Do Freelancers need to set Project Milestones?
March 30, 2011
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Freelancers are usually split into two camps when it comes to using project management.
- Those who use their clients’ framework as part of their work
- Those who create their own framework as a helpful tool to manage their projects.
In this post I will be dealing with the second group as they must make their own decisions which elements of project management they want to adopt.
What is a Project Milestone?
A milestone is an event during the life of a project that signifies a new stage. Often a milestone is reached when a key task or deliverable has been achieved.
Milestones are set along the critical path of your project plan.
Why might I want to set them?
Setting milestones can help keep your project on schedule. When you reach a milestone it is a chance to re-visit your project plan and identify any problems in your project schedule.
Like any milestones in life, completing a stage of your project is a cause for celebration. Especially if you are working on a long-term project, reaching a milestone can be a chance for you to congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Re-visiting your project plan from time to time is essential and reaching a milestone is a good time to step back from the project and take a critical look.
- What is going well?
- What problems are you encountering?
- Are your tasks realistic?
- How about your time estimations?
Re-evaluating your project when you reach milestones is a good way to keep it on track and to identify potential problems before they become serious.
What are the downsides of setting milestones?
Over-complication of smaller projects
Not all projects need milestones. Smaller projects can become unnecessarily complicated if you break them down into too many tasks and milestones. You don’t want your project planning to take over from doing the actual work!
Non-critical task slippage
There is a danger in concentrating too much on the milestones along your critical path: you might miss the non-critical tasks that can slip as a result. If you do set milestones be sure to use them as an opportunity to review the whole project, not just the tasks along the critical path.
As with everything related to project management as a freelancer, only set milestones if you think they are useful and relevant to your projects. Don’t over-complicate your project plan unnecessarily… but remember to celebrate your successes as you achieve them!
Photo by Flickr user Tim Green