Freelance Career Spotlight: Curriculum Writer
The rise of the on-demand economy has created a platform for hyperspecialization in the division of labor. This shift benefits not only freelancers with specific skill sets, but also businesses in need of expertise.
Whereas content was once a supplementary tool for marketing, it is now a strategic focus for businesses, giving freelance writers more opportunities than ever to diversify their portfolios. One vertical in high demand is corporate communications and curriculum.
As with any niche market, an e-learning content writer benefits from proactively identifying business solutions for growing industries.
The boom of corporate training programs, now a $200 billion market, has fueled the progression of e-learning. Virtually every company, whatever its size, eventually feels the need to invest in a customized training program, and the work of writing the script for that program typically falls to a freelance content writer.
This work is interesting and varied, covering topics ranging from time management to employee motivation, and is usually done on flexible terms and a per-piece basis. And the money can be attractive to writers who have honed the art of presenting on topics of interest to corporations in managing their human resources.
Nonetheless, as noted by veteran e-learning writer LaRita Heet, options for e-learning writers have expanded over the years. Now e-learning writers have opportunities to present specialized topics to professionals either licensed or seeking to obtain licenses in highly regulated fields. Where she was once tasked with writing on such “soft skills” as corporate training programs, LaRita’s e-learning subject matter portfolio presently encompasses numerous complex subjects. These writing opportunities come with their unique, but surmountable, challenges.
Early in her career 20 years ago, LaRita focused on writing personal finance articles but quickly moved into e-learning writing – first, focusing on corporate training, which was a fairly effortless transition. Thereafter, LaRita was approached about writing online real estate examination preparation courses. LaRita’s only real estate experience at the time was that she “had bought a few houses,” but she overcame her initial hesitation and agreed to give it a try. Her success was quickly rewarded with additional opportunities in other fields requiring professional licensure.
In addition to real estate, LaRita’s e-learning writing experience includes topics such as securities, insurance, food service safety, mortgage brokering and tobacco sales. She has even written about barbershop and cosmetology licensing laws in Wisconsin “where there are specific penalties for chopping off someone’s ear.” Surprisingly, given what can be dry subject matter, some of LaRita’s employers give her wide latitude in her writing style, affording her “a lot of room for creativity.”
Mastery of the subject
At the heart of a curriculum writer’s job is the drive to explain things to people whose careers depend on learning them. That means you have to be able to approach a topic, about which you may know little or nothing, research the subject in a short time and achieve such mastery that you’re ready to teach the subject to others.
According to LaRita, the key to e-learning writing for professional licensure courses is that it’s “all based on law.” Her approach is to read the relevant laws and then translate them into a format that is easily digestible so that the learner does “not trip over the legalese.”
Although some employers request that writers review competitors’ materials when working a project, LaRita has become so adept at legal interpretation that she prefers reading the law and explaining the meaning herself. The secret, LaRita says, is to “train your brain” to read and understand the law, which takes some time.
When explaining such dense material in clear terms, it helps to have a knack for seeing through others’ eyes. E-learning content writers have to anticipate where their trainees will have difficulty with the material. They also must have the native ability to boil down complex topics so that almost anyone can grasp the essentials in a 15- to 60-minute training session. A clear, logical mind is a must.
If you have the necessary talent, e-learning can be an excellent choice for a career. Content writers who are able to assemble a training package from scratch typically earn between $1,000 and $5,000 per project, and the projects get easier to find as your reputation for producing quality work spreads.
Starting out as an e-learning content writer can be challenging, if only because of the high skill level required for even casual employment in the field, but the rewards are more than enough motivation for most. Like LaRita, you might even find that learning and writing about laws to prepare trainees for careers in professional fields is fun.
LaRita Heet has supported herself and her family as a freelance writer, editor and instructional designer for 24 years. She has published more than 1,500 articles, small business guides and instructional design courses. Her experience runs the gamut from personal finance to parenting, from small business guidance to profiles of presidential candidates, authors and C-level executives in the financial services and other industries.
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