A few years ago, my wife (Chantel) and I (William) talked about running a business together. Instructional Design and eLearning was a natural choice: we had corporate and not-for-profit teaching experiences, we had transferable skill sets from related fields, and instructional design experience. Most importantly, we loved helping people learn and grow. But, since the timing wasn’t right, we set the business idea aside.
Then, 2020 hit like a Category 6 hurricane. COVID-19. Massive unemployment. Worldwide lockdowns. I lost my job. My industry, which was heavily dependent on tourism, was gutted. We had a wonderful newborn son and a mortgage. Since we had some savings and my wife had a great job, we had what so many others did not: the luxury of choice. We were incredibly grateful. After prayerfully considering all options, we knew it was time to start the business.
A few months later, we had successfully launched a freelance Instructional Design, Online Learning Development, and Technical Writing company. At year-end, I am working the business full-time and we have exceeded our projections.
Here are a few key things that helped us launch the business successfully.
Key #1: Discover your “why”. When we were ready to seriously pursue the business, our “why” was solid. Our “why” brought everything else into focus. We want to work remotely and spend more time with our son, we want to have the flexibility to do ministry work from anywhere, and we want to help people learn and grow.
Take Action. What is your “why?” Watch Simon Sinek’s 2009 Ted Talk to understand the importance of knowing your “why”.
Key #2: Remember, Business Plans can be Revised. Writing a business plan helped us think through key areas we might not have otherwise considered. Don’t get caught up in writing the perfect plan. Business plans should be revisited and revised over time as the business grows and changes.
Take Action. The Small Business Administration website has examples including a concise “lean” business plan.
Key #3: Know your strengths and weaknesses. We assessed our strengths and weaknesses early on. We had plenty of teaching, artistic, and technical experiences, but still had knowledge gaps. Dr. Robin Sargent’s Instructional Design & Online Learning IDOL courses Academy helped us address most of these. IDOL academy is a comprehensive, hands-on, online training course that helps people become instructional designers and online learning developers. We knew that the focus, content, peer review and coaching components, and the opportunity to be part of a community would work for us. We enrolled in IDOL courses Academy and the eLearning Freelance Bootcamp. IDOL streamlined our transition process.
Take Action. Consider doing a SWOT analysis to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Check out IDOL courses to learn more about their offering.
Key #4: Join an Accountability Group. A few weeks into IDOL courses Academy, we were stuck. We were invited to join an amazing accountability group, which helped us get “unstuck.” We encouraged one another, laughed and cried with each other, and celebrated together. We would not have been able to make the transition as smoothly as we did without this group.
Take Action. Be open to accountability groups and be willing to contribute.
Key #5: Get Organized. We used templates from IDOL Business Box as a starting point for our processes. We used Trello to plan projects and keep work running smoothly.
Take Action. Track decisions and action items, no matter how small, Tracking is key to business success.
While we did other things that helped us to make the leap, these five made the most impact. My hope is that this will encourage you, and help you along your freelance journey!
Written By: William Dean
Connect with Willam on LinkedIn.
William Dean is the President of Dean Designed Learning, LLC, an Orlando-based Instructional Design, Online Learning, and Technical Writing company. William is an instructional designer with deep non-profit, instructor led training, and customer service experience. In addition to working for the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which is the largest Christian broadcasting network in the world, William was a board member of a community development organization, and held other positions in non-profit organizations. As a skilled storyteller and graphic artist, William has the expertise to humanize training so that it impacts the learner.
William holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Communications from the University of West Florida and a Leadership Certification from the University of West Florida. In addition to completing graduate-level coursework, he holds an eLearning Developer certification from IDOL courses Academy.