Instructional Designer - Contractor hiring process

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Comments (6)

Andy in Daly City, California

44 months ago

Hi all!

I am an Instructional Designer just starting out and luckily, have already gotten a call that I will be offered an ID contract position. I will definitely ask the for the offer in writing. Anticipating them to get back to me very soon, I was wondering if any of the more seasoned Instructional Designers can give me some tips on the whole contract position hiring process? Is there anything I should be asking before I formally accept the offer? ie: working on site/telecommuting (which was mentioned as an option during the interview). Also, there was no mention on how many hours I am expected to work a week - is this something determined later on by the needs of the project? Is it my responsibility to handle billing them for my hours? Basically I'd like to know anything that is different from a regular full-time job.

Thanks much!
-A

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Christy in Cary, North Carolina

44 months ago

Will you be a W-2 contractor or a 1099 contractor? That's the big question. If you're a W-2 contractor, you're basically an hourly employee of the contracting company, so you're working for a client indirectly. Usually you fill out a time card each week which is approved by the client.

If you're a 1099 contractor, that's true independent contracting. You're basically freelance, and you have a lot of other issues to work out. If it's 1099, I'd suggest hiring an accountant or someone to help you figure out billing and taxes, as it's quite a bit more complex than a regular job.

The number of hours is probably determined by the needs of the project, but ask and find out. It's common on W-2 contracts to be restricted from doing any overtime without prior special permission, for example. Find out how you should report your hours and who needs to approve them.

If you're W-2, ask about any benefits and PTO. That can vary widely from nothing at all (which means you should negotiate a higher hourly rate for yourself) to full health insurance, 401k, paid holidays, etc.

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Andy in Daly City, California

44 months ago

Thanks for the reply Christy.

Turns out I will be a 1099 contractor, so I have been doing my homework on billing and taxation. If there are any other nuggets of wisdom about 1099 contracting that are specific (or even not, but just useful) to instructional design, please share :) Thanks!

-A

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Christy in Cary, North Carolina

44 months ago

Well, now you know the answer to the big question, which I'm sure as you're discovering raises many other questions. I've only done W-2 contracts myself, so I'm not the best person to ask, but a few tips from others I know in the field:

* Put aside enough for the taxes. Paying them every quarter is sometimes recommended, but your research will tell you what you need to do there.
* Find out all the stakeholders who need to approve your work. You don't want to get through 2 revisions and think you're down to just polish and discover there's another manager who has to sign off (and wants something completely different than what you've already done!).
* Clarify which tools (computer, software, etc.) the company will provide and which ones you need to provide yourself. Ideally, you would know if you need to buy software before you agree to the contract so you can adjust your requested rate accordingly.
* As a 1099 contractor, the company is limited in how much they can require for how and when you work, but you should clarify the expectations. You should also educate yourself on the legal issues for 1099 contracting. Sorry, but I don't know enough detail here to tell you anything more than that you need to research it more.

Harold Jarche has posted some great content on freelance e-learning work. He's been doing this for a number of years. Here's a few to get you started:
* So you want to be an e-learning consultant: www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&article=54-1
* Freelance lessons: www.jarche.com/2010/06/freelance-lessons/

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Andy in Daly City, California

44 months ago

Wow, thank you for these tidbits Christy - and especially the links to Harold Jarche's blog. These are immensely helpful! I feel a lot better now that I am a little more informed before I start working. Sounds like there are many challenges for someone who is new to freelancing like myself.

I encourage others to add to this thread!

-A

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ID in Boston, Massachusetts

43 months ago

As someone who has done Instructional Design as a W-2 and 1099 contractor, I can try to offer my angle of things. What Christy mentioned as a W-2 contractor are true (expectations, hiring process, software tools, etc.) and these things aren't much different than if you are paid through a 1099. Keep in mind that with a W-2, you are paid either weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the contracting company.

As a 1099, you are paid months later after the duration of the contract is over. In other words, you don't get paid until the project is over and this can mean months after you have started. It was not uncommon for me to be paid in full 2-3 months after the end of the project. You can negotiate for partial payment half way through the gig but my experience has been one lump payment at the end.

Aside from this aspect, clarify the expectations of the project. Will you be onsite/offsite 100% or can you go in part time? Is there a possibility of extending the project (client won't know until nearing the end)?

While common knowledge dictates to have everything in writing, sometimes the project's scope will change and you just "go with the flow". If your client are decent people, "going with the flow" is a show of respect and maturity on your part since you don't want to appear as a nit-picker or a demanding contractor.

Just be understanding if the scope changes half stream since the client's business needs may change half stream. Be accommodating and flexible and you will earn future work from them. I've work with clients in these situations and not only did they call me back for additional tasks, they also gave me a glowing recommendation for future clients.

Hope this helps.

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