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3D Tips for the Part-Time eLearning Freelancer July 26, 2011

Posted by kevinthorn in eLearning, eLearning Careers.
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2 comments

eLW Moved to elwmag.comOne of the best pieces of advice my father gave me was, “Discover what you’re good at and then learn how to make money at it.” Just like most obedient young boys, I totally ignored my father’s advice.

Even though I’ve been drawing and cartooning my whole life and developing elearning for the past ten years, I never put the two together. I’m a decent artist but most artists are their own worst critics, and even though I was passionate about it, I never once considered earning a living doing it. That is until I got serious and decided to officially freelance while working a day job.

Some of you may know me through Twitter as @learnnuggets and some of you may know my work through NuggetHead Studioz. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have years of experience freelancing let alone freelancing full time to share success strategies. I do have some ‘getting started’ experience and things I’ve learned in the past year that I’ll share what I call my “3D Experience.”

Okay, so you have this thing you’re really good at. You’re really passionate about it and you want a piece of that industry’s pie. What’s next?

Decide

Deliberately deciding is crucial to your success. Think of it like a New Year’s exercise plan. You’re all excited about starting to exercise every day and lose the holiday weight. Off you go and usually within a month the ‘every day’ turns into ‘a couple times a week’ until eventually you don’t have the staying power to continue.
Success-guy-photo

  1. Commit to a maximum amount of time. You might be willing to put in a lot of hours, but make your maximum a rational and reasonable amount of time that will still keep your family in balance. If you’re like me, it’s also keeping my chores up to par. I decided I could commit to 20 hours a week max. That’s four hours a night with weekends off or three hours a night with some work on the weekend.  This plan works for me because I am my family’s night owl. I get quality, evening  family time, and then, when my family goes to bed by 9:00pm, I get to work for a few hours.
  2. Treat it like a job. I treat it like a second job. Many part-time evening jobs are retail or restaurants. They typically close late, and if you’re on the closing shift, you’ll be there another hour or so shutting down. Time is time, and if you’re going to work hard, you might as well work hard for yourself.

Think in terms of cost when deciding the amount of time you’re willing to commit. Go easy on yourself if you’re unsure; say ten hours a week. Remember, you still need to change hats when you go to your day job the next morning, so you want to ensure you’re still getting proper rest – and getting the work done.

Describe

Next, know what is it that you are going to do. Think of your skills and your talents. Describe what you will be doing to yourself before you start telling others. If you don’t know, what makes you think they will know? Definitely, differentiate between practical work and consultation.

  1. Are you going to be doing the practical application of the work? If so, to what degree? If you’re a designer/developer like me, you have to be honest with yourself about how long it takes to put something together. Whether it’s an illustrated graphic or developing an elearning course, describe the boundaries. I started off with offering the full bucket load from cradle to grave. Everything from instructional design to publishing and LMS support. That’s a lot for a shop of one to handle. I’ve scaled back and focused more on what I do best – design/develop.
  2. Are you going to be a consultant? If so, to what degree? A consultant brings years of practical application experience to a market where others hire you to help them down a path you once traveled. It’s still time invested but a different kind of time. Lots of phone calls, emails, managing calendars and perhaps even some traveling involved.

Describing what it is you are going to do – and what you’re not going to do – sets boundaries. Not just for your prospective clients, but for yourself. The boundaries will keep you safe from bidding on a project that may be more than you can chew starting out. They’ll also keep the stress at manageable levels.

Deliver

The phrase, “Under promise and over deliver” comes to mind. When you bid on projects, be honest with yourself about what you can deliver. Not so much in terms of the project itself, but how many current projects you have and how many you can balance at one time. I manage anywhere from 4-6 at any given time. Usually I have 3-4 illustration/graphics projects (which take less time), and/or 2-3 elearning projects (which are spaced out in terms of their production). I do this simply because I’m creative, and creative people (me at least) get bored easily. I need multiple projects at one time so I can switch between them often. And often, one project helps solve problems in another.

  1. Add a minimum of 20% time to every bid. Even if you know without a shadow of a doubt you can make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in five minutes, bid six minutes. Why? Part time freelance is still life, and the dog is going to run away, your kids will want to play a game, you and your spouse may need to consume an evening talking about something more important. If not the normal stuff, then—even worse—the really crazy will happen. Multiple things will interrupt you. Plan for it.
  2. Don’t overcharge. It’s very attractive to get all caught up in the world of being your own boss and wanting to make your first million dollars in the first year. Stay humble. Do the work. The rewards will come in due time.

NuggetHead Studioz has only been an official business for less than a year. I have much to learn and only share these thoughts from what I’ve experienced already in that short time. Your situation will be different so just think through it carefully to ensure success. Oh, and of course…just do it!

See the new site! eLWmag.com

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eLearning Thought Leaders: OpenSesame February 9, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in Interview.
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3 comments

OpenSesame.com Buy and Sell eLearningI interviewed the guys at OpenSesame to find out what they are up to and why everyone is talking about the hoodies from DevLearn.

They are changing the way elearning, module-by-module, is bought and sold online.

eLearning Weekly Interview with Josh Blank, SVP/General Manager, and Tom Turnbull, VP/Community Development at Open Sesame

eLW: I go to OpenSesame.com and see that you are the elearning marketplace — what does that mean?

JB:  OpenSesame has a simple mission: Make buying an elearning course as easy as downloading a song from iTunes. We connect elearning buyers and sellers in an easy-to-use online marketplace where developers publish and sell their courses and training managers find the off-the-shelf content they need to create an effective and up-to-date workforce.

For the first time, OpenSesame allows buyers to research, evaluate and purchase courses from a diverse set of publishers in a single location. OpenSesame is also a solution for elearning developers, who can use our marketplace to reach new customers. Developers can sell existing off-the-shelf courses, thereby leveraging work they have already completed, or create new courses specifically for the OpenSesame marketplace.

OpenSesame addresses another elearning pain point by solving the interoperability hurdle. Our technology connects SCORM or AICC courses to any learning management system, enabling developers to focus their attentions on creating great courses instead of resolving technical hurdles.

eLW: An elearning marketplace seems so simple–developers can sell modules and training departments or individuals can buy modules–but the real trick is running the elearning on an LMS, right? Can buyers run the elearning on their LMS?

TT:  Emphatically yes. We are proud that our platform technology enables any course creator to connect any content to any LMS. We’re solving the interoperability problem for course developers and end users, while making diverse courses trackable on a variety of systems.

We rely on the SCORM and AICC standards to act as the bridge between content authoring tools and end users’ learning management systems. When organizations purchase a course from OpenSesame’s marketplace, they upload a license file to their LMS just as they would with any other course content.

eLW: You guys must know a little bit about these LMS things — how did you get started?

JB:  The OpenSesame team has a deep background in the elearning sector. During our 10 years in the elearning business, we realized that the biggest impediment to the growth of elearning was organizations’ inability to easily find, select and deploy high quality elearning content. We decided to found a new company that would act as a platform for these connections.

Between us, we have software, business, design and communications experience driving our development of the OpenSesame marketplace solution for the content conundrum. We believe that in the long term, our open marketplace will make elearning accessible, easy to implement and rewarding for everyone.

eLW: What about social media or integration–are you integration-friendly?

TT:  We believe in collaborating with our technology partners to solve problems and create elegant features for elearning professionals. We offer software developers the opportunity to add value to their elearning products by integrating with the OpenSesame marketplace through a read-write API.

LMS developers can integrate the OpenSesame catalog into their marketplace in two ways. First, developers can enable LMS users to purchase and deploy courses from the OpenSesame marketplace in one step. Our API will enable LMSs to automatically create and configure courses using files and metadata from OpenSesame. Furthermore, LMS developers can enable users to browse the OpenSesame catalog from within the LMS user interface — never needing to visit http://www.OpenSesame.com to access the elearning courses they need.

We are also developing an API for course authoring tools, which will enable developers to build authoring tools that publish courses directly into the OpenSesame marketplace, offering additional income and advertising opportunities to their clients.

eLW: If someone wants to sell elearning on OpenSesame, who should they contact or what should they do?

TT:  We are thrilled to welcome elearning course developers who are sharing their existing elearning courses or perhaps creating new, all-purpose courses on topics where they have created custom courses in the past.

Watch our Getting Started screencast to take a tour of our marketplace. Take the first step towards selling courses by visiting our site and clicking register in the top right corner. Once you have created a user profile, you can upload your course files, set the per-seat and site license prices and enter information about the topic, target audience and learning objectives.

Contact me at tom.turnbull@opensesame.com if you have questions.

eLW: What is something new and tantalizing that you are working on or might roll-out soon?

JB:  A SCORM video player.

We’re making it possible for simple, YouTube style videos to be completed and tracked as SCORM courses in learning management systems.  We’re excited about this for two reasons: First, making videos trackable like elearning courses will lower the barrier of entry for subject matter experts who have experience and information to share but don’t have traditional course design skills.

Second, videos are often the simplest and most straightforward way to illustrate a new idea or concept for learners. It’s the definition of rapid elearning to enable a developer or subject matter expert to make a screencast or other quick video to respond to new technology developments or demand in the marketplace. We’re making it possible for organizations to track and manage their learners’ participation in video-based learning experiences.

Wow — that’s huge. I know I will love it. Now for a few personal questions that will really give readers a chance to get to know you.

eLW: Imagine one of those bumper stickers that starts “I’d rather be…” and tell us what you love to do so much that you could complete that phrase with it.

JB: There’s no place I’d rather be than here, making elearning accessible, effective and fun! But in an alternate universe, if I had to choose another profession, I would coach the USC football team.

TT: Like Josh, I enjoy this opportunity to start a new business focused on extending learning opportunities across enterprises but if I had to choose something else, I’d be producing children’s movies.

eLW: What do you have to read online?
TT: My RSS reader features TechCrunch and a handful of elearning blogs, including this one, LearnNuggets, Aaron Silvers Blog, Jane’s Pick of the Day, Corporate eLearning Strategies & Development, elearnspace, our own OpenSesame blog.
eLW: Do you have a favorite geek t-shirt that you love to wear or want to get?
JB: I’m proud to sport my “hAPI hAPI Joy Joy” shirt.
eLW: I sort of wish I didn’t ask that question, but that is clever. Where is the strangest place on Earth you have been?
TT: How about the strangest place on Earth that I will go to next week?  My wife and I are taking our two boys to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Universal Studios Orlando. While I love reading with my kids and I love Harry Potter as much as the next Muggle dad, I can’t imagine that there are many stranger places on Earth than that.
eLW: Thank you, Josh and Tom. Here’s my favorite final question for our readers who like networking: Where will you be appearing and where can people find your schedule for conferences or events?
JB:  We are hitting the road this spring and we want to meet you!  We love to meet new people, try new hotel restaurants and talk about the future of elearning.
Also, if you missed out on the OpenSesame hoodies at DevLearn, don’t worry.  We ordered more.
The hoodies! Sweet.