etc., (and yes...you are still expected to do the chores!!).

Working from home is a pain, you have to be able to simulate "going to the office" in some way, or be VERY disciplined about not getting up for tea, coffees, bikkies, walking the dog, having a lie-in, having an "after lunch kip", going to the pub, watching the TV, hoovering, doing the washing up etc etc etc.

This is a mindset issue.

Forget about "finding time", you never will.

How will you re-allocate what you CURRENTLY have, so that you can chase the rainbow?


Bruce Graham

Phil - we posted at the same time there!

I would add, (based on your post), start with whatever you can. Do not start with all-nighters, start with a target, e.g. "What can I do?". Can you afford/(find) 2 hours a week, 6 hours, or 10 hours?

Then plan to that figure.

If you ever want to chat things over, PM me and we can chat on the phone.


Bruce Graham

While you are figuring all that out, it's also worthwhile starting to think about how you will start/run the business? As Donald Trump once said..."If you are going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big".

  1. Do you have a good, potentially income-generating contact network?
  2. Do you have existing potential clients?
  3. Do you have existing definite clients?
  4. Do you have an accountant....(sorry....had to mention it) and a bookeeper?
  5. Are you, or they going to set up a Ltd. company for you.
  6. Are you going to charge by the hour, or on a "project" basis?
  7. What are the household/personal arrangements going to be like when you need more time to complete something? This is actually a "personal relationship" thing with the family that took me a while to figure out. Silly things take a while, but ARE possible, for example, we are going on holiday to Devon end-August, cottage holiday, but it happens to be a cotttage with a fully kitted-out office on the third floor overlooking the estuary, with Wi-Fi; so I work until lunchtime and then drink beer   That one is all about work/life balance I suppose, but as I view what I do as having the best fulltime hobby in the World and getting paid for it, it works for us!

Anyway, there a million questions. Play "Fantasy Workload", and then do something every day in order to try and make it happen.


onEnterFrame (James Kingsley)

Having made the jump recently I will weigh in here...

Everything Kevin and Phil said is spot on. If it was not for my friends here in the Articulate world I would not have half the business I do. 

And to add too it...

Going solo may not be what you expect it to be. I spend a lot of time determining if I car build a solution and creating estimates for folks that may decide not to hire me.  I need to deal with a lot of contracts, billable hours, picky clients, fears of being broke, very late nights, etc. Thankfully I have a business partner who is awesome with the 'Office' side of the house ( and a terrific coder!) and kids who understand the passion I have for my company.

Let me tell you this story that happened recently. 

  • My kids said they wanted to hit the beach (about a two hour drive). I checked my work load and said lets go first thing in the morning! +1 for being my own boss.
  • I stay up til 3AM to finish a client's project. -1 for have long weird hours.
  • While on the beach I get an email  from the client that a file needs tweaking -1 I cannot afford to turn over work that is not 100% awesome.
  • I leave the beach (and kids) go to the car, create a wifi hot spot with my cell phone and get the laptop on the internet. +1 I get to buy my own cool tech gear.
  • I fix and upload the files. +1 I can work from almost anywhere.
  • I spent the rest of the day on the beach with my kids. +5 (they are cool)

Also.. you may wanna have some $$ in the bank before you take the plunge.... A few months supply. 

Like Kevin I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Bruce Graham

Alice Acker said:

One more hopefully useful bit of info -- Be prepared to wait for payment from your customers.  It's not like getting a regular check every 2 weeks.  I invoice monthly, but sometimes have to wait for 2 months for "A/P to process" my payment.

Good point...

I work for a company (via another) that has a 95 WORKING days payment policy - it's just good news that I produce content for one of their suppliers, who makes sure I get paid on time.

A good accountant is also invaluable


Marty King

Great thread. I am considering freelancing myself in the future. If not for being in the middle of an SAP installation, I would have moved forward on doing it part-time. The other road block in the US is medical benefits. Hopefully that changes in the near future .My wife does not work so this is a serious consideration to full-time free lancing for me..

Hugh Gardner

Marty King said:

Great thread. I am considering freelancing myself in the future. If not for being in the middle of an SAP installation, I would have moved forward on doing it part-time. The other road block in the US is medical benefits. Hopefully that changes in the near future .My wife does not work so this is a serious consideration to full-time free lancing for me..

Yeah, I have insurance for a few more months, but after that nothing until the fiance and I tie the knot.  Definitely one of those things that keep me awake at night.
Marty King

Well, that could change once the so called "Obamacare" starts in 2014. Barring a repeal, it could stimulate a small business boom since many people would be free to pursue there real interests instead of working at a job they are not passionate about strictly for the securite of the benefits. My hats off to you Hugh for taking the risk. Best of luck!

Tom Kuhlmann

@Marty: not sure a massive government program will stimulate much on the side of small business; probably will have an opposite effect since the administration has been giving all sorts of waivers to big business and other interests like unions.  The costs are farmed out to all of the other citizens and small business that don't have a lobbying interest.

When I was laid off a few years back, I bought a catastrophic healthcare plan for a family of 4.  It was about $200/mo with a $3000 deductible.  Makes no sense to me to pay $6000 a year just to have coverage.  I'd rather pay less and pocket the difference.  Of course if you have a chronic illness then that's probably not the best option.

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