As the field of project management continues to evolve and diversify, an exciting new option has emerged for project managers who are looking for more variety and flexibility in their work: freelance project management. If you find yourself growing restless in your current PM position, or are searching for a unique way to break into project management, the life of a freelancer may be right for you.
What is a Freelance Project Manager?
A freelance project manager is a contractor who leads projects on behalf of client organizations. Some freelancers work completely independently, and others find work through employment agencies or other third parties. Freelance PMs have the potential to make more money and enjoy more freedom than they would as full-time employees, but there are a few trade-offs as well.
What are the Benefits of Freelance Project Management?
Freelancing as a project manager gives you greater control over your career and a level of flexibility you simply can’t find in full-time employment. Along with the excitement of being your own boss, you can look forward to a variety of other benefits:
- You choose the assignments you want to work on
- You set your own hours and travel schedule
- In most cases, you can charge a higher rate than you would earn as a full-time employee
- You can work on a wider variety of projects
- You have the opportunity to meet more people and make more industry connections
What are the Challenges of Freelance Project Management?
Along with all of its benefits, freelance work has its share of unique challenges. Before you decide to make the move to a freelance career, be sure that you are prepared to face some potentially harsh realities:
- The possibility of long periods with no income when you are between assignments
- Lack of company-provided benefits like health insurance and retirement plans
- The need to keep yourself motivated in the absence of peers or managers
- Unavailability of support that full-time employees can expect from their managers and senior leadership
What Qualifications Does a Freelance Project Manager Need?
Generally speaking, freelance project managers are expected to have the same skills and levels of experience that a full-time employee would need in order to manage a given project. In addition, there are certain attributes that can increase your chances of success in the freelance world:
- In order to make connections and find out about new assignments, freelance PMs should have better-than-average networking and communication skills.
- Project management certifications are even more important, because clients typically know less about freelance candidates than they do about their own employees.
- Freelancers must keep up-to-date on the latest industry trends and technology, and must be familiar with the best project management software for each assignment.
How Do Freelance Project Managers Find Jobs?
Once you decide to forge your own path as a freelance project manager, how do you learn about potential job opportunities and win the contracts for the assignments you want? Each freelancer has his or her own strategy, but these basic tips will help you build a foundation for a successful freelance career:
- Register with employment agencies that cater to your industry of interest
- Use social media to highlight your accomplishments and to find new opportunities
- Don’t be afraid to take small jobs at first—once you have a few successes on your resume, it will be easier to land larger assignments
- If you aren’t already certified, consider earning your PMP or another project management certification