Freelancers want to maximize time and energy on billable work. They also want to minimize time spent on admin tasks to increase profits. Applying the right project management tools and techniques can help you streamline workflows and operate more efficiently.
You’ll be able to handle client communications professionally while reducing the time spent on keeping track of everything related to your projects.
“Project management” may sound complicated but don’t fret. You don’t need to be a Gantt chart genius to effectively manage your freelance projects!
For most freelancers, just a few simple techniques can go a long way.
Here’s what you need to know to run a lean and mean freelancing business:
Project Management Involves Understanding the Scope Definition
The project scope is a detailed description of the work you’re doing for a client.
It helps you set clear expectations. That way, you and your clients understand:
- exactly what needs to happen
- requirements from both parties
- the fee
- the payment process
In addition, most scope documents include a high-level timeline and a set of assumptions detailing dependencies required for the successful delivery of the project (e.g., clients’ ability to attend a requirement gathering call or provide materials and assets.)
Change Control Protocol
Once a scope is agreed upon, clients shouldn’t constantly be changing their minds about the deliverables.
Especially for fixed-fee projects, your compensation is tied to the deliverables and the number of rounds of revisions. Changes to either will impact the amount of time and effort you spend on the project.
It’s not to say you can’t accommodate your clients’ requests to change the scope mid-way through the project or make additional revisions.
You just need to make sure that the adjustment in scope is documented and that you’re fairly compensated for any additional work.
Your contract should clearly indicate that any deviation from the project scope, extra client meetings, and additional rounds of revisions would require a change order.
This will allow you to have the “money talk” without either party taking it personally, and your clients won’t feel like you’re “nickel-and-diming” them.
Timeline And Milestones
When you plan out a project, you need to establish a timeline so you know what needs to happen and when.
Besides helping you stay on track, a timeline also gives your clients the visibility they need to do their part – e.g., blocking out time on their calendars to review a deliverable and provide feedback – to ensure that the project stays on track.
Some projects will require a few “checkpoints” at which you’ll deliver materials for client review and approval before moving on to the next stage.
For example, if you’re writing an ebook, you’d probably set a milestone for the outline and a milestone for each chapter as it’s completed. The final milestone will be the delivery of the final ebook.
These milestones will help you better manage your time. They’ll also provide the opportunity for client involvement in the process to ensure that the project is on the right track.
“Timesheet” And Metrics
You don’t have to submit a timesheet to HR to receive payment. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep track of your time.
Make it a habit to log the time you spend on different tasks in each project – there are many apps you can use to help you do that. (Some of these tools also integrate with an invoicing feature for easy billing.)
Over time, you’ll see an accurate picture of how much time you’ll need for each task.
This will help you avoid the common mistake of underestimating how much time a project takes because you aren’t breaking down the process and addressing the time required for each component.
Having a handle on how long a typical task takes will help you estimate the time you need and quote the right price for future projects.
Experienced freelancers learn from each project and become better by avoiding mistakes they’ve made in the past.
Make it a habit to conduct a “debriefing” after each gig to understand what/why/how things might have gone wrong or what could be done better.
You can also look at what went well with the project. Look at how you can incorporate it into your “standard procedure” in the future.
Stay objective – it’s not a time to point fingers or beat yourself up.
Analyzing lessons learned will help you become more effective and efficient, which will save you time and increase your profits.
What’s Your Project Management Secret Weapon?
Project management techniques aren’t just for PMs who want to breathe down your neck and make you suffer.
They’re essential in helping you maintain the quality of your work, keep your profit margin healthy, and improve client relationships.
What project management techniques do you use in your freelance writing business?
Editor’s Note: This post is by nDash community member Ling Wong, a digital marketer with a focus on SaaS B2B. To learn more about Ling, or to have her write for your brand, check out her nDash profile page.