Whether you’re an experienced project manager or just starting out, it’s a great time to consider freelancing. But where to start? How much should you charge? How do you even find clients?
It can be intimidating to consider setting out on our own. But it’s also an exciting time, and with the right tools, you’ll be on your way to a successful freelance project management career in no time.
This guide will show you the following:
- What freelance project management is
- Some of the benefits and disadvantages of a freelance project management career
- Which skills are most in demand and how to get them
- Which certifications or qualifications you need, and where to get them
- Ways to find clients
- How to use future-proof technology to set yourself apart
Plus, the secret sauce to set you apart from other freelancers.
Let’s get started.
What is freelance project management?
Before we dig deeper into freelance project management, let’s look at what a freelance project manager is. A freelance project manager independently manages the projects of multiple clients rather than working for just one organization as an employee. They typically act as external contractors and are hired by businesses to oversee and coordinate projects. Freelance project managers ensure projects are completed successfully within the specified timeframe, budget, and scope.
The responsibilities of a freelance project manager are similar to those of a traditionally employed project manager. The scope of their role includes tasks such as:
1. Project planning:
Defining project objectives, creating project plans, setting milestones, and determining resource requirements.
2. Team coordination:
Assembling and managing project teams, assigning tasks, and ensuring effective communication and collaboration among team members.
3. Budgeting and cost management:
Estimating project costs, monitoring expenses, and ensuring the project stays within budget.
4. Time management:
Creating project schedules, setting deadlines, and tracking progress to ensure timely completion of deliverables.
5. Risk management:
Identifying potential risks, developing risk mitigation strategies in case things go off-track, and managing issues that arise during the project.
6. Stakeholder management:
Engaging and communicating with clients, team members, and other relevant parties such as suppliers and the executive team.
7. Quality control:
Monitoring project deliverables to ensure they meet the required quality standards, including implementing systems and software to manage tasks, teams, and reporting.
Benefits of freelance project management
You already know how rewarding a career in project management can be. But, you may have also experienced some of the less positive aspects of managing complex projects, such as burnout, stress, and working too many hours. Did you know:
A freelance project management career can give you control over your professional life.
Freelancing offers flexibility in how you work, gives you access to a diverse range of tasks, and the opportunity to upskill in different industries. It allows you to learn and apply different skills in various jobs, work from home, and earn revenue across multiple countries. It can improve your work-life balance by giving you autonomy over the projects you want to work on and the schedule you want to keep.
Disadvantages of freelance project management
While that might all sound wonderful, as with running any business, some challenges exist. As a freelancer, you are running your own business. This means you’ll need to find your own work and face income uncertainty as you’ll no longer have a regular wage. You’ll need to market your services to attract your own clients, and you’ll need to be able to close potential clients through a sales process. This can include having to justify and negotiate your rates.
Let’s look at the landscape for a freelance career so you can weigh up the pros and cons.
Is there a demand for freelance project managers?
The short answer to this question is a resounding yes!
According to PMI’s latest Talent Gap report, 2.3 million people will be needed annually until 2030 to fill all project management-oriented positions expected to open.
This demand exists within organizations as well. According to a 2022 KPMG Project Management Survey, 82% of respondents think project managers are vital for successfully delivering projects.
With remote teams distributed worldwide and digital transformation a key focus for organizations, freelance project managers are in increasing demand for a wide range of projects.
What skills are most in demand?
As we move towards a more automated future, you might think tech skills rate among the highest in-demand skills of the project manager of the future. You might even believe that people well-skilled in a specific project management methodology will have an advantage over others.
In fact, the opposite appears to be true.
People-centric skills are still the most in-demand skills for organizations. Considering your role is to motivate staff towards a singular vision, it’s easy to see why. These are the most in-demand skills as ranked in the KPMG 2022 study of the future of project management:
What certifications and qualifications do I need?
According to the 2022 KPMB Project Management Survey:
- 51% of surveyed PMs had no certification
- 31% had PMP or other PMP certification
- 13% had PRINCE2, MSP, or other Axelos certifications
While this study looked at the certifications of existing roles, does this mean new hiring managers and clients will require credentials?
To answer this question, you might consider comparing your salary, depending on your certifications and experience.
How much can you make as a freelance project manager?
An equally answerable question might be, ‘how long is a piece of string?’ Want a more definite answer? Well, it depends on whom you ask. We reviewed the top salary comparison sites to get you the answer. Here are just some of what we found.
Glass Door US:
A comprehensive study by Digital Project Manager also discovered what you may have just noticed in the figures above. On some comparison sites, the salaries vary by as much as $20,000 annually.
Here is their comprehensive comparison for May 2023 across the USA, Canada, and the UK:
To help you niche down into the industry of your choice, here they breakdown the industries these salary figures are made up of:
As you can see, freelance project management salaries vary widely based on:
- Your level of experience
- Your chosen industry of expertise
- Your chosen project management methodology
- Your qualifications and certifications
Based on Digital Project Manager’s report, the average salary for freelance project management in 2023 is:
But even a base salary as you get started is respectable. Additionally, where location used to be a factor, the ability to freelance remotely from anywhere in the world now opens up more opportunities to explore globally from the comfort of your home office. You can build skills in multiple industries until you find a suitable niche.
Quick tip: Once you’ve decided on your area of expertise, why not do some research of your own? Take a look at remote job openings, and search for some freelance project managers with their own websites. Often, they’ll have their rates listed on their sites so prospective clients can see them. This will give you a better idea of what qualifications are expected and what rates you can charge.
How to become a freelance project manager?
Now that you have a better understanding of the state of freelance project management, it’s time to take action. Here is a checklist of action items to get you started:
- Research other freelancers to get a feel for where you’re at
- Determine your level of experience and upskill in the areas you need to
- Review salaries and determine your rate
- Read the must-read resources provided in the next section
- Determine if any of your previous employers or clients can provide testimonials
- Setup your website with your testimonials featured
- Setup your profile on remote job boards - tell me more
- Start applying for freelance roles - tell me more
- Market your services on social media, especially on LinkedIn
- Setup your project management software - tell me more
Important freelance project management websites
While working through your action items, here’s a list of must-read resources.
You’ll want to bookmark these ASAP.
PMI is the premier source of project management information. PMI sets the standards for the industry, providing relevant certifications for wherever you are in your career. They publish the PMBOK® Guide – a vital industry document.
Multiple industry experts write for this blog. There is also a community forum to get support and share resources.
The founders of Scrum methodology keep their blogs updated with Scrum-relevant information, resources, books, and certifications.
Access peers in the field, ask those questions you don’t want to ask your clients, get industry news from those currently in roles, and find tips, tricks, and a community of like-minded people doing the same work as you.
The founders of this methodology keep their blog up to date with Agile-relevant information, resources, books, and certifications.
As the leading authority in AI-powered project management, we work tirelessly to keep our blog fresh with detailed how-to guides so you can stay at the forefront of AI-powered project management.
Freelance project manager jobs: where do I find them?
There are multiple ways that you can find your first gig. Here are just a few:
- Register with an agency.
- Set up a profile on freelance job boards.
- Set up a website.
- Market yourself on social media (LinkedIn).
- Set yourself apart - get skilled in AI-driven project management software like Motion.
What’s next for your freelance project management career?
Setting out on your own can be scary. It’s hard to know where to start in freelancing. But now you have the skills to determine your rate, find the certifications you need, and access free resources to get upskilled. You know where to find professional qualifications through recognized governing bodies like PMI and even how to find your first client.
So, drum roll, please. It’s time for the secret sauce to set you apart from other freelancers - get skilled in AI-driven project management!
Freelance project management and Motion
With multiple projects on the go, and your own clients to manage, you’ll need a robust and intuitive project management software that will allow you to:
- Keep track of your own clients and their overall project statuses.
- Automatically book meetings with your clients.
- Auto-schedule tasks for your clients.
- Bring intelligent project management software with you to your client’s organizations.
Earn additional income as a Motion affiliate when you set up Motion in your client’s businesses.