How One Freelancer Broke in and Earned Big Writing E-Learning Content

Carol Tice

E-learningMy freelance writing career didn’t begin with a bang. In fact, it didn’t take off until I stumbled into the uncharted territory of e-learning.

I honestly didn’t give much thought to writing course materials, because I thought online courses were always written by professors, subject matter experts, or a company’s staff.

I was wrong.

As the e-learning industry grows, corporations are seeking out talented writers with a knack for creativity to help them provide engaging, well-written, and easy-to-understand content.

Depending on the length of a course, the amount of research and writing time needed, and other factors such as client management, a writer can start charging anywhere from $1,200-$5,000 per project, for the writing portion alone.

After all, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc., corporate training is a $200 billion business — and e-learning is a growing chunk of that. There is definitely money for writers to make in this industry.

For writers interested in diving headfirst into writing e-learning content, here’s how I started from scratch and broke into this niche:

1. Study learning management systems

I had no clue what a learning management system (LMS) was before researching my first company. However, with a quick Google search, I began locating free demos all over the Web, and paid attention to the features and the content writing style.

Once I began sending letters of introduction that included my familiarity with popular e-learning systems such as Articulate Storyline, it made my pitch more attractive.

2. Target the right companies

Although I primarily receive freelance work from my college alumni network, I find other e-learning opportunities through job boards.

I locate the type of companies looking for content developers, do quick research about the company, and pitch to them directly instead of enduring a formal online application process.

3. Write a teaching-centered pitch

I was an English instructor in previous years, but classroom experience is not what most e-learning companies care about.

These companies simply want to know if you can relate complicated or “boring” content to an 8th grader — and make it engaging. (An 8th-grade writing level is standard, by the way.)

4. Create an eye-catching, targeted demo

I’m from the greater Houston area, and here, it’s all about energy. Oil and gas is one of the most lucrative industries we’ve got.

So I created a demo slide in PowerPoint that was modeled after a typical slide in Articulate about chemical leak safety for pitching one local company in the sector. I got the job three days later, and was given the opportunity to develop a course similar to the demo!

5. Find the right person to pitch

I found a direct contact who was looking to hire writers by picking up the phone, calling the human resources department, and asking about the person in charge of content development. However, I know many people who detest talking on the phone.

If that’s you, when researching a company’s staff, look for a content specialist manager or a training department manager. Luckily, many of these people are on LinkedIn.

Although there’s no foolproof method for breaking into any industry, this approach gave me a solid start. In just a few short months, I’ve earned more than $12,000 writing e-learning courses for Fortune 500 companies in the oil and gas field.

Interested in writing for e-learning companies? Ask your questions in the comments.

Ashley Denefield is a Texas-based technical writer and instructional designer. Her freelance writing business specializes in the fusion of technical writing, instructional design, and tons of creativity.

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