How To Become a Freelance Project Manager

I’ve been a freelance writer and editor for almost 10 years now. There were some skeptics who thought I’d be working full time for an employer within a year. But, I’ve been fortunate and enjoyed the flexibility freelancing affords me in terms of being able to write what I want about, spend time with my young daughters and even travel.

Freelancing works for a journalist because it’s long been a field associated with it. However, would you consider being a freelance project manager? That’s a question raised by Rachel Matthews at the Project Management Tips website. She asks, “Should you go freelance? Can you make a living that way?”

She points out the advantages, “[B]ecause 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.
Ok, it’s not always possible to make your own schedule. That is something I’ve learned because the needs of the client have to be met. However, choosing with whom you work is a nice thing once you’re established. Of course, at the beginning, you sometimes will take projects because you need the money and the experience, regardless of what you think of the client.

The first thing Matthews suggests doing is putting your name out with temp agencies and placement firms. She says that “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.”

Her second step should actually be your first, even if seeking out temporary work. Do a background check on yourself. “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,” she said.

Matthews makes the excellent point that you especially need to pay attention to your credit history. This is important for a couple reasons. The first is companies may not want to work with fiscally irresponsible types.

The more important reason, though, is you’re going to need a good source of credit when you first start out freelancing. Sometimes when payments are slowing coming in (and they will be slow coming in at first), you’re going to need credit to get by. Don’t kick off a freelance career (if you have a choice) without being financially sound.

Another excellent point raised in the article is diversify. Develop other skills that will serve you well when project management work might be slow. I’ve been fortunate in that I don’t pigeonhole myself into one kind of journalism. The bulk of my work is about business topics like project management, recruiting and technology. However, I fill in the gaps with automotive writing, editing and layout.

As Matthews says, “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.”

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