Freelancer Project Management

Project Management Advice for Productive Freelancing

Tag Archives: Project objective

Keeping your eye on the ball: how to stay focused on your project goals

It’s all too easy to get sidetracked by the things that need to be done day-to-day: emails to send, invoices to pay, phone calls, thinking up new ways to market your business… Twitter…

Freelancers have to organise so many aspects of their businesses that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  All these things are important, but so is the reason we set up our businesses in the first place: our freelance projects.  There’s not much point in being a freelance writer, event planner or designer if you don’t ever get time to do the writing, planning or designing!

There are four simple strategies you can adopt in order to keep your goals clear and your mind on the result.

1/ Define your project’s scope

It is much easier to keep your goals in mind if you know what they are!  Write down the goals of your project at the outset, and make sure you have agreed them with your client: you could both have very different ideas about what constitutes a successful project.  For more information, have a look at this previous post about the project scope.

2/ Track tasks

I have written previously about breaking your work down into tasks; once your project has been divided into bite-sized chunks it is much easier to keep track of your progress.  You can use a low-tech approach such as Post-it notes and a wall planner to keep track of your tasks, or use one of the multitude of software packages specifically designed for project management.

3/ Set milestones

If you have a larger project you can divide it into phases before breaking it down into tasks.  The end of each phase is denoted by a milestone, which might be something like submitting a piece of work, a website going live, your design being approved or moving from a planning to an implementation stage.

Reaching a milestone can give you a good sense of achievement and a reason to celebrate.  It helps to have smaller goals to focus on within your project when the end is too far away to see right now.

4/ Schedule in time-outs

It can be helpful at various points in your project to have a time-out to review your progress so far and look ahead at what is to come.  Reaching a milestone is an obvious point to do this, although you can do it at any time, especially if you feel that you have hit a wall.

Your time-out can be used to evaluate:

  • What is going well
  • What could be going better
  • What problems you have faced and how you overcame them
  • What you could change as you enter the next stage

By taking the time out to assess your progress you can avoid repeating mistakes and get yourself out of any ruts you might find yourself in.  You can monitor your work and consider whether you are still on track to meeting your goals or whether you are getting diverted or sidetracked.

Photo by Flickr user chispita_666

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Staying on Track: Setting Project Objectives that Work

What will your project produce?  What are its outcomes or deliverables?

If you are clear from the beginning what your project is going to achieve, you are not only more likely to achieve it but also save time in the long run.  Many projects become bogged down in unnecessary detail or go off at time-consuming tangents.  Having clear objectives from the outset will help you stay on track as the project progresses.

You will also see how setting measurable, defined objectives also benefits your business as a freelancer.

Woolly objectives achieve nothing

Your objectives should be agreed with your client, but ensure that you are both clear about what they are from the outset.  Remember:

  • When you are setting your project objectives you must be specific.
  • Set values, if appropriate.
  • Make sure your objectives are measurable (see below).
  • Set time parameters so that you have clear deadlines to work towards for each stage.
  • Each objective should be able to be described concisely.  If you can’t define it in a brief statement then it is probably too vague and open to interpretation.

Setting objectives you can measure

For each objective you set, state how you will measure its success.  For example, if you are designing a new website for a company you can measure how many hits it gets.  If the objective is to increase traffic to the company’s site, agree a target with them, say an increase of 20%.  Be specific, don’t say ‘about 10-30%’ as everyone will have a different interpretation about what this means.

If you have multiple objectives, set targets for each one.  For example, as well as increasing traffic generally by 20%, you may also wish to increase traffic from outside the US by 15% and repeat visits by 30%.

Setting targets is good for your business

As a freelancer, having easily measurable objectives is good for your business too.  When you are trying to attract new clients you can use these targets to demonstrate your own track record.  For example, if you can show that your websites consistently deliver a 20% increase in web traffic it is far more useful to a new client than merely having experience in web design.  They want to know what your web design will do for them.

Photo by Flickr user CJ Schmit

Project Management Basics: What we mean by a ‘Project’?

A project:

* Is a piece of work with a defined beginning and end

* Has a specific goal or objective

* Takes place within a pre-arranged timeframe

What makes freelancing so appealing is that freelancers are usually hired to work on a project-by-project basis and get the satisfaction of a completed job, rather than work the routine day-to-day slog so many salaried workers complain about.

Examples of projects:

1) A freelance documentary director is hired to work on a one-off documentary about hats.  The objective is the finished documentary.  The project runs from the time the director is commissioned by the producer, to the day that filming is wrapped (or whenever their services are no longer required).

2) A wedding planner is hired by a couple to plan and organise their Big Day: that is the objective.  The project starts when the couple hire the planner and finishes when the wedding day is over (or shortly after if the planner is dealing with the photography albums etc).

3) A graphic designer is hired by a company called ‘Kitty-Kat Industries’ to design a logo for the launch of their new product, ‘Eco-Kat’.  The objective is delivering the logo to the required specifications.  The designer’s project would be finished once the logo and any associated material has been delivered.

 

Multiple Projects:

Of course, many wedding planners, writers, artists, PR consultants and other freelancers may take on several projects at once.  This is where being able to effectively manage your projects really comes into its own.

 

Exercise: Writing a Project Statement

Your project statement can help you focus on what is important and should be agreed by you and your client before you begin.  You should be able to define your project in one sentence.  Keep referring back to your project statement if you are getting bogged down in the details of your project.

Unlike in the world of big business, you most likely won’t sign off on the statement, but it will form the basis of your contract.  It is more for you to help condense the project down into its essentials.

The project statement defines:

  • the objective
  • the budget
  • the timeframe
  • the quality expected, if appropriate

Example: 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.”

Have a go at defining your project in one sentence.