My client wants me to teach them how to do basic editing in InDesign.

This is after, against my better judgement, I had agreed to give them the source files of the documents I created in favor of continuing the business relationship smoothly.

What would you do? Charge a large fee for teaching them, or decline and say google it ?

By the way, this client was an overall very good one, but their budget is up in the air and I'm not sure if I will get more work from them this year.

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    I think they will discover that its not so easy.
    – joojaa
    Jan 9, 2017 at 18:08
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    If you don't think you'll get much more work from them and are willing to charge an appropriate amount that makes it worth your time, I think it's not a bad idea. As joojaa said, I think they'll quickly realize that it will take more than a few lessons with you to become proficient.
    – Geoff Ball
    Jan 9, 2017 at 18:16
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    It couldn't be simpler, TC - just give the lessons and charge a reasonable fee. Simply reply with a short sentence something like: "Sure, I'd love to give you guys an InDesign session, what about $250 a day?" and leave it at that (or whatever is a reasonable amount). Another example of a short-sentence reply is "Sounds fine. Let's just agree on a daily rate for ID sessions and get started, what about $225 a day, minimum two days, paid in advance only since it's on site". Just keep it simple.
    – Fattie
    Jan 11, 2017 at 11:45
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    one thing you should point out is that you are teaching how to use software, not design and probably not technical aspects of printing and web. People think there are no skills in producing graphic art and graphic design now. At least make them understand that they are hiring you for your expertise, you are not just a process worker using some software. One of our clients has hired an in-house graphic artist, if that wasn't bad enough, now she wants me to teach her how to do some of the work we did in the past and as help or advice (eg free!) Jan 30, 2019 at 23:17

4 Answers 4


I include a disclaimer when delivering native files:

.... makes no promise, provides no guarantee, and offers no support, for the continued use, alteration, or editing of native files after files have been delivered. It is the sole responsibility of the client to ensure they have proper software, hardware, and expertise in order to utilize any native files should an agreement for delivery be reached.

I then merely refer back to it if asked to "train" someone on my files.

"Sorry, I don't have the time to dedicate to training others in the use of software. Adobe offers online tutorials and there are additional places such as Lynda.com which will offer courses on [application]."

To me, it doesn't matter if they are my best client or my worst. I just don't have the time teaching requires because I don't want to be a full time instructor.

There's nothing wrong with teaching them (for a fee) if that's what you want to do.

However, depending upon your business model, you may just want to decline any instruction at all. Realize that it will take a lot of your time. Much more than you can estimate. Time you may not have to spare if you have other clients and other projects.

In addition, they will most likely be in a hurry to learn anything and everything in order to make the edits they want to make. So they will not be patient learners.

And... you have no idea what type of students they will be. Some students pick up things rather quickly, others require you to repeat the exact same thing several times before the concept sinks in.

Teaching is great... but it is its own animal. Requiring you to feed it and babysit when necessary. If you want your career to move more in that direction, then go for it! But, if you want your focus to stay on design, then stay on design and decline teaching.

I love sharing what I know, but I hate teaching. I've done it, in a classroom environment and one-on-one. For me, they both have way more "cons" than "pros". But then... it's probably personality based for me. I'm not great at biting my tongue when I've told someone something 15 times and they haven't heard a word I've said.

(Quite honestly, if you decide to teach, I'd consider more in the range of several hundred dollars per hour. One-on-one training is much different than any general course, and the pricing should reflect that. If they just want to learn, there are online courses for probably close to what you'd charge your normal hourly rate. You should make it worth your time if you intend to teach.)

Another option may be on-site workshops... you travel to their business... set up a conference room somewhere at their location and then give 3-5 days of dedicated instruction. They pay for your travel, lodging, per diem, and instruction in one lump sum. The benefit here is that when training is done, it's done. If they want more... they pay more.

So you could offer a 3 day workshop for up to 10 students at their business for $xx,xxx.xx. You work out what it would cost you to travel and lodge for that time, $150 for food/expenses ($50/day), a rental car for 3 days, and then 3 - 8 hour days of your time.

If I teach, this is how I prefer to do it. You do have to work up a syllabus and handouts (3-ring binder as a "manual" or "cheat sheet" is fine) for the training, but it's better than trying to do the email or phone call exchange to train anyone. It does take far more planning (so include planning time in the cost), but it is often the most headache-free way to train when asked.

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    Yep, all of this X10. More than likely it's not worth it. If you want to be an instructor, then make that your career and not design. If you're a designer, then focus on that and not teaching. You are allowed to say "Sorry, but that task is not in my skill set. Here are a number of options I can suggest." Jan 9, 2017 at 22:50
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    If the customer is looking to cheap out on you then you're going to lose them anyway. Either they'll learn ID or get someone for less money to do your job. Unless you are going to go into training, you're probably better off graciously explaining you aren't in a position to do training...and work like crazy to find additional clients!
    – Stonetip
    Jan 9, 2017 at 23:16
  • Thank you for your detailed reply. It's really helpful to hear your experience on this. BTW I have taught Adobe programs before, so I know the feeling. However, with this client I feel like I would be taking myself out of the equation if I taught them. But that might not be avoidable at any rate...
    – TCDesigner
    Jan 10, 2017 at 3:24
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    If what is given out has a so high a value then terms/conditions should include some sharing in business or partnering.
    – Narasimham
    Jan 10, 2017 at 7:32
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    Ive worked as a teacher and trainer, and while i overall like teaching i find that some people are not up to scratch. That is pain its much easier to teach somebody who has a mentality to learn. Also teaching is very hard work it takes on average a week to prepare for one days worth of teaching, or if you have prepared materials maybe 2-3 days. (a full time teacher is supposed to do that every day but then you repeat a lot of stuff).
    – joojaa
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:10

I did that for a client once.

We spent 2-3 hours discussing some basic InDesign editing with about 10-12 of their staff in a meeting room at their office location. It was a one-time workshop and we covered simple tasks such as text editing, moving and replacing images, some basic formatting. Everybody was taking notes and really acting interested and I was concerned I would be losing the client after this.

When in fact, only 2 of their employees really kept an interest but ended up with no time to do any proper editing and getting stuck in the same basic stuff we discussed in the workshop. Eventually I was paid again (repeatedly) for additional work they didn't have time to work on. After 1-2 years the client ended up hiring an internal designer because they had a lot of urgent stuff that was not doable with a freelancer, so you never know, this can really go anywhere.

So the best thing you can do is play it cool, teach them what they need to know and charge for it. If your work is good there will always be new clients.

  • This sounds about right. Putting together a full course with handouts is a big job. Expect to put in 3 days of prep per day of taught material. An informal talk, where you take them through it on the screen and set simple exercises has way less overhead. Do charge your day rate. Jan 10, 2017 at 14:14
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    @superluminary even 3 days is a bit lowballing it.
    – joojaa
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:06
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    @joojaa That will depend on what and how detailed you want/need the material to be, and how much further you want the material to go beyond what you teach in person. Different situations will require different approaches. I gave a one-week introduction course to a case-handling system once, and the four months we (three people) spent preparing the material for that were not nearly enough. We only just managed to scrape by. Conversely, I gave a one-day seminar on the Old Irish verbal system once where I managed to get all the material done in about four hours. Jan 10, 2017 at 18:10
  • @joojaa - You might be right. I've been training for a few years now, and I generally reckon 3 days per day, but it you were coming into it fresh having never taught before, and you had to figure it all out, then perhaps even 5-10 days might be appropriate. An informal talk is easier, you can just sit with the guy and demo, while he follows along. Jan 12, 2017 at 7:26

Well, since you have already given them the InDesign files...

I think either way it's not that bad of an idea to keep regular and well structured courses to teach their staff how to use those files (let's be honest, why else would they ask for them if not to further edit themselves)

I'm not so sure about the Charge a large fee part. I think you should do a proper evaluation of your time and the knowledge that you are sharing.

Keeping regular lessons will assure you an income for a while, you will take part in their discussions and maybe kick-start a new project/collaboration simply by being there.

I would give it a go. Best of luck.

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    If you properly evaluate your time, how can you NOT charge for teaching them? You were contracted as a designer, not instructor. At the very least, it's out of the scope of the original agreement. And doing things for free like this could start a chain of more requests for your valuable, free time.
    – TCDesigner
    Jan 10, 2017 at 4:23
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    @TCDesigner I think you misunderstood me! I did not say you should do it for free, I only said not to start with the idea to charge a large fee hoping they will decline and keep working with you, just evaluate your time and knowledge that you share and how that is going to affect your budget considering you won't get paid to do those modifications, they will do it themselves and only then come with a justified fee. Most of my clients don't have a problem with large fees as long as I can justify the costs.
    – Alin
    Jan 10, 2017 at 8:40
  • @Alin well training regularly takes home a few grand per class. So asking 2000$ is not a large fee asking 10000$ is
    – joojaa
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:12

Agree with everything said in the other answers, and it depends on your perspective, but there's another approach that you could take if you have other projects that you prefer to teaching: subcontracting. Find somebody else to teach the course, and charge the client x2. Might sound steep, but everybody benefits, and x2 is likely what it'll take to make it worthwhile for you. The advantage of this is that it frees you to work on your design passion and is scalable to a higher degree.

  • A good idea, but everyone has his own style of working with InDesign. If this class turns out to be a disaster and it turns out the ex-client still can't properly work with these files (either because the tutoring is not up to par, or because the class is lazy and/or unwilling as indicated in some of the other answers), then the ex-client will blaim you for not supplying proper tutelage.
    – Jongware
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:44

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