Building your digital learning contract career

3-5 mins

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

However, you won’t be the first 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 strategic approach to building their careers. 

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

Timing can be everything

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

Generally, it’s better to spend a few years in permanent employment, 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. 

Freelancing V’s Contracting

Whereas contractors will tend to work full-time on a particular project for a minimum of three months, freelancers work tends to be more sporadic. 

Even as a full-time contractor, it can be incredibly helpful for 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. 


Current and wannabe contractors need to be constantly networking.  Build relationships and keep everyone updated with your availability.  

Find time to do a couple of hours freelancing in the evenings or at weekends - you never know where it may lead to.   

Showcase your skills 

The most successful contractors 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 examples?’ you can do so with the click of a button. 

Structuring your CV

We frequently see 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 team? 

Sell Yourself

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 contractors are. 

In the words of one of our consultants, ‘advertise yourself like a company’ – which, as a contractor, you technically are. 

Be Agile

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. 

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Convinced yet? 

Our digital learning team has a specialist contract arm, with exciting projects coming up constantly in both the public and private sectors.

Get in touch today