Freelancers enjoy a certain freedom from being told what to work on and when from an outside party, such as a manager or boss. It is important, however, that you create that structure for accountability for yourselves in your freelance endeavor. Effectively managing your work flow enables you to complete your work, make sure you are on time and on budget and easily communicate with your clients.
That’s where project management comes in. Project management is your own customized system which defines, regulates and streamlines your overall work flow. Effective project management helps you work more efficiently, which corresponds directly to getting more work done, earning more money and enjoying a more profitable freelancing career. Here are seven tips for developing and implementing your individual project management system to optimize your time and profits.
Educate your clients on how you manage projects. Let your client know precisely how you plan to complete the work, including your timeline, what is required of the client, when payments are due — all the components of the work you’ve contracted to perform. By doing so, expectations are consistent between you and your client, avoiding the necessity of having to waste valuable time explaining your process or waiting for them to perform.
Build communication with your clients into your project management system. Your clients have the right to know — and will appreciate knowing — where you are in the development of the project at any given time. Keeping clients regularly apprised of progress, developments, successes, setbacks and any other issues related to the work will ensure a smooth working relationship.
Use the Cloud
Use project management tools that you can access from anywhere. Choose project management tools that are mobile and web-based so you (and your clients) can access them from any location at any time to share of information. This approach also helps eliminate any concerns if something happens to your computer or back up system.
Create templates for the types of projects you normally take on so you can set up a new project quickly. Repetition of effort is a time-waster. Templates will help you be consistent and certain you’ve taken everything necessary into consideration. Ongoing review and refinement of the templates ensures that the process is not only efficient but improves with each project.
Keep up with your project management — it’s even more important than your bookkeeping, in some ways. As long as you follow the work flow you’ve established, project management keeps you on task and ensures the job gets done, which in freelancing is the name of the game. While billing is important, there’s nothing to bill for until the job is completed. And if you can get your project management skills to the point where you can complete assignments more efficiently, you can take on more clients and earn more money.
Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need when setting deadlines. Unforeseen circumstances you can’t control can potentially cause delays. Build in a buffer so you have plenty of time to allow for delays. To make matters more complex, most freelancers underestimate the time they need for a project, at least until they’ve been freelancing for years and know how long certain projects take on an instinctive level. Not knowing, after all, causes more problems than just backed up deadlines: it can make it harder to earn a fair amount for the work you’ve completed.
Track your time on each project, even if you don’t charge hourly. It gives you a better idea of how much you’re actually earning. It’s important to know, in general, how long it takes you to complete certain tasks. That information will help you to price your work appropriately, according to realistic factors to avoid over- or under-charging your clients. Having concrete numbers will also help you to set time lines.
Ultimately, there’s no one right way to manage a project — only the best way for you. The important thing is that you take the time and effort to determine and establish your own work flow. By basing your project management on your work style and tailoring it to your particular business, you will develop a system that works best for you, increasing your productivity and maximizing your profits.