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Top Qualities That Shape A Successful eLearning Freelancer
Taking the leap from full-time to freelance employment is a risky career decision, but when done properly can be truly liberating and rewarding. But what does it take to be a successful eLearning freelancer? In this article, I´ll share the top 12 qualities that shape an eLearning freelancer in order to help you determine whether this eLearning career option is right for you and ensure that your freelance business is in for the long run.
- Passion for learning.
eLearning freelancers have an inherent thirst for knowledge. They want to know everything about the eLearning industry. From instructional design theories and graphic design principles to information technologies, successful eLearning freelancers are constantly looking for ways to expand their knowledge base. In the eLearning industry, technologies and tools change all the time; staying on top of these changes will help you develop new skills that will differentiate you from other eLearning freelancers. However, it is difficult to stay up-to-date with all eLearning trends if you don’t have a true passion for learning. Being a successful eLearning freelancer requires having a wealth of knowledge about a variety of things, from eLearning authoring toolsand software to instructional design models and ways to develop eLearning video scripts. But there are no shortcuts to knowledge; you need to always be curious, ask questions, and take every opportunity to learn something new. An insatiable curiosity is a vital quality for all eLearning professionals. And it is this natural passion for knowledge that helps them to design eLearning experiences that make an impact upon their learners, because they know how they learn and what motivates them to become active participants in the learning process.
- Leadership skills.
Even if you have no one working under you, you still need to have leadership skills as an eLearning freelancer. There will be clients who need guidance during the eLearning course design process, as well as subject matter experts and other eLearning professionals who require some degree of management. Taking care of the client billing, filling out the necessary forms, and managing the books also requires a fair amount of leadership skills.
Being your own boss means that there is no one to look over your shoulder or create a set schedule. One of the best things about being an eLearning freelancer is not having to report to anyone, but that also happens to be one of the disadvantages. If there is no one to hold you accountable, you must have the self-discipline to stay on track and see your projects through to the end. Perhaps self-discipline is the most important quality freelancers should have; without self-discipline, you simply cannot be a successful eLearning freelancer. For some people, not having a boss breathing down their neck may be a problem. When you don’t have someone to tell you what time to start working and what time to stop, you need to put all the effort to focus yourself. Not having to deal with a strict 9-to-5 type schedule will tempt you to do things you like as often as possible; watching movies, surfing the web, staying up late, drinking coffee with your friends on Tuesday mornings. However, you will soon realize that by doing this you will be at risk of missing deadlines and disappointing your clients. You simply cannot have fun all the time; you need to stay focused, avoid distractions, and organize a daily routine that includes your freelance working hours. It can be tempting to “call in sick” for the day when you feel burnt out or to find reasons not to work, even though there is plenty to be done. However, being an eLearning freelancer doesn’t mean that you sit around all day and work whenever you feel like it; rather, it means that you are able to choose how to set your working schedule. Self-direction, self-motivation, and self-discipline are vital skills for success in the eLearning freelancing field. If you have the self-discipline to work hard and stay focused on the task at hand, then you are more likely to be successful.
- Time management skills.
Time management skills are often associated with developing a productive work schedule. While this is important when you’re an eLearning freelancer, the ability to manage your time effectively actually has a variety of benefits. Most notably, it helps you to create accurate estimates for your clients based upon the fact that you can properly gauge how much time each task will require, and thus enables you to prioritize your projects and charge your client accordingly. For example, if you set aside five hours of time to work on the storyboard for an eLearning course and it takes you ten, then, you will either have to charge the client more, which can diminish your credibility, or miss out on five hours of pay. Tracking time spent on projects by breaking down your working hours into categories such as designing and developing your eLearning course, communicating with your client, creating eLearning videos and so on, will help you manage your time wisely. By doing so, you will be able to calculate your freelance hourly rate and ensure that you are paid fairly. Not being able to manage time and prioritize activities will be a problem if you want to be a productive and successful eLearning freelancer.
If you have been an employee for a long time before becoming an eLearning freelancer, you may be used to someone telling you what to do all the time. Now that you are your own boss, you will no longer be told what to do; you need to come forward and take action. You need to ask questions; you need to be decisive; you need to take full responsibility for both your decisions and your actions. Taking initiative means making things happen, and this is something your clients always appreciate. Taking initiative also means taking responsibility for every aspect of your business. While you may work with other eLearning freelancers to complete projects, when all is said and done you are the one who is in charge of meeting deadlines, landing new projects, and ensuring that you deliver a high quality finished product. This is often one of the most difficult attributes to develop if you are used to being an employee, as you will be required to carry the burden of running your own business so that you can enjoy all of the perks.
- Communication skills.
You may think that when working almost exclusively online, as most eLearning freelancers do, it is not of utmost importance that you have strong communication skills. This is a mistake; a clear and precise communication between you and your clients is essential at all times, whether in person or not. Keep in mind to always reply to your emails within 24 hours and, if you cannot, send an email confirming that you received the message and you will answer questions asked as soon as possible. Communicate your ideas in a clear and professional way in live chats or video calls, and be smart enough to know when your advice is wanted and when it is not. This last one doesn’t mean that you need to compromise the quality of your product, but it is important to be sensitive and not force your advice on an unwilling client. Try to be flexible and suggest alternative ways of doing things, so that you will be able to keep both yourself and your client happy.
- Quick thinking.
eLearning freelance competition can be really tough, and thinking quickly will make it more likely to secure something before someone else does. This is not only about being able to “get” what your clients want fast, which is essential, but also about making quick and effective decisions when confronted with complex situations. If it takes a long time for you to adapt to different circumstances or to make a decision on the spot, your clients will simply look for another eLearning freelancer next time.
As is the case with all professions, there are going to be times when you feel like throwing in the towel. This is when determination and persistence comes into play. When business is slow or clients become difficult, persistence is going to keep you focused and on-track, so that you can push through the challenges and reap all the rewards of a successful career. Being persistent is crucial, especially at the beginning of your career as an eLearning freelancer. When you have completed one or two eLearning projects, it will be easier to land a job; but at first, when you need to prove yourself, you must believe in your skills and abilities. Rejection from a variety of different clients is a common situation for most eLearning freelancers and should not discourage you. Taking no for an answer doesn’t mean that you need to give up, but rather to keep trying and not stop looking for new opportunities. Freelancing is exciting, but it can get frustrating; being persistent is of utmost importance when the road is rough and steep.
Another benefit of being an eLearning freelancer is that you have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people. When working as an eLearning freelancer, no two days, no two clients, and no two projects are ever the same, which means that every opportunity is exciting and new. As such, you need to be able to adapt to every situation and to be flexible. Different clients are going to have different work processes and different expectations. If you don’t have the power to adapt to the ever-changing tide of the eLearning industry, then you simply won’t get the same opportunities as those who do. Being flexible will help you tremendously not only in learning new things and developing new skills, but also in decision making, as the more able you are to adjust yourself and your work to different circumstances, the easier it will be to decide whether to undertake rush jobs that come your way. Charging extra for rush jobs or not is another decision you must make; but successfully handling short notice deadlines is always highly appreciated, as it is important for your clients to know they can rely on you in tough times.
This may seem like a rather peculiar item on this list, but empathy is an essential quality for eLearning freelancers. You must be able to get into the minds and hearts of your learners. You have to find out what makes them tick, how and why their brains absorb the information, and what it will take to connect with them throughout their eLearning experience. In many respects, eLearning freelancers must put themselves in the shoes of their learners in order to figure out what they need to take away from the eLearning course, what they expect, and how the information should be delivered.
Can you think of what you look for in your ideal client? Honesty, trustworthiness, effective communication, consistency, reliability; all these elements are also what your clients look for in you. Being professional means earning the trust of your clients, and in order to do this you need to always keep your promises and deliver high quality products on time. Trust is difficult to build and very easy to destroy; you can’t expect from someone you have disappointed once to give you another chance, so you must always respond promptly to your clients’ requests. Putting your customers’ satisfaction first, showing that you are willing to go the extra mile, and being reliable will take you a long way.
- Networking skills.
Networking is considered to be the most effective way to land a job as an eLearning freelancer, and your personal website, blog, and social media accounts can work as great marketing and networking tools. Make sure that you keep your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts active and updated, so it will be easy for people to find and contact you. Don’t hesitate to publish eLearning articles on other relative top ranking eLearning sites. This will give you the chance to immediately reach your target audience, build your online presence, and market yourself as Top eLearning Author. Furthermore, try to attend as many eLearning events as possible, always making sure that you bring plenty business cards with you, as eLearning events are great opportunities for networking. Finally, keep in mind to ask for a recommendation from a client you have had a great experience with, as word of mouth is the best form of advertising.
Experience and continued education can also help to fine tune eLearning freelancer skill sets and talents. Ultimately, dedication to your craft and the constant pursuit of knowledge and personal growth are key to being a successful eLearning professional.
Interested in landing more jobs as an eLearning freelancer? The article 7 Tips Every eLearning Freelancer Should Know To Land More Jobs features top tips that can help you get more eLearning design and development projects and build your instructional design portfolio.
Also interested in learning more about how to build a long term and thriving eLearning freelance career? Read the article 7 Tips To Find your Niche as an eLearning Freelancer and find out all the factors that are involved in choosing the eLearning niche that is just right for you.