How to Determine Hourly Rates for Independent Consultants

Note: At the end of this post I refer to “Freelance Switch”. They have changed their company’s name to Envato. You can find their archived content here:

In this economy in the USA, more and more people are starting their own independent consulting businesses. Freelancers and freelancing are growing in numbers each year. So, it’s no surprise that an “old” presentation of mine is still popular. It receives a lot of Views and is “Favorited” often by other SlideShare users.

While I’m working on some upcoming blog posts, I thought I’d take time today to share my presentation on this page with you. The information is still true and current. The economy produces challenges for small businesses. But, hang in there. You can do it. Believe in yourself. Work hard. Good luck!

Hat tip and heart-felt thanks to:



TGIF: Ah, We’re Changing the Course’s Title…

While Storyboarding in PowerPoint, I Got the Call

When I’m developing an e-learning course in a PowerPoint-based tool, like Articulate Presenter, I obviously create the storyboards in PowerPoint (PPT) most of the time. Most of my SMEs use PPT at work anyway, so they’re comfortable with it. In Notes View, the upper section of the page shows my mock-up or rough sketch of the screens, and the Notes Pane below contains my notes about the OSDs (on-screen directions), programing notes, course content, and audio/visual ideas.

My gratitude for the Master Slide feature in PowerPoint knows no bounds! This post is about a 127-slide storyboard for an e-learning course on a 401(k) plan, for a non-linear course where learners can choose the topics they want to review. And, once viewing the selected topic, the learners go through branching scenarios in a non-linear fashion.

The PPT storyboard successfully completed two review cycles! Then, one day, about a week or so before launch on the enterprise LMS, I got the SME phone call:

“Ah, we’re changing the title of the course…. ”

From: [ ACME’s Retirement Plans ]

To: [ ACME’s ACRONYM 401(k) Plan ]

Because I had built the storyboard/course on PPT’s Master Slides, I could keep my cool and calmly tell the SME

“No problem! That’s an easy fix.”

With the course background and main title on the storyboard’s Master Slide, I only needed to change the title one time, and that change was applied to all 127 slides.

Okay, I can hear you now:

“That’s a no brainer!”, you cry out. “We all know about that. It’s old news.”

I’m a Mentor, You’re a Mentor….Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Mentor, Too?

True, the above is a no brainer perhaps, but not everyone thinks about using the Master Slides, especially SMEs. I often mentor SMEs in rapid e-learning course design and development. I tell them that it really pays to think through, plan, and try to capture everything needed (requirements) at the very beginning of a project.

During the A-Analysis phase of ADDIE, the SMEs need to thoroughly brainstorm not only the course content and outcomes, but how they will use their design and development tools such as PPT. And, that’s where you and I, as Learning Consultants, come in as mentors.

As a mentor, that Analysis phase includes sharing with my SMEs the PPT storyboard tips-and-tricks that keep the project on time and within budget. This is important because many times SMEs will throw a PPT slide deck at e-learning designers and developers and say,

“Make this an online course. I need it in a month.”

When we all mentor our SMEs on how to effectively and efficiently use PPT as a tool, we can all relax a little bit more during Alpha and Beta review cycles.

If you have your favorite PPT tips-and-tricks, please share them in your Comment on this post! Or, tweet them to me on

@jenisecook  on

The mentor role ensures that I’m “Always Learning”, and that I pass on lessons learned to my SMEs.


e-Learning Storyboards: Using Both Word and PowerPoint

Many instructional designers (IDers) have a variety of tools at hand to design and map out the client’s e-learning course for the client’s review, and to provide a detailed roadmap for the team who will develop the course. Most of the IDers I talk with use Microsoft Word to write out a detailed storyboard. Others like to do rapid prototyping by writing up the storyboard, with generic graphical elements, inside PowerPoint itself.

I’ve used both processes as either/or but not together. Recently, I decided to use both processes simultaneously, and I sent out a tweet about it on Twitter. A couple of “tweeples” replied that they were interested in hearing more.

Simultaneous Storyboarding in Word and PowerPoint

Screen shot of Word and PowerPoint for simultaneous storyboarding

SimulStoryboarding: Word & PPT

The screen shot to the left shows my desktop on my Apple MacBook Pro laptop. I have Office for the Mac. Word is open on the left, and on the right you can see the Thumbnails view in PowerPoint (PPT).

The Word document shows the storyboard template for two screens (click the image to enlarge). The PPT file shows the draft prototype for each screen in the course, and the generic elements (circles, squares, rectangles) I added as placeholders for the actual photos, text, and graphical elements I’ll add later.

I begin by writing the “business story” in Word. As I begin to think in terms of on-screen content and navigation, I use PPT to prototype what I’m thinking in terms of the navigation and content “load” on each screen. I really enjoy this process because PPT helps me to “flesh out” what I write in Word, and make corrections where needed.

This post is brief, so if you’d like additional information, feel free to contact me at this e-mail address:

info AT

And, in the Comments, please share your storyboard tips and tricks so we all can learn from each other. Thanks!


PowerPoint 2007: Designs for e-Learning v.2

You Can Still Design with PowerPoint 2007

Eleven months ago today, I wrote a post on the new design elements and features in PowerPoint 2007 (2008 for the Mac) that allow you to create visually effective designs and templates for your e-learning courses. You can use these PowerPoint templates in both your Articulate and Adobe Captivate e-learning project files.

More PowerPoint 2007 for e-Learning Templates

A few days ago, a colleague on Twitter posted a link to a simple Web page. When I clicked the link and visited the page, it seemed to speak to me: “Turn me into an e-learning design.” So, I did, and created a brief SlideShare presentation to demonstrate it to anyone who can use more ideas. Now, don’t be fooled by its simple design. You can do so much with the basic framework and modify it to meet the needs of your learners, the business (or academic institution), and the learning content that will fill the screens.

My Samples On SlideShare

My mini-presentation describes just one design idea. Please note that I respect Copyright issues, and the rights of designers. My mini-presentation simply shows what you can do using only PowerPoint 2007/2008 elements plus importing a few photo image files. (My thanks to Bryan Jones – @elearningArt – for the free image files package!)

Why Give Away Design Ideas?

The global e-learning community gives, gives, and gives again. We all share the same passion, and we share what we learn and what we create with each other. Visit various blogs and Twitter pages authored by e-learning colleagues. Go to the community forums of the various e-learning software tools. If you have some favorites of your own, please share them in the Comments section.

And, my first presentation on PowerPoint designs for e-learning still exists!

Visit: PowerPoint 2007 e-Learning Screens

“Always learning….”, and I welcome your design ideas!


PowerPoint 2007: Designs for e-Learning

You Can Design Using PowerPoint 2007

PowerPoint 2007 (2008 for the Mac) has many new design elements and features that allow you to create visually effective and nice-looking e-learning course formats. Tom Kuhlmann, Articulate’s VP of Community, blogs about his own PowerPoint tips-and-tricks quite often. I recommend you go to the Archives of his Rapid eLearning blog to read his PowerPoint-specific blog posts.

PowerPoint 2007 for e-Learning Template Design

I’ve been using PowerPoint for awhile, like you, I’m guessing. However, version 2007 (2008/Mac) blows me away! This blog post isn’t about the specific features that are new in 2007/2008. In this post, I’m simply sharing some samples in hopes of inspiring you to Go Forth And Design!

On Wednesday, March 11th, I gave a presentation on Articulate Studio ’09 to my local ASTD (now Association for Talent Development) chapter’s Training & Technology Special Interest Group for their “ToolFest 2009”. (Wow, that was a mouthful.) Many participants asked, “How can I make my e-learning modules look better than boring, bulleted lists?” After hearing their sincere questions, I decided to kick it up a notch using Web sites as inspiration… and as encouraged by Tom Kuhlmann.

My Samples On SlideShare

Here is my mini-presentation on just a few samples. Please note that I respect Copyright issues, and the rights of designers. My mini-presentation simply shows what you can do using only PowerPoint 2007/2008 elements plus importing a few photo image files.

More samples to come in the future!

Beyond PowerPoint

As most of you know, there is much more to e-learning than an effective visual design, especially when you are converting PowerPoint slide decks from presentations and instructor-led courses into online learning. In the near future, I will be writing about that very topic: Converting PPTs into effective online courses.

“Always learning….”, and I welcome your Comments below!

May 2016: Minor “housekeeping” updates.

Update 3/19/2009: Tom Kuhlmann has a great post with wonderful PPT 2007 tips/tricks at: