Managing Freelance Projects (Without Anyone to Manage You)

The number of people who make a living as freelancers is increasing rapidly in the United States. Entrepreneur Magazine reports that 149.4 million Americans were working full-time as of 2015, more than one third of who were freelancers. This figure is expected to increase significantly due to the large percentage of new freelancers. A survey of freelancers in the same article shows that 41 percent of the respondents had been freelancing for no more than the year and only 24 percent reported that they had been freelancing for over two years.

A traditional employee in an organization has access to many people with a range of skill sets, but freelancers must perform all job functions themselves. For example, freelancers must set up and maintain proper project management when working on a project. Project management is particularly challenging for freelancers due to the large number of specific skills it requires, in addition to those needed to complete the project itself. Fortunately, many types of project management software are currently available for freelancers.

Organization – It’s Not For Everyone  

A freelancer writing in a notebook with a pencil managing their projects without anyone managing themOrganization is essential for good project management, but not everyone is good at it. A cheat sheet is therefore an important method of managing multiple projects. Freelancer reports that bullet journals have recently become popular among freelancers, which allows them to maintain ideas in a variety of formats with a single source. A bullet journal consists of four key components, including topics, page numbers, short sentences and bullets.

A topic is a short header for each idea that’s placed at the top of a new page. It should be simple, but descriptive and typically contains no more than three words. Each page also should have a number in the upper or lower right corner. The primary purpose of the page is to provide the capability of creating an index for the journal. You can then add the topic and page number to the index as you enter each new idea. Short sentences are the preferred method of expressing ideas in a bullet journal, rather than writing a lengthy paragraph. The purpose of each sentence is typically to allow you to keep track of a single task. Bullets show the status of a task and usually comprise the majority of the journal. A single bullet indicates an open task, while an “X” over the bullet indicates the task has been completed.

Difference in Resources  

Image of a red toolbox with the tools inside to help magane your freelance projectsFreelancers don’t have access to the resources of traditional employees, so they need to rely on software and other online resources to fill in gaps in their skill sets. The Internet provides a vast number of resources for freelancers, but it can be difficult to determine the ones that are actually useful. Bidsketch provides many resources that have been tested by freelancers, which can form the basis of their cheat sheet for project management. These resources are grouped according to their function, allowing you to easily browse them at your leisure.

The best approach to use when pursuing a lengthy list of resources is to remember the importance of identifying the right resource, rather than simply selecting a first one on the list. It’s also important to refrain from checking out every site or signing up for every service that you find, as this strategy will rapidly consume your valuable time. A better strategy is to identify a resource that meets a specific need so you can get back to work as quickly as possible. This need may be a gap in your skill set or simply a way of streamlining your freelancing business. You also need to review resource lists on a regular basis, as new entries are added frequently.

Difference in Skill Sets  

The skill sets that freelancers possess is surprisingly large. Fast Company reports that the most common job category for freelancers in 2016 is IT. Administration was in second place, followed by finance in third. Brie Reynolds, director of online content at FlexJobs, says, “We’re definitely seeing the continued domination of computer and IT and software development …but they’ve been in the top 10 year over year.” However, he adds that many of the other top jobs on their list aren’t commonly associated with freelancing, such as education and training.

Image of a hand with the index finger touching the word skillsReynolds also says, “The notions of what we think of as traditional freelance jobs seem to be changing.” He points out that many jobs traditionally associated with freelancing are becoming less common. For example, writing is currently ranked ninth on the FlexJobs list, while graphics design didn’t even make the top 10 in 2016. Reynolds adds that traditional freelancing jobs are being replaced by education, human resources (HR), healthcare and customer service.

Regardless of the primary skill set required for their work, freelancers must also perform additional tasks such as communicating with clients and organizing information. They routinely receive information from clients in a variety of formats such as photographs, video, audio files and plain text. Client communication also involves receiving feedback on work currently in progress. Freelancers must organize these assets so they don’t reference an outdated communication with the client or use the wrong version of an asset in the finished product.