Project Management For Freelancers

Once you’ve sold a client on working with you, the next step is to establish clear expectations for how you’ll run their project and ensure that you’re paid on time, get the feedback you need, and end up with a happy and successful client.

In this section, we’ll help you with all things project management. Whether you’re working by yourself or managing a team of subcontractors (or even employees), the advice you’ll find in our in-depth guides and articles will help make sure that every project you work on leads to more repeat business and referrals.

Our views on managing projects:

  • You should set expectations with clients. It’s up to both you and your client to contribute to the success of the project. Find out how.
  • You need to stay on top of your billing and guarantee that your clients are never late in paying you. Find out how.
  • You should regularly host Retrospectives for all of your projects. Find out how.

Whether through 4+ years of in-depth articles, premium courses, the conferences and events I host, or my podcast, my #1 goal is to help you become a more successful freelancer.

Brennan Dunn

Latest Articles On This Topic

Why Most Freelancers Set Their Clients Up For Failure (And How To Fix This)

When I first started freelancing, I was focused on all the wrong things.

And these are things you’ve heard me talk about extensively over the last few years, and especially since kicking off this latest series.

My focus was exclusively on what I thought I was good at… in my case, writing web software. But for you, that might be designing, writing, blogging, marketing, or whatever it is you’re — superficially — hired for. I saw myself as a vendor. I have something to offer, code. And the client buys that code by hiring me for however long it takes me to write that code. And when I’m done, I hand it off to the client and trust that they know what needs to be done next.

How Freelancers Can Minimize Meetings

I hate, hate, hate wasting time.

And at the top of my kill list of things that waste my time are meetings. I’m not against the act of meeting — there are plenty of times where meetings are the best way to communicate (like, collaborating over wireframes or brainstorming a new feature.)

What really bothers me about meetings are that they occupy my schedule. The time leading up to a meeting — generally spent aimlessly clicking, waiting for the clock to give me permission to hit the big, green call button in Skype — is nothing short of dead time. Likewise, I can’t just switch back to what I was doing. Context switching takes time and mental energy, and it can usually take 15 minutes to an hour to get back “in flow” (realistically, however, I can’t get back in flow — the rest of the day is shot.)

Why Freelancer’s Should Establish A Communication Framework

I’d like to tell you about a project that I regret to this day. This project cost me tens of thousands of dollars, hurt my reputation, and even made me want to throw in the towel and give up on consulting.

Deep breath.

OK, so back when I was running my consultancy — I think at the time we had 8 or 9 full-time employees. I had plenty on my plate… I had to make sure the next set of projects were lined up, that the current projects we had were running smoothly, and that my team was happy and taken care of.

Setting The Right Expectations With New Clients

Have you ever had a client who said or thought something that seemed so asinine, so completely out of left field that you were left questioning how the hell they ever managed to start a business of their own?

I have. And let me tell you about one in particular…

I had a client who loved to come up with stuff. And after each meeting, we’d invariably end up adding a bunch of earth shattering ideas du jour to his project backlog. But he wasn’t willing to reach deeper into his pockets and broaden his budget with each increase in scope.

Managing Subcontractors as a Freelancer

My company became more than just me when I realized that I was losing money and future references by turning away work I couldn’t handle.

At first, I thought it would be smooth sailing and that it was the perfect arrangement. My contract with a contractor was simple: I’m landing the work, handling invoicing, and in charge of collecting. In exchange, I’d be taking a percentage of the hourly rate and giving the subcontractor the rest.

But what I didn’t realize was that I was ultimately liable. My reputation was riding on the abilities and, as more importantly, the integrity of each subcontractor I brought on.

Be upfront with your clients

Don’t make the mistake I made and try to whitelabel your subcontractors and pretend they either are employees of yours or, worse, are you. Because sooner or later, a client is going to ask you a question about their project and you aren’t going to be able to get in touch with your subcontractor. This happens.

If you’re straightforward and honestly let your clients know that you’ll be managing the deliverables of your subcontractors and trust them and their work, it’ll be a heck a lot easier to dig yourself out of a ditch if you need to.

Find reliable people

You can’t assume that you can throw keyboards at a project and guarantee a successful delivery. People are emotional, and they often times need prompting or slight nudges. As a primary contractor, it’s your job to find people who will dutifully represent your freelancing business, stick to schedules, work within budgetary constraints, and are utmost professionals.

It’s your reputation that’s at stake, not theirs. Vet your subcontractors, ideally know them before there’s a project on the table. Clearly communicate your expectations and how you expect them to work – don’t make the mistake I’ve made so often, thinking that everyone works just like you do.

Be fair

As a primary contractor, you’re balancing a relationship with your client, and a relation with your subcontractor(s). Clearly define the role of each involved party, and leave nothing to speculation.

Finally, the four points that follow should be clearly communicated with your clients when kicking off any new project:

  • That you’ll be doing daily reviews of all the work your subs produce
  • You will be involved in all major meetings
  • You’ve personally vetted the technical capacity and reliability of each of your subcontractors
  • That it’s your primary job to ensure that the project goes off without a hitch

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