There are definitely benefits to being hired on as a full time and permanent project manager. Job security, obviously, is one of them. Being able to really bond with your team as you move from project to project within a company is also great (provided you like everybody). At the same time, because of the nature of the work, finding a permanent/full time gig is rare. So what do you do in the meantime? Do you just allow a series of layoffs to hang out on your resume while you scour job boards and volunteer, living off of your severance pay or unemployment? This is certainly one approach.
The other approach is to go full-time freelance.
This sounds a little bit counter intuitive. Especially, as noted in this diary of an anonymous freelance project manager, most companies think of project management as some superfluous thing that isn’t really needed. Indeed, the same diary makes a point of telling us that this particular project manager usually goes into a company to do something else: a writing job or something else. Then, as he stealthily improves the communication flow (or whatever), they notice that things are better with him around so they hire him to turn their botched situation around completely.
Still: because most projects are temporary in nature anyway, being able to bounce from company to company has some definite benefits:
- You make a lot of industry contacts that you might not have otherwise made.
- You can charge more for your services than you could as a regular employee.
- You can choose with whom you work.
- You make your own schedule.
So how do you do it? How do you start freelancing as a project manager?
Step One: Register as a Temp
Working through temp agencies and placement firms is a great way to start building your network and generate word of mouth promotion. Do a great job at a few temporary engineering jobs and project management placements and you can bet that people will be contacting you directly to come in and work for them on their projects.
Some project managers even choose to simply stick with their staffing agencies and temp recruitment companies. This way they are still sort of freelancing but the staffing agencies and temp placement companies do all of the marketing and selling work for you.
Step Two: Background Check Yourself
You likely did a version of this before your last job interview. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch. These companies will be inviting you in and trusting you with, often, confidential and highly sensitive company details. You can bet that they are going to do their due diligence on you. Therefore, you must make sure that there is nothing eyebrow raising for them to find.
In this business that means more than just making sure the photos from your frat days are erased from Facebook. This means doing a thorough background check on yourself including things like checking your credit.
If you find anything that would make you hesitate to hire someone else (try to be as discerning as possible here) in your self-research, take pains to fix it. This means hiring a credit repair agency if your credit history is less than perfect. It means making sure that your online reputation is spotless.
Step Three: Put Out Some Feelers
When you are confident that a background, reputation, and credit check will come up squeaky clean, it’s time to start contacting previous employers and team members. Let them know that you’re “going rogue” and setting up your own freelance operation. Ask if they know of anybody who might need a good project manager or leader. More importantly, ask them to refer potential clients to you when they do hear about these jobs.
Step Four: Get Certified
There are lots of opinions as to whether or not you really need PMP credentials. On the one hand, actual experience from “the field” is invaluable and not something that can be recreated via a certification course. On the other hand, obtaining (and maintaining) your certification shows a commitment to project management. It establishes you as a pro instead of a dabbler who thinks that project management is a great way to get paid to be bossy. It’s also important to note that if you are relatively new to the field, PMP can help open doors that ordinarily only be opened to those with extensive resumes.
Step Five: Make it Official
Each state has strict laws as to how a freelancer can operate his or her business. In some states, as long as you report your income, you are free to take on whatever projects you like. In others, you must register your status with the state and your county and get certain types of licenses before you can start taking on clients and projects. It’s a good idea to make an appointment at your local SBA office and find out what you need to do to make everything official. Think of it as your first project!
Step Six: Branch Out
Remember when we talked about the diary of the freelance project manager and he said that he often got Project Management jobs via other types of jobs? This is a good idea for you too. If you have other skills that you can leverage and market, do that! The freelance writing jobs or coding work you take on can help bridge the gap, income-wise, between project management gigs. This way you won’t be so desperate that you take whatever comes along. You can hold out for the jobs that will work best for you and for the career you’re trying to build for yourself.
The point is that it is possible to become a freelance project manager. The temporary nature of the work lends itself fantastically to freelancing anyway and, of course, you can always simply freelance while you look for your next permanent gig, right?
Rachel Matthews is a freelance writer with a background in business who’s been relying on her entrepreneurial skill set since she was in high school. She enjoys writing about anything from health and beauty to current political news.
I wish project teams worked well together from Day 1 but experience shows this isn’t the case. At all, some of the time. Here are 6 behaviours to watch out for in your project team and some things that you can do to manage these behaviours and attitudes before they start to cause problems on your team.
Arrogance is a dangerous trait because it is directly attributable to missing risks. If you feel that you are untouchable and you have everything you need on your project, then you aren’t going to be on the lookout for that one risk that will knock your whole project over.
Watch out for arrogance in your team members (and yourself). It’s easy enough to spot because people start to feel as if the rules don’t apply to them, that ‘nothing will go wrong’, that they have everything under control and they show excessive confidence. Of course, there is nothing wrong with confidence as long as it is built on fact and is constantly reassessed as the project environment changes.
Complacency is similar to arrogance in that people stop questioning what is going on. There is a general sense of smugness that the individual’s work in on track. They are happy in their work and secure in the ‘knowledge’ that nothing is going wrong. This also leads to a lack of critical analysis of the work in hand and a full appreciation of the project risks.
Project managers always try to accomplish two goals when managing a project: save time and money. However, project managers know this isn’t always easy or possible, depending on the project…and the customer. The good news is there is a lot a project manager can do on the front end of projects in order to increase the likelihood of reaching these goals as well as successfully delivering a quality product.
Proper planning. The success of every project, regardless of how complex, risky, and costly, starts with proper planning during the development phase. Properly gathering requirements, managing expectations with the customer, and estimating time, costs, and resources can go a long way in setting the tone and success of a project.
Unfortunately, too many project managers struggle with this phase of the project due to a lack of time and resources, which only results in project teams scrambling to finish a project. We all know this can be a recipe for disaster that results in poor communication and poor deliverables.
Gathering requirements. A great deal of work goes into this phase at the front end of the project, and it is one of the most important steps in the project life cycle. After all, how do you know what purpose the project will serve if you don’t properly identify the requirements? Gathering requirements often means asking questions that surround a project’s purpose. Being able to identify and describe all project stakeholders is crucial in properly gathering requirements.
Managing expectations. After gathering requirements, project managers should also properly manage expectations with customers. This is another area that is difficult to manage mostly due to communication. How a customer might perceive the end result of a project might be different than how a project manager conveys deliverables and the end product. This is another recipe for disaster because ultimately it leads to disappointed or frustrated customers.
Implementing proper modes and channels of communication is the solution here. Communication is one of the most important elements to successful project management. While it is important to implement proper communication tactics and channels throughout teams and suppliers, the same tactics should apply with customers. Obviously the language and vocabulary will differ between audiences, but proper communication will allow project managers to effectively manage customer expectations and ensure the accurate delivery of a project.
Estimating. Estimating is often the least favorite project management step. This step often involves a combination of the above steps…and some math. It can also be difficult to estimate a project’s costs, and even the net price of a particular project, if the project scope isn’t accurately or completely defined during the development phase. This means the project manager needs to work with the customer on a regular basis in order to define the scope so that the development and design steps can begin, and estimating is more accurate.
Finally, saving both time and money on a project is a huge challenge, but it is possible with proper planning, gathering requirements, managing expectations, and thorough estimating. These are the keys to success and wise project management.
Are you a member of your local PMI Chapter? I have been on and off for a few years now and there are a number of benefits that make it worthwhile. If you are thinking about expanding your skills during 2015 then getting involved in your local Chapter could be a great step forward for you. Here are some of the ways that they can support your in your career goals over the year.
If you want to get into project management but don’t have a great deal of experience then volunteering for a project-based organisation like PMI is a good step in the right direction. You can get involved project managing some of the events that the Chapter holds. They might even run a scheme where you can work with local schools or businesses providing volunteer project managers. It’s an easy way to get project experience without having to do it as part of your job. You won’t get paid but you will get experience that can go on your CV and also count towards the professional requirements for qualifications.
If you didn’t work that well as an international project team last year then now is the time to do something about it. Get 2015 off to a great start by sorting out how you are going to work together in a virtual environment now.
1. Time zone awareness
Try to spread team meetings across the day when most people are at work. Avoid it always being one team in one country who has to attend a meeting at an unsocial time. I use TimeAndDate.com to plan my meetings. I still don’t always get it right but at least I’ve got more of a chance with an accurate tool.
2. Use online tools
Pretty much anything that you use for managing your projects with a co-located, national team can also be used in an online version for working with an international, dispersed and virtual team. For example, you don’t have to be restricted to brainstorming in face-to-face workshops. Online mind mapping tools give you the option to use advanced mind mapping systems in a virtual environment and share the output with your team members, wherever they are based.