Embarking on a freelance career in instructional design and training can be a thrilling and rewarding venture. It’s a unique blend of creativity, education, and entrepreneurship. However, navigating the initial steps can also be daunting. Here are the five things from more of a holistic perspective you should do when venturing out on your own in this field.

1. Define Your Niche and Services

Know Your Strengths: The world of instructional design and training is vast. Identify your strengths and areas of expertise. Are you more inclined towards corporate training, educational courses for schools, or creating learning programs for specialized niches like healthcare or technology? Narrowing down your focus will help you market yourself more effectively.

Services Offering: Decide on the services you will offer. Will you specialize in creating eLearning modules, conducting live training sessions, or perhaps offering consultation services for learning management systems? Being clear about your services upfront can help attract the right clients.

2. Build a Strong Portfolio

Showcase Your Best Work: Your portfolio is your strongest marketing tool. Include diverse projects that showcase your skills in instructional design, curriculum development, and successful training outcomes. If you’re just starting, consider creating sample projects or volunteering your services to gain valuable pieces. I give some tips in a previous blog post or join our free community where this topic comes up frequently. 

Online Presence: Create a website or online portfolio (Canva or Articulate Rise work nicely) where potential clients can view your work, understand your services, and contact you. Include testimonials from past clients or colleagues to build credibility.

3. Network and Market Yourself

Industry Connections: Networking is crucial in the freelance world. Join online forums, social media groups, and professional organizations related to instructional design and training. Attend industry conferences and workshops to meet potential clients and fellow professionals. Honestly, most of my referrals for new work come from my peers, so nurture these relationships. 

Marketing Strategy: Develop a marketing strategy that includes an online presence, such as a professional LinkedIn profile, a blog where you share insights about instructional design and training, and perhaps targeted ads on social media. Word of mouth is also a powerful tool, so encourage satisfied clients to refer you.

4. Set Your Rates and Business Terms

Research Market Rates: Understand the going rates in your field and geographical area. Rates can vary widely depending on experience, niche, and the complexity of the project. Don’t undervalue your services; Let me repeat that for those in the back: Don’t undervalue your services; set fair rates that reflect your expertise and the value you bring to your clients. 

Clear Business Terms: Develop clear terms of service, including your rates, payment terms, project timelines, and revision policies. Having a contract in place for each project will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth working relationship with your clients.

5. Invest in Continuous Learning

Stay Up-to-date: The field of instructional design and training is constantly evolving with new technologies and methodologies. Invest in your professional development by taking courses, earning certifications, and staying abreast of industry trends.

Innovate and Adapt: Be open to experimenting with new tools and approaches. Your willingness to innovate can set you apart from competitors and make you a preferred choice for clients seeking cutting-edge instructional design and training solutions.

Venturing out on your own in instructional design and training requires a blend of expertise, entrepreneurship, and continuous learning. By focusing on these initial steps, you can lay a solid foundation for a successful and fulfilling career. Remember, success in freelancing is not just about the projects you complete but also about the relationships you build and the value you deliver.