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4 Project Management Skills That Every Freelancer Needs
You decided you want to take a crack at freelancing. Throw in the 9-5 towel and be your own boss. Remember, though, when you say goodbye to the daily grind, that there is a whole range of skills you need.
Whether you're a graphic designer, photographer, website designer, or writer, there are some hard skills that can be learned and soft skills that are required. Hard skills include accounting, marketing, sales and negotiation, customer service, and photography. Soft skills, which tend to be more aligned with personality traits, include time management, creativity, patience, and strategic thinking. Project management seems to flit between the two.
What is project management?
When it comes to freelance life, project management refers to all the things you have to do besides your essential freelance job - organising work, keeping track of deadlines, communicating with clients, invoicing, and everything in between.
Which skills benefit freelancers?
While this sounds a tad frightening to those who are less than organised, there are plenty of skills that can be learned to ensure your freelance business runs as smoothly as possible.
1. Planning and scheduling
One of the essential parts of staying on top of your work is creating a schedule and sticking to it. Have a work schedule, plan your day, your week, and your month if it's relevant. It may sound boring, and at times unnecessary, if you take nothing else from this article, retain this fact: take time to plan.
The overarching plan includes where you want to go and how you're going to get there. But it's even worth taking 10 minutes at the beginning of each week to plan your week - what needs to be done on each day, what deadlines are looming, who needs to be chased? Write all of this down.
Create your big plan; the first step is to set your overall business goal or purpose. Do you want to earn a certain amount from your freelance career? Do you want to take on a certain number of clients per month? Make it specific. Then identify three things that you can do to help achieve that goal.
For example, email five potential clients each week, build your portfolio. Then go down one more step and make things even more specific - create example photos, guest posts on relevant websites, etc. Every little bit matters.
2. Financial management
You are your financial controller. Managing the financial elements of your business may not sound fun, but you must understand what is going on. If you're organised, financial management actually can be quite stress-free. Whether it's financial forecasting to see what you're going to earn in the next few months or keeping track of your finances, part of your role as a freelancer is having a good grip on all things money.
3. Risk management
No matter what industry you're in, there are always risks lurking. Whether they can be forecast or not, it helps to be prepared. One of the roles of a project manager is to consider the risks and planning for them.
Sure, there are risks that absolutely cannot be anticipated (global pandemic, anyone?), but there are plenty that can be. Consider things such as downturns in your industry, what competition is out there, increased operating costs, and even personal items such as your primary client ceasing work with you. There are also internal risks that you need to factor such as a lack of time to up-skill, scale up or meet demand, and insufficient cash flow to manage through slower periods.
All of these need to be assessed, and ways to reduce the likelihood of each risk occurring, or ways to manage them, need to be figured out. Strategies such as getting a small business loan to help during quiet periods, regular training to ensure you're always on top of your game, having several clients on the books so one leaving won't make a huge difference, and perhaps considering other income streams.
4. Relationship management
One of the key things about working for yourself is that you are your advocate. When it comes to relationships, all communication with your clients matters — no matter how big or small, whether it's a proposal or simply a check-in email.
Right from the beginning, the way you set up these relationships could make or break your future working potential with them. Always be courteous, kind, and put yourself in their shoes. Remember, in some cases; you won't be seeing your clients face-to-face often, if ever, so the only interaction you'll have with them is via email or phone. This can be tricky as words can be misinterpreted.
The key is to keep in touch, be proactive with your communication and never leave them to chase you for an update. Keep ahead of the progress. They'll appreciate being updated rather than wondering what is going on.
It's also important to build a rapport with them right from the get-go. This means making sure you understand what your client's needs, goals, and priorities are. And finally, figure out how they best like to be communicated with to achieve the desired outcome.
This is often reflected in the way they talk to you. Some clients will reply with one-sentence answers, others will go into detail, some prefer discussing over the phone, and some prefer SMS. It would help if you were flexible with how you talk to different clients, depending on how they like to communicate.
Reassess and then reassess again
Having a management plan is all well and good, but if you don't review and adapt it frequently, it's going to become outdated, not just because your clients will change but also because you and your business will grow.
Managing your freelance business
Managing your freelance business is not always easy and not always about your core skill. Being a successful freelancer means understanding how to manage every business's facet, from the financials through to the client relationships.
Good planning, understanding the financial and risk elements, ensuring your client relationships are cared for and reassess everything frequently are crucial skills in growing your freelance business. Having everything taken care of and utilising these project management skills will give you more time to focus on what matters: your business.
Tell us your story
Are you looking to promote your business?
South African businesses and freelancers can create your free business listing on nichemarket. The more information you provide about your business, the easier it will be for your customers to find you online.
Registering with nichemarket is easy; all you will need to do is head over to our sign up form and follow the instructions. If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles.
If you enjoyed this post and have time to spare why not check out these related posts and dive deeper down the rabbit hole that is remote work.
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