Outlining the Project
One of the features that sets project management for freelancers apart from project management in large organisations is how we are expected to outline a project. In large organisations there will be standard template Project Initiation Documents that will help managers work through the various steps of the outlining process. These will be agreed and signed off by the managers or contractors involved. Decisions about quality, cost and time are typically made at this early stage.
When freelancers take on a project there will usually be some sort of meeting to discuss what the client expects from the project, and usually a contract is signed, but the sorts of questions posed by a Project Initiation Document might not ever be discussed. This can have major consequences later: the client and the freelancer might have very different ideas about what is expected from the project. If something goes wrong should the quality or the timescale slip? What about cost? The freelancer might not want the quality of their work to suffer but the client might prefer to bring something in at extra cost if it means delivering on time.
Not asking these questions at the beginning can have huge consequences for the project later on, or can permanently damage relationships between the freelancer and the client.
Asking the Right Questions
Just because you don’t have standard documentation that everyone works through and signs off on, doesn’t mean you can’t ask the right questions at the initial stages of the project.
The freelancer and the client both need to agree at the outset what is the scope of the project.
By scope we mean defining the boundaries of the project. This takes the Project Statement explained in the previous post a step further.
Example: A website launch
A business called ‘Kitty-Kat Industries’ takes on several designers to deal with different aspects of a new website for the launch of their new product, ‘Eco-Kat’. If the graphic designer is expected to design nothing more than the logo it is a waste of his time to go further and design the entire colour scheme and themes. If the designer’s contract is for him to charge by the hour the misunderstanding could lead to some big problems if the client refuses to pay him for his extra work.
If you clarify the scope from the outset of the project it will help you deliver what the client wants at the end.
The graphic designer’s project statement might look something like this:
“The project is to deliver a new logo for KittyKat Industries’ ‘Eco-Kat’ product launch by 1st May 2011 for $500, to the industry standard specifications.”
The scope would be an expansion of this, and would list resources he is using, both man hours and physical resources, more details about the size of the project, the budget and time:
“The designer will have the use of one of the desks at KittyKat Industries, but will provide his own laptop and software. One of our interns will be made available to him for 10 hours per week for the duration of the project. The logo will be delivered as a JPEG file with a minimum file size of 6MB utilising the ‘Eco-Kat’ standard colours. The fee of $500 is to include all other resources and materials.”
Can you expand on your project statement to produce a project scope? If you have difficulty it may be becuase aspects of the project are not clearly defined at this stage. You may need to clarify these before you go any further.
For more information about prioritising quality, cost and time, please see the download Project Management Basics 3: Prioritising Quality, Cost and Time.