Freelancer, independent contractor, on-the-side worker... whatever you call your profession, you might be missing a few key practices that could greatly improve your results.
I have spent some time as a contractor myself, and I immediately realized that I would sink or swim depending on a few essential habits. Managing my time and being accountable to myself throughout my day became the first challenge to overcome.
Even after I grasped this, however, I remember feeling a bit of anxiety about my work because there were too many unknowns. I never felt as though I had control over my work and was always chasing information.
What I now realize is that I wasn’t managing my work as a project. What I needed to do was think of my work as having a start and a finish and asking myself what specific things needed to happen in-between to get it done.
Welcome to project management.
Here are 4 Project Management skills to help you meet your freelance goals:
1. Keep a project schedule
This is different than a planner. If you are familiar with a Gantt chart, then you know what I am talking about. Create a comprehensive schedule of your project, its phases, tasks, deliverables, meetings, research due dates… whatever your project demands – week by week. The best way to start is to brainstorm tasks you need to complete a product or deliverable and then begin setting them into a calendar. As you discover more about your project add it to the calendar.
2. Deliverables are NOUNS and tasks are VERBS
Many times your list of deliverables can quickly become a to-do list. This will keep you from the helpfulness of project management principles. You might find yourself labeling “Fill out client spreadsheet” as a deliverable. This can happen because you are trying to do two steps at once. The tasks (verbs) are meant to inform the deliverables (nouns) and then let the schedule manage both. If you label “Client Spreadsheet” as a deliverable and “Fill out client spreadsheet” as a task, then it’ll be easier for you to do the tasks you’ve outlined in the timetable they fit within.
3. Define the project scope
Is this project going to take you 2 months of condensed work or 2 years of steady work? Is there a heavy research component, a lengthy design phase or a clear urge to move to implementation as quickly as possible? What are the demands of the work and, in general, how will you accomplish it?
Defining the project scope is important because so much depends on it. In traditional project management, your whole team will have agreed on this statement and then collectively will work toward it. What happens, however, when the project starts changing and the scope isn’t adjusted? If the work effort isn’t adjusted, then the project can fail.
Point of the story: Develop a project scope statement – even if it's just for yourself.
4. Understand what your project depends on
Dependencies are other pieces of work that affect the timing of your work. You might not be able to develop a part of your project until the post office delivers something you need, for example. It is always good to be aware of things your work depends on because then you can incorporate it into your schedule, check in as needed and be clearheaded enough to work as a team with those you are depending on.
If you'll begin to incorporate these things into your freelance practice, then I'll bet you will ask better questions, have a clear sense of direction in your work each day, and deliver a quality product to your client.
Written by Briana Malrick
This blog post is from the Author's perspective and doesn't speak for brightpeak financial. Contact brightpeak if you want to know more about brightpeak products, and keep in mind that they are not available in all states and there are some limitations (some exclusions and restrictions may apply).