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Project Management Processes: Freelancer Edition

Dec 27, 2020
(updated: Feb 14, 2023)
Max 5 min read

All projects – from manufacturing a car to writing a marketing plan – require specific processes and effective project management to successfully get from Point A (not started) to Point B (completed).

While the day-to-day of an engineer and a freelance marketer might look totally different at first glance, it’s important to recognize that project leaders in any sector and function share processes to accomplish their project goals. Let’s break down the five common project management processes.

The 5 Project Management Processes (From a Freelancer’s Perspective)

There are millions of different types of projects out there, and whether you’re part of a big project team or you’re a one-person show, project planning is a key driver in sending project deliverables that your client is happy with. There are five key phases. 

1. Initiating

This part of the project management process is typically conception: What do we want to accomplish? What are the project objectives?

This might be done without your involvement. Let’s say you find a job posting for a client who needs five blog posts written as part of their content marketing strategy. The client already understands their marketing goals and simply needs a writer to help achieve them. That’s where you step in.

Or perhaps you do the conceptualizing. You’ve found somebody you want to work for and have an idea that you think can be of value. You email your pitch, and the client takes you on. No actual work has been done yet, but the idea has been agreed upon. You’ve initiated a future project.

2. Planning

Now comes the planning phase of the project. This means a blueprint – or, in a freelancer’s case, a contract or Statement of Work (SoW). What’s the timeline? What are the requirements? How will you be paid? Will you be collaborating with any teammates?

Putting together the project plan in a contract will ensure that all parties are on the same page and are working towards a mutual goal. A SoW can include:

  • Project objectives
  • Project scope
  • Major deliverables
  • Timeline for completion of work
  • Costs, payment terms
  • Any other conditions or requirements

3. Executing

Here’s the fun part – doing the actual work. This is where project management comes into play, even if you’re a team of one. In order to meet all the requirements set in phase two, it’s important to operate efficiently and with a strategy in place that sets you up for success. For freelancers, this often comes down to time management, effective communication, and organization.

When I’m executing projects, there are three must-haves that always help me achieve my clients’ goals:

  • Toggl: Toggl is an awesome time-tracking tool that allows me to stay on top of my tasks and ensure I’m not wasting my time. Time is one of our most valuable assets – especially as freelancers – and I’m not always great at managing it on my own. Toggl fills this gap.
  • Google Drive: Having all of my work in a cloud-based system ensures that I stay hyper-organized while executing projects – especially when I have more than one going on at once. It’s also a quick and efficient way to share work in progress with my clients, and gives me security in never having to worry about losing files due to a computer crash.
  • To-Do Lists: As much as I love technology, I’m pretty old-fashioned with my love for pen-and-paper to-do lists. I start each of my days by writing down the items I need to accomplish and physically crossing them off as I go. To-do lists are an awesome tool to reduce anxiety.

These tools can be lifesavers when it comes to effective project management, but they aren’t magic. In the event that things aren’t going to plan or you fall behind schedule, it’s important to keep your client updated and always make open and clear communication the priority.

4. Monitoring and Control

Updates with project progress shouldn’t be surprises for your client. There should be established norms for how all parties are given information as a project develops and comes to fruition. Monitoring and control include executing risk management processes, status meetings, and other procedures initially agreed upon in the SoW (or in less formal settings, early meetings).

If your project has simpler or smaller scope, monitoring and control might look like daily recap emails or messages on Slack. It could be a phone call or a Google Doc link to your work in progress. The main idea here is communication and staying organized.

5. Closing

Give yourself a pat on the back! The work is complete, and your client has given their stamp of approval on the work you did.

Even though the work has been done, you have an opportunity here to solidify a great relationship with this client, particularly if they’re happy with the work you did. Ensure that you make it a point to offer your services for any future work, and don’t be afraid to ask if they might have someone in their network who could also benefit from your work. Referrals are a fantastic way to sustain a business, especially if you’re a full-time freelancer! 

Project Management as a Freelancer

These five processes are formal, and they might come across as rigid and unnecessary. And perhaps they are if we aren’t adapting them to our own needs. But that’s the point – to adapt.

If there are pieces of these processes you like, hold on to them! And if there are pieces you don’t like, throw them out the window. What’s key for putting together a successful project is building the project management methodologies that work for you and your clients and executing accordingly. Best of luck!

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