Key Newcomer Tips - Managing Freelancing Projects and Clients
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The work phase of online freelancing encompasses both doing the work required by the project, and managing the project itself. You get paid to complete projects, not to manage them, so your goal is to spend as much time working and as little time managing as possible. Fortunately, project management is largely a matter of common sense and experience. The latter comes only with time, but hopefully these key tips will be of assistance as you get started on your freelancing endeavors.
Be absolutely certain that you and the client are on the same page with respect to the terms of the project—especially deadlines and the timing of payment—before you begin work. This will increase the probability of the project being a success, and also protect you from the rare circumstances where you think you’ve been awarded a project but the client has a different opinion...
The escrow system that exists on most online freelancing sites is there to protect both clients and contractors. However, you give up that protection if you don’t use it properly. If you have a trusted, repeat client, it may be reasonable to do work without having escrow funded, but it’s an unacceptable gamble when dealing with a new employer. Any work you do prior to money being in the escrow is work you’re doing at your own risk.
If you work on more than one thing at a time—and chances are that you do—I strongly advise using a system of some sort to keep track of your projects. This doesn’t have to be fancy: a simple spreadsheet with columns for the project name, a brief description, priority and due date, will help you keep on top of everything and avoid embarrassing missed deadlines.
You need some sort of a system for keeping files from various projects organized. Again here, this doesn’t have to be anything fancy: I have a directory where I keep all of my freelancing work, with each project getting its own folder. I name each folder with a letter indicating the site that it came from and the site project number—such as “v12345678” for project #12345678 from vWorker—the customer’s name or ID, and a brief description of the work. This helps me find files that I need quickly, and the naming system is immensely useful for dealing with follow-on projects.
Being a self-employed freelancer affords great flexibility, but this can be a double-edged sword. While it’s nice to be able to choose which hours you work, this can lead to a fragmenting of the day and a tendency to spend too much time dealing with distractions. When you have projects to complete, be sure to devote time specifically to your work, taking necessary steps to ensure that you won’t be interrupted. This is especially important for creative tasks such as design or writing.
You have to maintain a balance between keeping your client happy and ensuring that your own rights and needs are respected. Happy customers are perhaps the single most important asset that a freelancer possesses, but you need to watch out for customers who know this and will try to take advantage of it.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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