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.

59 Comments

  1. Holly Genser

    Ashley, have you heard anything about writing e-learning courses for universities on a freelance basis?

    They are always advertising here for full-time instructional designers for e-learning here. When I interviewed for one of these positions ten years ago, they did all the work internally. However the number of e-learning courses has exploded.

    I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask!

  2. Maricar

    Hi Ashley,
    Thank you for sharing this with us! What great info! I never even considered this niche, because I always thought you had to be a professor to write e-courses.

    Did you pitch to providers of e-courses, or to companies looking to make their own videos to train their own people? What I’m wondering about is whether corporations pay another company to provide their e-courses, or do it themselves.

    Maricar

    • Carol Tice

      I think it’s some of each on that, Maricar. Depends on the size of the company.

  3. Anna Pelletier

    Hi Ashley,

    This niche sounds really interesting, but it’s new to me. Would you be able to give a specific short example of some project/concept that you helped to communicate? Thanks!

  4. Ashley Denefield

    Hi Gayle,

    It sounds like you would be great in the industry! I’m not sure about the exact statistics on what area is in demand, but I can say from experience corporate training is big. I say go for it!

  5. Gayle Herbert Robinson

    Thank you for sharing this great opportunity with us. I’m definitely exploring this niche and seeing where it takes me. I’m a web writer and scriptwriter; and I think this niche could also open doors for writing corporate training and online marketing videos. What do you think? What fields do you think are the most in demand for e-learning writers?

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