There are three important cost factors to consider when evaluating potential eLearning freelance contractors and their rates:
- hourly rate
- speed, and
- quality/skill level.
Freelance eLearning developer contractor hourly rates are also affected by the job role. Let’s look at each of these items in turn.
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Freelance eLearning Developer Factors
- Hourly Rate: Typical US hourly rates generally range from $35 – $90 US per hour and generally fall in the middle of this spectrum. The lower $35 rate is charged by people who have relatively low skill and experience levels and who perform basic low-level tasks like PowerPoint formatting and basic Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline programming. The $90 per hour rate is charged by highly experienced and specialized programmers, some instructional designers and content writers, executive-level eLearning consultants, and other master-level professionals. If you work directly with a US-based freelancer, you can expect to pay on average between $50 – $75 and can negotiate to the lower end if you can guarantee them a nice volume of steady work.
- Speed: Just as important as hourly rate is the speed at which the vendor works, or the total hours billed to perform a specific task. I’ve seen companies off-shore who claim to charge $20 per hour but then bill 4 times longer to perform the same task as a US vendor who charges $60 per hour. So the work would take 4 times as long and charge 50% or more extra, even though the hourly hourly rate they charge is lower. Don’t get fooled into paying a higher rate for work that takes longer to produce and is of sub-par quality.
- Quality: How fast and cheap a vendor may be means nothing if the work they submit is unacceptable. Ultimately the most important factors to me are the skill level and quality of the work the vendor produces. My clients budget for various levels of complexity and quality. Some want simple page-turning content while others budget for advanced 2D/3D animations, branching interactive scenarios, etc. Whatever the job, the my team members (full-time staff or freelance contractor) must be capable of delivering the quality my clients expect.
- Job Role: To be most effective, eLearning development requires a team of specialists who each perform specific functions. It is rare to find a one-man-band who is exceptional and speedy at producing high quality:
- instructional design
- content writing
- graphic design
- eLearning programming (Captivate, Storyline, etc.)
- quality control
- results analysis, etc.
Generally, advanced graphic artwork and 3D designs cost more per hour than a creative writer. Project Managers typically charge more than instructional designers, and so on. So the job role does affect the hourly rate you can expect to pay.
Rather than recruit and work directly with one or more freelance contractors, many companies opt to contract on a fixed-bid basis with a professional content development company like eLearning.net. We have already waded through scores of instructional designers, content writers, etc., and retained the best of the bunch. So rather than have one person spend 200 hours on a project, eLearning.net assigns 5 people averaging 40 hours each on the same project all coordinated by one of our experienced eLearning project managers.
Beware of Hiring Novices
With websites and business cards so inexpensive these days, anyone can start up a one-man eLearning development company, and in my experience, the truly talented and professional freelance eLearning developer professionals are rare and hard to find. For this reason finding a legitimate and experienced freelancer can be tricky. If you are interested in managing freelance talent on your own, LinkedIn is a good place to start. You may also want to try UpWork.com. Note that you must pay contractors through the UpWork system and you are prohibited from working with UpWork contractors directly unless you buy out the contract at a steep fee.