Your Guide to Freelance Project Management!

  • September 16, 2021
  • by Ola Rybacka
  • No comments

Many aspiring freelance project managers prefer to stay independent instead of working for one company. In distributed work, they have many opportunities to find work suitable for their talent, knowledge, and experience. But how does a freelance project manager’s work differ from the in-office one? Let’s dig into the meanders of freelance project management!

Why do managers decide to switch from office work to freelancing?

The answer is pretty simple: they mostly desire more flexibility when it comes to their responsibilities. Working under other’s commands isn’t easy for anyone, especially those who care about their own independence.

There are many reasons behind such a decision, like being tired of working just for one employer or the simple will to change something. On the other hand, many people want to try and challenge themselves in new conditions. That’s why they decide to put their talent into good use handling multiple projects on their own.

How do freelance project managers work?

Common internet availability and a variety of project management software made project manager’s work no longer only office-related. One person can now handle multiple projects in different companies instead of working for one employer only. So, basically, freelance project managers are contractors who provide their PM service for their clients, multiple at once if needed.

As a freelance, you can find project manager jobs by yourself or register in staffing agencies. Other third parties and recruiters find the best job opportunities according to your education and experience. But it’s up to you how you want to find new, interesting projects and organizations to work for. No matter how you do it, your main responsibility will be helping companies and start-ups to succeed in their assigned projects.

What’s the average salary of a freelance project manager?

It’s hard to tell you the exact amount of money freelance project managers usually earn. Their income may vary depending on many different factors, like the industry sector, location, years of experience, manager’s education, and project resources.

According to The Digital Project Manager’s report, the USA’s freelance digital project manager rates varied from $50 to even $1100 per day. The difference is huge. However, these rates relate to companies ranging from small businesses to big, highly recognizable agencies, the importance of the project, and how much the client can pay the contractor. The senior project manager makes more than less experienced specialists.

What are the advantages of becoming a freelance project manager?

Many project managers switch from full-time, well-paid jobs to use their skills to manage projects for different clients. We all have different business goals and want to fulfill them for various reasons. Let’s dive into the most important ones.

Independence and flexibility

As mentioned before, many of us prefer being our own boss to being employed by a single company. It’s a challenging experience because, besides the regular project management responsibilities and taking on new assignments, freelancers also have to keep their papers in order by themselves (or, if they can afford it, they can hire a virtual assistant). They also have to track their own hours to determine how long it usually takes to achieve the final delivery.

However, thanks to the SaaS tools, they can go paperless and automate some tedious processes, like, e.g., time management with TimeCamp and the ongoing workflow with project management tools.

But managing their own job is nothing to compare with the freedom of having their own business. Freelancers can offer their extensive experience to the companies they want to work for.

Choosing clients as you wish

Working independently means the freedom of choice for who and on what you’ll be working. The experienced project manager should have no problem finding or getting interesting job propositions, especially when they specify their areas of interest, e.g., information technology, marketing, support services, or hiring.

As time passes and they’re getting experienced, they may feel confident enough to try their hand at managing projects for other industries.

But working as a contract project manager means it’s up to you who you would like to engage with. Who knows, maybe a client will be satisfied enough to use your talent and services again, for long periods?

Also, try to attend each job interview that matches your skills and, e.g., desired industry. Even if you do not pass the hiring process, you’ll get more information on what the potential employers require; it allows you to adjust to it.

You keep all the money

Working on your own means that the income you make shows up in your bank account entirely. Whether you deliver the project and the collaboration ends, you should get all the money. And the most pleasant is you don’t have to share it with anybody, except for spending some on job expenses. The rest goes mostly for food and other home-related expenses, but a forward plan will save you some for your personal growth.

So, are there any disadvantages of working as a freelance project manager?

Getting a freelance project management job is a blessing; however, working as your own boss also has its pain points. Here are probably the most bothersome ones:

The lack of steady income and work benefits

Working permanently for one organization guarantees you a consistent monthly income. As a contract project manager, you can keep all the earned money for yourself, but on the other hand, you still need to worry if they’ll hire you for other projects in the future.

What’s more, there are many situations when employers are getting late with the payments after the successful project delivery, and sometimes it’s not easy to get the money back.

The freelancing price is also the lack of employee benefits provided alongside salaries, like medical insurance, paid vacations, retirement benefits, and others. If their business is doing well, they usually can pay for all these out of their own pockets effortlessly.

However, if their work comes to a standstill, they may experience some problems if they don’t have the extra money saved for hard times.

Lack of recognition

Those who have just started their career in project management may face some problems with finding new jobs. It’s mostly because of a lack of successfully delivered projects they can share with potential employers. But how to gain the experience if nobody wants to hire you or resign after asking for additional information due to a short portfolio?

That’s why we should try and come up with new ideas during the education time. Many companies offer paid internships. Applying for one can be a great opportunity to prove our skills, learn good practices from more experienced colleagues and let the other identify us on the job market.

Also, find your niche based on your skills and experience. There are many talented freelance PMs on the employment market; however, becoming a specialist in a particular area increases your chances of finding more jobs.

High responsibility

Working on your own as a project manager means you are taking full responsibility for your and your team’s actions. You’ll be responsible for the success or failure of each assignment. That’s why problem-solving skills are highly appreciated in freelance project manager jobs, especially when managing cross-functional teams.

Creating a strict collaboration policy and discussing the project roadmap at the beginning of working for a particular organization will help you avoid many problems. Of course, you will still be in charge of leading a team and organizing its resources, but it’ll affect the teamwork positively.

Also, maintain the highest level of effective communication. Be sure the subordinates can contact you in case of any problems and provide support if they need any. Leave the feedback as soon as possible – that’s exactly what it seems for me to be an essence of flawless collaboration.

How do I become a freelance project manager?

Luckily, getting a part-time project management job it’s not rocket science. First, try to do some preparations:

  • do extensive research of the preferred industry,
  • ask your previous employers for testimonials and recommendations,
  • create a portfolio (every success is worth mentioning!),
  • register at a staffing agency or browse online job boards like Recruiter/Upwork/Freelancer on your own.

How to succeed as a freelance project manager?

There’s no universal method that ensures anyone an all sunshine and rainbows freelance project manager career. We differ by personality traits, the level of motivation, and other things that can affect the final effect.

However, no matter the industry we’ll choose to develop our career in – marketing, IT, sales, etc., we should believe we have enough talent to lead the team and create a positive environment for successful project delivery.

Here are some of our team are the experience-based tips for becoming a better freelance project manager:

  • Go paperless and let the tools do all the dirty work. No matter where you are, you can access your projects and documents with a desktop or mobile app,
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help; e.g., if you’re not into technical stuff, you can always contact your employer and ask if they can provide the support,
  • Create a strict communication policy with each business you collaborate with. Whether it’s a small start-up or a large organization, it’ll just make the teamwork much easier,
  • Stay up to date with resource usage, especially when it comes to time and budget. Technical tools like TimeCamp will help you estimate them and track the team’s performance,
  • Prepare an office space at home. It’ll be wonderful to put a separate room to good use; however, if it’s unreachable, you can start with buying a desk or using a flat surface like a kitchen countertop or table. Also, keep the clients’ papers in order!

Good luck!

The beginnings of a career in project management can be hard; however, we believe that each talent has to find its place in the job market. Use your strengths and each ability to impress the companies which may hire you in the future. Taking care of your own business isn’t easy, but if you keep up with the paperwork and office issues, things will get less complicated and you’ll be able to focus more on what’s really important in the project manager’s work.

Ola Rybacka

Community Manager at TimeCamp, Ph.D., and speech therapy student, full-time otaku. よろしくお願いします!

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