The following post is an excerpt from my new e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer. The three volumes in the series are designed to be easy-to-use, practical guides to getting your freelance e-Learning career off the ground. Learn more here!
If you’ve been following along with my “Succeeding as an e-Learning Freelancer” series, you’ve probably already realized that having a portfolio of your work is one of the most critical things to have if you want to succeed as a freelancer. Your portfolio is your chance to show off your talents as an e-Learning Designer, and it’s also an opportunity to communicate to prospective clients what type of work you want to be doing. So as we proceed through this month’s theme in this blog series—marketing yourself and your business—I’d like to discuss the foundation of self-marketing: your portfolio.
Putting a strong portfolio together is hard work! Aside from selecting the right samples to include, you’ll also need to consider what work you have legal rights to, and the optimal way to present and organize your work. As an e-Learning Designer, you’ll need to showcase a variety of skills. Many of your clients will be looking for an “all-in-one” professional who can do everything from course development all the way through business writing, audio recording, and graphic design.
With all that in mind, I’m going to cover the most common questions I get from other Learning & Development professionals:
- Can I include work samples from my previous employer?
- What do I do if my previous employer says I can’t include their samples?
- Where can I host my e-Learning portfolio?
- What should be in my e-Learning portfolio?
Can I include work samples from my previous employer?
If you’ve transitioned from a full-time job into freelancing, some of your best work may have been completed for a previous employer. So how do you know what content is OK to reproduce in your portfolio?
The answer is of course, “Well, it depends…” because every employer is different. However, in the majority of scenarios in the U.S., it’s likely that you were employed under a “Work for Hire” agreement, meaning that everything you created as an employee belongs to the employer. With that in mind, it’s completely OK to contact your previous employer and ask them for permission to include particular work pieces. Once you’ve received permission, you can rest assured that your portfolio won’t land you in any legal hot water.
You may encounter other freelance e-Learning Designers who don’t ask prior employers for permission, or blur out company names in their portfolio sample. You might even talk to colleagues who will tell you it’s “no big deal” to post this kind of content, or tell you that it’s “an industry norm” or “something that everyone does.” I strongly urge you not to listen to these people, and to seek permission for using any content that was created under previous employment. While most clients aren’t out looking at their contractors’ portfolios in search of intellectual property theft, if you do get caught violating a prior work agreement, you could end up in serious legal or financial trouble. If I sound paranoid or rigid about this, just remember: It only takes a single lawsuit or complaint to harm your reputation and/or ruin your business financially!
[This topic continues in my e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer.]