5 Common Problems to Avoid When Managing Your Freelance Projects

Providing good project management is an extension of outstanding customer service. Without proper planning and comprehensive project management, problems can arise that could be avoided in the first place. Most of the time, freelancers will tell you that lots of things can go wrong throughout the progression of a project – some things you can control, and others you can’t but, there are many aspects of a design project that you can take responsibility for to avoid getting yourself in a sticky situation. 

Poor Organization

Poor organization can  lead to problems in two areas. First, it can waste your valuable time. If you don’t know where documents, resources or design files are, you could spend hours looking for files that should have been neatly stored and backed up from the beginning. Being unorganized with files can also lead to overwriting old files (I’ve done it), so be careful and set up an organizational system that’s easy to follow. 

Second, bad organization with your design project can lead to poor communication with your client. If there was a misunderstanding about what resources were to be provided or what invoices have been/haven’t been paid, all you’re doing is making yourself look bad. Keep your design files organized (by date and what version).

Bad Communication

If you’ve been experiencing a string of bad clients, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how you communicate with them. I love this article by Paul Jarvis called “Amateurs Get Angry With Clients. Professional Educate Them.” This is so true. Being diligent with your communication means being proactive and professional about informing the client on updates or changes. Follow through with promises you make, and don’t leave them in the dark. Good communication creates better working relationships. 

Not Understanding Your Client

A part of understanding your client is also understanding yourself. If you know your design style doesn’t jive with your client’s demands, don’t take the project. Hopefully, you didn’t just take the project for quick cash. We can assume then, that you have a desired outcome and are clear about your client’s objectives and goals. You need to have a crystal clear vision of what the client is imagining as the final product to avoid possible disputes about what was expected from you. 

Not Knowing Your Client’s Funding Limits

Surprise! Your client ran out of funds for the project and it had to be cancelled halfway through. There are a few warning signs that you can look for to avoid this. First, always require a deposit upfront. Make sure they’re willing to give up a percentage (generally 30-50%) before any work commences.

Next, if you bill hourly, ask them the maximum amount they would like to spend. Getting a client to tell you their budget is important because it determines how many hours you can allocate to this project. Even if you can give them a general estimation of how many hours it would take, along with your hourly rate, they will have a ballpark figure to work around. Unexpected budget cuts may not be as startling if you know exactly how much they have set aside for the project.

No Definition of Roles

If responsibility or roles are not defined before the project starts, there could be confusion on who is responsible for what. This could lead to serious gaps throughout the project. For example, you’re probably going to need photos and content from your client by a certain date. Let them know as soon as you do – this hands the responsibility over to the client. If you finished the development of the site, but the client doesn’t get the content to you for 2 weeks, you won’t be able to push it live for 2 weeks later than expected. Coordinating roles will make sure there are no misunderstandings about when resources are needed.