How to Successfully Manage a Short-Term Freelance Project

By Kelly Phillips

As a freelancer, it’s those long-term, steady contracts that keep a paycheck hitting the bank. But often the key to landing those lucrative gigs is building a relationship with your clients though short-term contracts. Nothing builds trust like delivering actual results. If you’re new to managing short-term contracts, here are some keys to getting the best results for yourself and for your clients:

Clarifying the Deliverable

Short-term projects often come about because of a need that can’t be handled in-house. If it’s important enough to allocate budget for an outside resource, you can bet that the client is feeling some pressure. . Unfortunately, the client may not be clear on what they need. As the freelance consultant, it’s your job to ask the right questions and find out what end deliverable the client truly needs, so that you can deliver real value. After all, even if you deliver exactly what they’ve asked for – if it doesn’t solve their problem, you haven’t helped them.

Communicating Dependencies

Short-term projects don’t have room for missed deadlines. Keeping the dependencies (and the impacts of missing them) visible to the client helps them to manage things on their end for a successful project.

As the freelancer, you’re often dependent on the client’s employees to provide you with the information you need to do the job. It’s vital that you 1) identify those resources and 2) set deadlines to receive the information from them. Make it very clear that any delay in receiving the information you need could cause delays. Of course, you will always do your best to meet original deadlines, even when things slip on thier end.

Keeping an Action Items List

As a professional, most clients expect you to get the project done without needing to be hand-held at every step. However, keeping a clear list of action items for both you and the client can help organize the work and build trust. Not only is the client clear on what you need from them in order to do your best work, but they have a written representation of your progress and future plans. This reassures them that you’ve got this under control and will deliver as expected. Many clients have thanked me for assigning them tasks and keeping them on track with the project. It’s one less thing they need to worry about in their day.

Following Up After the Project

You did it! The deliverables are in the client’s hands, the bill has been paid, and you’re off looking for your next gig. But wait – how did things go for your client after that? Does it matter? If you want to build a long-term relationship with your client then yes, it does! A simple “How did the rollout go?” a few weeks after the close of the project can be invaluable. First, it lets you know that your work had impact. When you’ve invested time in a project, it’s great to know that things went well. Second, you can gain valuable feedback from your client on what they liked or didn’t like about your work. While constructive or negative feedback can be difficult to hear – used wisely it’s the fastest way to improve your freelance skills.

The next time you’re offered a short-term project, see it as a way to prove your value and build a relationship. If managed successfully, that short-term project could become your next long-term gig.

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6 responses to “How to Successfully Manage a Short-Term Freelance Project”

  1. Krysten Colby says:

    Great article Kelly!

  2. Debbie R. says:

    Thank you for this article full of excellent advice!

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