Skilled professional project managers are in high demand; companies always need people able to take care of tasks, organize a team, and basically ensure that deadlines, costs, and expectations are met.
The Project Management Institute (PMI®) expects 22 million new project management job openings through 2027 and salaries are competitive. Also, project managers are needed in a wide variety of industries and the opportunities for improvement are endless.
It goes without saying that freelance project managers have a lot of opportunities these days because a lot of companies are now in that phase where remote and freelancing are considered more than acceptable and the role of a project manager can be perfectly executed remotely, despite being part of a team.
In this guide, I’ll tell you everything on how to become a freelance project manager in 2020, and I will also give you tips and tricks for becoming a successful PjM.
Use the table of contents below to navigate the content, or keep reading this guide to discover if working as a project manager on a freelance basis may be the right choice for you.
Table of Contents
What is a Project Manager?
A project manager has the responsibility for the successful initiation, planning, design, execution, monitoring, controlling, and closure of a project. This is not a high-level description of the job, it’s the perfect description of what a PjM does.
This professional is responsible for starting a project and completing it: this means it’s his duty to take care of a project from different perspectives, whether is time management or budget management.
A project manager has various skills: some are more technical (depending on the industry), others are more relational.
What Do Project Managers Do?
According to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)® A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge® (PMBOK® Guide), “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements”. Are you confused? Let me simplify this concept for you: a project manager is in charge of a project, meaning that he is accountable for the success or failure of a project.
Typical responsibilities of a project manager include:
- Planning, Executing, and Closing Projects: defining the project, building its work plan, and managing the budget, decide which skill sets are required, set and review the budget, and so on.
- Managing Teams: facilitating productivity, removing obstacles, resolving conflicts among members of the team, and motivating team members.
- Managing Expectations: aligning projects to business goals, managing stakeholders, communicating project status, milestones, and unexpected difficulties
What skills do you need to become a Project Manager?
Project management is not an easy job because it implies taking managerial decisions that will impact the execution and the end results of a project. This means interacting with other stakeholder and team members without compromising your judgement is fundamental to succeed. On a general note, these are some of the skills you need to have to work as a Project Manager, education aside.
Becoming a respected and respectful project manager is hard and only showing leadership’s skills one can succeed. Leadership in project management is the combination of two sub-skills: being able to motivate and mediate when necessary and at the same time being firm on what to do and how to do it. Project leadership doesn’t mean scolding your team, it means making sure the whole team works towards the same goal and at the same time ensuring the final client will be happy and, at the same time, aware if something cannot be done in the way it was planned to be done.
Read Also: How to Improve your Leadership Skills
A good project manager knows how to communicate. Communication is a big asset in this job and it doesn’t end in telling people what to do and how to do it. It also implies taking accountability for reports, being able to communicate results, problems, and blocks to the final client without compromising the project and the team, and mitigating conflicts to make sure the end goal is met.
Leadership and communication lead to another important skills for PjMs: being able to negotiate. Whether it is within your team or within the end client, you need to be able to build a case when asking for something and sustain every possible block that may arise. Learning the art of negotiation means you will be able to influence the development of the project and its final result, using the art of diplomacy to get things done in the most appropriate way.
4. Critical Thinking
Managing a project from start to end, managing the people involved in the project, the money, the risks and everything that can happen requires a strong mind. Critical thinking is crucial for becoming a successful project manager. Critical thinking is the ability to conceptualize, apply, analyse, evaluate information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, and use them as a guide for your project.
It’s hard to get good results without having patience. Patience is a fundamental part of being a project manager. Projects take time, they need to be thoroughly thought through before running smoothly, there will always be sudden problems to solve, and most of all they involve working with people. All of these elements require patience because getting frustrated when things don’t go as planned can only cause more problems and letting things slip off can seriously put the project manager under fire for lack of leadership.
6. Being Tech Savvy
Being tech-savvy is fundamental to work as a project manager. Since technology is constantly evolving, you need to evolve as well. Being on top of the game when it comes to tools, management systems, and new systems to implement is necessary for every PjM.
Read Also: Best Project Management Tools in 2021
7. Being a Constant learner
The job of a PjM implies a constant craving for learning new things: whether it is a new piece of software, or a new approach to an old problem, or even a new language, improving and learning is something that every PjM should possess. One of those skills that can make or break a career.
How do you Become a Project Manager?
Becoming a project manager requires an analytical approach that you will have to implement continuously. There are two types of project managers: the accidental project managers and the planned project managers.
The first category of PjMs includes people that during the course of their career have experienced something similar to project management and want to use the experience gained to craft a new PjM career. The second category is made of people interested in pursuing a career as pure project managers, starting from their education. In both cases, professionalism can be obtained only by studying and practicing. Hence, even if the career starts from two different standpoints, the results can be exactly the same, for the best or for the worst.
What qualifications do you need to be a project manager?
To become a project manager you don’t need a specific qualification. In fact, you can decide to be certified or not be certified, and your career path can change accordingly. If you get a specific certification, your value will be significantly higher especially if combined with experience; without the qualification but with a good experience, your value will be high as well, and sometimes even higher. If you don’t have a certification and don’t have the experience, then you need to decide how to address your career. A bachelor’s degree in business management or a specific bachelor’s degree depending on what type of project manager you would like to become is helpful. A specific course in project management would be ideal, to gain basic knowledge; also, certification is very often required by companies looking for a project manager.
Is being a project manager hard?
Being a project manager is not easy: you have to deal with things and people, you have to apply your best judgment and evaluate everything in order to succeed, and if something doesn’t go as planned, fixing it, is your sole responsibility. Project management can also be incredibly stressful. Pursuing a career in project management requires dedication and patience, and improvising is never a good idea.
How to Launch a Career in Project Management With No Experience
If you want to work as a project manager but you don’t have any experience, you should think twice and analytically plan every step to make the big move. First of all, consider a certification; even if this may not be required, it’s good to have one especially because it means you know what you’re doing. The gold standard of project management certification is the Project Management Professional certification (or PMP) but before you can manage it, it’s best to aim to something a bit easier but still professionally valuable.
Best Project Management Online Courses
If you want to start your journey towards becoming a project manager, these are some of the most recommended online project management courses that you can join. While you’re studying, it could be a good idea to start practicing as well, to gain the experience you need to land a job in project management,
1. Beginning Project Management
In this course you’ll learn the absolute basics of project management. You’ll finish this course with a great grasp of what project management is, what your roles and responsibilities as a project manager will be, and how to move forward in your career as a project manager.
2. Agile Crash Course
You will become Agile certified thanks to this course where you will learn how to deliver projects faster, and everything about the Agile methodology, the preferred method for many companies when it comes to project management.
3. The Complete Project Management Fundamentals Course + CERT
In this course you will learn how to become a project manager and key project management skills. You’ll also learn the tools and techniques to manage the comprehensive project management life cycle for a project – from initiation through closing.
4. Project Management Principles and Practices Specialization
With this specialization, you will learn the skills to ensure your projects are completed on time and on budget while giving the user the product they expect. You will gain a strong working knowledge of the basics of project management and be able to immediately use that knowledge to effectively manage work projects. These are the modules of the specialization in Project Management:
- Initiating and Planning Projects
- Budgeting and Scheduling Projects
- Managing Project Risks and Changes
- Project Management Project
Becoming a Project Manager: Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the common questions asked in regards to becoming a Freelance Project Manager.
1. Can you work remotely as a project manager?
Yes, you can work remotely as a project manager. The key is getting everything perfectly organised both in terms of workload and in terms of responsibilities. Keep open and on-going communication with the team and the client, and define the roles within the team to make every person accountable for a specific aspect of the project. If rules are established from day one, working remotely as a project manager and leading a remote team won’t be a problem but it can become a resource.
Read Also: How to Find a Remote Job in 2021
2. Should I go freelancing as a Project Manager?
Becoming a freelance Project Manager is a personal choice, but in the actual situation, it is a career choice you may want to consider. Make sure you know the risks of being a freelance, from not having paid holidays to always needing to look for clients, but also the perks of this career, from having the freedom to organize your life better to having flexibility in the projects you want to pursue. A freelancing career as a project manager requires dedication, education and patience but it’s rewarding, personally and professionally.
Read Also: How to Start a Freelancing Career
3. Is the PMP Certification necessary?
Becoming a PMP-certified project manager is a dream for all the project managers out there and getting certified is definitely worth the time and price spent. It’s said that with a PMP certification, project managers can earn even 20% more on a monthly basis compared to non-PMP-certified project managers. So, if you’re serious about working as a project manager, you should take all the necessary steps to ensure you’ll end up with your PMP certification ready to be shared.
4. What’s the average salary of a project manager?
Project management is all about the experience, meaning that the more experience you have the more you get. Also, having a certification may increase your salary especially if you hold a PMP certification.
Becoming a Freelance Project Manager: are you ready?
If the idea of becoming a freelance project manager intrigues you, don’t hesitate. Start putting together an action plan and make sure you have a strategy that will help you finding clients and becoming successful PjM. The most important advice is to keep studying and learning to improve and become unique.
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