How to become a freelance project manager in 7 steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As new businesses emerge and startups are becoming more popular than ever, there's a significant demand for project managers. Freelance project management involves overseeing and adjusting business-related projects from the initial planning stage to their completion. Managing several projects at once requires a broad set of skills, specialised education, knowledge and experience. In this article, we explain what a freelance project manager is, outline how to become a freelance project manager, identify the required skills and discuss the pros and cons.

What is a freelance project manager?

Freelance project managers provide project management services to businesses of different types and sizes. Although it may be challenging to find first clients, the job is highly rewarding. These professionals have a wide variety of responsibilities and duties, including planning, procuring and ensuring the execution of a project. Therefore, the job involves diverse soft and hard skills and requires sufficient knowledge.

These are the tasks you may perform as a freelance project manager:

  • Resource planning: Project managers identify available resources and also determine optimal ways of utilising these resources. Hence, it involves creating a plan that defines resource usage and deadlines.

  • Team management: Each project involves several professionals that work together. Therefore, project managers are responsible for forming the team, giving clear directions, training team members and maintaining communication.

  • Time management: As you conduct projects within a limited period it's essential to ensure that each process meets the deadline. Project managers define the required time for individual tasks and develop a schedule for their team.

  • Budget management: Expense management and cost estimation are also critical as projects have a limited budget. Project managers monitor and adjust the costs to avoid exceeding the budget.

  • Risk management: Setbacks are an inseparable part of any project as it's impossible to anticipate all the possible problems. Therefore, it's vitally important to develop a risk mitigation plan to minimise the impact.

  • Progress monitoring: Project managers constantly assess the progress of the project and introduce necessary adjustments to achieve objectives.

  • Reporting: Reviewing the project and creating reports is important as it maintains relationships with key stakeholders. It's essential to inform the product owner and other interested parties about the progress of the project.

Related: Freelance work: everything you need to know about freelancing

How to become a freelance project manager

If you're wondering how to become a freelance project manager, follow these seven steps:

1. Identify the targeted industry

Project management plays a considerable role in businesses of different types. It may be necessary to not only have project management skills but also to understand the industry and the targeted market. Therefore, experience and knowledge related to a particular field are a significant competitive advantage for freelance project managers. Consider choosing an industry that interests you and focusing on projects within the chosen field.

Freelance project managers may also need certifications. For instance, the PMP certification is broadly recognised in different industries. It's also beneficial to use modern project management tools. In addition, as digital technologies develop rapidly it's critical to keep up with technological advancements to stay competitive.

Related: What are project management tools (with 15 examples)

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

After identifying the ideal industry for you to target, the next step for you could be earning a bachelors or a masters degree. Several areas are closely linked with the profession, including business management, marketing, finance and project management. Nonetheless, it's also possible to rely on education related to the field you plan to work in. For instance, a bachelors degree in computer science is highly beneficial for IT project management.

Related: The 6 agile methodology steps for project management

3. Create a portfolio

The distinctive feature of freelance project management is the requirement to demonstrate your competence at every proposal and interview. Consider creating a thoughtful portfolio that reflects your experience and knowledge about the industry. You can also include recommendations from past clients to back up your claims. It's important to include relevant information regarding your education and project management skills.

As previous employment experience plays a considerable role in portfolio creation, it may be highly beneficial to ask permission from your clients to include it. In some cases, non-disclosure agreements may limit your opportunities in building a comprehensive portfolio. Therefore, it's important to discuss this matter with your clients beforehand.

4. Find your first clients

Finding your first clients is one of the most challenging yet important steps. First, consider looking in your network for contacts of people who may need your services or know other people who do. During this step, it's important to build experience and enrich your portfolio. Do not hesitate to accept small project management opportunities at first. Once you have gained sufficient experience, you can apply for higher-level project management tasks.

Related: 8 tips for freelance project managers to follow to be successful

5. Gather recommendations

As already mentioned, freelance project managers rely significantly on a good reputation and a solid portfolio. Recommendations are an inseparable part of your portfolio as they back up your claims regarding previous experience and work quality. Consider asking your clients for recommendations and testimonies. Moreover, focus on providing high-quality services regardless of the size and complexity of the project. Small projects are as important as big ones and collecting positive reviews for your portfolio is critical. Including recommendations and testimonies may considerably increase the chances of getting a contract.

6. Advertise yourself

Self-employed project managers focus on both finding new clients and building a loyal customer base. In many cases, freelancers can manage projects for the same client multiple times. Therefore, it's particularly important to maintain a high quality of services. Such an approach may also contribute to the word-of-mouth spread increasing the number of potential clients.

As digital technologies play a central role in modern advertising, it may be possible to promote your services by establishing a strong social media presence. Social media platforms can help you find potential clients. In addition, you can share your experience and knowledge with other project managers.

7. Establish your niche in the market

Identifying the targeted industry and building experience within a particular field is critical as it increases your competitiveness significantly. It's possible to take a particular market niche by narrowing down your speciality and collecting professional knowledge. Such an approach is highly beneficial as it guarantees a reliable customer base. Nonetheless, good project managers are flexible and able to work in diverse capacities. Hence, it's always good practice to be open to new ideas, knowledge and experience.

Key skills for self-employed project managers

Even though the combination of needed soft and hard skills may differ depending on the targeted industry, several key skills are inseparable from project management. Moreover, if you want to become a freelance project manager, consider developing the necessary skills for freelancing. The following are the key skills that most successful self-employed project managers have:

  • leadership skills

  • management skills

  • financial management skills

  • communication skills

  • decision-making skills

  • team-building skills

  • organisational skills

  • time-management skills

  • budgeting skills

  • critical thinking skills

  • marketing skills

  • negotiating skills

  • skills related to the specific industry

Related: Project management skills and how to improve them

Pros and cons of being a freelance project manager

Freelance project management positions have several advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional project management or other similar jobs. Understanding the pros and cons of freelance project management can help you make an informed decision and find an appropriate job. Here are some common advantages and disadvantages of being a freelance project manager you may want to consider:

Pros of being a freelance project manager

Self-employed project managers can choose jobs and hence can work on different projects in diverse fields. Another advantage is that you're in charge of the project and can make essential decisions. There's a high demand for project managers in the market and the job offers a rewarding salary. There are also advantages related to the freelance nature of the job including flexible working hours, the ability to control your workload and higher earning potential.

Cons of being a freelance project manager

The job involves high responsibility as a project's success depends on you. It's essential for freelancers to avoid mistakes as they can affect their reputation. Even though they can be highly rewarding, freelance jobs come with higher risks. Project management involves human resource management, which can be challenging. Another disadvantage is that project management requires a wide range of skills and knowledge which may serve as entry barriers.

Related:

  • Project manager requirements (With duties and skills)

  • What is a project manager assistant and what do they do?

  • What does a digital project manager do? Salary and skills

  • How to become an IT infrastructure project manager in 6 steps

  • Project Manager Interview Questions With Answers


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