4 things no-one told you about being a freelance project manager

Your knowledge, skills and experience as a project manager are valuable and you’re successful at what you do. Fast forward 6 months and you wish there were some things you had known before you cut your ties with your salaried employer. Here we take you through some important things to consider when looking into going freelance.

It’s a project in itself

If you are considering turning to freelance project management, like any project, it requires careful planning. It is not as simple as you decide to go freelance today, hand your notice in with your full-time permanent employer the day after, and start a freelance contract after the weekend. No, if you are serious about entering the freelancing world, you will need to put strategies in place at least 6 months before you quit your current job. Mainly this is so you can build up a financial safety net to cover downtime when you’re starting your freelance business, or it will support you in between jobs. Make a list of all your expenses – bills, pension contributions, food and any other recurring commitments. Add to this what you will need to support your new business – emergency sickness funds, new software, marketing budget, an accountant maybe – and start saving. Your dream is possible but it can’t happen overnight.


Work will not find you, certainly not at first anyway. You will have to spend time and effort marketing yourself. Make time to attend conferences and networking events, join online communities and forums and tell people about what you are wanting to do. Attend project management training, and refresh your knowledge and make new contacts – you never know who you will be sat next to!

It is a good idea to develop a job description for yourself, it doesn’t have to be something you share with anyone but it will help you to understand what makes you unique and how you can benefit the organisations you work with. That way when put on the spot you will know exactly what to say to sell yourself.

Continuous professional development

As a freelance project manager, surely it’s up to you what project you take on in which industry/sector. One of the reasons you started your business was because you wanted to work in different specialisms. Unfortunately, people will want you to do what you are good at, this can mean managing the same types of projects for organisations that work in similar environments. Your next freelance job will be as good as the last project you delivered. Also, unlike permanent employment there is no HR department assessing your skills and developing you a training plan. To give yourself the best possible chance at consistent employment in an environment that is constantly changing, you need to keep your skills sharp and keep abreast of the latest innovations in technology and processes. Invest in yourself, sign up to project management courses and the new additions to your CV may just catch the eye of that company you’ve been looking to work for.

Time Management

Working freelance you only have yourself to rely on and this can prove to be damaging. It is easy to get into the habit of working long hours, especially if you are working away from home and do not have daily ‘life’ commitments to tend to i.e. the school run. It’s liberating to think that as a freelance project manager you will have all the flexibility, but more often than not your work/life balance will go the other way unless you are disciplined with your time. Similarly, if you are going to be working from home it can be very easy to be ‘switched’ on all the time and looking at emails/paperwork at unsociable hours. It can also be easy to get into a routine of not taking enough holidays or not taking any time off at all, especially if in the past you’ve had time off and then struggled to secure a new freelance opportunity. We all need a break, be kind to yourself.

Julie Lord

I have a Masters degree in PPE (UK) and now research and write as a freelancer on a variety of subjects such as personal finance, home improvements and work-life balance.

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