How To Negotiate For eLearning Projects As An eLearning Freelancer – Part 1

How To Negotiate For eLearning Projects As An eLearning Freelancer – Part 1
Summary: It is tempting to be your own boss, but freelancing as a business model is far from perfect. For large eLearning projects where quality must be built in at every stage, it is a folly to "squeeze" freelance income to just a product of billable hours and the rate per hour. Let us have a look on how to negotiate for eLearning projects as an eLearning freelancer in the first part of this two-part article series.

What You Need To Know To Negotiate For eLearning Projects As An eLearning Freelancer - Part 1

Often, freelancers are at the receiving end when negotiating remunerations for eLearning projects. When you negotiate for eLearning projects as an eLearning freelancer, the discussions center around hourly rates or a fixed amount, overlooking the fact that no two projects can be same; there is a lot that differs when developing online courses.

In this first part of this article series, I will discuss

  • What the main types of eLearning works are, followed by
  • A study of market rates for hiring eLearning professionals.

In the second part, I will go over the experiences people face when negotiating fees for the online works they do. So, if you have something to share, please write to me, or better still, reply in the comments below.

First, A Reality Check

It may sound a bit skeptical, but freelancers of all hues have their fair share of woes spanning over a large number of issues. However, the one that rankles the most is how to negotiate a better price with the customers for the service (to be) rendered.

Reams have been written on the subject, some of the best tips (for me) can be found here, here, and here. However, it must be said that some situations are unique, especially so –if you ask me– for eLearning freelancers.

The main reason for that is the field of work in the eLearning space is very diverse.

It could vary from simply lesson planning to the launching of a Learning Management System and designing an online course at one end to providing a complete self-hosted eLearning website at the other.

It could also vary in size and scope since you may be looking for serving individual coach/ trainer/ educator at one end to doing it for big corporates for training tens of thousands of their employees at the other.

eLearning Works For Freelancing

To make a sense of the whole scenario, let’s look at some of the most sought-after freelancing works in the eLearning sector:

  1. Feedback- or outcome-based Instructional Design.
  2. Online course authoring – slideshows, HTML5 sliders, videos, games, supplements, quizzes, etc.
  3. 360° eLearning business development.
  4. Course analysis and supervision.

Let me validate the types of works I just mentioned with this snapshot of eLearning jobs on Upwork. Look closely, you’ll find that they almost conform to the 4 types above.

eLearning jobs on Upwork

Let us view it from another angle.

In my understanding, the entire range of work for an eLearning professional can be grouped into 4 major categories –

  1. Designing an online course.
  2. Course authoring.
  3. Showcasing and selling the course online.
  4. Marketing the course.

The illustration below gives a glimpse of the major eLearning works presently in vogue. Do share your take in the comments below.

4 major eLearning jobs

The first 2 works will essentially require involvement of the Subject Matter Expert (SME) plus Instructional Designer and/or Course Author.

The showcasing work will mostly be carried out by a web developer, while the last one (marketing) is the job of content marketers and/or social media marketers.

Among the 4 works, the first 3 have definite Actions > Results flow. This means that both the assignment and the target have tangibility about them and can be clearly defined.

The marketing work is usually a long-stretched process and it may be difficult at times to clearly define its scope and the expectation of results. There are 2 exceptions though, when a planned marketing can bring immediate results:

  1. When the client is ready to keep aside a sizable budget for spending on marketing.
  2. When the client is a large institute or a renowned persona –a life coach or a career coach for example–, they already have a large following who can do marketing on them behalf.

Research-Based Rates For eLearning Development

Given the complexity of eLearning works and the fact that no two of them are the same, it is expected that the eLearning freelancers will earn better remunerations.

If that is what you thought, fortunately, you’re not off the mark. In a highly-referenced slide deck, Bryan Chapman of Chapman Alliance collected data from 249 respondents to arrive at the costs for creating eLearning courses.

Here are some of the findings by Bryan:

  • 1 Finished hour of ILT (Instructor-Led Training): $5,934
  • 1 Finished hour of Level 1 eLearning: $10,054
  • 1 Finished hour of Level 2 eLearning: $18,583
  • 1 Finished hour of Level 3 eLearning: $50,371

The numbers surely look very promising, but remember these jobs demand the highest quality of performance, and that includes lots of tests and internal assessments.

The image below gives the summary of development ratios by Brian for the 4 types of works mentioned above.

Comparative summary of eLearning development works

Pricing Custom eLearning Course

Scholarix provides a ready reckoner that helps them quickly determine the estimated cost of developing your eLearning course based on your specified requirements and situation.

The calculation is done automatically based on 3 main factors. The final cost may seem tentative, but the tool does help nevertheless because it makes calculations on prevailing market rates.

Though the tool is for their use you might want to use it for a ready assessment of what you could charge your clients.

Calculating eLearning project cost


Many renowned freelancers routinely caution against lowering the rates, they ask you to focus on the value you provide to your customer instead of getting trapped in the maze of hourly rates.

This makes sense because there just are too many variables that go into the final making of an eLearning course. And if the project is to launch an entire eLearning business from scratch, it’s all the more important to work out the best WIN-WIN estimate.

At the end of the day, it is as much the responsibility of the freelancer as the job-giver – indeed more for the latter – to ensure that everything works well long after the freelancer has gone.

It is crucial to bear that in mind.