4 Project Management Mistakes Freelancers Make (And How You Can Avoid Them)

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As a freelancer, it’s probably a good thing to be drowning in work. But what happens when you’re unable to juggle multiple projects simultaneously and manage client expectations?

Clients have trouble trusting you with more projects and start doubting your capabilities. This can hurt your reputation and affect your earning potential.

To be a successful freelancer, you need to get organized and manage your time well. In addition to your core expertise, you need to also be a good project manager — one that meets project requirements while adhering to the timelines.

In this article, I’m going to take you through some of the most common project management mistakes freelancers make.

Mistake #1: Lack of a clear project scope

You won a new client — your business proposal got accepted and you’ve been brought on board for a project. Congratulations!

But before you dive right in, define the scope of work.

Scope of work document includes a detailed description of what the project entails. According to a CIO article, project scope statements should include:

  • Scope of work
  • Project constraints
  • Scope exclusions
  • Project milestones
  • Final deliverables
  • Acceptance criteria
  • Final approval

When you fail to define a clear scope of work in your contract, it can lead to scope creep which refers to a situation where the client asks for additional work outside of the agreed-upon scope. While it’s alright to go beyond the scope, you must certainly not do it at the same price.

If you’re being asked for add-ons, it’s important to factor in the time and cost implications and communicate the same to the client.

Mistake #2: Not establishing a project timeline

Have you ever agreed to a seemingly unrealistic deadline only to realize there’s no getting out of it? That’s a mistake most new freelancers are likely to make.

You rather negotiate a realistic deadline than commit to one that’s impossible to meet. This is why it’s important to establish a project timeline during the kickoff meeting. Doing this gets everyone on the same page and helps you manage client expectations.

It’s a good idea to break the project down into smaller, achievable steps and assign a deadline for each of the small tasks. Not only does this throw light on your process but also justifies the time you’re taking to complete the project.

Here’s an example of a project timeline template you can use. It chalks out the various steps and specifies a clear timeline for each deliverable.

Source: Venngage

Mistake #3: Insufficient client communication

Trust plays an integral role in maintaining strong client relationships. How do you build trust? By having clear lines of business communication in place.

You don’t want to be that freelancer who disappears for days together after the project kickoff meeting. It’s important to be proactive and keep your client updated on your progress.

From giving updates and raising questions to share concerns and asking for feedback, communicating well goes a long way in building trust, managing projects better, and growing your freelance business.

It’s a good idea to ask your client what their preferred mode of communication is. For instance, some might prefer to use an instant messaging tool while others might want to stick to email communication.

Another factor to consider is that communication is only about putting your points across but it’s also about actively listening to your clients. Make sure you understand your client’s needs so that you’re able to meet the project goals effectively.

Mistake #4: Not using task management tools

From keeping track of different projects and deadlines to doing administrative tasks such as sending invoices and following up on payments, there might be instances where you will feel overwhelmed with all the work.

The biggest mistake you can make here is relying on your memory alone.

Use a task management tool instead. It will help you streamline your day-to-day tasks while ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.

Some examples of task or project management tools freelancers can use include:

  • Trello
  • Asana
  • ProofHub
  • Todoist
  • Airtable

The takeaway

One of the best parts about freelancing is the flexibility that comes with it but you can’t afford to take it lightly. You’re responsible for delivering projects on time without compromising on quality. This calls for effective project management.

Avoid these four rookie project management mistakes and you’re sure to get better at organizing your work, becoming more productive, and optimizing your time