I didn’t start out freelancing with project management. In fact, I began my freelancing experience with random ad hoc jobs like WordPress setup for clients I found on freelance platforms.
Not exactly a glamorous career choice but perfect as a starting point. Fast forward six years or so, and I began to realize just how powerful adding project management into my freelancing services would be.
The more I focused on it, the more I earned, the happier my clients became and the more I got to experiment with new ideas while being paid for it.
It has gotten to the point where I now incorporate it into any freelance project I work on and charge extra for it — and my clients love it!
With freelancing project management, there are two general approaches: one is to be a project manager first and another is to do something else and add project management to it as if you’d wrap up a present.
In this article, we’ll discuss why freelancing with project management is a great choice to earn money remotely, where to find work, and the different tools on the market. Let’s dive in!
Why project management is a great freelance service
As a freelancing service, project management has one major benefit over many other services: repeat business.
If clients like your work, they will naturally hire you to help more. Compare that to someone who offers, say, to improve how fast a website loads. How many times do we really need that? Hopefully, just one, right?
Repeat business is where the money is since you’ve already got a good relationship with the client and they know how great you are.
That means they will send you projects without you having to pitch in order to land them, rather than having to spend time getting to know new potential clients so they’ll trust you. It’s a mountain of extra work. Free work that you can’t bill them for.
As mentioned, you don’t need to be a freelance project manager to use the techniques in your freelance businesses. I increased my rates by 50% after getting good at wrapping my services with good project management and my clients are happy to pay.
To give you an example, I work specifically with different types of online marketing projects like running ads and email campaigns. For some clients, I plan and manage certain marketing projects, even though they are contracting several other marketers, and I have my own projects to implement alongside.
While for other clients, I’m the only marketer so I plan out the growth strategy, evaluate the different ideas, and execute the best ones. Sort of like a project manager and marketing team in one.
The better I’ve gotten, the more I’ve noted a hidden benefit of project management services: they show that we are organized and detail-oriented. That breeds trust with clients. If we are finicky about the details, they don’t have to be and it helps them feel that they can trust us to sort things out.
How much can you earn?
How much you can earn as a freelancing project manager depends on the type of businesses you help and how much you specialize.
According to freelance platforms like Upwork, freelancers charge anywhere from $5-$80/h for standard project management services.
Meanwhile, you can charge more if you, like me, bundle it by specializing and perhaps even offer execution together as a package.
Smaller businesses might not value project management as well as larger ones since every dollar counts and they are looking to grow.
Larger businesses are often looking more to maintain the status quo and effectivize what they already have while keeping things stable.
One of the things that help you earn more is showing that you deeply understand your clients’ needs. Within project management, that might be making sure that everyone can go home on time yet that the project is running smoothly.
Especially with digital marketing, I’ve noticed a big difference. Let’s say we help a business sell more to their existing customers. If we can help them convert from 1% to 5% of their existing customers to buy a new product, that’s a 5x increase.
For a small business that 1% might represent 50 sales of $199 per sale which comes out to $9,950 extra. Whereas for a large business that might be 100 sales of $999, which comes out to $99,900 extra.
For a small business, they get an additional $39,800 (($9,950*5) – $9,950) from the work whereas the larger business might get $399,600 (($99,900*5) – $99,900) for the same work just because their business is larger.
That also means that not only is the business able to get a great result and deal of our work but we are able to charge more — and the client happy to pay because they have the size to see those results.
The caveats of project management work
The main challenge I’ve noticed with project management work is that some clients or business managers can be stressful to work with.
They might say yes to too many obligations and then try to push us, the project manager, to fulfill them without considering the quality of the projects themselves or the team.
It often happens in agencies where some people might be afraid to turn down client requests.
There are ways to navigate it but the easiest is to vet the people you work with as much as possible before you start working with them.
Where to find freelance project work
As you might have noticed, there are lots of websites suggesting to have freelancing project management jobs available.
The most common place is to find them is via job portals for traditional large corporations or agencies offline.
If you’ve been following the blog you know that I focus more on remote work that allows us the freedom to travel or whatever you are into.
For remote-proof jobs, you’ll benefit from selecting companies that are either remote-first, completely online, or generally open to it.
Selecting to only work with those companies makes it easier for you to make sure that you have the flexibility you want compared to trying to persuade a business that you work remotely when they don’t really want to.
You might use freelance websites like Upwork or use a more “manual” approach where you pick the businesses that you’d like to work with, to get the really good projects.
If you are interested in freelance websites, I’ve had the best experience using Upwork but it is easy to get addicted to a free flow of projects — even if they aren’t that profitable or attractive for you.
Online job boards tend to be so-so. On one hand it is easy to find jobs because they are posted for us to see but that also means that other freelancers can see them.
So the client has many freelancers to choose from and we need to go the extra mile to stand out. And sometimes there will be so many applications that they won’t even read ours.
I’ve found that one of the best places to start is simply to email companies you are interested in. Ask if they use freelancers for project management related tasks and how it is handled at the moment.
It works particularly well if we add a friendly comment to the introduction. You’ll be surprised how many spammy emails people get every day. Those that scream that someone wants something without considering them as the receiver.
It makes them feel treated like a number, so when a real, genuine, and friendly email comes through people tend to respond.
Especially, if the timing is right, they are looking for help, and they feel that we might be a “normal” non-weirdo person, since project management related work requires people skills.
Freelancing project management tools
There are many different project management tools for freelancing like Basecamp, Hello Bonsai, ClickUp, Asana, and Wrike.
In my opinion, they are all similar yet clients tend to use different ones, so you’ll probably have to learn a new one for every client you work with anyway. The more important thing is that it gets the job done and even spreadsheets can do that if necessary.
The challenge with tools is that they give us a fake feeling of making progress when in reality, it is rare that tools can do the important work for us.
For example, if you’d like to land three new clients it might be tempting to use a tool to send out many email pitches and make things easier. But in the effort to make it easier they lose the deeper connection we can build as people and that is really where the money is.
Freelancing isn’t a project-based business even though it seems like that on the surface. Deep down it’s a relationship-based business even as a project manager.
Think about one of the core tasks we need to complete as a project manager; talking to people from different teams to make sure things are getting completed according to plan.
It would be easy to imagine that is mostly spreadsheet-work but you and I know that it is all about working with each individual to understand their challenges and priorities so your project runs smoothly.
What is freelance project management?
Freelance project management is all about helping businesses manage specific projects but instead of being a traditional employee, you work on a freelance basis. That might be that you are paid by the hour, on a monthly retainer or on a project by project basis.
How do I become a freelance project manager UK?
You become a freelance project manager in the UK the same way you do it in the rest of the world. First you need to find businesses that you can help and then arrange a contract with the scope of work and your fees.
How do freelance projects work?
Freelance projects work in a way that we are paid on contract basis. That means the business we work with can cancel the contract when they don’t need us anymore but in exchange they pay us a higher fee since we have to pay for our own holidays, sick days, tax and retirement.
How much do project managers charge per hour?
How much project managers charge per hour depends on their experience, the type of clients they work with and how specialized they are. Generally, you’ll see broad freelance project managers charge $10-$60 per hour while some that are more specialized charge more.