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Building an e-learning contract career

Work in e-learning? Sooner or later, it’s likely that you’ll consider contracting. As a heavily project-based industry, e-learning has a particularly buoyant contractor market, and talented individuals can enjoy healthy day rates and great variety of work.

But you won’t be the first e-learning professional to have thought this way. When the rewards are this good it’s no surprise that competition for the best projects and rates is fierce, and it’s becoming increasingly important for contractors to take a really strategic approach to building their careers.

A significant proportion of Instinct’s e-learning division is allocated to contract recruitment, so here are our top tips for building the contract career you want.


It’s not uncommon for us to see Junior Instructional Designers making the leap into contract work too early. The problem here is that once you’ve turned contract, you’re far less likely to be upskilled as a matter of course by your employer. Contract clients are very unlikely to pay for training courses and take a long-term view of your development, so you’ll have manage (and pay for) those processes yourself.

Far better to spend a few years in permanent employment, making the most of the training on offer and becoming the most well-rounded, highly-skilled professional you can. And don’t discount the importance of gaining experience in ‘softer’ areas like client contact and managing junior members of staff. The more you’ve been exposed to before you start contracting, the better.


Whereas e-learning contractors will tend to work full-time on a particular project for three months or more, freelancers tend to do bits and pieces here and there. Even as a full-time contractor, it can be incredibly helpful with cash flow to have one or two freelance clients constantly on the back burner, just to fill the gaps between projects. And putting the feelers out for such freelance projects can begin (subtly!) while you’re still in permanent employment. Follow up with every contact you have. You never know who may have work available to tide you through a quiet month.


The most successful contractors all have highly polished portfolios of past work that they can send to potential employers at the drop of a hat. For every project you work on, you should be considering how you can showcase your work in a final portfolio. Make it a matter of course to collect testimonials and file work samples whenever you can, so that when you get the question ‘can you send me some work samples?’ you can do so with the click of a button.


We frequently see e-learning CVs that simply list ‘Contractor’ for the past four or five years, with no real narrative to what projects that contractor has actually worked on. It’s important to find a balance between telling a compelling story about the clients you’ve worked with, and keeping things neat and concise. If you’re unsure of how to do this, why not have a chat with a member of our e-learning team?


Yes, social media is hardly a new phenomenon – but it’s becoming increasingly noticeable how hot on Twitter, LinkedIn, industry forums and blogs the most in-demand e-learning contractors are. In the words of one of our consultants, ‘advertise yourself like a company’ – which, as a contractor, you technically are.


E-learning contracts can come up incredibly quickly – we frequently get calls from clients asking us to source someone for the following week. So it’s vital that the second you’re in the market for a new contract that you update your social media profiles, job boards, and any recruiters you’re working with.


Convinced yet? Our e-learning recruitment division has a specialist contract arm, with exciting projects coming up constantly in both the public and private sectors. So if you’re not on our books yet – what are you waiting for? Call 0161 714 0600 or email