Learning InDesign Increased My Freelance Income! By Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Six months ago, I landed a contract with a local non-profit editing articles for their newsletter. They needed a freelancer because staff downsizing had eliminated several staff positions and the few staff who remained were overloaded. After three months of editing, and spending time going back and forth with the staff person who took over design and layout, I asked the director of communications if I could take over that part of the project in addition to editing.

I knew they used InDesign to create their newsletter. There was only one problem: I had no experience using InDesign. I let the Director know this would be my first time using it but I promised there would be no change in quality. He agreed to let me give it a try and I got to work.

My first task was to learn how to use InDesign. I started with a 30-day free trial of the software, but knew there would be a monthly licensing fee of $19.99 a month. I decided not to bill cost through to this nonprofit because, if I covered the cost myself, I could use the software for other clients.

I spent about six hours day one watching tutorial videos and reading instructional posts online. I attempted my first layout, and kept a running list of very specific questions. When I couldn’t find answers in the instructional videos and posts, I took a few of my questions to experienced designers.

After I finished the first draft, I sent it to the staff person who had previously done layout, and asked him to review it, and teach me how to make final adjustments. He was so pleased that an enormous chunk of work had come off his plate that he was more than happy to assist. I learned more tricks and tips and the first draft was out the door.

The second month went substantially smoother, and took about half the time to layout and proof. I’m now completely in charge of design, layout, and editing every month. Learning this new software has led to more hours, more income, and more potential clients.

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is a writing mom on the run. Best known as a children’s book author and writer, she also provides business writing, creative consultation & social media coaching. She is the owner of Sweet Tooth Communications, LLC, in Pittsburgh, PA. As a runner and triathlete, she relies on a tough physical challenge is a great way to spark incredible ideas. As a mom, she knows the value of humor and patience. Follow her on Twitter at @OneSweetWriter and see her work at