What’s the Real Cost of Hiring an Instructional Designer?

March 13, 2023
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Are you tired of mediocre educational content that fails to engage your learners? In our experience, the key to mitigating the “Blah-Content Blues” lies in the power of instructional design.

So, how do you integrate instructional design into your association’s learning programs? The obvious answer is simple: “Hire an instructional designer for your association.”

In an ideal world, you’d be able to quickly find and hire a superstar instructional designer who can:

  • Work seamlessly with your Subject Matter Experts
  • Perform basic graphic design and video editing services
  • Speak confidently with organizational leadership
  • Project manage all content development
  • Regularly deliver content to your marketing and membership departments
  • Produce flawless virtual events and webinars
  • Build stunning interactive eLearning
  • And more  

You’d love to have this person at your organization, but what will it cost? How difficult will it be to find this superstar? There are three routes to help get your educational content created and in front of your learners: Hire a contractor, hire an employee, or hire a company with an experienced Learning & Development team, like Blue Sky eLearn.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through each route, breaking down the costs of hiring an instructional designer and some of the obstacles you may face in your search for that vital resource for your association.

Hiring a Contractor for Instructional Design

The first place many organizations look for instructional design services is websites like Upwork and Fiverr. These may seem like great places to find instructional designers, but filtering through all the duds and finding a real gem can be difficult.

Contractors may have portfolios in their profile, but there’s no guarantee they have done the work you see in their portfolio. There could be a risk they are misrepresenting themselves or perhaps only had a small role in a larger project in their portfolio.

If you decide to take the plunge and hire a contractor for instructional design, expect to pay $30-$125 per hour, depending on their experience level. In addition, you‘ll likely need to hire several specialties to complete one project—a video editor, voice over artist, scriptwriter, eLearning designer, etc.  

And don’t forget to build in 3-10 hours a week into your schedule.Hiring contractors requires you to be the project manager, which means reviewing their work, providing feedback, paying their invoices, and hiring multiple contractors if your original choice doesn’t work out.  

Prepare to continually hire contractors—good talent is hard to find, and they don’t have any trouble finding work. A typical scenario is that Contractor A may be available for the first half of your eLearning course development, but they get a higher paying (or full-time) gig, and you must use Contractor B to finish the course. Contractor B doesn’t have capacity to work at the same pace as Contractor A, so your project must slow down. These common scenarios can make it difficult to budget and project manage your course development process.

Hiring a Full-Time Instructional Designer

If hiring a contractor (or multiple contractors) doesn’t suit your organization, hiring a full-time instructional design employee may be a consideration.

Assuming you only need to hire one person with all the skills you need to develop your educational content, ZipRecruiter and Salary.com report average salaries for Instructional Designers between $81,000 and $90,000 per year.

Of course, in addition to an annual salary, there is the cost of benefits. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that civilian worker benefits like retirement, health insurance, and paid leave cost employers $12.98/hour, or roughly $27,000 annually.

Instructional designers also need the technology to do their job well. Here are some of the most common costs:

  • Computer: Expect to spend between $900 and $3600 for a laptop with the specs to handle video editing and eLearning development
  • Captivate Storyline for eLearning development: $1100/year
  • iStock for stock photos and video: $1200/year
  • Adobe Creative Cloud for video, photo, and audio editing: $480/year
  • Professional Voice Over (VO) for eLearning: VO artists charge per word, and it’s not unusual to pay $.25 per word, meaning a 25,000-word script will cost $6250
  • Graphic design of a PPT: Between $75 and $250 for a 10-slide deck.
  • Depending on the type of content you want to create, you may also need to budget for items like microphones, video cameras, sound mixing equipment, green screens, and lighting

Another challenge with hiring full-time employees, aside from the cost, can be keeping them busy enough. Once a large education initiative has been completed, what do you do with this full-time person? Rather than committing to hiring someone long-term, consider outsourcing to an experienced company that has the skills you need.

Hiring Blue Sky eLearn for Comprehensive Instructional Design Services

When you choose to work with Blue Sky eLearn on your instructional design projects, you have an experienced team at your fingertips without any unexpected costs or unpredictable personnel challenges.

Our in-house team of learning strategists, instructional designers, eLearning developers, graphic designers, video editors, voice over artists, and project managers are ready to empower you to deliver the educational content your members need and want.  

In the last six months, our Learning & Development team has:

  • Developed a 30-minute interactive eLearning module for a client who works with local government
  • Wrote and developed six new interactive eLearning classes for a client in the aviation industry
  • Interviewed Subject Matter Experts and wrote the learning outcomes for four new professional certificates for a client in the technology industry
  • Provided guidance and feedback on the accessibility of the PowerPoint presentations for webinars for a client who had a contract with a federal agency that required Section 508 compliance
  • Edited and SCORM-wrapped videos to be uploaded into a learning management system for a client in a science field
  • Created a practice exam for a client who is offering a new certificate in the wellness industry
  • Translated learning into other languages for a client with an international audience

The Blue Sky eLearn team can take on all manner of large and small projects for any industry, with flexible pricing models to suit your specific needs. Whether you have a short-term project or need a long-term engagement, we bring the resources of a large team and the expertise required to create the content that best serves you and your members.

To learn more about the cost of our Learning & Development services, schedule a time with us to talk to one of our instructional design experts, who will help you assess your needs based on your short- or long-term goals.

About the Author
Dr. Kristen Wall, MA, EdD is the Director of Learning Strategy and Fractional Chief Learning Officer at Blue Sky eLearn. She started her career in education as a junior high teacher, then worked in higher education for 15 years working primarily with online adult learners. Her work focused on the professional development of faculty, providing learning opportunities for over 800 adjunct faculty teaching 2,600 courses per year. In 2018 she decided to leave higher education and started work as a consultant, ultimately landing full-time with Blue Sky eLearn and working as the Director of Learning Strategy. She consults with clients across the association space, working in diverse fields like medicine, health care quality, insurance, oil and gas, and state government.

Kristen completed both a master’s and doctorate in Adult Learning. Her areas of interest include effective assessment of learning and using qualitative research to understand how adults apply what they have learned. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, travel, and reading detective novels. 

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