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Ask a Trainer: How Can I Move Into Freelancing?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
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Tim,

I’ve been working as an e-learning specialist for the past few years and I love it! During this time, I’ve realized that I have a true talent and passion for e-learning design and development, and it’s something I know I’d like to pursue long-term.

As I’ve been following you and a few others online, I’ve also discovered that there’s a pretty lively community of folks who freelance as e-learning designers full time. I guess I never considered freelancing as a viable option, but it seems I might have been wrong. As a result, I’m now considering what my future career might look like and whether or not I can make the leap into freelancing.

I’m curious what tips you can offer for someone, like me, who is looking to eventually make the transition into freelancing but has no idea where to begin.



Well, first, let me say how happy I am that you’ve discovered what your passion is and that I and others have inspired you to consider a future in freelancing. I’ll be honest when I say that making the leap into freelancing is exciting and nerve-wracking. And trust me, it really hits home when you get that last paycheck from your full-time job and realize that you’re now 100 percent dependent upon yourself. However, there’s also an incredible sense of freedom knowing that you can do whatever you want.

So, while I could write an entire book on making the transition in freelancing, here are some of my top tips.

Tip #1: Let It Be Known

For you to make the transition into freelancing, even if you’re just starting it as a side hustle, you need to let the world know. This includes your network, your colleagues, and your current employer. I say this for two reasons. First, you’ll never find clients if they don’t know you’re willing to take them. And second, you want to control the narrative to your employer about what you’re doing during your nights and weekends.

To do this, create an online portfolio and share your work or consider starting a blog. Participate in online communities and LinkedIn. The more you put yourself out there, the more attention you’ll get, and you’ll eventually get contacted for work.

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Tip #2: Start Small

There are a lot of ways you can make the transition into freelancing, but the one way you shouldn’t do it is by immediately quitting your full-time job. You should plan to start small and work your way toward eventually taking your side hustle full-time.

What does this look like? Well, pick up one or two clients during your nights and weekends—something you can easily manage between your full-time job and your life. Use these side projects to build your client base, credibility, and savings. It’ll also help you learn the ropes about the freelancing world. Once you’re ready to go full time, you’ll know it.

Tip #3: Plan for the Long-Term

Jumping off from tip number two, while you’re keeping your freelancing small and confined to your nights and weekends, you should also be thinking about the long-term. Take some time to consider what steps you need to take to make the leap into freelancing full-time and how long it’ll take you to get there.

How much income do you need? What debts do you need to pay off? How do you want to market yourself? What services do you want to offer? These are all questions that you should be thinking about, even if you’re just starting out. They help guide what steps and actions you need to take in the future.

I hope these tips are helpful! Best of luck!


Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to askatrainer@td.org. Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.


We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

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