Differences between a freelancer and contractor Instructional Designer

You’ll often hear about the differences between salaried and non-salaried instructional designers. You’ll also hear freelance and contractor IDs used synonymously but, having experienced both roles, I think there’s a difference. These are just general subtleties and may vary but should hopefully shine some light on the two roles.

As a FREELANCE ID, you usually are hired for a particular project, often for a short period of time, like creating a couple handouts for a training course. You should have an idea of the amount of time it should take but hours can vary, and you usually have more flexibility. You typically are issued a 1099 (full amount of fees without any taxes removed) by year’s end as your fees are usually paid outright. You’re more often working with smaller businesses as well.

As a CONTRACTOR ID, you are usually hired for a designated, often longer, period of time with a number of hours already budgeted by the client for the project. You usually work on either a longer, more detailed project or work on multiple projects within that set time. Working as a contractor usually means working for a large corporation and potentially working with a recruiter, and the option for a 1099 OR a W2. This basically means working like a salaried employee for that period of time and may even include benefits!

Whichever role you choose, make sure you figure out (and document) all the details with your client. And don’t get too comfortable! I’ve learned that even after a contract is signed there’s always the chance that the project falls through or the client chooses to go in a different direction so always be prepared to adjust, if needed!

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