If you are an instructional designer and have ever dreamed about going out on your own, then the one thing that is likely holding you back is wondering how you are going to find paying clients.
Naturally, the avenues available to you depend largely on your areas of specialization, skill-set, and overall experience, but there are still some options that are universal to everyone.
Before deciding to go it alone, you should really assess why it is you want to go on your own in the first place. If it is because you just want a change of scenery, you may want to consider looking for another employer instead. Especially if you are one who enjoys having benefits like discounted healthcare, 401k matching plans, paid leave, and so on.
But chances are you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t at least somewhat interested in the prospect of venturing off to start your own instructional design firm (with you as the first employee)!
Resources for Finding Clients
1. Industry Specific Staffing Firm – This may sound less attractive at first, but you will cut the search time in half by getting your resume into the hands of these companies. There are staffing agencies out there that cater to staffing instructional designers. They have client connections and match you up to the client based on need. They don’t just take anyone, so make sure you get on the phone and dust off your resume. I joined one of these a few years back and I still get contacted about projects.
2. LinkedIn Groups – This one is so easy, but so many people don’t do it. Just as you should have a good hardcopy resume, your LinkedIn profile should also be just as up-to-date. Once it is, join groups on LinkedIn related to instructional design and elearning. You’ll be amazed at the number of recruiters who post jobs on these groups. Every day there is something.
3. Your Current Employer – Granted this doesn’t seem as “sexy” as finding your own client, but you have to start somewhere and often your current employer would jump at the opportunity to pay you more money out-of-pocket and save on expenses related to benefits. Plus, they know that you already understand the culture. If you do go this route, make sure that you don’t just get stuck working for them as you always have – otherwise what’s the point in leaving? The biggest advantage to this is that you will immediately have one client that you can talk about with other potential clients as you validate your expertise.
4. Indeed.com – Another one that is right in front of your face but often isn’t used since their marketing isn’t as strong as the Monsters and CareerBuilders of the world. Indeed.com is more or less a job search engine that easily searches for jobs using any filter you wish. Filter by job type, project duration, location, hourly rate, so on and so forth. The results will be gathered from across the internet and presented to you in a nice organized fashion in .05 seconds 🙂 .
5. FlexJobs.com – Pretty cool site that only lists legitimate jobs that you can do from the comfort of your own home, or on a telecommute basis (meaning some days in the office and others from home). You won’t find any scams on this site as the companies are often large organizations, all of which verified. You’ll need to get creative with the search terms you use when looking for a project, but I’ve seen instructional design jobs on there.