By this point in your freelance career, you’ve likely got a few clients under your belt.
But as your client list grows or as more projects come through the door, you will need a way to handle this. How you manage your time, workload, client communication, and everything in between ultimately affects the quality of your work and your relationship with your clients.
Having a handle on your freelance project management skills will make your career much easier and far more rewarding. But achieving this requires patience, choosing the right tools and software, and some trial and error.
In this article, we’re going to look at the best tips to help you master your project management skills to help you optimize and prioritize your day-to-day work lives.
Why Are Freelance Project Management Skills So Important?
Most of the time, as a freelance you must manage every aspect of your projects.
With no team to rely on, you are solely responsible for handling everything from client communication and arranging meetings to hitting deadlines and keeping track of all project activities.
That’s a lot for one person.
Structure and organization pop up as critical requirements in this line of work. Mastering freelance project management will make your life ten times easier and will enable you to carry out and keep track of several tasks at once.
Some of the benefits of mastering your project management skills early on include:
- Managing your projects more efficiently
- Publishing projects and tracking their performances
- Budgeting accordingly
- Having full control over your project (not relying on anyone else)
- The ability to counter and respond to unanticipated changes
Let’s take a look at some of the best tips to master your project management skills to make your day-to-day easier and more enjoyable.
1. Set Clear Objectives
Right from the off, what are the main objectives you are looking to achieve?
Break this down into tasks, milestones, and deadlines. Looking at a mammoth project as a whole can become a little daunting.
Milestones mark your big wins, tasks are your to-do list, and deadlines are the things keeping you on track. Plus, you’ll get a sense of achievement after you complete each task and milestone.
The important thing to remember is not to overcomplicate anything. Break your project into manageable parts. Understand what needs to be done, how you’ll do it, and when it’s due.
2. Use a Scope of Work Document
Some freelancers like to create a SOW (scope of work) document for each project before they begin. A SOW document summarizes what the project is and the work required to complete it. Think of it like an in-depth brief that your client has agreed to before the project begins.
It’s also helpful because it puts in writing the work that has been commissioned – meaning your client cannot change the requirements of the project or ask for additional revisions for free.
This not only establishes a clear scope of work but also allows you to delegate work where needed, ensuring efficient collaboration and a smoother workflow throughout the project.
The main benefit of having a document like this is to avoid any misunderstandings regarding your client and the project in question.
3. Manage Your Time Effectively
Managing your time is crucial to hit the ground running when it comes to planning and completing projects.
It’s easy to lose track of time or for things to get in the way and delay other projects – which is why keeping on top of your project management is so important.
Once a project has been accepted, start planning out milestones and targets to make it easier to divide your work hours. Be sure to track your working time, too, as not only does this allow you to provide billable hours to the client, but it also helps you identify how long certain tasks take.
For example, let’s say you’re a web developer. As a freelancer, it’s important to choose a reliable managed cloud hosting provider that offers good performance, security, and customer support for your ongoing project.
When you break down tasks into milestones and allocate specific work hours, you gain insights into your time investment and how much to charge the client.
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By tracking these hours, you might find out that configuring server settings takes up a significant portion of your time. Identifying these patterns allows you to refine your approach and ultimately enhance your overall web dev project management strategy.
It’s not just about meeting deadlines; it’s about continually optimizing your workflow to ensure that each project is not only completed on time but billed fairly and provides the best service to your client.
4. Find a Productive Place to Work
Every freelancer has a preferred way of working. Some enjoy the comfort of working from their home, others prefer cafes, some prefer co-working spaces, and others like a mix of everything.
The key is to find a workplace that keeps you motivated and happy. A study in the Kansas Journal of Medicine found that efforts to reduce stress and increase well-being lead to higher performance.
It’s not just about ‘having a nice place’ to work. It’s about how that place affects your mental health and productivity output.
Happier mind, higher productivity!
5. Handle Client Communication and Expectations
Being a freelancer, you are usually the sole point of contact with your client(s).
These conversations need to be productive to keep everyone happy and on the same page. Whether it’s a typical two-week check-in on a current project or a pitch to a new client, communication and setting clear expectations is key.
Great project management combines excellent communication with balancing expectations. Good communication keeps your clients in the loop regarding your projects and updates, but it’s equally as important to share new ideas with your client as and when required.
Consistent communication helps your clients understand how you work and how you manage your projects. This way, you are creating a safe space to share ideas and discuss projects effectively.
6. Identify Your Perfect Project Management Tool
Everyone has a favorite tool they use to make their work life easier.
Whether it’s harnessing automation to bypass mundane tasks, using PhotoShop to create and edit imagery, or, in this case, using a project management software tool to keep everything structured and organized for maximum efficiency.
The latter is crucial for those looking for an efficient setup to tackle their projects. Tools like Nifty set a visual timeline for your big-picture goals and build team alignment by automating progress as tasks are completed.
One of the many benefits of Nifty is that you can plan, track, and manage your workflows in one collaborative workspace. This means that if you’re a freelancer with a team (or outsourcing certain work), you can use it to manage others with ease.
Ideally, you want to find one tool that can juggle several tasks to not only make your freelance project management life easier but also save money (more platforms = more expense!).
👉Check out our Top 10 Project Management Tools For Freelancers
7. Face Challenges and Changes Head-on
No matter how good a freelancer you are, you cannot dodge some of the challenges and problems that come with project management. This is why it’s crucial to face any issues head-on and adapt to whatever comes your way.
Tight deadlines, unexpected client requests, or technological hiccups – embrace them. They’re opportunities to showcase your adaptability and problem-solving skills.
In essence, it’s about staying calm in stressful situations. Yes, this is easier said than done, but this can be made easier when you use a project management platform designed to structure your workflow.
Running your own freelance business comes with plenty of benefits. The freedom and flexibility to choose where and when you work, as well as who with, is an ideal situation.
However, to achieve this, knowing how to manage projects effectively is crucial. Being able to structure, track, assign, and delegate work where needed makes both your life and your client’s lives easier.
Take time to research the right tools and approaches to help you master your projects and manage them effectively. If, at some point, you run into problems, don’t be afraid to switch things up!
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