Instructional designer / e- learning contractor newbie! Help needed please :) Instructional designer / e- learning contractor newbie! Help needed please :)
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  1. #1

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    Default Instructional designer / e- learning contractor newbie! Help needed please :)

    Hi guys!

    I'm new to the forums - I'm 26 and have been an instructional e-learning designer for about two years now (before that I was an it trainer) at the moment I am the sole instructional designer for the uk arm of one of the biggest companies in the world-but I'm thinking of starting contracting and I really need some advice before I make that jump! Any help would be greatly appreciated

    What's the best way to go about landing a contract (contact agencies?)

    Will I have to have the e-learning and design software on my own laptop or do companies usually supply this kind f stuff during contracts?

    Thanks so much guys!

  2. #2

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    Two years is not a lot. There are going to be people with decades of experience. Granted training doesn't particularly need the level of knowledge a specialist would but still, doesn't sound a lot to me.

    A contractor is chosen because he is an expert in the field and brings a wealth of experience to the client. You are going to struggle a little with this plus the fact you are new but nothing to stop you giving it a go.

    Last time we engaged outsourced training we expected them to deliver the whole lot, not just be a body at a desk. We didn't want to buy any software etc, just deliver a solution. I would guess that would be a better market for you. Take their requirements and then deliver a product.

    Read the newbies guides to the right, make sure you have a substantial warchest if possible before starting, 2 months on the bench are not unknown even for experienced guys, look around on jobserve to see what is out there. You are looking for stuff you are an expert in, not stuff you might be able to do.
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  3. #3

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    Hi Jonsonp,

    as a trainer myself (for about 13 years now, starting with 6 years as a trainer when I was a permie at Dell), the main piece of advice I would give is don't restrict yourself. On my current contract I am required to produce regular eLearning to support software updates for a global business, as well as designing and delivering training via web-conference, and onsite at various global sites. If you used to be an IT trainer, and you're happy to do that again, include it in your searches.

    This is my 1st real contract - prior to this I did freelance, soletrader work, producing individual pieces of eLearning, and then a few short-term contracts that turned into permie jobs.
    I use Captivate and Articulate as my main eLearning tools (as they're so commonly accepted). Having spoken to other trainers in my team (who have contracted for much longer than me), most companies will provide this software for you, so I would hold off on buying until you get a contract and find out whether they will or not. You can always buy it if you need it when you sign the contract.

    As for finding work... Good luck! Not in a nasty way, it's just that I'm in the same situation. Jobserve has been my main source, but I've been trawling these boards for other suggestions too.

    As for not needing the same level of knowledge as other roles... bollocks. This board seems to have a fair number of techies on it - sure, you won't ever need to know how they do their magic, but you better know your subject inside out. I'm happy to go for training roles on software products I've never used before, simply because how to click on a few buttons isn't the important part - you can learn that (and part of being a trainer is being a quick learner) - it's applying the use to the business, highlighting benefits, etc. However, as you're the one who has to face the end-user and answer their obscure questions, you're the one who has to advise work-arounds or fixes if possible for processes that don't match business needs, or whatever it may be, it does pay to specialise in one area or another. That could be "skills", "process training", "MS Office", "CRM" or whatever. If you can get enough knowledge to specialise in different areas then get different CVs to issue as fit the jobs advertised.
    I currently say I specialise in CRM (which I do), but I have a tonne of experience in general software training (bespoke and standard), sales skills, business processes, product training... If I think I can do the job, I'll apply and redo my CV to highlight the relevant skills and experience.

    Final bit of advice - don't trust agents. I thought that whatever I earned, they would get x% of, e.g. I get £300, they got £30 but if I get £350 they get £35. Apparently this isn't the case - they get £x and they decide how much to give you and how much to keep. So don't tell them, "I want £x, but I'll take £y" as you'll get £y. Don't rely on agents to come back to you, unless you're successful. Don't sign the "opt out notification" that will be slipped into your contract pack as if it's just the last page of the contract, and never referred to except as "and sign page 5" and don't let the agency director bully you like he tried to me ("no contractor has ever refused to sign", "this means that you want to be treated as an employee, not a contractor", "I'll have to tell the client and they may not want you") - there are posts explaining why not to sign, but in short, all signing an opt out does is say that you don't want certain legal protections to apply to you.

    Other than that, good luck!

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    Nice post Ticktock.
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  5. #5

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    If you can add experience of some elearning systems like Blackboard or Moodle that could broaden your marketability

    Build or buy a cheap server, and learn about them yourself

    Theres always work going for administrators on that side as well, if you've got any development experience it's an area you could crosstrain into
    Doing the needful since 1827

  6. #6

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    Thanks so much for the replies, really great insight!

    Ticktock you really know your stuff, i seem have the same background (i used to be a microsoft and bespoke software trainer) albeit you have a lot more experience than me!

    So do you find IT Training roles more plentiful than e-learning?

    To be fair im only interested in the money which i know is a bad thing to say - theres so many permanant roles out there but its impossible for me to break the 40k mark at the moment so i feel contracting is my only option to earn some decent money!

    Do you find yourself out of contract much?

    Thanks again!

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by amcdonald View Post
    If you can add experience of some elearning systems like Blackboard or Moodle that could broaden your marketability

    Build or buy a cheap server, and learn about them yourself

    Theres always work going for administrators on that side as well, if you've got any development experience it's an area you could crosstrain into
    Ah great tip thanks! I have a bit of experience using and basic admin of moodle but in going to take your advice and learn more about it! Do you think just developing and maintaining moodle will be good experience?

    Thanks so much!

  8. #8

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    Default Thank you

    Quote Originally Posted by Ticktock View Post
    Hi Jonsonp,

    as a trainer myself (for about 13 years now, starting with 6 years as a trainer when I was a permie at Dell), the main piece of advice I would give is don't restrict yourself. On my current contract I am required to produce regular eLearning to support software updates for a global business, as well as designing and delivering training via web-conference, and onsite at various global sites. If you used to be an IT trainer, and you're happy to do that again, include it in your searches.

    This is my 1st real contract - prior to this I did freelance, soletrader work, producing individual pieces of eLearning, and then a few short-term contracts that turned into permie jobs.
    I use Captivate and Articulate as my main eLearning tools (as they're so commonly accepted). Having spoken to other trainers in my team (who have contracted for much longer than me), most companies will provide this software for you, so I would hold off on buying until you get a contract and find out whether they will or not. You can always buy it if you need it when you sign the contract.

    As for finding work... Good luck! Not in a nasty way, it's just that I'm in the same situation. Jobserve has been my main source, but I've been trawling these boards for other suggestions too.

    As for not needing the same level of knowledge as other roles... bollocks. This board seems to have a fair number of techies on it - sure, you won't ever need to know how they do their magic, but you better know your subject inside out. I'm happy to go for training roles on software products I've never used before, simply because how to click on a few buttons isn't the important part - you can learn that (and part of being a trainer is being a quick learner) - it's applying the use to the business, highlighting benefits, etc. However, as you're the one who has to face the end-user and answer their obscure questions, you're the one who has to advise work-arounds or fixes if possible for processes that don't match business needs, or whatever it may be, it does pay to specialise in one area or another. That could be "skills", "process training", "MS Office", "CRM" or whatever. If you can get enough knowledge to specialise in different areas then get different CVs to issue as fit the jobs advertised.
    I currently say I specialise in CRM (which I do), but I have a tonne of experience in general software training (bespoke and standard), sales skills, business processes, product training... If I think I can do the job, I'll apply and redo my CV to highlight the relevant skills and experience.

    Final bit of advice - don't trust agents. I thought that whatever I earned, they would get x% of, e.g. I get £300, they got £30 but if I get £350 they get £35. Apparently this isn't the case - they get £x and they decide how much to give you and how much to keep. So don't tell them, "I want £x, but I'll take £y" as you'll get £y. Don't rely on agents to come back to you, unless you're successful. Don't sign the "opt out notification" that will be slipped into your contract pack as if it's just the last page of the contract, and never referred to except as "and sign page 5" and don't let the agency director bully you like he tried to me ("no contractor has ever refused to sign", "this means that you want to be treated as an employee, not a contractor", "I'll have to tell the client and they may not want you") - there are posts explaining why not to sign, but in short, all signing an opt out does is say that you don't want certain legal protections to apply to you.

    Other than that, good luck!

    Just wanted to say thanks ! I've been trying to find information about Contracting and this comment is very helpful especially with regard to Agents (I totally agree with you there). I'm an eLearning Graphic Designer and wondered if you had any experience with Umbrella companies?

    Thanks again!

    D

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonsonp View Post
    Hi guys!

    I'm new to the forums - I'm 26 and have been an instructional e-learning designer for about two years now (before that I was an it trainer) at the moment I am the sole instructional designer for the uk arm of one of the biggest companies in the world-but I'm thinking of starting contracting and I really need some advice before I make that jump! Any help would be greatly appreciated

    What's the best way to go about landing a contract (contact agencies?)

    Will I have to have the e-learning and design software on my own laptop or do companies usually supply this kind f stuff during contracts?

    Thanks so much guys!
    Hi there, I just read this and wondered how you were getting on with regard to your contract role? I myself designed for elearning for nearly 10 years, creating graphics and assets for inclusion into mainly bespoke programmes. I am also trying to get into the contracting role, so was just wondering how you did.

    Hope all went as you wanted.

    Cheers

    D

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougieladd View Post
    Hi there, I just read this and wondered how you were getting on with regard to your contract role? I myself designed for elearning for nearly 10 years, creating graphics and assets for inclusion into mainly bespoke programmes. I am also trying to get into the contracting role, so was just wondering how you did.

    Hope all went as you wanted.

    Cheers

    D
    They haven't been back on the site in coming up three years, either they are making a fortune and have no time or need to come back, or they stayed a permie, my money is on the latter rather than the former
    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    ― Marcus Aurelius

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