As a freelancer, you likely handle lots of projects. That’s probably why 10 Free Project Management Applications is one of the most popular posts here on Freelance Folder.
It only makes sense that you could learn from the techniques used by professional project managers. Even if you are the only one doing the work, you can still benefit from some project management techniques and simple project management software.
The exact steps in a typical project management process vary depending on who is doing the work and on the project requirements, but some project management steps are common to most projects. These are the techniques that freelancers can benefit from the most.
In this post, I identify five professional project management techniques that freelancers can use.
Technique 1. Define Scope
Every professional project manager understands the importance of getting a detailed description of the work to be done before starting. To successfully deliver a project, you must first understand exactly what it is you need to deliver.
As a minimum, freelance project scope should include answers to the following questions:
- What is to be delivered?
- When is it to be delivered?
- How is it to be delivered?
- How and when will payment be made?
Usually the more detailed your scope, the better.
Technique 2. Establish Change Control
Professional project managers don’t allow clients to constantly change their minds and neither should freelancers.
If you’ve ever dealt with a client who requested an unending stream of revisions that were really requests for new work, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Project changes can eat up your time and make what seemed like a profitable project into a financial nightmare.
Project managers restrict changes to the project using something called change control. Freelancers can use a similar technique to keep the amount of new requests to a minimum.
A good change control practice for freelancers would be to limit the number of revisions they will perform on a project. (Note: I’m not talking about fixing mistakes, but rather actual changes.) A contract should clearly state that additional revisions will cost additional money.
Also, you may want to use a change control process to deal with excessive meetings. My contracts often state that an initial client meeting is included in the project cost, but additional meetings will be billed at an hourly rate.
Technique 3. Set Milestones
Professional project managers often deal with huge projects. They may last for months and cost thousands of dollars. They know that the only way to tell whether a project is on track is to set milestones.
A milestone is a date when you expect a specific part of a project to be done. A freelance writer writing an eBook might set a milestone for the outline of the eBook, more milestones for the completion of each chapter, and the final milestone would be the project deadline.
Freelancers often overlook the importance of setting milestones because their projects are smaller or because they don’t have project management experience. However, setting milestones can help you avoid turning in late work.
Technique 4. Keep Metrics
Good project managers know approximately how long most specific tasks in a project will take. Unfortunately, many freelancers have no idea how long specific tasks in their project will take.
How do the professional project managers do it?
They keep excellent records. They track the start and completion time for each task in a project. Over time, those records become pretty accurate.
Keeping good metrics not only helps you to estimate how much time you need to work on a freelance project, it can also help you when you quote the right price for that project.
Many freelancers severely underestimate the amount of time a project requires. They may think they are quoting a good price, when actually they are severely underselling themselves.
Technique 5. Conduct a Lessons Learned
Do you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over?
Professional project managers avoid repeating mistakes by conducting a “lessons learned” session at the end of each project. Freelancers can benefit from implementing a similar exercise after they complete each gig.
Lessons learned looks at the project and asks the following questions:
- What went wrong with this project?
- What went right with this project?
Analyzing the lessons learned from each freelancing project can ultimately save you time and money.
Do you use any project management techniques in your freelancing business?
Which ones? Share your answers in the comments.